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Arunachal Pradesh - The Unexplored Paradise - Part Three

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Published on Jun 1, 2011

Another major crop for the tribe is bamboo. Unique to the Apatani are the simple and sturdy bamboo houses they live in. Ziro village comprises of rows of bamboo houses that together make the largest bamboo village in the world, and one where almost every house looks alike -- perhaps this is a subtle message in social leveling.

Bamboo is a most versatile resource, and is greatly valued among the Apatani people. Almost every family has their own nursery of bamboo plants, where they grow a unique species that was imported from central Asia centuries ago. Bamboo is used not only for building, but also for cooking, eating and basket making. By growing their own bamboo in private reserves, the Apatani are able to quickly harvest bamboo when required for construction, or in the rare event that a fire guts a portion of their village. This practice was designed so as not to destroy their local forests. It seems the Apatani may have an important message in sustainable agriculture and environment-friendly practices for the rest of the world. Either way, the Apatani have made rice and bamboo an essential part of their lives, in consumption and trade.

Much like their look and their cash crop, the Apatanis' games can be just as unusual, to say the least. Rat hunts are another curious part of Apatani life. The entire process is a community affair with all the young males joining in to the group effort. Rats are smoked out of their underground homes, captured and killed. On the occasion that a fleeing rat manages to bite one of the hunters, and draw blood, a chunk of the rat's hair is applied to the injured finger, in what appears to be a tribal remedy. The day's catch is then carefully and lovingly stashed away in a carry bag. Later, the rats are skewered and roasted over a small spit, and the community partakes of their evening snack!


Arunachalis clearly haven't adapted to the modern grocery store! A group of Apatani hunters set out into the thick forests above Pasighat, in search of a variety of possible quarries. Armed with machetes and muzzle-loading guns, the men have shot a macaque. Any Arunachali male will tell you that hunting and cooking over an open fire is one of their favorite pastimes. They proceed to cook within the forest over an impromptu campfire. The meat is cooked using hollow bamboos and plantain leaves. Of course, the remaining skull and bones make for a grisly sight!

Next day, the men have scored even bigger. A large male wild boar has been killed. Despite it weighing more than 100 kilograms, one of the hunters manages to carry it back to their forest camp. This will provide them with enough meat for the rest of their hunt and some to take back home for their families. They cook the boar's meat over a slow fire, and make bamboo baskets to carry the remaining meat back to their village, lining the basket with wild banana leaves.

Of course, nothing accompanies a good pork filled home meal better than some local brew to go with it. No evening meal or celebration in Arunachal is complete without the customary rice beer, Apong. Here it's the women that are the brewmasters. Women sit together to knead a combination of rice and ash. The resulting mixture is placed to cook over a slow fire. Of course, no one would miss the opportunity of a slow fire so they will take advantage and add pork to the upper layer of rice beer as well!

Yeast is then added to accelerate the process of fermentation. To test a small sample, they add warm water from atop. The final product is filtered through the admixture, and the final liquid is the Apong itself.

Being a culture that is based on the oral telling of their history, the Apong provides the right motivation to do so. Community meetings are popular and a necessity amongst Arunachalis. Whether it's a grievance being voiced or a mindless chatter among friends, the bonfire communion is a way of telling history for the Arunachalis.

"This clip of professionally-shot broadcast stock footage belongs to the archive of Wilderness Films India Ltd., and has been filmed on either Digital Betacam or 1080i HD. Please write to us for licensing queries at wfi @ vsnl. com and admin@wildfilmsindia.com."

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