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Discovering the Sun & Moon Worshipping Tribals of Ziro Valley

Of all the places on my Holiday Scout tour, I have to say I was looking forward to meeting the Apatani tribe in Ziro Valley the most. It’s probably the top tourist place in Arunachal Pradesh, and is close to becoming a UNESCO Heritage Site, but it still receives very few visitors and you’ll most likely only see a handful while you are there.

ziro valley tribals There isn’t so much a “guide to Ziro Valley” because its so small.

You are WAY better off to go with a tour group like we did, or you might find that the tribals go inside when you come by. They don’t mind their photos taken if they feel like they can trust you (and maybe if they get some chewing tobacco in return). It was great to have Sange there who has been meeting these people for years, therefore making sure we were invited into so many homes we couldn’t possibly have another cup of tea without buzzing!

Arunachal has dozens of different tribes and throughout the state there are over 50 languages spoken. Apatani is one, and these tribals are known for their nose plugs and facial tattoos. We were told they did this to look “less appealing” to other tribes who were coming in and stealing the women.

Ziro Valley20

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribalsOver time, Christian Missionaries have come in and put a stop to some of the practices. While Arunachal didn’t have cannibalism (that I know of), it’s neighbor, Nagaland did. They were head-hunters. Some things the Apatani did including the nose plugs have been stopped by the government as they promote tribal differences, and inevitably warfare.

The hardest region of India to control is the Northeast because of the tribes and their tribal laws. As we drove into Ziro there was a big sign “Welcome to Ziro Valley! Jesus loves you!”. There were churches, and many men like this one wore a cross. But I didn’t get it in the photo. It was there, promise. haha.

ziro valley tribals

The missionaries were Baptist and many Apatani have converted to Christianity from Sun and Moon worshipping which is called Donyi-Polo. The religion is still alive and well, but the problem is the youngsters aren’t becoming Shamans anymore and it’s harder to follow the religion now and actually simply, easier, to just be a Christian since there are so many churches.

Below are places where animal sacrifices have happened.

ziro valley tribals alters from a recent sacrifice

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals The kids here, and in many other parts of the state speak a little Korean because they love K-pop music! They dress Western and have motorbikes. The boys have very “Korean” haircuts as my guide. Big Mohawks and crazy color dyes added in. The teenage girls were wearing the same style skinny jeans as me!ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals There was no lacking in puppies! For some reason, there were so many adorable dogs everywhere we looked. I think I must have held at least 20 and seen about 30! Let me show you what it was like inside one of the homes below, and then I’ll explain a little bit about it.

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals a lady on her front porch drying rice

ziro valley tribals He’s kept these Mithun horns from after sacrifices

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals the houses are made from bamboo and you can see the edges of the stove here
ziro valley tribals Each house has a huge stove in the middle, they will sleep just near it to keep warm. You can see below, what the smoke does to the bamboo above which isn’t good for their health. It’s carbon.

ziro valley tribals We also saw a TV in a house we went to for lunch. I loved that they kept the Styrofoam from the packing in the box. 
ziro valley tribals

We visited two villages: Hong and Hari, and they were really similar. We went to the craft center and the emporium but I’m sharing about that in another post. We also spent some time at the Museum which was amazing. It showed all the different tribes in Arunachal Pradesh and what they eat, drink, how they dress, dance, and pray… and compared them all. There were artifacts and also a whole section just on clothing.

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribalsWe stayed for lunch one day which was an interesting mixture of chicken and egg cooked inside a stock of bamboo. It was actually nice with some chili on it but to be honest I didn’t eat much because I was afraid I would get sick. I usually don’t care and eat street food all the time, but I just felt like being careful. The veggies of the side were in a sauce made from water from the well, so I didn’t eat them at all as I wasn’t sure if they boiled it first.

ziro valley tribals I saw a couple of guys walking home as the sun started to set and I ran out to ask them if they’d been out working and to find out about them. They said they’d been hunting…

ziro valley tribals … then he pulled out what he was hunting from his pocket and I was hoping they didn’t invite me to dinner! RATS!

ziro valley tribals

ziro valleythis is what rat looks like in the markets

During the day we also saw a traditional dance, from the women only, and it was SO unique. It’s something I’ll never forget and I’m going to try to make a video to show it to you. The women on the side chanted and sang and the women dancing repeated everything back then eventually made us come dance with them.

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribalsWe stayed at Ziro Valley Resort which according to Tripadvisor is #3 of 4 of Bed and Breakfasts in Ziro. There are ZERO hotels.  I loved this resort. The food was delicious, the french fries especially- who would think you could do something to make french fries even better!? The scenery was great and luckily, the type of heater they gave you here could be kept on all night unlike the ones in Tawang. There was also an amazing dog who just chilled with us in our room, making it really homey. We stayed two nights.

ziro valley resort

ziro valley resortDefinitely stay through the evening so you can see the amazing sunset in this valley! Some people there do offer their homes up as a homestay, and although a great cultural experience, you will most likely be okay to head to a hotel to shower and such after being there all day.

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

ziro valley tribals

 

2017-07-06T15:23:18+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

15 Comments

  1. venus john January 25, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    lovely..

  2. Tenzin January 26, 2016 at 12:10 am - Reply

    Great read from Rachel again.

  3. Paul @ Voyages and Vistas January 26, 2016 at 3:00 am - Reply

    Fantastic photos and stories from a region I have read very little about. Thanks for sharing – looking forward to reading more of your posts! Cheers –

  4. roy January 26, 2016 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    ugh we want to go there so bad. we are really starting to rethink our 3 month india trip, but we are not ready to let it go just yet. I think the pollution, harassment, and possibility of getting sick is really whats making us question it. Maybe we will do Sri Lanka instead…In any case, thank you for your blog. Lots of good stuff and one of the main reasons we DO want to travel india.

    • Rachel Jones January 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm - Reply

      It’s a lot to think about! glad that the blog can help you decide.

  5. Cheeky January 27, 2016 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Loved it! I grew up in India, but have never visited the Northeast. You don’t read much about it, so I’ve always been curious. Thanks for all of the information!

    • Rachel Jones January 28, 2016 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Happy to give info about this place- I didn’t know much about it at all before going.

  6. Joella February 5, 2016 at 3:41 am - Reply

    It’s so interesting to see how the older generation have the traditional nose plugs and the younger generation have Korean hair cuts and skinny jeans. Things change in such a short space of time- it’s crazy!

    • Rachel Jones February 7, 2016 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      Yeah it’s totally bizarre .. they always say things are “east meets west” but this is just east meets new east!

  7. Rubal July 16, 2016 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel, lovely article ! I’m planning a visit to Ziro in September and incidentally also came across the Ziro Festival of Music (to be held in Sept). Would you be aware of logistics for reaching to Ziro from Guwahati/Naharalagun (any cab contacts would help)? Also, is vegetarian food generally available there (as some of my friends are vegetarians). Thanks in advance !

    • Rachel Jones July 17, 2016 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      I was on a tour so don’t have cab contacts. I also didn’t come here straight from Guwahati so I don’t know the logistics for that. There was veggie food there. I hope you have fun!

  8. Hibu D. Moda July 19, 2016 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Hong is my home village… I hope u loved it visiting there.

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