About Nyishi

Nyishi People

The Term ‘Nishi’ or ‘Nyishi’ is an ancient Indigenous word. It has been derived from two words i.e ‘Nyi’ or ‘Nyia’ and ‘Shi’ or ‘Shing’. The word ‘nyi’ means ‘Human’,descendants of Aathu/Aatoh Nyia, the son of the Aabhu/Abho Thanyi, while ‘shi’ or ‘shing’ means ‘Being’. Accordingly, Nyishi stands for ‘Human Being’. The tradition current amongst the people that the Nyishi name for the northern region people were known as ‘nyeme’ and the down plain region neighbours were called ‘nyepak’. This also sometime refers to strange people coming from the plains i.e the Non-Tribals. Hence, the Nyishi also maintained that they inhabit between the nyeme and the nyepak. In the past, they were little known by this racial nomenclature. They were earlier known as chungi or daflas in Ahom and Assam Buranji. Subsequently, the British used these words to dub the Tribe as ‘unruly hills men’, dwelling in the ‘unadministered frontiers’ and ultimately legitimized them to be the name for the new subjugated subjects by the imperial power of British India. Henceforth, colonial administrators, military officials, explorers and ethnographers started designating in various names like ; Duphlas, Dafla, Domphilas, Bangni, Ni-sing, Nisu, Western and Eastern Domphilas, Tagin Duphlas, Yano Daflas, so on and so forth.

As such when the history was written based on factually incorrect and distorted documentary evidence; it was ineluctably bound to give incorrect ethnographical information and misnomer nomenclature. Instead of the original name Nyishi, the alien name had been recorded was no exception to such kind of ethnographic information which was available in the form of published and unpublished works in archives and libraries in the country and abroad. On the basis of these ethnographic records the misnomer word had appeared at SL. No.4 of Scheduled Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh as contained in Part XVIII of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribe) Orders, 1950. Thus, misnomer ethnographical material information was to be reconstructed and deconstructed to establish the hard core facts and acceptable objective of ethnography proper and correct the historicity of the Nyishi word. Lack of factually convincing and irrefutable documentary evidence was seriously lacking with the community especially with the State Government to fulfil the technical prerequisite as was asked by the Registrar General of India, New Delhi. For wanting of credible and irrefutable documentary evidence to convince the Government of India took a several decades for the Tribe to redeem. So, we could not make any headway or cause to establish our own original tribe identity and in turn we were forced to bear with an imposed alien identity and thereby failing to restore our self-esteem and dignity of the Nyishiness for many centuries. This has caused the community with centuries of derogated and pejorative epithet leading to untold suffering, hardship and political struggle. This indelible epithet has been got rid of by bringing an amendment to the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Orders, 1950 to modify the list of Scheduled Tribe, an Act called the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, (Amendment) Act, 2008, in Part XVIII relating to the State of Arunachal Pradesh, for entry 4, the word Nyishi was substituted in place of derogatory word. It was a red letter day in the history of the Nyishi community in which both House of Parliament passed a voice vote on March 19, 2008 to effect the substitution of alien word to ‘Nyishi’ in the Constitution of India. This technical historical documents of irrefutable and unfallacy was prepared by Prof. Tana Showren, a leading historian of the North East India,who teaches in the Department of History, Rajiv Gandhi University, Rono Hills, Doimukh-79112, District Papum Pare, Arunachal Pradesh, India is credited for convincing the Registrar General of India to give clearance of No Objection for substitution of derogatory word “Dafla” to “Nyishi” word for ever in the Constitution of India. In this way we have achieved our long cherished demand for substitution of correct and original name Nyishi in place of misnomer term.

