Adi people

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Abor tribe
Ethnicity Adi people
Location East Siang, West Siang, Upper Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, Lohit
Population 2,00,000 (approx.)
Branches Tani
Religion Donyi-Polo

Branches Abo Tani
Language Adi
Religion Donyi-Polo

The Adi, or Bokar, Bori, Minyong, Pasi and Padam people and Miri (Mishing) [1] is one of the major Tani tribes living in the Himalayan hills of Arunachal Pradesh. They are found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions within the districts of East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang, Lower Dibang Valley and Lohit. The older term Abor is a deprecated exonym from Assamese meaning "uncontrolled". Some of them are also found in Southern Tibet. The literal meaning of Adi is "hill" or "mountain top".

Tribes and organisation[edit]

The Adis live in hill villages, each traditionally keeping to itself, under a selected chief styled Gam or Gao Burra who moderates the village council, which acts even as the traditional court, referred to as a Kebang. The olden day councils consisted of all the village elder and decisions were taken in a Musup/Dere (village community house) on a majoritythey live in houses with stilts and there are many of the adi tribe

Efforts are being made by the Adi Baane Kebang, the main political institution of the Adi people, to do away with the sub group culture.


Main articles: Adi language and Bokar language

The language spoken by this group is also called Adi. It is spoken with minor variations among all the Adi sub-groups.


Dormitories play an important role among the people of the Adi tribe, and certain rules are observed. For example, a male can visit the dormitory of a female, although he is not allowed to stay overnight. At times, guardians will have to be around to guide the youngsters.

There are separate dresses for women and men which are woven by women of the tribes. Helmets made from cane, bear and deer skin are sometimes worn by the men, depending on the region.

While the older women wear yellow necklaces and spiral earrings, unmarried girls wear a beyop, an ornament that consists of five to six brass plates fixed under their petticoats. Tattooing was popular among the older women.

The traditional measure of a family's wealth is the possession of domestic animals, particularly gayals, beads and ornament and land.

Festivals and dances[edit]

The Adi celebrate a number of festivals, in particular their prime festivals are Aran, Solung, Etor.Solung, is observed in the first week of September for five days or more. It is a harvest festival performed after the sowing of seeds and transplantation, to seek for future bumper crops. Ponung songs and dances are performed by women folk during the festival. On the last day of Solung, throne and indigenous weaponry are displayed along the passage of the houses - a belief that they would protect people from evil spirits (This ritual is called Taktor).

Adi dances vary from the slow, rustic and beautifully enchanting style Ponung (performed in Solung festival) to the exhilarating, exuberant thumps of Delong performed by Men in Etor festival. These dances have led to certain forms of dancing which jointly narrate a story, the Tapu (War Dance). In the Tapu War Dance, the dancers vigorously re-enact the actions of war, its gory details and the triumphant cries of the warriors. Yakjong is performed in Aran festival. This is another kind of dance whereby the dancers carry sticks with designs created by removing the barks in certain patterns and then put into the fire for some time, which creates the marked black designs.

Name of festival Dates
Aran or Unying March 7
Etor (Lutor) May 15
Solung (Lune) September 1
Podi Barbie December 5


A traditional Adi hut

The Adi practice wet rice cultivation and have a considerable agricultural economy. Rice serves as the staple food for the them. Trapping and hunting, increasingly with firearms, supplement the diet; the favorite prey is the abundant rat, prepared in various ways, including pieces of rat and other meat in a rice flour cake wrapped in banana leaves, served during Aran. The Adi keep pigs, chickens, mithuns and grow vegetables. They keep pigs in a very unusual way: The pigs are kept in a fenced area under the house, which is on stilts and feed on human waste as the pig pen is situated right under the toilet. The pigs are let out in the day. The meat of the toilet pig is considered a delicacy.


The majority of Adi traditionally follow the animist Donyi-Polo religion, which involves the worship of the god and goddess like Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin and Pedong Nane etc. the shaman, called Miri (can be a female). Other deities traditionally worshiped by the Adi include Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin and Pedong Nane. Each deity is associated with certain tasks and acts as a protector and guardian of various topics related to nature which revolves around their daily life. This includes the food crops, home, rain, etc.

In modern times many of the Adi have moved away from Donyi-Polo. A growing number of Adi, especially among the youth, have converted to Christianity. Adis in Tibet, in particular the Bokars, have adopted Tibetan Buddhism to a certain extent, as a result of Tibetan influence. But in recent years there was a revival in the faith and the search for indigenousity on the part of the people made it popular with the youth again. Followers of Donyi-Polo faith can also be found in parts of upper Assam among the Mising tribe. According to the available knowledge of history and folklore the Mising people were the Adi people who migrated to Assam in search of fertile lands free from intertribal wars.Many groups within today's Miri/Mising tribe share common clans(Opin) with groups of Adis in Arunachal Pradesh.


  1. ^ Name in Chinese sources.


  • Danggen, Bani. (2003). The kebang: A unique indigenous political institution of the Adis. Delhi: Himalayan Publishers. ISBN 81-86393-51-X
  • Hamilton, A. (1983 [1912]). In Abor jungles of north-east India. Delhi: Mittal Publications.
  • Dr.Milorai Modi (2007).The Milangs. Delhi: Himalayan Publications.
  • Mibang, Tamo; & Chaudhuri, S. K. (Eds.) (2004). Understanding tribal religion. New Delhi: Mittal. ISBN 81-7099-945-6.
  • Mibang, Tamo; & Chaudhuri, S. K. (Eds.) (2004). Folk culture and oral literature from north-east India. New Delhi: Mittal. ISBN 81-7099-911-1.
  • Lego, N. N. (1992). British relations with the Adis, 1825-1947. New Delhi: Omsons Publications. ISBN 81-7117-097-8.
  • BBC TV program Tribe, episode on the Adi; explorer Bruce Parry lived among them for a month as an honorary tribesman, 'adopted' by a village gam.
  • Nyori, Tai (1993). History and Culture of the Adis, Omsons Publications, New Delhi-110 027.
  • Danggen, Bani. (2003). A book of conversation: A help book for English to Adi conversation. Itanagar: Himalayan Publishers. ISBN 81-86393-50-1.
  • Mibang, Tamo; & Abraham, P. T. (2001). An introduction to Adi language. Itanagar, Arunachal Pradeh: Himalayan Publishers. ISBN 81-86393-35-8.

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