Arunachal Pradesh, India

"Land of the dawn-lit mountains"

Hills & Valleys | Rivers & Lakes

Arunachal Pradesh, India

General Information

Arunachal Pradesh, once known as the "Hidden Land", is the only State in India which has been completely closed to all outsiders since the beginning of time. A limited number of travelers are being permitted to visit this beautiful state for the first time since 1993.

A sentinel of the country in the north east, this ancient land finds mention in early Indian literature such as the Kalika Purana, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It was here that Parasuram is said to have washed away his sins, Vyasa meditated, Bhismaka founded is kingdom, Lord Krishna married his consort Rukmini and King Balinarayana drew men for his armies from among the hardy people of Arunachal Pradesh. The 6th Dalai Lama was born on the soil of Arunachal Pradesh and the present 13th Dalai Lama found refuge and safety here.


Arunachal Pradesh is situated on the north eastern tip of India, bordering Bhutan on the west, Tibet/China on the north, Burma (Myanmar) on the east and the Indian state of Assam to the south. It covers 84,000 sq. km approx, its climate varying from sub tropical to alpine. Some 80% of the state is covered by natural forest, with numerous turbulent streams, roaring rivers, deep gorges, lofty Himalayan mountains and hundreds of species of flora and fauna.


A picturesque and hilly terrain, Arunachal Pradesh is criss-crossed by innumerable rivers and rivulets. The heights of the mountain peaks range from 11,000 feet (1,829 m) to 21,000 feet (6,400 m), with the highest peak at 23,255 feet (7,090 m) in Tawang District. The striking feature of the topography of the region is that of the mountainous routes which follow the river system, except in places where the mountainsides are very steep. There are five major rivers - Kameng, Subansiri, Siang, Lohit and Tirap which drain into the Brahmaputra river.


There is a great variety of vegetation, ranging from climbers to an abundance of cane, bamboo and orchids. Arunachal Pradesh is known for a rich occurrence of orchids at varying latitudinal zones - from the foothills to the snow-clad peaks. There are about 450 species of orchids reported from this State and many more may yet be discovered.


The climate during the summer is hot and humid at the lower altitudes and in the valleys covered by dense tropical forests, particularly in the far eastern section, while it becomes exceedingly cold at higher altitudes. The rainfall is amongst the heaviest in India, with the annual average being more than 300 cm ! Therefore, as can be expected, the vegetation varies greatly in relation to the elevation, ranging from a wide belt of tropical rain forest along the foothills and the low lying areas, to tropical and sub-tropical at higher altitudes.


Although some 25 tribal groups constitute the total population, the density of the population is only 8 per sq. km. All the individual tribes have a rich and well-preserved cultural heritage. During the 200 years of British rule in India the British Government closed the borders to its own kind in 1873. Arunachal Pradesh is one of the few states in British India which Christian missionaries were not allowed to enter, unlike the neighbouring states of Nagaland and Mizoram.

The society of Arunachal is patriarchal and primogeniture and the fundamental laws of inheritance, with variations, are not uncommon. They follow endogamy and strictly observe clan exogamy. Polygamy was socially sanctioned and practiced by most of them. The people are highly democratic and each tribe has its own organized institutions that maintain law and order, decide disputes and take up all activities of the welfare of the village.

Head-hunting has long since ceased in the State and the Arunachalis are generally known to be a peace-loving people. However, one famous tribe in particular - the Wanchos of the south eastern Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh, who saw action against the British in the mid 19th century - used to infiltrate and attack the ferocious Konyak tribes of north-eastern Nagaland. The Konyak tribes of Nagaland still occasionally head-hunt today.

Throughout the trip, one comes into contact with different tribes, such as the Nishi in Itanagar and Ziro, the Apa Tani and Hill Miri in Ziro, the Idu Mishmis in Along, the Adis or the famous Ahoms in Pasighat and the Mishmis and Singphos in the Namdapha area, which also has a small influence of Tangsas.

• The Adi, meaning "hill man", is the most prominent, forward looking and independent minded of all the tribes in Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring areas. Both men and women wear their hair close cropped. Polygamy is widely practiced. The Adis have two main divisions - Bogum and Onai - and under each there are a number of sub-tribes - the Gallong being the most prominent. Adi houses are very much like those built by the Nishi tribe. Adi villages, generally situated on the spurs of hills, are well organized, as is the council called Kibong. The main feature of the Adi villages is the dormitory club for boys and men called Moshup. Some villages also have a separate club for girls called Rishong. The main deity is Donyi Polo (Sun Moon God), a compound deity regarded as the eye of the world and is the upholder of moral laws. The Adi show their sense of artistry and proficiency mainly in weaving.

