Arunachal Pradesh is a land of beautiful handicrafts comprising a wide variety. From the viewpoint of the art and culture the state may be very conveniently divided into three zones i.e.- the Buddhist tribe
The people of the first zone make beautiful masks. They periodically stage pantomimes and masked dances. They also make exquisite painted wooden vessels and silver articles. Carpet making is a speciality of the Monpas, the Buddhist community. Carpets with exotic designs of dragons, geometric and floral patterns are made here. Carpet weaving has today become a major occupation of the womenfolk and with an increase in demand, production of the carpets is now being undertaken on a large scale.
Those of the second zone are expert workers in cane and bamboo. The cane and bamboo industry of the state has made a name for itself. As a matter of fact most of the domestic requirements are made of these materials. hats, baskets, canes vessels, cane belts - woven and plain, bamboo mugs and carvings, a wide variety of ornaments and jewellery items are all crafted by workmen. The shawls and jackets, shoulder bags and coats all stand for the perfection that the people have attained in this art.
The people of the third zone are famous for their wooden carvings. The Monpa wood carver scoopes out beautiful cups, dishes and fruit bowls and magnificent ceremonial masks for dances and pantomimes. Another tribe that is framed for this art is the Khamptis who carve out beautiful religion images, figures of dancers, toys and other objects. They weave beautiful bags and loin cloths too. Goat's hair, ivory, boar's tus, beads of agate and the stones as well as of brass and glass are specialities of the people of this zone.
Weaving is the occupation of the womenfolk throughout the territory. They have an excellent sense of colour. The basic colours that dominates the weaves are black, yellow dark blue, green and scarlet - all put together in the most fascinating combinations. Originally natural dyes were used which today have given away to synthetic dyes. The designs are essentially geometric varying from a formal arrangement to lines and bands. Items that could make excellent buys are Sherdukpen shawls, Apatani jackets and scarve, Adi skirts, jackets and bags, Mishmi shawls, blouses and jackets; and Wancho bags.
Crafting ornaments is another art widely practised by the Arunachalis. Besides multicoloured beads, feathers of birds and wings of the green beetles are also used as embellishments. The Akas make bamboo bangles and earings which are occassionally decorated with pokerwork designs.
Paper making, smithy work, carpentry, pottery and ivory work are the other crafts practised by the Arunachalis. The Monpas make paper locally, from pulp of trees called Sukso or the other paper tress. This hand made paper is used for writing religious prayers on them. Hunting, fishing also form the subsidiary occupations. With a view to help developing arts and crafts and to substantiate the livelihood of the people, local boys and girls are imparted training in specially set up crafts centres. The rich heritage of art and crafts of Arunachal Pradesh is sure to add colour to the cultural heritage of the country.
The dances, performed by the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, have been broadly divided into four groups. The first group is the ritual dances which may again be divided into five sub-groups. The first sub-groups includes those dances which form part of the various rituals performed to secure prosperity, good health and happiness of the dancer, his family, village or the whole community. The second sub-group comprises of those dances performed in ceremonies related to agriculture and domestication of animals to secure a good harvest and increase of domestic animals respectively. The third sub-group is associated with the funeral ceremony when the soul is guided by a priest to its abode in the land of the dead and to prevent it from haunting its old residence. It is generally believed that if the soul returns to its old home the bereaved family suffers diseases and deaths. The fourth sub-group consists of the fertility dances. These are magical in the sense that the imitation of the movements of coition is believed to promote fertility. War-dances make the fifth sub-group, which are on the decline with the stoppage of internecine feuds and raids. In the old days, when an expeditionary party was successful in killing an enemy or more, the victors used to perform a ceremony on return, so that the spirit of the slain could do no harm to the slayer. Only among the Idu Mishmis, the victim's family also used to perform rites praying for success in taking vengeance. Dance formed a part of this ceremony. The war-dance used to be prevalent among almost all the non-Buddhist tribes.
The second group is the festive-dance which forms the recreational part of a particular festival. The third group is the recreational dances which do not form part of any particular festival or ritual. These are performed on occasions which inspire its participants to express their mirth through these dances. The fourth group is the pantomimes and dance-dramas which narrate a mythical story or illustrate a moral.
