Adi people

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LocationUpper Siang, West Siang, East Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, Lohit, Namsai districts of Arunachal Pradesh, India and Mainling, Zayu, Nyingchi, Medog, Lhunze and Pemako region of Tibet, China
Descended fromTani
Population250,000 (approx.)

The Adi people are one of the most populous groups of indigenous peoples in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. A few thousand are also found in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China were they are called the Lhoba together with some of the Mishmi people.

The Adi are recognized as one of the 56 ethnic groups of China.[1] They live in a region of the Southern Himalayas which falls within the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Mainling, Lhunze, Zayu, Medog, and Nyingchi counties of China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The present habitat of the Adi people is heavily influenced by the historic location of the ancient Lhoyu. They are found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions within the districts of East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, Lohit, and Namsai within Arunachal Pradesh. The term "Adi" however, is not to be confused with the Lhoba people, since the Lhoba also includes the Mishmi along with the Adi people. All the ethnic groups recognising themselves as "Adi" believe to be descendants of the Abutani/AboTani. The older term Abor is a exonym from Assamese and its literal meaning is "independent". The literal meaning ofadi is "hill" or "mountain top".

Organisation of the community[edit]

The Adi 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 elders and decisions were decided in a Musup/Dere (village community house) on a majority they live in houses with stilts.


The language spoken by this group is also called Adi. It is spoken with minor variations among all the Adi sub-groups. They also speak Nefamese (a variation of Assamese language) as a lingua-franca for communicating with other indigenous groups of people in Arunachal Pradesh and the other northeast states. Historically, Adi was the communicating language between Adi-Galong, Adi-Idu Mishmi, Adi-Mishmi, Adi-khampti, Adi-British, Adi-Ahom as well as galong-idu-mishmi-khampti, in other words, Adi was a langua franca of Siang, Dibang, Lohit, Namsai belt.


Dormitories play an important role among the Adi people, 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 ornaments, 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 Barbii 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 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 majority of Adi traditionally follow the tribal Donyi-Polo religion. 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.

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. In modern times few Adi people have converted to Christianity.


  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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