Arunachal: Peoples, Arts and Adornments in India’s Eastern Himalayas

Item Code: NAJ989
Author: Peter Van Ham
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9789383098002
Pages: 236 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 12.0 inch x 8.5 inch
Weight 1.50 kg
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description

About the Book


The state of Arunachal Pradesh, moulded out of the mountainous margins of Assam, is incomparable to any other place in the world due to its ethnic variety and exuberant natural beauty. In many parts its as yet untouched rainforest shelters 110 different peoples or tribes and their mainly animist cultures influenced at the country's fringes by Buddhism, both from Tibet and Burma. Unique customs such as living polygamously in longhouses, atypical forms of interaction between the individual and his clan, blood vengeance, animal sacrifice and every ritual forms of head hunting have survived here.


ARUNACHAL - Peoples, Arts and Adornment in India's Eastern Himalayas is the result of 10 years of painstaking travel and research among all of this state's many peoples. It covers geography, history and anthropology, through 340 brilliant photographs focused especially on the peoples' unique arts and personal adornment.


About the Author


Author and photographer Peter van Ham is based in Frankfurt / Germany. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic and the Royal Geographical Societies, London, as well as of the Explorers Club in New York City. Peter van Ham has written several international books on regions of the Himalayas. He is active in producing visual and musical media as well as curating exhibitions on the subjects of his research. This is his sixth book on North-East India.




This book has been a personal goal for me ever since I started travelling to the Himalayas in the 1980s. Looking at the map I saw a country whose mountaintops are India's first to greet the morning sun - Arunachal Pradesh, 'Land of the red morning sky', 'Land of the rising sun', 'Land of the dawn-lit mountains'. Yet, my romantic notions, nurtured by wanderlust and my desire to venture there, in particular, were countered for years by merciless official bureaucracy. Detailed applications to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs either met with a stony silence, or were returned with the same single sentence, "Access denied - no foreigner may enter Arunachal Pradesh". Only in 1996 - in a surprising reversal of events in which I received not only the help but also support of both the Indian Consulate and the Tourist Office in Frankfurt - was I finally able to step onto the humid soil of Assam, gateway to Arunachal Pradesh, this time with the treasured 'Restricted Area Permit' in my hands.


My subsequent experiences on many journeys through Arunachal Pradesh, culminating in a personal invitation from the State Government, led me firmly to the conclusion that the remarkable cultures of these people had to be recorded. Intense research into rare documents and other sources revealed forgotten aspects of their lifestyles, which elucidated current aspects in a way that often seemed unbelievable to friends and colleagues.


With this book it is my intention to honour the efforts of the peoples of this fascinating land who have aimed for so long to defy the uniform lifestyle of the Western world to which they are increasingly exposed. To this seemingly impossible goal my book is dedicated. With this I follow the explicit wish of the people I met on my journeys, who happily appeared before me in their traditional costumes and attire, requesting that I document the unique aspects of their cultures in writing, images and sound. This 'request seemed the more urgent to them since younger generations had already started to lose interest in their traditional way of life. With this in mind then, one of the foremost aims of the book is to document the traditions of the different ethnic groups for their own future generations. It is clear that much has changed in Arunachal since the outside world first became aware of these peoples through the activities of colonial officers and missionaries at the end of the 19th century. But the pace of change had made little impact even by the time that researchers were able to venture into the region in the mid- zoth century. Subsequently, the advent of more concentrated missionary and accelerated educational programmes has brought the zist century firmly into the lives of the people and new challenges to the land. However, it is a joy to see that even many of Arunachal's young people still recognise the significance, meaning and execution of certain ancient rituals. Age-old customs are still not lost, and are actually being revived at present - be it weaving of the original intricate pattern of a traditional shawl, the enthusiastic revival of ancient festivities, or the decision to wear the cane hat, which takes months to harden over the longhouse's hearth-fire, rather than the baseball cap from the local bazaar.


