Arunachal’s tribes revive indigenous lockdown rituals

A priest said that it is the first time in four decades that the ceremony was done

March 27, 2020 10:40 pm | Updated March 28, 2020 11:28 am IST - GUWAHATI

Getting prepared: Galo community elders performing Ali-Ternam ritual before the Arr-Rinam or lockdown ceremony in West Siang district in Arunachal Pradesh.

Getting prepared: Galo community elders performing Ali-Ternam ritual before the Arr-Rinam or lockdown ceremony in West Siang district in Arunachal Pradesh.

A tribal lockdown ritual has staged a comeback in Arunachal Pradesh, the State geographically closest to China’s Hubei province where the COVID-19 outbreak began.

The border State’s West Siang district ceremonially entered the Arr-Rinam phase at the stroke of 5 p.m. on Thursday. Arr-Rinam is the Galo equivalent of lockdown imposed by consensus for 48 hours whenever an epidemic strikes. The Galos, one of the 26 major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, dominate West Siang distric

Coronavirus has not yet attacked us, but we cannot be complacent ,” said Kirba Sora, the president of Galo Welfare Society, an apex tribal body. “ Arr-Rinam , which follows the Ali-Ternam ritual to ward off an epidemic, has been a part of our culture,” he added.

Also read: Animal carcasses hung in Arunachal villages to fend off COVID-19

Ali-TernamAli means epidemic and Ternam forestall — and Arr-Rinam were last performed almost four decades ago when a water-borne disease had affected many members of the community.

“We have been performing these rituals periodically for livestock, primarily the semi-wild mithun, that are prone to contagious diseases,” Mr. Sora said in a telephone interview from the district headquarters Aalo. “This is for the first time in 30-40 years that we performed the rituals for the safety of humans,” he added.

An executive engineer in the State’s Public Health Engineering and Water Supply Department, Mr. Sora was one of the two Bos or deputy priests, who performed the Ali-Ternam under the guidance of a Nyibo (shaman) from Wednesday morning.

The ritual ended with the community leaders sealing five major entry points of the district.

Also read:MHA advises against discrimination of northeast people

“As in the past, all of us locked ourselves in and banned the entry of anyone from outside. We did make a departure from tradition by adhering to the government’s social distancing guidelines, ensuring only a few people participated,” Mr. Sora said.

The Adi community inhabiting East Siang and Lower Dibang Valley districts too performed a similar ritual called Motor that they believe lets shamans with legendary powers to locate wild herbs to combat an epidemic.

In districts such as Papum Pare and East Kameng, the dominant Nyishi community observed Arrue involving self-quarantine. “We have rituals such as Khyasang-Ratar and Merii for preventing the entry of an epidemic to a village,” said Dahey Sangno, a project director of the District Rural Development Agency in East Kameng.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.