Hiking - Destination

The Apatani Way of Life - Visit Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh

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Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, is the quaint little town of Ziro, home to the Apatani Tribe. The stunning landscape of Ziro encompasses lush paddy farms, burbling rivulets and dense settlements of bamboo houses. Like a hidden basket among the hills of the Himalayas, 1500 meters above sea-level and in the Lower Subansiri region, the Ziro valley rejuvenates and cleanses your soul.

Table of Content

  • Ziro: An Overview
  • Ziro: The Land of the Apatani Tribe
  • Best Time to Visit Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh
  • How to Reach Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
  • Highlights of Ziro
  • Permits Required
  • Places to Stay in Ziro Valley
  • Ziro Valley: Additional Information You'll Need
  • The Apatani Tribe: A Life Away from the City
  • The History and Origin of the Apatani Tribe
  • Religion
  • Dress and Style
  • Custom and Lifestyle
  • Fauna and Flora of Ziro Valley
  • Summing Up

Surrounded by long stretches of hills, Ziro Valley is the perfect example of coexistence between man and nature, in a symbiosis that has been adapted by the Apatani civilization through the centuries. The Atapani people are modest and friendly and have a rich culture and legacy.

Ziro: An Overview

apatani ziro overview
A World Untouched
  • Where it is Located: Arunachal Pradesh
  • Duration of stay: 2-3 days
  • Max Altitude: 2,438 m

Ziro: The Land of the Apatani Tribe

apatani ziro
Welcome to Ziro Valley

The Ziro valley, inhabited by the Apatani tribe, lies tucked in the lower ranges of the eastern Himalayas. It comprises of about 32 km of cultivable area in the 1058 km stretch of the plateau, undulated by small hillocks at an elevation of 1525 metres above sea level to mountain tracts ranging from 1830 to 2900 metres above sea level.

Best Time to Visit Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

The place has a pleasant climate all year. However, the month of September, after the monsoon season is the best time to visit as it is around this time of the year when the lush green paddy fields are at their most beautiful stage. The early weeks of August see heavy rainfall and are considered the official monsoon season.

apatani ziro music festival
The Ziro Music Festival: Where the Old Meets the New (Source)

Livingit Tip
If you visit Ziro in September, make sure to go to The Ziro Music Festival that the town hosts every year.

Average Temperatures

  • Monsoon: 20 to 25 degree Celsius (day); 15 to 20 degree Celsius (night)
  • Summer: 27 to 32 degree Celsius (day); 20 to 25 degree Celsius (night)
  • Winter: 22 to 26 degree Celsius (day); 13 to 18 degree Celsius (night)

How to Reach Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

Ziro is a well-connected village that you can get to by train, air, and road.

Rail

One can take a train from Guwahati to Naharlagun railway station and then hire a shared taxi till Ziro. There are trains available from Guwahati to North Lakhimpur and from there, taxis to Ziro. Cost of travel/transport is quite cheap in the area. Visit the IRCTC website for train listings and bookings

Air

The nearest Airport is the Tezpur Airport in Assam, but do not rely on flights completely as they are often cancelled due to weather conditions. The best option would be to fly till Guwahati and then to Ziro. From Guwahati, the overnight Intercity Express is available which arrives at 5 am to Naharlagun station. Take a taxi or bus to Ziro. The whole journey usually takes around 4-5 hours.

Road

Buses run between Guwahati and Itanagar and then up to Ziro, but that will take up most of your day and is not a feasible way of transport. If you come via train or plane, you can rent a car to take you to Ziro.

Highlights of Ziro

Typically, Ziro can be explored in 2 or 3 days. Taxis and rickshaws are available for hire at cheap prices.

apatani ziro wildlife sanctuary
The Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary: Naturally Beautiful (Source)

A cold morning in the hills is never to be compromised with anything in the world. The Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 32 Km north-east of Ziro, is an amalgamation of flora and fauna in one place. The alpine forests, vegetations, fir trees, orchids, ferns, rhododendron and a large variety of bamboo trees will mesmerize your senses.

You can plan a hiking and picnic at the Bamboo Groove which is renowned for the dual symbiotic growth of bamboo and the blue clad pine.

A trip to the Tipi orchid research centre or a trek to Kile Pakho, a ridge located 7 km from Ziro can also be planned on the same day but try to wrap up as early as 4:00 PM.

apatani kardo forest shiva lingam
Unmatched Faith

Visit the Tarin Fish Farm located about 200 km from the town. Other than that, there are places like Ziro Putu hillock in old Ziro, the Dolo Mando hillock, the Shiva Lingam in Kardo Forest, etc. for a trip during the day.

