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India’s Tribal Communities- The lifestyle of Tagin Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh

The Tagin are one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, a member of the larger designation of Tani Tribes. There are many distinct characteristics of this tribe. Like the previous blog, we will look in-depth at the Tagin tribe’s cultural norms and practices, administrative system and impact of modernization.

HOUSEHOLD IMPLEMENTS 

  • The common household implements made of cane and bamboo of the Tagins are bamboo mats, cane baskets, containers, water vessels, fishing-traps, fishing nets, headgears, agricultural and hunting implements, mugs, spoons, plates, smoking pipes, etc.
  • They weave mats for sleeping from the flat and long leaves of a species of palm called toku.
  • in the bygone days, earthen pots (pinching) were used as cooking vessels.
  • Presently, this craft is almost on the verge of dying out as the Tagins have taken to the use of aluminium and iron pots, which are now plentifully available in the market.

CLASS SYSTEM

  • The Tagin society is divided into distinct classes.
  • A man’s status is determined by the class he belongs to.
  • The classes are arranged in a hierarchical order.
  • Reckoned from the top to the downward, they are Nyibu or the Priest, Nile or the rich,  Open or the poor, and Nyira or the slave.
  • A middle class, going by the term Jetor, is also recognized.
  • The Nyibus, who command respect and influence, are the repository of traditional myths and lore.
  • They are the shamans with the knowledge and power of negotiations with the spiritual world.
  • Their services are sought during rituals and festivals.
  • Moreover, Nyibus are called during illness or in misfortunes.
  • They prescribe the necessary rites or sacrifices for propitiating the spirit/s responsible for such evil acts.
  • The Nile or the rich class comprises people who possess considerable property in the form of mithun, pigs, Tibetan swords, deo-ghantas (a kind of metal bell), etc.
  • The Open or the poor class is composed of a good number of Tagins.
  • They practically starve or at best earn a precarious living.
  • The class Jetor is not much in currency owing, perhaps, to the confusion as to the persons who can properly be included under this category.
  • Social mobility is generally restricted by the circumstances in which the people find themselves.
  • A poor man, for instance, cannot hope to marry above his situation because he cannot afford to pay the bride price.
  • Though it goes without saying that a Nyira or a slave is at the bottom of the ladder, his lot is not necessarily altogether miserable.
  • In the past, anyone captured in course of raid or feud was made into a slave.
  • The other means of securing slaves was by outright purchase.
  • Under changed circumstances following the establishment of regular civil administration in their midst, the institution of slavery, as everywhere in Arunachal Pradesh, is decaying.
  • Among the Tagins, a slave, who has lived very long with his master and where a deep attachment has grown between them, will address him as abo (father) or achi (brother).  The general term of address is, however, ato, corresponding to the father’s father.
  • A slave is never asked to perform a job which an average Tagin is not expected to do.
  • The greatest drawback from which a slave suffers is that he cannot marry unless and until he has found a girl, who is a slave, like himself, and accumulated the requisite bride price to be paid to her master.
  • Fortune may sometimes, though rarely, smile at a slave when he inherits the property of his master, died without any issue. In such a case, he also inherits his master’s wife,  should she prefer him or had she been in love with him.

BIRTH

  • The Tagins believed that woman conceives only by the blessing of God and pregnancy is considered as a natural phenomenon.
  • They do not seem to be interested in having regular medical check-ups and taking modern medicines during pregnancy.
  • Only a few educated and well-to-do families go for the same in the nearby medical centres.
  • A parturient mother does all the household work till she does not feel any physical problem.
  • No special food is given to her except fermented rice.
  • Such women are to be observed in a series of taboos. Generally, childbirth takes place inside the dwelling house, where elderly women take part.
  • No male member is permitted inside the labour room.
  • The umbilical cord is detached with the help of a sharp bamboo split.
  • In case of complications during childbirth, which could not be solved by traditional manner, they seek help from the physicians of a nearby hospital.
  • After childbirth till the falling of the umbilical cord, the mother is restricted to go out of the house, and she takes food separately.
  • During that period, if the newborn baby suffers from any physical problem, they believe that it is due to the breach of the taboo by some consanguineal or affinal kin of the child or due to the action of malignant spirits.
  • In this case, the local priest through divination identifies the responsible spirits, and necessary propitiation and sacrifices are done.

ADOLESCENT

  • Among the Tagins, generally, the girls attain puberty at the age of twelve to fourteen year.
  • A girl, who just attains puberty, has to stay in a demarcated area, generally in the right side of the fireplace, which is situated near the main entrance of the dwelling house.
  • She is not permitted to take part in any ritual, ‘flic girl is also not allowed to go to the spot, wherefrom persons start their venture for hunting She is tabooed to take the meat of the wild and verified animal.
  • The period of pollution lilted when the flow of blood is totally stopped through a  purificatory bath of the girl. No ritual is performed to mark the adolescence of a boy.

