Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh have revived indigenous lockdown rituals to contain the spread of COVID-19. The State of Arunachal Pradesh is geographically closest to China’s Hubei province where the COVID-19 outbreak began.
Rituals by Different Tribes
- The Galos, which are one of the 26 major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh that dominate West Siang district practised the Arr-Rinam ritual.
- The Galo community has been recognized as a Scheduled Tribe in the Amendment to the Constitution (ST), Order, 1950, Part-XVIII.
- Mopin is the main festival in Galos which is celebrated for the prosperity of the villages. The Galos perform Popir dance.
- Arr-Rinam is the Galo equivalent of lockdown imposed by consensus for 48 hours whenever an epidemic strikes.
- The Arr-Rinam follows the Ali-Ternam (the word Ali means epidemic and Ternam means forestall) ritual to ward off an epidemic.
- These rituals were last performed almost four decades ago when a water-borne disease had affected many members of the community.
- However, these rituals have been performed periodically for livestock, primarily the semi-wild animal mithun, that are prone to contagious diseases.
- This is for the first time in 30-40 years that the rituals were performed for the safety of humans.
- The Bos or deputy priests performed the Ali-Ternam under the guidance of a Nyibo (shaman).
- The ritual ended with the community leaders sealing five major entry points of the district.
- The Adi community also performed a similar ritual called the motor or pator system in the Adi (tribe) dialect.
- This is a customary self-restriction, where the locals lock down several villages by erecting barricades to prevent the entry of outsiders. No person is allowed to enter or leave the villages.
- They believe that this ritual lets shamans with legendary powers to locate wild herbs to combat an epidemic.
- The Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh is believed to have come from southern China in the 16th century.
- They are the Tibeto-Burman language speaking population..
- They reside in the far north inhabiting East Siang and Lower Dibang Valley districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The Adis are experts at making cane and bamboo items.
- Solung (harvesting festival where animal sacrifices and rituals are performed) and Aran ( a hunting festival where all the male members of the family go for hunting) are two major festivals of the Adi tribes.
- In districts such as Papum Pare and East Kameng, the dominant Nyishi community observed Arrue involving self-quarantine.
- Nyishi Tribes also called Bangni are the tribal people of eastern Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh (formerly North East Frontier Agency).
- Nyishi is a Scheduled Tribe. It is the single largest tribe of Arunachal Pradesh.
- They speak the Tibeto-Burman language of the Sino-Tibetan family.
- The Nyishi support themselves with slash-and-burn agriculture and with hunting and fishing.
- They live together in a longhouse without partitions but with a separate fireplace for each conjugal family.
- Aside from a patrilineal household there is no formal social organization or village government.
- Their religion involves belief in spirits associated with nature.