If you don't feel like exploring, spend the day with the locals, try out their cuisine, get familiarised with their way of living since no trip is complete without you living a life in the day of the local people.

Permits Required

Arunachal Pradesh is a government restricted area and one will need official permission to enter the state. The Government recommends two kinds of permits that are needed to enter the state. They are,

(i) Inner Line Permit (ILP) and
(ii) Protected Area Permit (PAP)

For Indians

Indians and residents of Arunachal Pradesh need ILP for entering the state. The permits are furnished issued by Government of Arunachal Pradesh. They have their offices in places like Delhi, Kolkata, Tezpur, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Jorhat.

For Foreign Nationals

Foreigners, on the other hand, are strictly required to get the PAP. They can be issued by government bodies like All Indian Missions abroad; All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRRO) situated in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata; Chief Immigration Officer, Chennai; Home Ministry; Govt. of India; and Home Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar.

Visit the official government website of Arunachal Pradesh to obtain your permit.

Places to Stay in Ziro Valley Arunachal Pradesh

apatani homestay
Homestay at Ziro: Feel Right at Home

Options for hotels in Ziro are comparatively less with most them on the expensive side. The cheapest and the best one in that area is Hotel Valley view which is a decent steal at a price of around 400 INR. Some of the other options are Hotel Blue Pine, Siiro Resort, and Ziro Valley Resort.

There are some homestays around the place as well.

Additional Information

  • Bottled drinking water is always advisable and is easily available in local shops
  • There is only one ATM at the centre of the town although some hotels may accept payment through cards. Anyhow, make sure to carry cash.
  • Mobile network connectivity is decent throughout the place

The Apatani Tribe: A Life Away from the City

apatani smiles
Million Dollar Smiles

The Apatanis, with their rich culture, bright clothes, and beautiful souls, add the perfect amount of human touch to the placidity of the Ziro Valley. Their bright smiles and welcoming nature will definitely add to your stay at Ziro.

The History and Origin of the Apatani Tribe

Ziro Valley is inhabited by the Apatani tribe whose rich culture and lifestyle are intriguing beyond reckoning. They are worshipers of nature, the sun, and the moon. The Apatani, or simply "Tani", refers to a tribal group of approximately 60,000 settlers around Ziro in the Apatani plateau situated in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Their language originates from the Sino-Tibetian family.

They have developed unique methods of sustainable farming, management, and protection of forests. There is no written account of the history of the Apatani tribe but the tales and stories that have been passed down the generations tell us that the Apatanis had a democratic system of running their society within their own turf. Bulyang is referred to as the village council.

apatani history
The Apatanis: Rich in Culture and Tales of Days Gone By

Originally, the Apatanis were northerners from Subansiri and Siang areas who followed the rivers of Kurung and Kiimey and migrated to their present habitat. Those oral accounts may have been transmitted in the form of folklores such as the "miji" and "migung". Present day landmarks support these tales and mark the migratory paths of the Apatanis. There is a stone in the small village of Yangte in Kurung Kumey district that represents the place where the Apatanis once held a high jump competition on their way. The oral accounts are validated through anthropological and scientific evidence.

Their folktales, rich with ritual chants and intriguing prose narration, all speak of Abotani, who is believed to be the original ancestor of a group of tribes in Central Arunachal Pradesh. This group, collectively known as the “Tani group”, includes tribes like the Apatanis, Adis, Mishmis, Nyishis, Hill Miris, Sulungs (or Puroiks), and Tagnis.

Religion of the People

The Apatanis are devoted followers of the Danyi-Pilo faith. They worship the Sun (Ayo Danyii) and the Moon (Atoh Piilo). An ongoing belief among the tribesmen is that Abotani was the founder of the ethnic group. They are believers of spirits as negative forces and causes of misfortunes. Their sacrament lies in the sacrifice of poultry, cows, and other domestic animals and is considered to bring prosperity. A religious song, which may be sung from ten minutes to twelve hours, accompanies all those ritual performances. Their main festival is called Myoko, the festival of friendship and prosperity and is celebrated with grandeur lasting for the entire month of March each year. Dree is another festival that is celebrated in July and is the primary agricultural festival of the Apatanis.

apatani festivals
The Myoko Festival: Celebrating Friendship and Prosperity

Recent censor shows, about 1,000 Apatanis practice Christianity which is the result of the missionary work by Mizos in recent years. The orthodox group of the Apatanis considers Christians a social inferiority. There exists a self-preservation organization among the older generation of the Apatani tribe, known as "Danyii Piillo Meder Nello". This organization is located at Hari Lemba in Ziro and its primary goal is to give a properly organized and polished shape to their traditional beliefs that have been passed down the ages and to educate the locals against unjustified and baseless conversion to other religions.