The Nyishi/Nyshing is one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, inhabiting East Kameng, Papum Pare, Lower Subansiri, Kurung Kumey, and Upper Subansiri districts of Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Lakhimphur and Sonitpur districts of Assam. The Tribe known for its prowess and sturdy built up, independence loving by nature,temperament simple but industrious and straightforward, and have an enormous sense of commitment towards the community during the days of the Varman [1-650 A.D.], the Salastambha [670-910 A.D.], the Brahmapala [990-1206 A.D.] and the Ahom rulers [1228-1826 A.D.]. Since then the Nyishi has been playing a significant role by way of contributing towards the shaping of history and culture of the entire North East India in particular and country as whole, thereby earning for itself a noteworthy place in the annals of Tribes of the whole Indian Sub-continent but with a misnomer nomenclature.

Nyishi Tribe

The Nyishi is one of the major tribes which inhabit as many as five districts viz-Upper Subansiri, Lower Subansiri, Kurung Kumey, Papum Pare, East Kameng and in some parts of west Kameng of Arunachal Pradesh including Sonitpur and North Lakhimpur districts of Assam. As per census-2001, Nyishi have having about 2.5 lakhs out of 10,97,968 total population of the state, which is the one third of the total Scheduled Tribe population. Therefore, Nyishi is the single largest tribe of the state. The people basically belong to Paleo-Mongoloid stock and speak the Tibeto-Burmese group of language. They are the descendents of Abo Tani-a mythical forefather. It is believed that they migrated from, the north via present autonomy state of Tibet in the beginning of the Christian era. Historically, culturally and even in terms of language the Nyishis have a close affinity with the neighbouring tribes such as Galos, Adis, Apatanis, Tagins, and the Mishings of adjoining Assam. The term ‘NYISHI’ is derived from two words Nyi means man or human race that descended from Atu Nyia Tani (son of Abo Tani- a first real man on earth) and Ishi – means hills or highland. Therefore, a compound word ‘Nyishi’ denotes the descendants of Atu Nyia Tani who dwell in the highland. This is the reason they are called highlanders.

The oral sources aptly mention that the Nyishis had migrated from the north. They referred the crossing of a mighty river named Supung, which probably might be a river Tsangpo in China. Oral source revealed that they left the place and migrated towards present territory before the advent of Buddhism in China and Tibet. This is fact that Buddhism has no influence on Nyishis. After crossing the high ridges corresponding to the international boundary, they moved towards different directions in batches or small groups precisely on the basis of lineage and clan. This is why they spread over five different districts in the central belt of the state. The Nyishi were already there in the hills and peripheral of the plain land in Assam prior to their arrival.

Nyishi, believes that they are the descendants of Abo Tani. That is why Nyishi, Adi, Gallo, Tagin, Apatani, of state and Mishings of Assam called themselves as �Tani Group of Tribes’. By nature Nyishis, are conscientious, confident, sturdy, brave, courageous, industrious, simple and straightforward. However, due to the variations of topographical features and climatic conditions, their physical stature, dress, phonetic accent of language etc. vary slightly from one region to the other. But because of the same racial blood, more or less their temperament, attitude and mentality are almost similar.

In the beginning, out of nothingness the universe was created by Jingbu Pabu Abu (Almighty). It is believed that, Jingbu-Pabu Abu invoked the power through different supernatural means to create and evolve the present-day universe. All living creatures including man were created and the Abo Tani was the progeny of the first human being on the earth. After the completion of the process of creation of universe and its different components, Jingbu-Pabu Abu the creator disappeared from the scene.

One striking feature of Nyishi society is that it is neither based on caste system nor stratified into classes, except a loose type of social distinction, which is not determined by birth or occupation. They evolved broad base family organization and a joint” and extended family norms which still exist but altogether in changed forms. As indicated above, Nyishis are divided into five major phratries based on lineage called Hosa (Identification through descendent of same forefather) namely Dopum, Dodum, Dolu, Hagung and Anyia Hari. The phratry system and for that matter clan division is mainly important on social and religious aspects. The most striking feature is that the members of same phratry and clan would help and co-operate one another in socio �religious functions and they would share the blood and heart of a sacrificed or killed animal as a bond of brotherhood what may be called Uyi Haa Debam Nam. However, beyond this, it does not insist on same habitat nor forges separate political entity nor requires practicing similar pattern of economic activities.