MARRIAGE

  • Monogamy is the general rule of marriage (nida) among the Tagins, which occurs through negotiation.
  • However, polygyny is also widely practised.
  • Bride price is inevitable among them. Child marriage is an age-old practice.
  • Due to the modern impact, some of the young boys and girls are practising love marriage.
  • Marriage among the Tagins is generally performed through negotiation on payment of bride price.
  • If a marriage is settled, the boy’s father arranges a great feast with meat and drink in which all the kin and clan members are invited.
  • On the date of marriage, the groom’s party starts in a procession for the bride’s village carrying with them a few Mithun, pigs and millet beer.
  • When they approach the house of the bride’s father, the hosts pull out swords as a sign of resistance.
  • The groom’s party also pretends in a similar gesture, and there ensures a mock fight between the two parties for a few minutes.
  • The groom’s parents make a present of long and costly swords to the head of the bride’s family.
  • The bride’s parents in their turn also give a long sword to the father of the groom.
  • This exchange of swords symbolizes reciprocal honour and friendship.
  • The bride’s parents also give their daughter gifts in the form of ornaments like Tibetan bracelets, bead necklace, earrings, etc.
  • The role of the priest, who conducts the marriage ceremony, is very important and he is rewarded suitably by both the parties.
  • On the third day, the groom’s party leaves the bride’s village.
  • The bride is allowed to stay back with her parents for a few months before she goes to her husband’s house to live with him permanently.
  • Marriage by capture and elopement are also recognized by the Tagins.
  • Such a marriage seldom takes place.
  • In such cases also the man who captured or eloped a girl has to pay bride price afterwards.
  • Various forms of marriages, such as cross-cousin, both senior and junior types of levirate are prevalent among the Tagins.
  • A brother, as a rule, may marry the widow of the elder/younger brother, if the widow desires.
  • She may marry outside the family provided the compensation for the bride price is paid to her husband’s family by the man who marries her.
  • As such a widow is not allowed to take her sibling with her, but she may take the baby and bring the child up, to a certain age, and then she returns to her husband’s family.
  • There is no restriction of age in marriage among them against divorce is very rare among them, which is achieved only through a complicated process.
  • Adultery and bareness of a woman may lead to a divorce.

DEATH

  • Death is believed to be the separation of soul (sema) from the body and according to the Tagins, after death the souls go to the land of the dead.
  • Death due to old age is considered as natural and immature death by disease, accident or suicide is believed to be abnormal and caused by the effect of the evil spirits (wiyus).
  • They practise burial for disposal of the dead body.
  • If a baby’s birth and death take place in the same lunar month, then the corpse is put inside an earthen pot.
  • It is then placed in a cave or beneath a rock securely covered with stone so that the dead body cannot be eaten away by wild beasts
  • When a death occurs in a household, the corpse is kept lying on its side with the legs flexed at the knees slightly away from the fireplace for one night.
  • In the night, the malignant spirits are believed to visit the bereaved household.
  • The fire in the hearth is kept alight and the adult members of the household do not sleep for that night.
  • They throw stones against the walls and roof of the house and beat the floor with sticks at some intervals.
  • These are done to frighten the malevolent spirits.
  • It is believed that if the spirits enter the house, there will be more disease and death in the household.
  • Arrangements are made in the following morning to bury the dead body.
  • The grave is dug inside the village, sometimes beside the house of the deceased.
  • Grave goods are also offered.
  • A monkey, thought to be the next to a man in intelligence, who can climb up the hills, is considered essential to accompany the soul of the dead on its journey to the land of the dead.
  • Accordingly, a monkey is killed and placed with the dead body during the burial.
  • The dead body is covered with clothes and leaves before it is buried.
  • Members of the bereaved family observe a taboo for ten days during which no one,  except the clan members, are allowed to enter the house of the dead person.

VILLAGE COUNCIL

  • There was no recognized village council among the Tagins in the bygone days.
  • The arbitrators (gedungs), who had command and influence over the fellow members,  settled the disputes.
  • Presently, the Tagins have adopted a kebang system where elderly and influential male members of the village sit together to solve any kind of dispute arising in society.
  • The wrongdoers are punished with compensations of fine in cash, property items or live stocks, like mithun, pig, etc. No evidence in respect of the dormitory system is found among the Tagins.

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

  • A complex system of faith in the spiritual world and side by side, the concept of  Supreme Being, are the two important factors which characterize religious aspects of the Tagins.
  • They believe in both benevolent and malevolent spirits.
  • The evil spirits are believed to be capable of causing diseases, miseries and misfortunes to human beings who have the power to exert influence on man in both of his earthly life and afterlife.
  • Propitiation of the evil spirits is an important religious aspect of the Tagins.
  • They believe in a high god known as Donyi Polo.
  • According to the Tagins, Donyi (sun) is female and Polo (moon) is male.
  • Besides their literal meaning, the combined word Dony-Poio refers to a divine force operating from heaven.
  • Religious practices of the Tagins are mainly shamanistic.

IMPACT OF MODERN WORLD 

  • Their religious and cultural practices are changing
  • Education is growing at a fast rate
  • Women empowerment
  • Started worshipping different gods
  • Also started construction of temples etc.