Apatani: Pagans of the Lizard Valley.

Nada Puri, a member of the Nada clan, talks about her people, the Apatani, who live in the Ziro Valley in Northeast India. This people, belonging to the Tibeto-Birman language group, numbering about 35,000, are known for their traditions and unique way of life.

The Apatani are compactly settled in 12 villages in Ziro district, centered at Khapoli, at an altitude of over one and a half thousand meters above sea level. They speak the Apatani language, although there is no written language. Most of the tribe practice animism and worship the sun and moon, making sacrifices to them for the prosperity of the tribe. They also practice agriculture and are among the best farmers in Arunachal.

One of the basic principles of the Apatani is to respect nature and the environment. They do not cut down the pine forest, preserving it and the plants they need. When the land runs dry, they irrigate it with water to continue growing crops. They also raise fish in the rice paddies, releasing carp into the water after the harvest to grow and keep the ecosystem balanced.

Apatani traditions and customs also include tattoos on the faces of the women. In the past, to protect their women from being kidnapped by other tribes, the Apatani began tattooing their faces and inserting black plugs into their noses. This was a kind of disfigurement to make the women look less attractive to kidnappers. However, with the advent of education and university studies, this tradition began to fade away. Young people became self-conscious about their appearance and stopped using these rituals.

Despite the changes, the Apatani continue to preserve their traditions and cherish their valley. They are unique in their way of life and devotion to nature. Their farming skills and concern for the environment make them an example to other peoples.

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