In ideological term, the Nyishis consider the women as the source of peace, progress and prosperity. According to them, the importance status of women increases and binds through an established ‘reciprocal marital exchange’ system in the society. Men always consult all sensible matter or seek advice from their women counterpart before taking any important decision. Clan exogamy and tribe endogamy was the law of marriage. A reciprocal exchanges between both the parties i.e. the bride and the groom, actually bind them in more strict terms than one could imagine because it works as a renewing force through which the relationship continues from generations together.

Clan is a very important component in the structural organization of the tribal society relating to marriage and breach of the clan rule is considered to be a serious offence. If its happen, such couple is not allow to attend in auspicious of occasion like marriage ceremony, clan Yullo (puja) Nyokum Yullo, Longte Yullo, Boori Yullo, etc even they cannot eat any item prepare in such occasion.

Prior entry of currency the traditional economy was always centred on the mobilization of local limited resources and meeting up the local demands. But after entry of currency the economy it is now, both centred in both side. At the same time all economic activities are determined by the evolved socio-cultural and religious belief of the people. Agriculture has been the mainstay of the Nyishis since the time immemorial. The shifting cultivation by slash-and burnt method called Tumph Rongo (jhum) is the type of agricultural is popularly practice by almost all tribes of the state. Now, the people has adopted wet paddy cultivation almost in all areas.

Generally, the Nyishi practice three types of cultivation on the basis of ripening pattern of the crops. First one is called ‘Teming Rongo’ – field proximity to the house on lightly manure land, where early ripening ones are grown. The second is ‘Rekhte Rongo ‘ – a distance clearing, where the bulk of late ripening crops are grown. Third is wet �Seppa Rango� paddy cultivation. A typical Nyishi jhum field is used for growing variety of crops based on mixed cropping pattern. The important crops include rice, maize, millet, .potato, mustard, pumpkin, cucumber, ginger, chilly, sugarcane, vegetables of different varieties etc. Labour mobilization is always made on the basis of mutual reciprocity called Rey Angnam. Manpower can be mobilized either individually or in group, depending on the nature of work. A community service is also arranged for those needy villagers on self-help basis.

As the Nyishis evolved a joint family system, generally no individual owns properties – both movable and immovable. The movable properties include traditional valued items like Talu (brass plate), Mazi (Tibetan tongueless bell), Tasang (bead), Dumping (comb like item), Kozi (bangle), Huhi (disc), Oriok (sword), Raji, domesticated animals such as Sebe (Mithun, a bose front talis), Shey (cow), Sebing (goat), Erik (pig), Puruk (hen). Mythological background. It can also be used for bartering prestigious and costly traditional valuables such as Mazi, Talu, Tasang etc: The Mithun is treated sacred because in almost all ceremonial rituals, sacrifice of Mithun is compulsory.

Along with agriculture and allied activities, the Nyishis are expert in handicrafts i.e. weaving, cane & bamboo works, pottery, blacksmith, wood carving and carpentry etc. Traditionally, the basic purpose of producing these craft articles was to meet the demands of the family. Agriculture, livestock breeding, hunting and fishing sustained the Nyishis to maintain a high degree of self-sufficiency in so far as food is concerned. However, the additional requirements such as cloth, utensil, salt etc. are obtained through barter trade-evolved since and immemorial, among themselves and from their neighbours. Early Nyishis confined their trading activities amongst the tribesmen themselves and with the people across the northern border called Nyeme chanam i.e. trade link with the Tibetans.

The British occupation of Assam and its subsequent commutation of Posa payment to the frontier tribes into cash (currency) had finally shattered the barter type of traditional economy. The trade fairs and local bazaars were organized at different spots along the foothills, where the ready-made articles were exposed to the tribal. The Nyishis do have politico-cum-judicial system called Nyele. A place where the contentious issue/problem is discussed to find out amicable solution is known as Nyele Meram or Barekh Meram. A medium through which the warring parties are persuaded for amicable settlement of the dispute is known as Gingdung or Bungriang Bungte Angnam. The decision of the Nyele is always guided by customary law, which prescribes a punishment of material compensation and sometime a social boycott too.

