Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Midnight Call of Spirits:The Strange Story of Pegu Siyeng of Arunachal Pradesh

 Lake of Spirits :The Pegu Siyeng near Yingkiong,Arunachal Pradesh Photo:Dinesh Pegu /TPOK
                  The Pegu Siyeng is consider as once an inhabited place of the Pegu clans of the present day Mising tribe,most of whom are living in to-day's Assam,India.Siyeng literally means lake in Tani language,so it got its name from Pegus who were once in the side of the lake.The beautiful lake of  Pegu Siyeng is located near Yingkiong,the head quarter town of Upper Siang district of present day Arunachal Pradesh.The Siyeng consisted of two lakes previously but it is said that one of the lake was developed for agricultural farming by an influential resident.When Omak Apang ,son of Gegong Apang,the former chief minister of Arunachal,once became an union minister in the centre,there was a bid to develop it a hotspot tourist destination.Elder Pegu clan members told this blogger that the minister efforts led to construction of houses to facilitate lodging for tourists near the lake.
          The surroundings of Pegu Siyeng was improvised from its bare natural state to replenish a better look.However,the houses were soon abandoned for some strange but serious reasons after few years.A caretaker,who was in charge of the newly constructed buildings and living in one the houses by the side of the Siyeng,woke up every midnight from his deep slumber.The reason:the caretaker was awakened by nightmare from none other than the spirits of the Pegu Siyeng.The horrible dreams of midnight due to the call of spirits led to abandoned of  the houses,since then. By teleological assumption,we must called it as a sacred place.May be a customary rites and rituals by Pegu clan will  make free the lake from spirits!Well ,it can be Amarnath or Haridwar for Pegu clan!

             The story about Pegu Siyeng find mentioned in one of Arunachal's former top bureaucrat's autobiography.Rajani Kanta Patir ,who rose to become the chief secretary of the young state of Arunachal during Gegong Apang's tenure,vividly describe in his memoir ''Dawn in the East" the existence of this abode of Pegu clan in this part of Siang belt.Patir hailed from Moukhuwa in Assam's Lakhimpur district and was a cousin of Kaziranga National Park's pioneer Mahi Chandra (Patir)Miri.Patir was a Mising tribe man,the largest group of Tani people.Patir also helped in running the Donyi Polo Vidya Bhawan schools of Arunachal Pradesh.

Note:Pegu is a surname of Mising>Mishing>Miching>Miri> Tani tribe of Northeast India.It is interesting to note that the Pegu surname holders have formed an association called Takam Pegu Opín Kébang(TPOK) few years back to  deal with the aspect of origin and history of the clan.In 2010,the TPOK even hold a mammoth meeting at Akajan near Silapathar in Upper Assam.I'd the opportunity to talk with one of the office bearer of the TPOK once while I was travelling to Pasighat in a night service bus.TPOK men told me that together with Megu,the blood brothers of Pegus on Arunachal side,are making efforts to develop the Pegu Siyeng as protected heritage site with the help of government as well as clan members.This blogger is grateful to Mg Dinesh Pegu and Mg Juwel Pegu for their valuable inputs on Pegu Siyeng.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More on Pagro Clan origin story

    • From our further conversation on Pagro clan origin,Dr Riba said ,"I negate those theories about the origin of d term Pagro. Pagro was a name of a person. All Tani tribes inherit their clan from their forefathers. As per our oral history, Pagro clan might be the earliest clan of Miri people (no offence). Pagro might have been son of Ato Tapak (Tapak was again christened as Nyipak. Tapak(who left Ato Tame at Tibet) was earliest migrant from Tibet to enter Assam plain. So, our people mistakenly consider all plain people be Nyipak but actually, Mishings were/are the descendants of Ato Tapak/Nyipak. Now, the term Nyipak is exclusively used for non-tribal people. But it would be wrong to say-Mishings are non-tribal again). It would have been possible to find the origin of the term Pagro (we pronunce as 'Pagro) had you followed our system of genealogy counting".

      Dr Riba added that it would been easier if the Miri/Mising would have adopted the genealogy based name.The name of this begin with the last name of the father when it comes naming of new born babies.Unfortunately,the Mising people under the influenced of Hindu cultures has abandoned this unique genealogical naming pattern nevertheless that could have easily helped in tracing the origin of Pagro or any other clans.Dr Jatin Mipun in his book 'The Mishings(Miris);Development of New Style'' said that the Misings left their genealogical naming system in the early nineteenth century.It is noteworthy that the Galo Tanis still follow this naming pattern.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Return of the Donyi-Polo:25 years of Revivalism