Dress and Style

apatani women dress
Unusually Beautiful

The traditional dress of the Apatanis is elaborate and colourful. Among the women of the tribe, there is a tradition of tattooing and enlarged nose piercing (nose plugs), although the practice has lost popularity throughout the ages. It reportedly started because the women wanted to look unattractive to males from neighbouring tribes. They tattoo themselves with broad blue lines from the forehead to the tip of the nose, and five vertical stripes under the lower lip in the chin. Apatani women are beautiful. They bundle up their hair and roll it into a ball (Dilling) like a topknot on their head. Occasionally, insertion of a brass skewer (Ading Akh) horizontally onto the knot speaks of style and a distinct aesthetic feature of the tribal women.

apatani men dress
Standing Out in Style

Traditionally, the men tie their hair in a knot just above the forehead (locally called as piiding) using a brass rod (Piiding Khotu) that measures twelve inches and is placed horizontally. They also wear belts made of strips of fine cane, painted in red (Yari), and bent into the shape of a horse-collar with an elongated end. The strips of cane are loosely tied together, while the loop of the horse-collar is tied round the waist. Another feature among the men is a tattoo (Tiippe) on their chin that is in the shape of a 'T', distinctly under their chin.

Evidently, a stylish tribe, their dress and ways of beautification make them stand out among other tribes in that area. Both men and women are traditional in their ways and the customs are retained in a major part of the new generation, although, exposure has brought in many new things.

Custom and Lifestyle

Apatanis, in general, are a patriarchal society. The head of the family is the man, although both men and women shoulder responsibilities within the house and the family. A typical day of an Apatani woman includes gathering vegetables, cooking, fetching water, pounding rice, cleaning the house, washing clothe and utensils, nursing, looking after children, preparation, ginning and spinning cotton and other household chores. Apatani women work in the field as well, gardening, seeding, transplanting of paddy and millet, padding, and weeding of fields being some of the errands. Both men and women work in the field. All the household expenses are handled by the women of the family.

apatani farming
A Farmers Life for Me!

The Apatanis are primarily farmers. They have developed sustainable and efficient methods of rice cultivation. The farmlands are built on flat lands and therefore, wet rice cultivation is followed along with pisciculture. They have been conserving the forests around the valley which serve as water sheds for streamlets flowing down into the fields, thereby helping them in the irrigation. Typical bamboo huts perched on top of vertical wooden stilts form dense settlements called Bastis. They make a traditional homemade rice beer with a special Apatani salt called Tapyo. Their lifestyle, society, and civilization is very rustic and devoid of the complexities of city life.

Fauna and Flora of Ziro Valley

This place in the Arunachal Pradesh is the home of various rare plant species which is specially used for medicinal purpose. The Apatani Tribe, living in the Ziro Valley of the lower district of Subhanshiri area, has carried out the plantation of medicinal plants in a systematized pattern which includes 34 plant species in total which come from 32 genera and 23 families.

apatani ziro clouded leopard
Clouded Leopards: The Big Cats of Ziro

As for the wildlife, you can find the endangered clouded leopards, amongst other animals, hiding in the trees, watching you with curious eyes.

Ziro is known for its rich folklore and traditional medicinal uses for curing a large number of ailments by means of collecting the herbs from the wild. The fauna and flora of this place are dedicatedly conserved and properly documented by the tribal people so that the future generations can benefit from it. It is also home of various beautiful flowers and rare trees which you won’t find in other parts of India.

Summing Up

The place, with its mighty monument and beautiful views, depicts a powerful picture with an essence of aesthetics. Take a walk, interact with the locals, try their food. The simplicity of the local people is sure to touch your heart. These people are friendly in nature with sense of hospitality imbibed in them. The tranquil evenings will make you rediscover yourself in the silent breeze.

apatani ziro conclusion
Explore Ziro. Rediscover Yourself.

Take a trip with your loved ones or alone. The place defines and narrates quintessence of nature. Altogether, a visit to the Apatani plateau is a unique affair in itself for the simple and rudimentary pleasures in life that you will experience during the trip!

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