Arunachal Pradesh is a state, in the north easternmost boundary of India, and is the largest among the 7 sister states in north east India. It was a union territory until 1987, when it became the 24th state of the Indian Union, on 20th February, 1987.
The mention of this state immediately brings to mind images of lush green rain forests and a rich wildlife. A land of incredible natural beauty, and rich flora and fauna.
Arunachal Pradesh had a prominent place from ancient times.
Eastern Boundary of India
The land of Bharath, as India was known in ancient times, had four boundaries. Maha Sagara, the Indian Ocean in the south. Himalaya, the snowcapped mountains in the north. Ashtachal Mountains in the west and Arunachal Mountains in the east.
More on this in our short film: Boundaries of Bharat.
Thus Arunachal region is an important landmark in Indian geography, marking its eastern boundary.
Aruna means “The first rays of the sun” and Achal means “Mountains”.
Arunachala are the hills that receives the first light of the sun, in Bharath. In other words, Arunachal is the “land of the rising sun”.
The name Arunachal is also a name of Shiva, and has an important place in the concept of Ashta Dikpala, the rulers of 8 directions. Ashta Dikpalas are the deva who rule over the eight direction, Ashta, meaning eight, dik meaning direction and pala, meaning one who rules. The Deva who rules over the north east is Isana, i.e. Lord Shiva.
Orchid of India
Known for its flora, Arunachal Pradesh is known as the “Orchid of India”, and the “Paradise of the Botanists”.
The entry point of Brahmaputra
It is also the land where one of India’s biggest rivers, Brahmaputra, enters the country. The river has its origin at Manasarovar in Tibet, near Mount Kailash, where it has the name Tsangpo. In Arunachal Pradesh, where it enters India, it is known as Yarlang. It is only in Assam, it gets the name Brahmaputra.
From ancient Past
In the Purana, this region of Arunachal Pradesh is mentioned as Prabu Mountains.
It is at this region that Veda Vyasa mediated, for a period of time.
Parasuram kund, a lake dedicated to Lord Parasurama is a popular pilgrimage spot in Arunachal Pradesh. It is visited by thousands of pilgrims from across India, and also from Nepal. It is here that Lord Parasurama performed penance. Makara Sankranthi is a festive occasion at this kund, when around 1 lakh Devotees take dip, Snan in its waters.
Arunachal Pradesh is also the region ruled by King Bhishmaka, the father of Rukmini, whom Krishna married. This takes the antiquity of this place to 3100 BCE, as we have dated Krishna to 3100 BCE in our book “Historical Krishna”.
In the previous millennia, this region was ruled by the Ahom dynasty, from 1228 CE to 1826 CE.
Ahom Dynasty Insignia
The population of Arunachal Pradesh mainly consists of Vana Vasi.
The dweller of forest who are the true custodians of this ecosystem are known as Vana Vasi.
Vana meaning forest, and Vasi, dweller.
These tribals were not poor, but instead they were rich, for all the forest of the land were theirs by right. They were the guardians of the forest. The forest looked after their well being.
Today, they have been classified as Adi Vasi, Adi meaning first and Vasi, dweller, and restricted to living in pockets within their forests.
Adi Vasi is a new term and also has a sense of derogatory to it. The Adi Vasi brings in an incorrect concept that tribals are the first dwellers of the land and the town and village dwellers are later migrants. This is ethnographically erroneous.
Whereas the words, Vana Vasi is their rightful name used with respect.
Nagar Vasi, Grama Vasi and Vana Vasi, all three belong ethnically to this land from time immemorial. And each have their respective place in the civilization, in the land and in the society.
There are more than 26 tribes of Vana Vasi in Arunachal Pradesh, who follow their own customs and tradition, making it one of the most culturally diverse states in India.
Some of the major tribes being,
Arunachala, fire element and Sun worship
In South India, Shiva is manifested in the form of Arunachala hill at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu.
As per the legends, this hill was originally a pillar of fire that appeared before Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma had flew towards one end to search for its origin while Vishnu had penetrated towards the other end taking the form of Varaha, the Boar, to bore to its other depths. But they could not reach the two ends of this column of fire.
Depiction of a legend in the Shivapurana – Search for the ends
This column of fire was a manifestation Shiva.
More on this legend in our book – Understanding Shiva.
The form of Shiva as Arunachala is associated with the fire element.
Arunachal Pradesh is the land of rising Sun, where the worship of Sun, a manifestation of the fire element, is prominent among all the tribes. Here Sun is worshipped as the Supreme Divinity.
Donyi Polo is a religion practiced here, which worships the Sun and the Moon, Donyi meaning the Sun and Polo, the Moon.
Si-Donyi is an important festival celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh, dedicated to the Sun.
There are also other tribes who worship the Sun.
Arunachal Pradesh is also home to many Buddhist monasteries.
Some of the prominent ones being,
- Tawang Monastery
- Bomdila Monastery
- Urgelling Monastery
The main occupation of Arunachal Pradesh is agriculture, while weaving is another vocation, popular mainly among the woman folk.
The people here are experts in creating beautiful carpets, wooden vessels, and silver articles.
Woodcarving is another favourite vocation, as also ornament making that is practiced in Arunachal Pradesh.
The state is also famous for its Bamboo handicrafts.
Arunachal Statehood Day is observed every year on 20th February, the day when Arunachal Pradesh became a state. A day to remember an important part of the Indian civilization. A state which apart from its rich flora and fauna, is also a home to richly diverse culture.