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Rediscovering Hinduism in The Himalayas ( Arunachal Pradesh )

Rediscovering Hinduism in The Himalayas ( Arunachal Pradesh )
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Item Code: NAU089
Author: Jagdish Kumar
Publisher: Utpal Publications, Delhi
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 8185217327
Pages: 136 ( Throughout Colour Illustrations)
Other Details: 8.50 X 11.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.78 kg
About the Book

Defining religion in the context of Arunachal Pradesh has always been a challenge. The state and its human population were not completely isolated from the mainland Indian culture and society even in the remote past. This book has tried to relate the religious history of Arunachal Pradesh with the existing evidence in the form of ancient Indian epics, texts, contemporary literature and the archaeological investigations conducted over a period of past several decades. A comprehensive analysis of this evidence establishes the presence of Hindu religious elements in ancient Arunachal Pradesh.

About the Author

Dr Jagdish Kaur is a medical professional educated at Delhi University and is a postgraduate in public health. She is working with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India at present. She has authored several publications and research papers in the arena of public health. She has special interest in the history and diverse culture of India, especially the mythology and spiritual heritage of the country. This is her debut book on the cultural aspect of India.


Arunachal Pradesh, meaning, ‘Abode of the sun’s rays’ is the first to greet the sunrise in the country. Mother Nature has endowed it with unsurpassed beauty in the form of lofty snow-capped peaks and alpine forests in the north; verdant undulating hills in the south; lush green rain forests in the foothills and a vast expanse of plateaus in the middle. The variegated climate and the wide altitude range combine to give it a wealth of flora and fauna. This remote region is a land of dense lush forests, green valleys and singing rivers. Dispersed villages and isolated farmsteads are typical features of the landscape of Arunachal Pradesh. Before 1962, Arunachal was popularly called North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA) and was constitutionally a part of Assam. It was administered by the Ministry of External Affairs until 1965 and subsequently, by the Ministry of Home Affairs through the Governor of Assam. In 1972, it was constituted as a Union Territory and renamed Arunachal Pradesh. Full statehood was attained on 20th February, 1987 when Arunachal Pradesh was inducted as the 24th State of the Republic of India. The sixteen districts of Arunachal Pradesh have been created out of the original five districts which were named after the five important rivers of the state, namely, Tirap, Lohit, Siang, Subansiri and Kameng, flowing through the respective districts.

Besides being home to dozens of distinct ethnic groups /tribes, the state is also inhabited by followers of other religions such as Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. However, the tribes, most of which are of Asiatic origin and are in some ways related to the people of Tibet and the Myanmar hilly region, have been studied extensively by historians, scholars and anthropologists in the colonial and post-colonial era. The environment is largely responsible for the multiplicity of language and customs of the tribes as it is not easy for them to communicate with the neighboring areas. Different ethnic groups have been extensively researched through bio-anthropological studies, demographic and genetic studies, and studies on cultural, religious, development, economical, ethical aspects including rituals, beliefs, language and folklore. Many historians have documented that it is very difficult to come to a definite conclusion regarding the original home, the routes of immigration and the dates of settlement of the myriad tribes of the Arunachal Pradesh.

The research related to religious and cultural aspects of Arunachal Pradesh has largely focused on tracing the origin of various tribes inhabiting the state and religious and cultural practices followed by these tribes except a few scholars who looked at other religious identities of the state. Although there is substantial presence of followers of other religions e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, Arunachal Pradesh has largely been projected as a state dominated by the ethnic tribes in the works of various scholars and historians. Moreover, very little effort has been made to explore and study the history of the state before the 16th century. Existing literature on the cultural and religious aspects is mainly based on the oral history, ancient texts, archaeological investigations, travelogues and reminiscences of the British officers and research work of anthropologists. There are practically no records relating to the earlier history of this area except some oral literature and a number of historical ruins found mainly in the foot hills dating approximately around the early Christian era. The paucity of written documents, lack of script among most of the tribes inhabiting the state (excepting a few) and limited scientific investigations are the major bottlenecks in understanding the cultural and religious transformation during the ancient and medieval periods in Arunachal Pradesh.