The Wancho tribes perform dances during appropriate occasions like festivals, ceremonies etc. Ozele festival of Wanchos is celebrated in February-March after the sowing of millet. It lasts for four days and was observed in Longkhau village. The dance is performed from about 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. inside the chief's house. Among the male-folk, boys, youths and adults take part while among women, only girls and those young married women who have not joined the husband's family, take part in the dance.The Idu Mishmi Ritual Dance
The Idu Mishmis have a ritual-dance and a fertility-dance. The ritual-dance is performed by the priest or priestess in the ceremonies of Ai-ah, Ai-him, Mesalah and Rren. The fertility-dance is performed on the last day of the Rren ceremony. There is no definite myth about the origin of this dance. According to local tradition, the first priest who officiated in a funeral ceremony was Chineuhu and his brother, Ahihiuh, was the first priest who officiated in the other three ceremonies in which this dance forms a part. This dance is associated with the priestly office. Besides the priest, there are three or four other dancers who are selected from amongst the spectators. In addition it is the usual dress which consists of a loin-cloth, a short-sleeved coat, and a sword slung on the right side, a leather bag slung on the left side and a few bead-necklaces, the priest wears a few other articles. These articles are an apron with particular designs, a head-band decorated with two or three rows of cowries, a necklace studded with the teeth of tiger and bear and a few metal bells. A priestess wears these special articles in addition to the usual Mishmi woman's dress of a skirt, a long sleeved coat and bead-necklaces. The priestess is generally accompanied by female dancers. The accompanying dancers wear the usual dress. The dancers stand in a line, the priest is second either from the right or left. During the dance, one dancer standing at one end of the line plays a small drum slung from his neck. The priest and the other two dancers play a very small semi-globular single-membrane drum, striking it with a bamboo-stick which is kept tied to the drum with a string. The fifth dancer, if any, plays a horn bugle. When there are five dancers, the priest stands in the middle of the line. He sings a line of invocatory song while all the others play the musical instruments, flex the knees bobbing up and down and alternately raise the right and left heels and stamp these on the ground in time to the drum-beats. When the priest finishes singing the line, others repeat it in chorus. Again the priest sings another line of the song which the others repeat in chorus and thus it goes on. The priest does not demand any money for his priestly services, but the performer usually remunerates him according to his ability. The remuneration may also be paid in kind, e.g. with handloom coat, brass utensils or pigs.Digaru Mishmi Buiya Dance
The Digaru Mishmis have two types of dances called Buiya and Nuiya. The Buiya dance has two types of movements and it is performed for entertainment while the Nuiya is a ritual-dance performed by a priest. Buiya dance is performed on any festive occasion like the Duiya, Tazampu and Tanuya festivals which are performed for the prosperity and good health of the performer and his household. This dance may also performed after a feast arranged by a family to entertain the fellow villagers who co-operate with it opening a new field. The dance is performed in the passage which runs along one side of the house from the front to the rear. Men and women take part in this dance. There is no limit to the age of the dancers although generally children and old persons do not take active part in the dance itself but merely sit by, as spectators. There is no special costume for this dance, so they perform this dance wearing their usual dress. The dancers get no remuneration. There is no formal training but they learn the dance movements by imitating those of the elders.The Khampti Dances
The Kamptis, who are Buddhists, have many dance-dramas through which they unfold some stories or depict mythical events bearing ethical lessons. These dramas are generally staged during the religious festivals of Potwah, Sankian or Khamsang, constituting the entertainment part of the festivals. The dance is called ka and the dance-drama is called kapung (ka-dance; pung-story) and actually means a story depicted through the dance. The rehearsal of a drama starts about one month before a festival. This may be done in the monastery or in any house of their choice. The well-to-do-villagers invite the drama-party when the drama is staged in the front courtyard or in some suitable open space near their house. Women do not take part in the drama. The female role, if any, is played by a man in woman's costume. After the performances, the party is given a remuneration of seven, fourteen, twenty-eight or forty-two rupees-always an amount divisible by seven. They purchase with this money the costumes and masks used in the dramas. The surpluses, if any, is shared by the members of the drama party.Ka Fifai Dance-Drama
The Ka Fifai drama is woven round the theme of the traditional belief that ghosts appear and kidnap girls or men and trouble them. The participants in the drama consist of a man, his daughter who is kidnapped, the ghost who does the kidnapping, the Ministers of the State who make preparations for war against the ghost, the King of the stage in which the girl's father is a subject, and the king's men who go out to capture the ghost.Ponung Dance (Adis)
Adi village has a rich cultural life. The tribal people are famous for their Ponung that is dancing with the accompaniment of songs. A group of girls dance in a circle holding each other by stretching their hands over each others shoulders while the leader-usually a man called the Miri-dances and sings in the centre-holding aloft and shaking a sword like musical instrument called 'Yoksha'. First he sings a line and then it is repeated in chorus by the maidens rhythmically in circle at a low pace. On all important occasions ponung is arranged.Sadinuktso (Akas)
The Akas have a number of dances and songs for the different socio-religious festivities. One of the well known dance among the Akas is the Sadinuktso. A member from the boy's group comes forward, gives his performance for a short while and recedes. A girl then comes and she also dances all alone. This relation goes on till all the boys and girls of the group have danced. No song is sung with this dance. It is generally performed in marriages, guest, entertainments or on the construction of a new house.