Saturday, 27 July 2013


Agricultural practices among Wanchos 

Immature rice field
         Shifting cultivation is the most prominent type of agriculture usually followed in this region. Indigenous shifting cultivators have a vast store of local knowledge about their particular landscape and how best to maintain it for survival, and have much to teach the world about the efficient use of their landscape for combined agriculture and forestry. This system involves series of steps such as selection of a site in hilly slopes followed by slashing of vegetation, burning of slashed vegetation after drying and cleaning the burnt sites for growing crops of agricultural importance. After completion of the cycle, the soil loses its fertility and a fresh site is chosen the following year to repeat the same cycle in next season; whereas, the used plot of jhum land is likely to keep fallow for about 8-10 years till it regains its fertility.

The entire jhumming practice may assume as a wise strategy planned and prepared by the ethnic people of this district which they have learnt from years of experience and subsequently passing those experiences to next generation. Their strategy is always simple and focus on deriving maximum possible sustainable output from the hilly slopes in terms of production of sufficient food items from cultivation of crops, collection of timber from jhum fields, practice of mix farming ensuring crop.
This ancient and traditional management agriculture system may be considered as the backbone of the modern developing society because the knowledge on jhumming is the result of centuries close interaction between man and environment. Even when there was no supply of food grains and vegetables from other sources, this traditional agriculture practices helped them to fight during the lean season. Besides cereals like rice (Oryza sativa L.), millets like foxtail millets (Setaria italica L.), proso millets (Panicum miliaceum L.), finger millets (Eleusine coracana L.) and pearl millets (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br., Maize (Zea mays L.), they usually cultivate important domesticated and subsidiary edible plant species such as Topioca (Manihot esculenta Crantz.), Dioscorea sp., Colocasia esculenta L., sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L. (Lam.), Ginger (Zingiber officinale L.) and local vegetables such as pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata Poir.), white gourd (Benincasa hispada Thunb.), coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), soybean (Glycine max L. (Merr.), brinjal ( Solanum melongena Linn.), Solanum nigrum L., chilli pepper (Capsicum spp.), bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.), tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.), and sesame (Sesamum indicum L.). Thus, jhumming provides varieties of indigenous food items throughout the year for traditional used such as ceremonies, occasions and celebrations. Moreover, due to the undulating hilly terrain, high rainfall, poor irrigation facilities and unavailability of plain land, the permanent type of settled agriculture or terrace cultivation was not much successful in this area. Hence, jhumming became the only alternative means for sustenance.
Rice field of Pongchau Village, Longding
Nonetheless, besides farming practices, the local people also generally get involved in other activities such as fishing, hunting and harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in order to satisfy their basic needs and demands. The entire traditional society in the district revolves around the practices of taboos, beliefs, folktales and legends. For instances, they perform many rituals during the time of sowing and harvesting within the family, among villagers and also in the entire community. Nonetheless, there are three major tribes and many sub-tribes in the district, the methods of farming and rituals performed during the cultivation of crops may vary slightly with the ethnic people and communities living in different villages with social, physical, environmental and climatic condition of that area.
People busy in harvesting of crops
Fully matured rice field
The agricultural system is totally rain-fed and depends on monsoon rain for its irrigation. Therefore, the cultivation of rice and other crops usually commenced in between last part of February and early March, so that the sufficient amount of rain water will be available for the seed to germinate. However, in winter season the fields are basically kept fallow till next summer is approaches to continue jhum cycle with the cultivation of paddy in next phase just after the harvesting of millets and other vegetables from the new field. Nonetheless, slashing of the vegetation of newly selected site is performed in winter i.e. in the month of October. For performing the farm operation both men and women labour power is used and with some local implements like digging stick, small hoe, dao (traditional sword), and axe etc. However, very recently besides jhumming few villages have started establishing and maintaining permanent tea garden and wet-rice cultivation on the plain lands. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Scenic beauty of Wancho inhabited hills (freshly fallowed)

Wancho tribes inhabits the hilly terrains of Longding District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (located between latitude 26 degree 28ºN and 27 degree 30ºN and longitude 95 degree 23'E and 96 degree 26ºE). Bounded by Tissa River in the East, Mon district of Nagaland in the West, Patkai hills in the South and Sibsagar district of Assam in the North. The area is estimated to be 1050.5 approx. The total population, as per 2001 Census, is around 50,128 Approx. They forefathers are popularly known for headhunting practices. besides, they are also known for excel in inborn wood curving (males) and bead works (females).  

Wakka village
However, there is no written record of their origin but according to legends, Tinu- Longpho Sangnu situated somewhere in the South-West beyond the Patkai range in the Tuensang district of Nagaland may be consider as their place of origin. Further, they split into two groups and finally settled in their present habitat. These two groups came to be known as Tangjen and Sangjen respectively. The story in vogue among the Wancho people is that long-long ago there was a great flood and all living creatures were drowned. Only a man named Aju and woman Ajong took shelter on the top of a high hill and escaped. From these all the human beings of the world originated
Agriculture is the primary occupation in this region; whereas, hunting and fishing are secondary means of sustenance of the Wanchos. The Shifting cultivation or Jhum cultivation is the prominent agricultural practice followed by Wancho and mixed cropping or multi-cropping is usually preferred. On other hand, they also hunt and fish for food as well as for sport and go out either on formal expedition by the active community participation or in small informal parties of three/four to five persons only. The community hunting called as Mai Sham or individual hunting called Mai Tan. Wanchos are expert in fishing and trapping. The individual fishing is called Nyah-to-Ka and community fishing is called Showthu. The poison commonly used for fishing are Zuh, namely Zuhkai, Zuhjai, Tau, Bah and Hoyi etc.
During Oriah celebration
The social system of Wanchos is very unique and strong in nature. The Wanchos have chieftainship system since time immemorial and they mostly practice joint family system. The village council headed by the chief, Ngopa, Wangsham and elders are the main decision making body in the village. The marriage system followed in the olden days was purely child marriage system called Toikam/Nwchakam where the parent of bride and bridegroom engage   their child before they attain adulthood. However, now-a-days these systems have been abolished and depend upon the individual choice. Tattooing is the most unique and important event in the life of a Wancho. Tattooing is of two types; one is called Huhtu which is for womenfolk, and another is called Zanhuhtu for the male folk done after the victory of head hunting expedition. Oriah, Lawdan, Chahchawan, Pungzam, Pongwan and Khamdaak etc. are some of the major festival which generally accompanied by performance of various rituals. Among all these, Oriah is the most important festival which is celebrated on the month of February. Villagers usually celebrate this major festival soon after the end of sowing of seeds in their jhum uplands.

Young Wancho girls
 The traditional attire of Wancho comprises of a piece of cloth (Khehit) for male, and a skirt (Nyisa or Kheto) for woman called. The male folk wear headgear (Khohom), necklace(Liknu-Likcham), Ear ring (nathuak), waist belt 
Wancho man in traditional attire
(Zapak) etc. whereas, female folk wear fillet (Lik-Kha-dau), ear ring (natu), bangle (Khapsan), necklace(lik), shell(Thuak) and feather (O-Koi) etc. during the festivals.



agricultural field (shifting cultivation practiced by wanchos)

Enchanted beauty of Longding District, Arunachal Pradesh

Traditional folk dance (Bamboo dance)performed by Wancho Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh

Indigenous Wancho Tribe (in Oriah festival)

Young Wancho girls in Traditional Attire

Wancho womens in traditional attire

Wancho Girls ready for dance (Oriah festival 2013)

Villagge Old man (Wancho tribe)

Bamboo dance performed by wancho girls in Longding district, Arunachal Pradesh