The Wancho are a tribal people inhabiting the Patkai hills of Longding District in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India. They have a population of 35,000. Culturally Naga, they are ethnically related to the Nocte and Konyak Naga of the Mon and Tirap districts. The Wancho language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family.
Unlike the other Naga, the Wancho, together with the Nocte and a small minority of the Konyak, still retain the belief of Animism. These Animist Wancho believe in the existence of two powerful deities, Rang and Baurang.
Christianity has gained some followers among the Wancho, many of whom belong to the Baptist or Roman Catholic denominations. Acceptance of Christianity has largely to do with comparative influences from the Nagas of Nagaland as well as changing perspectives towards headhunting. However, this has also resulted in the decline in many aspects of their traditional culture, which has strong associations with religion.
At the 2001 census, just 10% of the Wancho were Hindu and another 16% were Animist.
Tattooing plays a major role among the Wancho tribe. According to tradition, a man is tattooed on his four limbs and his entire face, with the exception of certain regions around the eyes and the lips. The women adorn themselves with necklaces and bangles, along with some light tattooing as well.
The prime festival of the Wancho is Oriah, a festival between March to April, for a period of six to twelve days interspersed with prayer, songs and dances. Villagers exchange bamboo tubes filled with rice beer as a mark of greeting and goodwill. Pork skin is then offered to the village chief as a mark of respect. This festival continues for several days just sowing of Jhum paddy and Pigs, buffaloes and mithuns are sacrificed and feasts are arranged in each and every morungs (dormitories). Boys and girls, wearing ceremonial costumes, sings and dance during this Oriah. People dances around a "Jangban", a long ceremonial pole planted during Oriah.
The Wancho are traditionally governed by a council of elderly chieftains, known as Wangham or Wangsa.
Like most neighbouring tribes, the Wancho construct houses made out of wood and bamboo, and roofs were thatched with dry leaves. Dormitories, known as Murung, where the boys are trained to be men by their fathers. Although the girls do not have dormitories like the boys, they sleep in one big, single house, with the care of an old lady.
Until 1991, human headhunting was practised among the Naga tribes, and both the government and missionaries have taken steps to ban the practice of headhunting, which is now restricted to animals.
- Tanka Bahadur Subba, Sujit Som, K. C. Baral, North Eastern Hill University Dept. of Anthropology (2005). Between Ethnography and Fiction: Verrier Elwin and the Tribal Question in India. Orient Longman. pp. 6, 173–8. ISBN 8125028129.
- Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh (1980). Arunachal Pradesh District Gazetteers. Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh. pp. 83–5.
- Verrier Elwin (1965). Democracy in NEFA. North-East Frontier Agency. p. 177.