The land of the rising sun

What survives of Donyi-Polo worship on the Brahmaputra banks?

February 17, 2017 01:48 pm | Updated 04:48 pm IST

Arunachal Pradesh, the name conjures up images of rain-fed, lush, evergreen forests with trees reaching to the skies, a rich variety of wildlife, simple bamboo houses on stilts decorated with the horns of the mithun and the skeletal remains and skins of animals and birds hunted by the Adis; and of course, the mighty Brahmaputra.

River Yarlung Tsangpo originates in the Angsi Glacier near Mount Kailash meandering eastwards, taking a U turn known as the ‘Great Bend’ between Namche Barwa (25,531ft.) and the Gyala Peri mountains that mark the north-eastern point where the Himalaya begins.

It flows through the gorges into Arunachal Pradesh in India as the Brahmaputra. Many tribal cultures flourished on the banks of this river and are alive even today.


The Gallongs, the Adis, Apatanis, Nishis of this land of the Rising Sun embrace a religion that eulogises nature. The followers worship the Sun and the Moon - the Donyi Polo, literally meaning the Sun-Moon. Sun, the male energy and the Moon, the female energy, watch over the supreme Gods Bo and Bomang.

Abu Tani or Abotani is considered to be the primal ancestor of all the Tani (tribal) groups of Arunachal Pradesh. Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Pedong Nane and Gumin Soyin are the guardian deities that show the path, which is destined for human kind.

This faith emphasises that the micro and the macro organisms, have a definite role to play, a purpose to fulfill in their life here on earth.

Lunar phases


The rituals coincide with the lunar phases and the agricultural cycles. Anthropologists assume that this faith had its origins in the Bon religion of Tibet. The tenets of this system have been handed down orally from one generation to the next.

As Adivasis, the true landlords who occupy parts of the woodlands, compete for survival with the animals and birds of this region, their religion formulates strict rules that play a major role in the conservation of the wild in their forests. Hunting a tiger or a wild cat is taboo and the rituals to bail out are expensive and go on for many days.

This pre-historic religion of Dyoni Polo is facing its test of time as most of these simple and innocent tanis are converting to Christianity.

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues

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