Amrendra Kr Thakur (2008) referred to Arunachal Pradesh as being a victim of negative writing, especially pertaining to traditions followed by various communities inhabiting the state. He further goes on to state that the historians have made dangerous generalizations because of the lack of knowledge of regional variations. It is also said that the European officers, on whose reports we depend, to a large extent, for our information on the North- East Frontier during the British regime have not left any favorable accounts of the religious practices of the tribal people. Moreover, the Indian historians have mostly endorsed the approaches of imperial historians in their writings under the influence of colonial historiography. Prof J. B. Bhattacharjee (2012) says, "We historians are failing in our duty in highlighting the correct history of sensitive Arunachal Pradesh. We should tell and document the truth notwithstanding the political perspective". Dr Nani Bath in his thought provoking paper, "Arunachal Pradesh: A Geo-Political Creation with Strategic Consideration’, argued that Arunachal Pradesh is a creation of geo-political and strategic necessities of Government of India. So long as the McMohan line remains undefined, any policy related to the state will be guided by strategic considerations.

From the point of view of studying the culture and the religion of Arunachal Pradesh, the historians used three main sources for their work ie. oral history, epic literature and archaeological explorations in the state. The archaeological wealth of Arunachal Pradesh was not properly documented and scientifically studied for a long time. Last few decades have witnessed considerable development in the archaeological research, particularly in scientific investigation and excavation. Difficult geographical terrain and lack of transport and communication infrastructure proved to be the main impediments to progress in this field.

As per S.K. Tiwari (2002), historians generally tend to consider evidence mentioned in the Puranic literature as an inadequate source, unless it is supported with inscriptions. It is really not clear why a group of our historians always denounced the traditional writings. On the other hand, all over the world, scholars had been using traditional writings sources to reconstruct the history fully knowing the limitations of such works. On a positive note, some Indian historians have established the authority of old Sanskrit texts so much so that some scholars have tried to reconstruct history on the basis of the Puranas, Vedas and Epics.

The archaeological excavations and explorations conducted towards the end of the 20th century in Arunachal Pradesh revealed the state’s rich heritage, especially related to Hindu religion and worship practices during post 10th century period. The ruins of Bhismaknagar, about thirty miles from Sadiya, the Tamreswari temple nearby and the ruins of a temple complex at Malinithan, near Likabali in the West Siang district, prove conclusively that these places belong to Hindu culture and religion. Besides, there are some relics of Hindu culture at Bhalukpong in the present West Kameng district and Parsuram Kund, a famous place of Hindu pilgrimage in the Lohit district attracts numerous Hindu pilgrims from all over India. All these monuments belong to a time period ranging from 10th-11th century to 14th -15th century A.D. The most recent discovery made in the present century is that of a huge Shiva Linga near Ziro; headquarter of Lower Subansiri district, in July 2004. Interestingly, it is believed that the same Shiva Linga finds its mention in the Shiva Purana.

Here it becomes critical to look at the literary evidence in Hindu Epics and scriptures which relates to various places in Arunachal Pradesh. In the sacred Vaishnava work, Srimad Bhagavata, there is a story that the king of Vidarbha, Bhismaka, had a beautiful daughter by the name of Rukmini. The king had arranged her marriage with a prince named Sisupala, the ruler of a kingdom in the neighborhood; but Sri Krishna, the lord of Dwaraka, carried her away by stratagem and married her. The present Bhismaknagar on the river Kundil near Sadiya was known in ancient times as ‘Vidarbha’. The ruins are said to represent the palace of the King Bhismaka alluded to in the Bhagavata. Excavations in 1967 brought to light a phallic stone representing Shiva Linga. The Chutias of Assam are claimed to be the descendants of the same king. The copper temple (Tameshwari) near Bhismaknagar is also attributed to the Chutia Kings of Vidarbha. For Malinithan, it is said that Lord Krishna while going back to his home in Dwaraka, rested here with Rukmini. During their sojourn, Parvati had offered garlands of beautiful flowers from her garden to Lord Krishna and his newlywed wife Rukmini. Lord Krishna, who was overwhelmed with the charm and beauty of these flowers, addressed Parvati as ‘Malini’ or mistress of the garden. Since then the place is known as "Malinithan" or the abode of the mistress of garden. The Kalika Purana says that when the corpse of Sati, consort of Lord Shiva, was cut to pieces by Lord Vishnu with his holy discus, her head fell somewhere in a place called ‘Akasi Ganga’ (near Malinithan). More than one hundred sculptures (idols) of various gods and goddesses of Hindu pantheon, Yaksas in dancing postures, figurines, sculptured panels, animal motifs such as those of bull, lion elephant etc, and some iron dowels or clamps used to hold building materials instead of mortar; some geometric and floral designs have been discovered at Malinithan ruins. An eight feet high plinth of a temple, most beautifully and florally decorated, has also been unearthed from Malinithan. Idols of Lord Indra, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Brahma, Goddess (Malini) and Lord Ganesha are the major discoveries, besides those of the Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Sarawati and Nandi, the bull (vehicle of Lord Shiva).

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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