Zen at Ziro
I am glad that I could write to you finally. This is the last postcard of the month and here’s Ziro from Arunachal Pradesh. Don’t try to find a connection with the number here, because there’s none. I am a place like no other tourist destination you’ve ever been to.
Culturally I am as modern and liberal as you can get, but I’m also deeply rooted thanks to the tribals living here for centuries. The Apatani tribe who built a settlement here long ago defines me to the globe, and I define them. Here in the cradle of Eastern Himalayas, they chose a lone plateau hidden among the lofty mountains and called her home. I’m on UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites. They define me as the Aptani cultural landscape. So come, let’s take you on a slow walk in the green paddy fields at the feet of blue mountains.
Imagine a quiet sojourn with miles of paddy fields, numerous trails leading to hill-tops, forests of bamboo and pine trees guarded by the huge Himalayan range. You have reached Ziro, and zen is not far away. Located 115 km from Itanagar, the capital city of Arunachal Pradesh, I was unknown to many until recently. People came to know me by the famous outdoor music festival that is held with great pomp every year. People come here for the festival and fall in love with me.
Let me tell you a little about the Apatani tribe who live here. They are lovely friendly people who were pagans – worshippers of natural forces. With foreign invasions and rampant conversions by missionaries, they started to lose their traditions. They found the need to form an organized religion called Donyi-Polo in the 1970s. You must visit one of the Donyi-Polo temples here.
The Apatani women adorn distinctive facial tattoos and large nose rings. Don’t mistake this for some beauty tradition because it is, in fact, the opposite. The women started this practice to make their girls look less attractive to save them from abduction by other tribal groups. That’s how it became a custom. a friendly tribal group is known as the Apatani tribe. A unique fact about the Apatani tribe is that women of this tribe used to practice a custom of getting facial tattoos!! This was done since they believed that women of the Apatani tribe were so beautiful that they had to tattoo their faces to avoid unwanted male attention. The practice was done for good in 1970 but you can still see some old ladies wearing them.
The Apatanis practice paddy-pisciculture. This means that they fish and farm in the same field. I am the only place in India where you will see this practice dominant. Besides this, the Apatanis are appreciated for their unique handlooms, and skill in crafting out of bamboo and canes. UNESCO also recognizes its unique self-governance system through “bulyan”. They operate not on the fear of law and punitive action, but on people’s conscience. How they manage to do that will be a study relevant to the whole world.
Visit me during the festive season of Morung in January, or Myoko in late March or Dree in July to see the hamlets turn into living Apatani museums. The best way to appreciate their culture and enjoy their hospitality is to stay in their homestays. The Apatanis have set an example of sustainable civilization where human lives in synergy with nature.
Our love for music in this town is boundless. This gave birth to the famous Ziro Music Festival in 2012. Every year this 4-day long musical extravaganza happens in the scenic town sometime in September. Music enthusiasts from all over the world come here to listen to original compositions and appreciate fresh musical talent. Camps are laid down for all the visitors on the opulent grasslands here.
So here was an untouristy guide, rather a mere introduction to my humble abode. So when the lockdown is over, ditch your conventional tourist destination for me, and make memories of a lifetime. I am waiting for you.
This is the last post in the series Postcards from India, written during the Blogchatter A2Z challenge in April 2020. When more than half the world was on lockdown, I took refuge in writing and virtually traveling to the remote corners of India. In the last one month, I have tried to showcase offbeat destinations of India that can put your dream destinations in far-away continents to shame. As we earnestly look forward to better times, recovery from the deadly shackled of COVID the travel industry banks of domestic tourists. So this year, let’s explore India and boost the local economy.
This has been a humungous task to blog daily this month. I have never written more than six posts in a month. The shift from writing detailed travel guides to letters imagining myself as the place was an added challenge. But work doesn’t seem to work when you love it. That’s what I realized. Hope you enjoyed the series. You can find all posts in the series here in reverse chronological order. If you liked this, please spread the word through social shares and word-of-mouth. Subscribe for more travel stories.
Source of information for this article: UNESCO, Wikipedia.