• The Apa Tani is an enterprising and industrious tribal community. The Apa Tani villages are remarkable in a country where settlements are not permanent and tribal groups seem to be continuously on the move, for they are all concentrated in one valley. Seven villages, all situated within an hour's walking distance of each other, consist of houses built on wooden pile a few feet off the ground. Unlike the Nishi, the Apa Tani are generally polygynous. The men have elaborate tattoos on their faces and wear their hair in a top-knot. The women are distinguished by their characteristic circular nose plugs.

• Hill Miri settlements are much smaller, with an average village consisting of 8 to 9 long-houses built on hill slopes. Varying from 60 to 70 ft in length, each long-house can shelter up to 40 persons.

• Usually set amidst green surroundings, Nishi settlements consist of widely dispersed long-huts made of twilled mats, thatched roofs and flooring of flattened bamboo and are identified by the profusion of pigs and fowls reveling on heaps of rubbish everywhere. A short distance away lie the communal granaries.

• Tagins villages are built on slopes and under the shadow of hills, which offer natural protection. A Tagin house is built on the slant and, unlike other tribal houses, it is thatched with leaves.


The religion of the bulk of the population consists of belief in the existence of a High God or Supernatural Being and a host of other spirits and deities. The High God is called differently by different groups of people. Many however, believe in the dual existence of the High God, one in the sky and the other on earth. While the High God is always believed to be benevolent, the spirits and deities are grouped under two classes - benevolent and malevolent. The traditional religion of the people can be more conveniently understood as a cultural system since it is one of the aspects of the cultural tradition which makes the people live their life with unquestionable belief and with a sense of absolute dedication to the Supernatural Being controlling their destiny.


Festivals form an essential aspect of the socio-cultural life of the people from the state. As a matter of fact, festivals are the mirror of the people's culture. Animal sacrifices are a common ritual at most of the festivals, particularly in the non-Bodic tribes. The Spring-time festivals are celebrated during the period January to April by the different groups. Among the important festivals are: Boori Boot (6 February) is the main religious festival of the Hill Miris, celebrated for three days in the month of Loke Polo, corresponding to February. The festival signifies unity among men and implies that all should join together to worship God, who is known as Boori Abo, for the welfare of the people. Boori Abo presides over other duties or Vayoos, who are propitiated on this occasion.

The myth on why and how Boori Boot came to be celebrated is that Abo Tani has many children - Nishi, Hill Miri, Apatani, Adi, etc. Some of them did not obey him and started quarreling amongst themselves. They did not respect their elders. Abo Tani got angry and caused them to suffer from diseases. The Nish Nile, Nee Niri, Niboom, Nido, Nik Tilli and other spirits sat together to decide what to do about this situation. They agreed that the displeasure of their father should be removed. Priests were consulted, onions on eggs and livers of fowl were taken and it was decided that a big ceremony with many sacrifices should be held, to appease the spirits of Si Donyi, Kri Pirte, Tinle and others.

Kham festival is celebrated by the Miji tribes during February or March and is an occasion for the reunion of the people. Besides the usual festivities, the significance of the festival lies in a ceremony when the priest ties a piece of wool around each person's neck. The belief is that the enchanted thread will bring good luck to each member of the community.

Losar is celebrated by the Monpas as their new year (usually February/March - dates fixed according to the Buddhist calendar). On the eve of the festival people clean out their homes to usher in the new year and to discard the old. The dirt and grit of the old year is considered to symbolize ill health. During the five days of festivities, prayers are offered for prosperity and good health, religious flags hoisted atop homes, friends and relatives visited, holy Buddhist scriptures read and butter lamps lit in every home.

Mol is celebrated in April by the Tangsas for three days to welcome the new year. Prayers are offered for the welfare of all human and animal life on earth.

Mopin is celebrated by the Adi tribes of East and West Siang, for wealth and prosperity as also good health and universal happiness. The Mithun is sacrificed and social feasts held. Smearing of rice powder marks the beginning of the festival which begins on 5 April and lasts for five days.

Nyakum, (26 February) a festival of the Nishings, is celebrated in a colourful manner, with the sacrificing of the Mithun and prayers for all-round prosperity.

Ojiyale is the most popular festival of the Wanchos, celebrated during March or April for a period of 6 to 12 days. The festivities include prayers interspersed with singing and dancing, the exchange of bamboo tubes of rice beer as a mark of greeting and goodwill, and presentation of pigs' skin to the village chief.

Reh, essentially associated with the Idu Mishmis, is a six-day event beginning 1 February, with rituals performed for the appeasement of the deities who control the peace and prosperity of the people. The festival comes to an end with great fanfare with the priest dance being a special attraction.

