Down the ages the people of Arunachal Pradesh have
utilized their crafting skills for meeting their daily requirements.
The skill of home crafts exists to this day and every household still
continues to weave its own cloth and baskets, make its own utensils,
sleeping benches, bows and arrows
While the genesis of the
development of the varied crafts of Arunachal Pradesh lay in the
tribal urge to meet their daily requirements, these crafts have come
as a godsend to them in modern times as a source of valuable
handicrafts of the State are much in demand within the country as
well as abroad, where they have gained popularity in the world
market. Among the important handicrafts of Arunachal the numero uno
certainly is bamboo and cane craft; followed by handloom weaving,
wood carving and carpentary, ivory and metal crafts and pottery and
Bamboo and Cane
Craft. Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its cane and bamboo crafts
practised throughout the State by its tribes at the household
level. The heavy rainfall and temperate climate has assured an
abundance of bamboo and cane in the region over the ages. It is not
surprising then that the native tribals came to depend on these
materials almost exclusively for constructing their dwellings,
utensils, furniture, and even weapons such as bows and arrows,
dibbles, spears, armour, hunting and fishing traps and implements.
Apart from these
traditional uses, bamboo and cane is crafted dexterously into
colourful basket mats, cane belts, attractive smoking pipes, combs
and a variety of generally used household tools and implements. The
newcomer to this State will find the use of bamboo tubes as water
carriers, the spoons, mugs, plates and jugs and trays made of this
wonder shoot a welcome transition from the mundane world
of plastic and metal cutlery and crockery.
Yet another use the
tribals put bamboo to is in making jewellery out of it. Tribal women
wearing rings and headbands made of cane are a commonsight in
The Hill Miris, Adis,
Monpas, Sherdukpens, Apatanis, Mishmis, Noctes, Wanchos Mishis and
Tanga tribal group are especially dexterous in making fine, colourful
and attractive cane and bamboo crafts. Of these, the Adis and
Mishmis are considered good engineers the former having once
built a 500 feet long suspension bridge over the Dibang river.
Weaving is yet another important household industry in Arunachal
Pradesh the exclusive premise of the tribal women of this
State. The equipment used is a simple reedless loom where the actual
weaving is done with a bamboo tube throw-shuffle. Besides cotton and
wool, some of the Arunachal tribes use bark-fibres extracted from
trees like udal, pudu and
rhea-nivea. Similarly, in
the sphere of dyes, one finds an abundant use of natural dyes.
The influence of Tibetan,
Burmese, Bhutanese and Assamese processes is easily apparent here.
The Tibetan and Bhutanese influence is most pronounced in the Monpa
loom on which the Monpa women weave with cotton, wool and bark fibre.
They are well known for their fine and colourful coats, shawls,
sashes, carpets, bags and tapes (for tying around hats). Unlike the
Monpa women, the Sherdukpen womenfolk use only cotton and plant fibre
but no wool. Nevertheless, Monpa weaving is considered to be the
best example of the specimens from Arunachal.
The Nishis grow a large
amount of cotton in the valley of Palin and Panior. Though the Nishi
women are not as god at weaving when compared to their counterparts
the Apatanis they do produce woven cotton and pudu fibre
skirts, blankets and cloth.
In contrasts, the
Apatanis are considered the most advanced weavers from this State.
The Apatani women are perfect in the art of weaving and produce
excellent ceremonial coats and shawls, and embroidered cotton cloth.
Many tribes such as the Nishis, Hill Miris, Akas, Buguns and Mijis
also depend on the Apatanis for their supply of cloth. As Dr. Elwin
observed, It was a common practise for Apatani girls to stay in
daflas houses for a time to
do their weaving for them.
The Adi women weave wool,
cotton and goats hair to produce attractive things form them. The
Mishmis too have acquired a good reputation in the art of weaving,
indicated by the good commercial demand for their items. The Mishmi
women weave cotton, wool, plant fibre and human hair into a variety
of clothes. In fact the Mishmi coat has found a wide market within
and outside the State of Arunachal Pradesh.
Singpho weaving is
basically famous for its artistic patterns. And similar to them are
the Tangas reputed for their spun-dyed clothes out of which
they make hand bags, skirts and lungis
(loin cloths). Both the Tangas and Singpho women are also known for
their expertise in making artistic ceremonial costumes.
Wood Craft and
Carving. The practise of wood carving and allied crafts is part
of a long tradition among a number of tribal communities in Arunachal
Pradesh. The main centre for wood carving and wood craft in the
State is the Wancho area of Tirap district. According to Dr. Elwins
observations on the subject, the Wancho wood carvings can be
classified under three main categories. The first are those
connected with head-hunting; the second with the decoration of the
Morungs of mens communal houses and the third with the funerary
images of different animals.
The Monpas, Shedukpens,
Mombas, Khambas and Bugums produce different types of masks
often painted with colours. The Khamptis especially are well known
for their beautiful wooden images of Lord Buddha.
One can also find
carpenters working with their primitive tools within some of the
tribal communities namely in the Monpas, Noctes, Wanchos and
Tangas. These craftsmen churn out articles of daily use as well as
furniture albeit of crude workmanship.
Ivory and Metal
Craft. Ornaments made of brass, bone, ivory, silver and gold are
also crafted using a set of simple tools by many of the
The Monpas and
Sherdukpens are well known as traditional silver smiths and even
supply silver ornaments to other tribal groups the Khowas,
Mijis and Akas.
The Nishis and Sulungs
have perfected the art of brass smithy. They dexterously craft
ornaments, dishes, sacred bells and smoking pipes out of this metal.
Similarly, the Khamptis
work mainly in gold, iron, silver and ivory, though their products
were mainly meant for use within their own tribe.
Because of the abundant
availability of cane and wood in Arunachal, pottery never gained
popularity. Another reason for its relative under development is the
nonavailability of suitable clay in this region. However, several
tribes like the Monpas, Sherdukpens, Apatanis, Nlishis, Noctes,
Wanchos, Adis, Khampas and Mombas practise for art. Among the
pottery work, the beautiful clay images of Lord Buddha made by the
Monpas, Mombas and Khampas are specially mentionable.
While blacksmithy is not very popular in Arunachal Pradesh, the Adis
are well known for their expertise in this trade. They are known to
produce various weapons and implement from iron. Among the other
tribes, the Mishmis are known for their arrow-heads and knives, the
Singphos for their daos
which are famous all over the State, the Noctes, Wanchos and Tangas
for their forges, and the Nishi blacksmiths for their skills in
casting and smelting. In contrast to these one can mention the iron
bracelets made by the Apatanis probably the only item of
jewellery made by the blacksmiths here.
Two things are specially
worth mentioning about the crafts of Arunachal Pradesh. In the first
place one finds the tribal communities making use of easily available
natural resources as the raw materials for their traditional crafts.
And in the second place the endurance of these traditional crafts in
contemporary times. Without doubt, the traditional crafts of
Arunachal Pradesh appear to be all set to make their mark in times to