Talom Rukbo,the ambassador of cultural renaissance

                     Does religion,faith and worship still hold importance to the people in this hyper liberal individualist world? Have you ever imagined people’s skyrocketing participation even in this age on socio-religious movement that was reawakened just two and half decades ago? The Donyi-Polo Yelam Kébang(DPYK),(but spelt as Do:nyi Po:lo as per dialectic tone of the Tanis,also in their religious book,in recent nomenclature too)the brainchild of late Talom Rukbo ,that kick started its reawakening movement at Pasighat back in 1986 has now gathered into eminence among the Tani peoples of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.A person from Along in West Siang district who happened to be Talom Rukbo's contemporary said in his deliberation that Rukbo initiated cultural renaissance in the Northeastern region among the indigenous peoples.The silver jubilee year celebration of Donyi Polo movement,considered as the indigenous faith since ancient times; commemorating Talom Rukbo,the socio-religious reformer,witnessed thousands of participation of delegates from as far as Tuting near China border in Arunachal Pradesh  to Tsangpo/Siang/Brahmaputra’s largest deltaic island Majuli in the plains of Assam.The Tani people are none other than Adi,Nyishi,Galo,Mising,Tagin,Hill Miri tribes,also well-known as the descendants of Abo Tani.The Tani people habitats are the plains and hills in the states of Assam,Arunachal Pradesh of  India and part of Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR) of China.
The Central Ganggiing ground,the venue where the event saw the large gathering
 Return of the 'traditions' against 'modernity'?
            The Donyi Polo as an indigenous faith has been gaining momentum that was clear from the large number of participation in the recently held 25 years of revival celebration at the place where it regained its movement from 01 to 03 December,2011.It  is equally important to think why the ancient faith that was limited only to communities and households practices has seen  increasing number of people’s participation.The modernization that comes to contact in the form of development in education,communication and exchange of ideas along with socio-economic and  political implications among the tribes previously untouched by modern civilizations have huge impact in the thinking and perception of the people.First it was Christian Missionaries who reached out to the Tani tribes followed by administration of the colonial government,and finally the national government after it India attained Independence.Whether  it may be the conscious  educated masses’ emotional bonding to one’s culture,language,faith,origin,race,ethnicity that were once educated by Christian or Hindu Missionaries or their deep attachment towards ‘traditional’ spirituality the Donyi Polo movement has thousand reasons to smile to-day,that too  in this market defined-destiny of the world.It is significant to mentioned the critical debates of the academic circles  here that the Marxists thought modernization would usher development of  inevitable class consciousness that would strike at the root of ethnicity.Again,Emile Durkheim,the eminent sociologist,said the growth of individualism will make the ethnic groupings more or less redundant;Max Weber emphasized that ‘rationality ‘ would strike the root of ‘traditional’ structures.Although they may not have used the term ‘ethnic’ but the groupings were more or less in reference to it.
 Delegates from Majuli Island to Tuting in China border
People thronging the prayer hall-Ganggiing
                     The spectacular event gathering the phases in case of Donyi Polo movement is noteworthy in reference to the social sciences debate.The event  at Pasighat saw younger generations’ active involvement .It was observed that there were number of cultural troupes particularly females from Tuting to Majuli dancing to the hymns of Angun Bédang,the sacred book of Donyi Polo believers.The devotion and dedication of young  volunteers in the entire three-day event of Donyi Polo Yelam Kébang in a rarely-seen discipline manner reflected  the younger generations’ interest,determination,responsibility,devotion and commitment to uphold and carry forward the values and morals what the forefathers has bestowed on them.The practices called ‘traditional’ has received widespread applause from the younger Tani generation even at the juncture of liberal individualism.These developments seriously called for a new research interest in the arena of social sciences.
A gadu onno sornam competition on progress
                  The venue of the DPYK’s celebration show thousands of people of all ages thronging the site for the entire three days.The event saw revival of dying cultural traits by organizing local sports such as gadu onno sornam(cotton blanket wool making;gadu is a hand woven blanket used by Tanis),dogdiig giinam(stand-bamboo walk),tug-of-war with bamboo,riidiin yaadnaam(the holy thread making),cultural competitions of Donyi Polo hymns ,traditional attire show in where large number of participants and spectators witnessed the events.Delegates  not only East Siang region were there but from Guwahati,Itanagar,Roing,Namsai,Tuting,Yingkiong,Majuli,Jonai,Dhemaji,North Lakhimpur attended the event.Religious discourses were cited by Miris/Priests and functionaries of DPYK in the programmes.
 The Sun Shines ,the Moon Lightens up!
           Isn’t the 25th year commemorative event a big return of Donyi-Polo?I meant the homecoming of indigenous faith with large number of Tani people’s participation and self-realization of the values and ideals of their indigenous belief.Let me conclude with a quote from the Donyi-Polo faith for the sake of  righteous path of human-being:

         "Do:nyi angun unnam kísa:pé apí angun un langka,
          Po:lo lolat latnam kísa:pé arang ansíngém pélangka”
          (Enlighten your mind as the Sun shine,soften your mind as the Moon light.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Origin of Pagro sub-group among present day Mising tribe

