ARUNACHAL PRADESH The geographical location of Arunachal Pradesh makes it important for studies in South Asian Archaeology. This Indian state is biogeographically connected with South China and Northern Myanmar; across the Himalayas it is connected with Tibet, and thence to Central Asia; through the passes of the Patkai Range of mountains it is connected with SoutheastAsia. Naturally, diverse cultural and anthropological traits and elements have travelled across this landscape from time immemorial. The imprints of these movements are visible in various archaeological sites scattered all over the state making Arunachal Pradesh rich in archaeological data-particularly prehistoric archaeology, epigraphy, and art and architecture. But these facts have eluded mainstream archaeological interest till now and resultantly the state has remained by and large unrepresented within the main body of authoritative writings on archaeology of India. The primary objective of the present monograph is to bring together publications in English of different periods, from the rare earliest writings of British political agents, tea planters, and surveyors to the recent publications on archaeology and ethno-history of Arunachal Pradesh. Such writings, organized chronologically and thematically in this sourcebook, were published in academic journals like Anthropos, Man, Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Provincial Gazetteers, Annual Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India, Arunachal News, Journal of theAssam Research Society, etc.
Sukanya Sharma teaches Archaeology in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. She has been engaged in archaeological research in Northeast India for the last ten years. Her first book Celts, Flakes and Bifaces: The Garo Hills Story was an attempt to relook at the prehistoric archaeological record from Garo Hills, Meghalaya and situate the evidence in the larger archaeological context of South and Southeast Asia. The present monograph is a similar attempt by the author to locate the archeological record of Arunachal Pradesh in a broader trans-regional space.
Arunachal Pradesh is important for archaeology of South Asia because of its geographical location. It is connected with South China and Northern Myanmar territorially. Also across the Himalayas it is connected with Tibet and thence to Central Asia and through the passes of the Patkai Range of mountains it is connected with Southeast Asia. Cultural traits and elements from the northwest, the east, and the south have travelled across this landscape from time immemorial. The imprints of these movements are visible in the archaeological sites distributed all over the state but have eluded mainstream archaeological interest till now. Archaeological finds from the area has been report-ed from the early twentieth century by British political agents, tea planters, surveyors, Archaeological Survey of India officials, and others. These reports have been published in academic journals like Anthropos, Man, Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Provincial Gazetteers, Annual Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India and other official bulletins of the British period, books, and other important documents. Later workers from the region published their work in departmental journals like the Arunachal News. Important works were also published in the Journal of the Assam Research Society which is no more in publication now. Many recent important works have been published in the Resarun, published by the Research Department of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh. All these publications have been collected and used for preparing this volume and a summary of each publication is provided. The primary objective of this sourcebook is to bring together publications in English of different periods, from the earliest writings to the recent publications on archaeology and ethno-history of Arunachal Pradesh. These publications are distributed over time and space. They have been organized chronologically and thematically for the convenience of the reader.
Dawn was approaching when I sat on the roadside waiting for a public bus to Injono or Bhismaknagar of yesteryears. I was at Roing, the headquarters of West Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh. From behind the hills, a few 100 ft away from where I sat listening to the sounds of the forest, a bright dazzling ray suddenly hit the skies and the sky was bright. The ray moved like the hands of a clock and it reached me. At first I thought it was purple. Before I could blink it turned red, blue and yellow and then I saw a charkha (wheel) of dazzling rays all around me. I lost words, my throat went dry. For a moment I felt I was on a wrong spot. These are laser beams used by an enemy army or our own army or insurgents or poachers or illegal miners, etc. attacking from the sky. Then there it was the gigantic red ball, the sun. I watched it as it climbed up to the sky quickly. It looked as if it were in a hurry like the morning office-goers. It had to light up the whole of northern hemisphere quickly so that life can continue. I sat back again on the grass, inhaled a lot of air and reflected. Arunachal Pradesh, the easternmost state of India is also known as the land of the rising sun. The name is from Arunachala, defined as a column of light ever-shining as the endless column of brilliant and dazzling jyoti (ray) by the Puranas, a part of the Vedic literature. The Skandapurana and the Lingapurana mainly speak of the primal gods going in search of the boundaries of this column of Effulgence. After India's independence in 1947, the North-East Frontier Tract, as the British called it, was renamed as the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in the year 1951 under part 'B' of the sixth schedule of the Constitution of India as the tribal areas of Assam. In 1954, the territory was reconstituted under North-East Forntier Areas Administration Regulation and renamed as the Kameng, Subansiri, Siang, Lohit, Tirap, and Tuensang Frontier Divisions. In 1957, the Tuensang Frontier Division was excluded from the NEFA and included in Nagaland (then Naga Hills). In 1965, the other frontier divisions were renamed as the Kameng, Subansiri,Tirap, Siang, and Lohit districts. From 1 August 1965, the administrative responsibility of NEFA was transferred from the External Affairs Ministry to the Home Ministry of the Government of India'. On 20 January 1972, NEFA became Union Territory and was renamed as Arunachal Pradesh. The Union Territory emerged as a full-fledged state on 20 February 1987.
The history of Arunachal Pradesh is full of myths and legends. Legends say that at this place sage Parasurama washed away his sin, sage Vyasa meditated, King Bhismaka founded his kingdom and lord Krishna married his consort Rukmini. The Puranas describe this region as Prabhu Parvat. However, there are hardly any written records of the ancient period. The widely scattered archaeological remains found in many districts of Arunachal Pradesh testify to its rich and varied cultural heritage. Archaeological evidences, i.e. the Neolithic and Palaeolithic tools show that this region was inhabited. Malinithan in the foothills of West Siang District is a prominent site strewn with the ruins of a stone temple like stone sculptures, pillars, lintels, curved blocks, etc. In Itanagar, a historical fort has been identified as the site of old Mayapur, the capital of the eleventh century AD Jitari dynasty. Though there is no archaeological evidence to establish the date, the bricks of the fort are typically medieval and of the preahom period. The Tawang Gompa (monastery) in the Tawang District is a Buddhist monastery which was built in the seventeenth century. This monastery consists of sixty-five residential buildings besides the main temple structure. It still contains a wealth of old scriptures and records, beautifully illustrated religious books and images.
The mythical tales of different indigenous groups describe the past of the inhabitants of this state. The rich oral tradition of the communities of Arunachal Pradesh depicts the stories of their migration and settlement in this high land including their relationship with nature.The Sherdukpen tales tell that they are the descendents of the Tibetan king who married an Assamese princess and their third son was given the area now occupied by the Sherdukpens. The Hrusso beliefs say that they migrated from Ziga, possibly situated somewhere in upper Assam to their present habitat. The Hrusso believes that Buslo Aou was their ancestor and they are the offsprings of Nyarji (sky) and Now (earth).The Miji have similar legends that say Abu Gopen Gomo was their mythological ancestor and they had migrated from the plains of Assam.
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