Khowa people

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The Khowa, also known as Bugun in their native tongue,[1] is a tribal group in India. They live mainly in the subtropical Tenga Valley or Singchung Administrative Circle of West Kameng district with its whole native populations under 6-Thrizino-Buragaon Assembly Constituency of the state of Arunachal Pradesh.[2] According to the native legend, they believed that they are the descendants of the Achinphumphulua.

The Buguns are further subdivided into sections according to their specific locality (Hakhongdua, Hajidua, Braidua, Khuchundua, Hayindua). Their populations are mainly concentrated in the villages namely - Wanghoo, Dikhiyang, Bichom, Ramu, Lali, Situ, Sachida, Lichini, Ditching, Mangopam, Singchung, Namfri and Kaspi. Their immediate neighbours are Aka (Hrusso), Miji (Sajalong/Dhammai), Sherdukpen and Monpa.

Acting as a basis of their livelihood, shifting cultivation is practiced and domestic animals such as cow, horse, pig, sheep, goat, fowl and the mithun are reared. To enrich their diet, wild animals are hunted using simple spears, traps, bows and arrows.

Together with the Miji and Aka, long hair is kept by some members of both sexes. While the both sexes adorn themselves with silver ornaments, the men wear a very long white garment and a very high hat, resembling a Turkish Fez. The women wear a skull cap, sometimes decorated with beautiful patterns. Purple and checkered jackets are worn as well, usually accompanied by another singlet.

They speak Bugunish (also known as Kho-Bwa languages).[3]

The Khowa are followers of the Donyi-Polo religion[4] and have come under Tibetan Buddhist influence from the neighbouring ethnic group Sherdukpen. Profound Buddhist influence has led to the adoption of many Buddhist rituals and the invitation of Buddhist lamas to participate in their communal rituals.[1] As a result, many Khowa declared themselves as Buddhist in censuses.[5][6] However, animism is still profound with majority of them.

Especially in Sraiba (place or a ground for worship and related festive celebration) of every major villages, Kshyatsowai/Dihing Kho and Pham Kho is celebrated by the Bugun, in which the Phabi priest plays an important role in conducting the ceremony and religious rituals. Songs and dances such as Clown and Gasisiu have a close affiliation with their religion. Feasts during these festivals mainly includes their traditional foods and Phua (local brew).

The traditional village council of the Bugun (Khowa) is known as Nimiyang (Council of Elders), which looks after every aspect of village life, may it be decision-making, utilization of local resources, conflict resolution or regulating the society. Each family is represented in the Nimiang sessions by its head male member. The traditional village council of buguns are headed by Thap-Bahow (Chief). The Thap-Bakhow is an accepted leader and selected unanimously and not hereditary. There is no strict criterion for selection of the Thap-Bakhow, but a person with economic affluence, social stature, knowledge of customary laws, sound mentality, physical strength and generosity are taken into consideration. He presides over the meetings and sittings of the Nimiyang session. It is customary that only male member possessing above qualities can become Thap-Bakhow. Womenfolk is just a passive spectator and witnesses the proceedings of the Nimiyang sessions only. However, a female member is allowed to represent if its male member is absent.

In 2006 a rare bird, the Bugun liocichla, was named after the tribe.


  1. ^ a b Tribes of India
  2. ^ Ram Kumar Deuri (1983). Festivals of Kameng. Directorate of Research, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh. p. 11. 
  3. ^ The Kho-Bwa or Bugunish languages are a small family of Tibeto-Burman languages* spoken in India. They are Khowa (Bugun), Sulung (Puroik), Lishpa, and Sherdukpen. Van Driem (2001) suggested the name Kho-Bwa based on their words *kho 'fire' and *bwa 'water'.
  4. ^ Dalvindar Singh Grewal (1997). Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh: Identity, Culture, and Languages. South Asia Publications. p. 53. ISBN 81-7433-019-4. 
  5. ^ William Carey Library (2004). Peoples of the Buddhist World: A Christian Prayer. South Asia Publications. p. 135. ISBN 0-87808-361-8. 
  6. ^ Shiva Tosh Das (1987). Life Style, Indian Tribes: Locational Practice. Gian Pub. House. p. 28. ISBN 81-212-0058-X.

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