Sangken festival celebrated by the Khamti tribes in April, when the images of Lord Buddha is bathed ceremoniously. This also heralds the new year and people sprinkle water on each other as a sign of merriment.

Solung is celebrated by members of the Adi tribes of central Arunachal. Both male and female members of the community pray to the gods for the all-round prosperity of the state, good crops and a happy social life. This agricultural and socio-religious festival starts on 1 September and lasts seven days. Different villages may celebrate on different days, as fixed by the Kebang or village council. On the first day, the Mithun and pigs are slaughtered early in the morning and apong, the traditional rice beer, is prepared and drunk in plenty. On the second day, called Yegling, meat is sacrificed by each family and distributed to relatives and friends. General feasting along with Ponung dances continue for six days. On the seventh day, called Ekob, the people gather in the Mosup (long house) and watch the Ponung dance, led by the Mirus or shaman, who narrates the story, in the form of ballads, of the creation of life and its various manifestations.

Tamladu is essentially celebrated by the Taroan and Kamman Mishmi tribe. During the festival held in February, prayers are offered to the God of the Earth and the God of the Waters for protection against natural calamities. The supreme Lord Jebmalu is worshipped for the prosperity and welfare of human beings, crops and domestic animals.

Places of Interest

Itanagar is the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. Places of interest include the Buddhist monastery, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial museum (closed on Mondays) and the Craft Centre at Naharlagun.

Along is the headquarters of upper Siang district, situated on the south bank of the Siyom river.

Boleng, situated on the south bank of the Siyom river, is one of the most colourful, unusual and remote areas of the world, inhabited by the Adi (Mingyong) tribes.

Daporijo, lies some 165 km, from Ziro. The journey over a serpentine road offers spectacular panoramic views of the countryside and an insight into the lifestyles of the Tagin, Hill Miri and Adi tribes. Of particular are Sikoarijo, a Nishi village and Don, home of the Tagins, where traditional medicine is practiced to this day.

Likabali is the entrepot to West Siang District. Close by is the ancient archeological site at Malinithan, where the ruins of a big temple dating back to the 14th-15th century AD have been excavated. The ruins include sculptures of Indra, Airavata, Surya and the Nandi Bull.

Pasighat is a unique settlement at the exit of the gorge from which the Siang river flows. The Siang is an extension of the Tsangpo river with its origins at Mansarover in Tibet and one of the five major tributaries which form the mighty Brahmaputra.

Ziro is the headquarters of the Lower Subansiri district. Situated in the heart of the Apa Tani Valley, at an altitude of 5,1,56 feet (1,572 m), Ziro is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Arunachal Pradesh, fringed by lofty mountains. Ziro was a World War II airbase for US and British Forces flying the Hump into China (the famous Flying Tigers) as well as air support for the battle of Kohima and the retake of Burma from the invading Japanese Forces in 1944.

Hill Tribe Treks

Arunachal Pradesh offers wonderful opportunities for “Hill Tribe Treks”, through thick tropical forest, along trails linking one village to another. The trail is normally through fairly level ground but can also include steep climbs over forested ridges. There is a great variety of vegetation, ranging from climbers to an abundance of cane, bamboo and orchids. Arunachal Pradesh is known for a rich occurrence of orchids at varying latitudinal zones - from the foothills to the snow-clad peaks. There are some 450 species of orchids reported from this State and many more may yet be discovered.

Accommodation will be in comfortable A-frame tents suitable for the forest environment. Sleeping bags and carry mats are provided. A dining and kitchen tent as well as a suitable number of toilet tents are also provided. Camps will usually be set up on the fringe of a village with the occasional option of being able to sleep around the fire hearth inside one of the village long-houses.

Important Health Nnote

As with most of South East Asia, mosquitoes are present in Arunachal Pradesh. However, this menace will not be as great during the winter months, when these treks are operational. Besides the more common Plasmodium Vivax, cases of Plasmodium Falciparum have been reported from the neighbouring state of Tripura. The prophylactic prescribed for the prevention of Vivax is usually Chloroquine (Aralen) and/or Camoquine (Amodiaquine). We will be carrying all these medicines in our trek medical kit. However, clients should consult their own doctors.

Special Permits

Restricted Area permits are required to visit Arunachal Pradesh. A minimum of four persons must travel together and the permits are granted for a maximum of ten days. Tiger Mountain India will obtain these for you. A sample application form is attached. It should be sent to us at least six weeks in advance to process the permit. Photocopies of the relevant pages of the passport to authenticate the information given in the form should also be attached.