Due to the immense amount of material related to the numerous peoples inhabiting this region, I have chosen to emphasise the particular traits of each community as well as the cultural similarities that bind them together, aiming at uniting it all into a comprehensive visual and textual survey. In order to achieve this I have, in some cases, drawn on material from other photographers, and would like to acknowledge wholeheartedly the spirit in which it was freely made available to me. My thanks go to (in alphabetic order): Christoph Baumer, Steve Berry, Ken Cox, Frans Devriese, Claude Germain, Gerhard Helier, Helga Hoger, Bertrand Holsnyder, Gerhard Horter, Thomas Murray, Ashok Nath, Christa Neuenhofer, Gerhard Oberzill, Bernhard Rabus, Purnendu Roy, the late T S Satyan and Jamie Saul, Tejbir Singh as well as Eva Winkler and Pierre Zinck.


Without the help of numerous friends and patrons my journeys and thus this book would not have been possible. My heartfelt thanks in this regard go to: the India Tourist Office, Frankfurt, with its former director PK Dong and his assistant director Alok Chowdhury, as well as Mashanta Romani for the great travel planning and support; the Indian Consulate, Frankfurt, with its former consular generals Prabha Murthi and Asha Shrivastava for granting the special permits.


Within Arunachal, Donyi Hango Tours, Naharlagun, not only greatly facilitated but also made my 1998 and 2003 journeys possible and pleasurable. A special thank you to Yane and Ozing Dai and their families for their help in acquiring further historic documents from the Department of Information and Public Relations, as well as enabling me, through State Government support, to access the last remote restricted areas of Arunachal. For this I also thank Belatee Pertin and Amar Nath of the Department of Tourism. Thank you also to the late T Lowang Rajkumar, Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as his brother Manwang and his wife Shampa Lowang, for their support and hospitality in the Tirap district in 1998. Chowkhamoon Gohain Namshurn's extended valuable help in Chowkham/Lohit and vicinity in 2003 is also gratefully acknowledged. Further thanks also to the monks of Tawang, especially Lama Lhundup Choesang and Tsering Lama's dance troupe, the late T Tongluk, N Diwakar and KR Meena in Tirap, Mokar Riba in Itanagar, as well as the Sojumtaayang family, LT Urna and Lahangla Pul in Pakhuri and Wakro/Lohit, and Goggoi Linggi in Tezu/Lohit.


I also wish to thank my good friend, the late Jamie D Saul, who meticulously pre-edited the manuscript, and the members of the Society for the Preservation and Promotion of North-East Indian Heritage (SPNH) for their support. A very special thank you goes to Professor Alan Macfarlane and his wife Sarah Harrison, as well as Mark Turin of Cambridge University, for their generosity, enthusiasm and cooperation, and especially for the Foreword, for which I am truly grateful. In this connection gratitude is again extended to Nick Haimendorf for letting us publish his father's photographs stored in the Macfarlane Archives of the SPNH.


Thomas Murray, Mort Golub, Francois Pannier and Pierre Zinck, as well as Christophe Roustan Delatour of the Musee de la Castre in Cannes, France, supplied views of their exquisite masks from the Monpa-Sherdukpen region for this publication. My gratitude goes to them for their involvement and generosity.


It fills me with great pride to be presenting in this book for the first time ever the artefacts collected by Otto Ehrenfried Ehlers in the Arunachal Pradesh of the 1870S, stored at the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Dresden, as well as objects from the collections of the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (CUMAA), donated to the museum by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf and Ursula Graham Bower, among others, in the 19405. For this I wholeheartedly thank Dr Claus Deimel, director of the Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, and Dr Lydia Icke-Schwalbe, former curator (Asia) at Dresden, as well as Dr Anita Herle, director of the anthropology section at CUMAA, and the involved staff of both these museums, all of whom were extremely generous, supportive and helpful, especially in connection with bringing the idea of a first exhibition on the cultures of Arunachal Pradesh to life, which, after many twists and turns, luckily got realised at the Historisches und Volkerkunde Museum St Gallen, Switzerland, in 2013. My sincere thanks go to its director Dr Daniel Studer and curator Or Isabella Studer-Geisser, and all the members of their team for sparing no effort to make this exhibition an event to be remembered for long, and for me personally to again make a dream come true.




Faery Lands Forlon




Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains


From a Malaria Jungle to a State


A Hundred Peoples in the Land of the Hornbill


The Northern Zone


The Wind's Kin


Between Buddha and the Spirits


The Central Zone


Warriors of the Mist


Luminous Farmers


Tradition and Progress


Where the Himalaya Dies


The Southern Zone


Sons of the Buddha


Former Headhunters









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