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The Adi, or Bangni-Bokar Lhoba people [1] is a major collective tribe living in the Himalayan hills of Nyingchi Prefecture, and they are found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions within the districts of East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang and Dibang Valley. The older term Abor is a deprecated exonym from Assamese meaning 'uncontrol'. Some of them are found in Southern Tibet (a little more north than South Tibet), around areas near the Indian border. The literal meaning of Adi is "hill" or "mountain top".


Tribes and organisation

They live in over 50 hill villages, traditionally each keeping to itself (many never leave it), under a selected chief styled GAON BURRA (British era development) who moderates the village council, which acts even as traditional court KEBANG. The olden day councils consists of all the village elder and decisions were taken in a DERE (Village community house) on majority verdict. They are divided into several tribes and sub-tribes, which include:

  • Ashing Angong - Subtribe
  • Tangams - Subtribe
  • Bogum-Bokangs-Subtribe
  • Galo-subtribe
  • Shimong - Subtribe
  • Karko - Subtribe
  • Milang - Subtribe
  • Mimat - Subtribe
  • Minyong - Subtribe
  • Padam - Subtribe
  • Pangi - Subtribe
  • Pasi - Subtribe
  • Ramo - Subtribe
  • Shimong - Subtribe
  • Tangam - Subtribe


The language spoken by this group is also called Adi (Literary meaning : Hill) which is related to the Chinese and Tibetan languages. It is spoken with minor variations among all the subtribes of Adi.


Dormitories play an important role among the Adi tribe, and certain rules are observed. For example, a male can visit the dormitory of a female, although he is not allowed to stay overnight. At times, guardians will have to be around to guide the youngsters.

The dress of the Adi consists of one multi-purpose cloth, worn by both sexes, tied around the loins, hanging down in loose strips. Helmets made from cane, bear and deer skin are sometimes worn by the men, depending on the region.

While the older women wear yellow necklaces and spiral earrings, unmarried girls wear a beyop, an ornament that consists of five to six brass plates fixed under their petticoats. Tattooing was popular among the older women.

The traditional measure of a family's wealth is the possession of gaur (known as "Eso" and often referred as "Mithun"), a native ox which is not milked or put to work but given supplementary care while grazing in the woods until slaughter.

Adi celebrate their prime festival, Solung, between in the first week of September every year for five days. It is a harvest festival performed after the sowing of seeds and transplantation, to seek for future bumper crops. Ponung songs and dances are performed during the festival. At the last day of Solung, throne and indigenous weaponry are displayed along the passage of the houses, a belief that they would protect people from evil spirits.

Festivals and dances

The Adi celebrate a number of festivals, in particular Solung, in September for five days. It is a harvest festival performed after the sowing of seeds and transplantation, to seek for future bumper crops. Ponung songs and dances are performed during the festival. At the last day of Solung, throne and indigenous weaponry are displayed along the passage of the houses, a belief that they would protect people from evil spirits.

Adis dances varies from the slow, rustic and beautifully enchanting style Ponung to the exhilarating, exuberant thumps of Delong. These dances have led to certain forms of dancing which jointly narrate a story, the Tapu War Dance. In the Tapu War Dance, the dancers vigorously re-enact the actions of war, its gory details and the triumphant cries of the warriors. Yakjong is another kind of dance whereby the dancers carry sticks with designs created by removing the barks in certain patterns and then put into the fire for some time, which creates the marked black designs.

Name of festival Dates
Aran March 7 Mopin April 5
Solung Etor May 15
Solung September 1


The Adi practice wet rice cultivation and have a considerable agricultural economy. Rice and serves as the staple foods for the Adi. Trapping and hunting, increasingly with firearms, supplement the diet; the favorite prey is the abundant rat, prepared in various ways, including pieces of rat and other meat in a rice flour cake wrapped in bannana leaves, its served for aran;the Adi keep pigs, chickens, mithuns and grow vegetables. the Adi keep pigs in a very unusual way:The pigs are kept in a fenced area under the house, which is on stilts and feeds on human waste as the pig pen is situated right under the toilet! The pigs are let out in the day. The meat of the toilet pig is actually a delicacy.


The majority of Adi traditionally followed the animist Donyi-Polo religion, which involves the worship of the sun, the moon, and the ancestral god, the shaman, called Miri, can be a female. Other deities traditionally worshipped by the Adi include Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin and Pedong Nane. Each deity is associated with certain tasks and act as protector and guardian of various topics related to nature which revolves around their daily life. This included the food crops, home, rain, etc.

In modern times many of the Adi have moved away from Donyi-Polo. A growing number of Adi, especially among the youth, have converted to Christianity. Adis in Tibet, in particular the Bokars, have adopted Tibetan Buddhism to a certain extent, as a result of Tibetan influence. But in recent few years there was a revival in the faith and the search for indigenousity on the part of the people made it popular with the youth again. Followers of Donyi Polo faith can also be found in parts of upper Assam among the Mishing tribe; according to available knowledge of history and folklores the Mishings were the Adis who migrated to Assam.


  1. ^ Name in Chinese sources. Bangnis are close to Nishis and Bokars are close to Galos.


  • Danggen, Bani. (2003). The kebang: A unique indigenous political institution of the Adis. Delhi: Himalayan Publishers. ISBN 81-86393-51-X
  • Hamilton, A. (1983 [1912]). In Abor jungles of north-east India. Delhi: Mittal Publications.
  • Mibang, Tamo; & Chaudhuri, S. K. (Eds.) (2004). Understanding tribal religion. New Delhi: Mittal. ISBN 81-7099-945-6.
  • Mibang, Tamo; & Chaudhuri, S. K. (Eds.) (2004). Folk culture and oral literature from north-east India. New Delhi: Mittal. ISBN 81-7099-911-1.
  • Lego, N. N. (1992). British relations with the Adis, 1825-1947. New Delhi: Omsons Publications. ISBN 81-7117-097-8.
  • BBC TV program Tribe, episode on the Adi; explorer Bruce Parry lived among them for a month as an honorary tribesman, 'adopted' by a village gam.
  • Danggen, Bani. (2003). A book of conversation: A help book for English to Adi conversation. Itanagar: Himalayan Publishers. ISBN 81-86393-50-1.
  • Mibang, Tamo; & Abraham, P. T. (2001). An introduction to Adi language. Itanagar, Arunachal Pradeh: Himalayan Publishers. ISBN 81-86393-35-8.

External links


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