           There are basically two postulates on the origin of Pagro sub-group of Mising tribe.The debates revolves round the stalwarts of Mising historians and writers.There is also a moderate animosity among Mising tribe within the Mising Agom Kébang(MAK) so as to which dialects should be the "standard form" notwithstanding the fact that a language has many features with various dialects to usher a growth and development of literature.
The Subtle Sub-groups
          There are many sub-groups among present day Mising tribe where they are more or less differ in their dialects as well as variation in tones.The well-known sub-groups (sometime it is also referred as clans )Sa:yang(colon is used for high central vowel, a bit long sounding, according to  the Agom Kébang,hereafter),Mo:ying,Délu(diacritical mark on e is used according to Interntional Phonetics Association Model  as adopted by MAK to suit in Mising words,hereafter),Oyan,Pagro,Somuwa,Samuguria,Dambuk,Tamar and Bihiyas.Of these sub-groups,however,the Samuguria,Tamar and Bihiyas uses Assamese as their medium of expression with more or less mixture of Mising words in between,sometime not at all. The Somuwa sub-group ,of late,members have changed their  surnames to Adi sounding surnames from surnames which actually exists in Mising tribe and to-day identified themselves as Adi Somuwas, 6-7 years ago,a latest study says.I also heard this from two Mising people,whose village is next to the Somuwa of Lekang constituency of Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh at Pasighat while I was attending a Do:nyi Po:lo Yelam Kébang(DPYK) silver jubilee year celebration from Dec 1 to Dec 3,2011.

Two Theories on Pagro
          The two theories on the meaning of Pagro sub-group which is highly debated in two intellectual camps are as follows.

One,Dr Nomal Chandra  Pegu,the author of ''The Mishings of the Brahmaputra Valley",the first post-independence writer of the tribe,said Pagro comes from two words Aro+Pag(to understand this second meaning we may refer to paggod,pagnam etc ) meaning Real+Root( loosely Blood). The amalgamation of two words formed Pagro or Real Root/Blood.

Two,Professor Nahendra Padun,the noted Mising linguist and writer and founder secretary of MAK,constructed "Pagro" in this manner ''Mipag+Aro" meaning "People other than Mising(Non-Mising,say)+ Real" that led to formed the  Real Non-Mising people.(Attributed this fact from Mg Juwel Pe:gu,executive member of MAK at Pasighat while interacting with this blogger). 

The Hite-Pagro and Miro Clans War
           As  my inquisitive mind command more from me since I'm not satisfied with either of the above postulated reconstructions of "Pagro" to which  sub-group I too belong, once I'd the luck of exchanging ideas on Pagro through Facebook chat with my Achi(Elder Brother) Dr Bomchak Riba of Rajiv Gandhi University of the department of Geography on this once hotly debated issue of the intellectual circles  of the Mising Tani tribe.Dr Riba belongs to present-day Galo Tani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh and  he clubbed his clan to Lare Galo.He hailed from Darw village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.It is interesting to note his account when the debate on Pagro took place among Mising circles  without much historical ingredients,oral or written.Excerpts from our conversation:

"Heard that Hite-Pagro fought with Miro clan. Still there is a cave called Miro-Pomar Aru ( means cave of Pomar Miro) in the hills of Perlek. But the cave is inaccessible or untraceable now. My father used to tell me the story. He even saw the cave. In the entry of the cave, 4-5 pieces of flat rocks could be seen. In the war Pomar Miro was chased by Hite-Pagro people. He hide himself inside the cave with stucked poisoned arrow in his calf muscle. Hite-Pagro people tried to hook him out with maamo (thorny flagella of canes) but failed as he went more inside the cave. Pomar Miro was too injured to move even an inch. He stayed in the cave for several days. While inside the cave, he killed one porcupine (hosi) with his only last weapon, Rokchik (knife). He ate all the meat and drank the blood. He would dry the meat in the sun near mouth of the cave (probably those flat rocks were his drying place for meat). On the other hand, his village performed Bume-runam(act of burying someone's belongings when the person is lost or deadbody is not found). On a fine morning, his ( Pomar's) son told his mother his father has returned. His wife was not at all astonished as she taught that-it could be orom/yaji-yalo (spirit of human) but it was real Pomar."

           Dr Riba also added an interesting note, '' Earlier there were neither Mising nor Galo;neither Adi nor Nyipak.Just they were known by clan name only".

             This new story could be the latest substance in understanding the Pagro  meaning and origin.The earlier two theories were void of much historical reasoning and evidence to believed except attempting to establish vocabulary rendition.It is also significant to mentioned that Dr N Lego,a noted Tani historian,had mentioned in his book "The History of the Mishings of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh" that Pegu and Doley clans didn't faced any war of clans  while moving to their present day habitat possibly for taking a different route.They peacefully come down from  a place called Karko.It is again notable to mentioned here that Pegu and Doley bearing surnames are  well-known composition of Pagro clan.This is another twist to the inquiry of origin and meaning Pagro sub-group.

N.B.Please do not take this writing otherwise especially those who are from different clans of Mising or Galo,whatever may be.This blogger take interest in writings about the oral history,myths and legends,origin,clan wars,folk songs,culture ,faith and religion,land and territory,mores,language,literature,development,politics ,life style and society relating to the Abo Tani descent tribes.This writing is not  for focusing Pagro clan or establishing supremacy among the others.This is just for the sake of  dissemination of information.