Monpa tribes constitutes of five percent of the total population of tribal communities through out the whole Arunachal Pradesh. This Monpa tribe displays many common attributes. These are like `anthropometrics`, `blood groups`. Monpa tribes are said to be one of the primitive tribes of Tawang District and West Kameng District.
The Monpa tribes have a kinship with the Sharchops residing in Bhutan. Though the language of this tribal community is of Tibeto-Burman family, but it is notably differs from the dialect of Eastern Tibet. The Monpa tribal society is divided in six sub groups in respect of their language. The sub groups are named as Dirang Monpa, Panchen Monpa, Bhut Monpa, Lish Monpa, Tawang Monpa and Kalaktang Monpa. The Monpa society is administered by the Trukdri which comprises six ministers. The members of Trukdri council are known by the name of Kenpo.
The origin of these Monpa tribes of Arunachal Pradesh
has got a beautiful history behind it. Eminent anthropologists have penned down a lot of things about the role of Monpa tribes in trade in pre-colonial and colonial era of Arunachal Pradesh state. As per their records, Monpa tribes even proved to be really efficient in playing the role of intermediaries in trade that Assam
had with a foreign country. Within the Arunachal Pradesh also Monpas carry on trade exchanges of several products like butter, coats shoes, carpets, blankets, masks and yak cap, salt and beetle nut with `Sherdukpen tribal group`. In lieu, they demand in exchange of cows, `mithun` and `animal-skins`. According to few anthropologists, to facilitate this trading relation with Assam has emphasized the role of trade fairs.
These trade fairs further deterred to a great extent due to the enactment of Inner-line regulations by forest regulators in Darrang frontiers of the Assam state. These `provisions` led Monpa of Twang and East Kameng districts curb their motions within `sub Montana forest`.
In the year 1809, the fairs at Udalguri and Doimara in Assam clearly established the facts that animals and its various by products along with the forest based resources were the major items of trade that were to be exchanged with finished products from other places. These fairs for trade showed a process of decline during the end part of the era of British period. In the year 1901 tea industry gradually expanded in Doimara in Darrang district of Assam, salt was imported from outside. The development of land networking retards the demand of animals like donkeys and horses and British colonial government entered into direct foreign trade by making use of some legal provisions.
The Monpa tribal people follow the characteristics with other people of Arunachal Pradesh as well as with many other tribes of `mongoloid characters` of adjacent north-eastern parts. Monpa tribes have also their own and unique system of the practices.
The Monpa tribes are all ardent believers of Buddhist practices. Lord Buddha
, the Dharma (righteousness) and the Sangha
(order of monks) comprises of the `Buddhist Trinity`. These three sacred ideals of Buddhism
are also hold in esteem and reverence by these Monpa tribal community people.
The people of Monpa tribal community are reckoned for their artistic creations that include beautiful Thangka painting, carpet making, weaving and wood carving. They are adept in making paper from sukso tree. Moreover, the people of this tribal community also practice shifting cultivation. Among their major crops, barley, rice, maize, chili, wheat, tobacco, pumpkin, beans, pepper, and indigo can be named. They also rear domestic animals like yaks, pigs, cows, fowl and ship.
Monpa tribes have followed the tradition of depending on natural and its various products. According to the famous scholar, Dam and Hajara (1981) the great anthropologists who has carried out a vivid discussion on Monpas the utility of various plant resources in the lifestyle of the Monpa are undeniable. According to this research, they also utilize diverse animals as well as their by products in several ways.
Actually these by products are used for purposes like `food, zoo therapy, magico-religious, decoration` and also for several other beliefs. Occupations of Monpa tribes are quite different from those of the other tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Unlike other tribes, the hunting is not at all the universal practice of Monpa tribes. However there are few Monpa shepherds that are found in the remotest corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Several equipments are being used for facilitating hunting including gun, poisonous arrows, deo (swords).
Another thing quite remarkable about the cultural aspect of Monpa tribe is there has been an amalgamation of both non-violence and aspects of violence. Though they ardently have developed the trust on various axioms of non-violence, the actions that they follow are not at all matching. On the contrary, they follow the customs of animal sacrifices and also the utilities that they derive from these animal resources. Several studies that are being conducted in order to understand the wealth of fauna also emphasize the fact that these Monpa tribes have wide faith on various superstition and magical powers are being find out. Animals that are utilized both as food and other purposes are tiger, leopard, musk deer etc. Monpa tribes also show no reservations for consuming various kinds of birds as food.
The Mongpa men wear Tibetan Chugba. Some of the people also wear trousers and coats along with a skull cap. The shirts of the men-folk are called `Endi` and it is worn in the Tibetan style. The short woollen trouser for men is called `Kangnom` and the full-length woolen trouser is known as `Dhorna`. The women of this community wear long length sleeveless chemise and warm jacket. They wear red coloured gown called `Shingka`.
They also prefer to deck themselves with different types of ornaments of different materials. Rings, earrings, necklaces etc made of bamboo are sometimes embellished with turquoises and red beads.
The houses of the Monpa tribal community are constructed with wood and stones. Their floors are called plank floors and sometimes their doors and windows represent the art of excellent wood carving. Bamboo matting is used to make the roofs of their houses and it also keeps their room warm during the time of severe cold. Some houses also contain hearths and sitting platforms in the living room.
Several fests and festivals are celebrated by the Monpa people. Some of the major festivals of this tribal community include Losar, Ajilamu, Choskar harvest and Torgya. During some of these festivals, the Monpa people perform Pantomime dances including Ajilamu festival. The people go to the Tawang monastery during Losar festival.