The Nyishi believed that the entire universe is divided into three worlds i.e. earth, heaven and netherworld. Sachang (Earth) is a dwelling place for living creatures� induding man, animal and plant; Nyedo (Sky) is the abode of Gods and Goddesses, and other celestial bodies, while Weyi/Nel Nyoku is a place meant for the life after death. There is also an imaginary world called Talang Nyoku, which lies between heaven and earth. The people believed that the persons who die (natural) at the ripe age or after prolonged illness, their Yajyalu (souls) go to the netherworld, which lies inside the earth. But those who die of unnatural death like accident, murder, suicide etc. their souls go to Talang .Nyoku, which the Nyishis treat as hell. However, all dead bodies are buried but the method and the ritual attached to it is different, depending on the nature of the death. According to them death is nothing but a change of life from material world to spiritual world. At the netherworld, a person enjoys same honour and status.

They celebrate a number of fascinating, gorgeous and significant festivals round the year and their major festivals are Nyokum Yullo, Boori Yullo and Longte Yullo. These festivals perpetuate worshipping of gods and goddesses to ensure that the entire humanity is well safeguarded against all evils – both natural and man made thereby, create a balanced and congenial environment to provide sufficient materials of self sustenance to the mankind including food grains and animal husbandry. The festival represents the cultural specialties providing sustenance to it, and ultimately promotes continuance of custom, tradition and culture. It has provided a common platform to the Nyishis, bringing manifold aspects and diverse features of the Nyishi life style and unifying them like a bouquet of multi-coloured flowers.

The Nyishi Elite Society (NES) and All Nyishi Students’ Union (ANSU) have been playing a very significant role not only in bringing about a series of changes in the society but also in responsible for creating an awareness to shed away their isolationist outlook and develop the feelings of brotherhood and a sense of solidarity leading thereby to t he process of forging of Nyishi identity in the society. Though Nyishis are late starter in all front especially in the field of education, but today Nyishi is one of the most advancing tribe of the state in all front with the other tribes.

They celebrate a number of fascinating, gorgeous and significant festivals round the year and their major festivals are Nyokum Yullo, Boori Yullo and Longte Yullo. These festivals perpetuate worshipping of gods and goddesses to ensure that the entire humanity is well safeguarded against all evils – both natural and man made thereby, create a balanced and congenial environment to provide sufficient materials of self sustenance to the mankind including food grains and animal husbandry. The festival represents the cultural specialties providing sustenance to it, and ultimately promotes continuance of custom, tradition and culture. It has provided a common platform to the Nyishis, bringing manifold aspects and diverse features of the Nyishi life style and unifying them like a bouquet of multi-coloured flowers.

The Nyishi Elite Society (NES) and All Nyishi Students’ Union (ANSU) have been playing a very significant role not only in bringing about a series of changes in the society but also in responsible for creating an awareness to shed away their isolationist outlook and develop the feelings of brotherhood and a sense of solidarity leading thereby to t he process of forging of Nyishi identity in the society.

They celebrate a number of fascinating, gorgeous and significant festivals round the year and their major festivals are Nyokum Yullo, Boori Yullo and Longte Yullo. These festivals perpetuate worshipping of gods and goddesses to ensure that the entire humanity is well safeguarded against all evils – both natural and man made thereby, create a balanced and congenial environment to provide sufficient materials of self sustenance to the mankind including food grains and animal husbandry. The festival represents the cultural specialties providing sustenance to it, and ultimately promotes continuance of custom, tradition and culture. It has provided a common platform to the Nyishis, bringing manifold aspects and diverse features of the Nyishi life style and unifying them like a bouquet of multi-coloured flowers.

The Nyishi Elite Society (NES) and All Nyishi Students’ Union (ANSU) have been playing a very significant role not only in bringing about a series of changes in the society but also in responsible for creating an awareness to shed away their isolationist outlook and develop the feelings of brotherhood and a sense of solidarity leading thereby to t he process of forging of Nyishi identity in the society.

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