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Why our Indigenous Faith and Culture should be preserved and protected?

Dr. Hage Tabyo

Background and broad concept of Donyi Puloism:

Before emergence of all sorts of isms (organized religions of the world), the world had a universal and informal religion with an extensive and all pervasive outlook as broad and comprehensive as that of energizing and all pervasive Sun-rays. Myth says that one of the most sublime Vedic Philosophies was churned out by Ved Vyasa by dint of an amalgamation of the indigenous and informal religious hymns and chanting of the priests and shamans from all over the world. The pieces of data were collected and compiled by the disciples of Ved Vyasa which in due course of time became the very foundation and basic structure for sublime growth of the Hindu philosophical scripts, the Vedas. This was the fountain head upon which the Hindu religion was born, which is the most ancient and stable principal religion of India, out of which other religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and others, branched out in the subsequent periods. So, one has to remember the fact that our religion is indigenous religion and the faiths which are more ancient than most of these sects of religions which have taken their shapes only out of our basic philosophical concepts of worshiping the natural entities, principally the Sun and the Moon. 

Therefore, we the children of our ancestor, Abotani and allied indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh should invariably feel genuine pride and glorified to be part of that glorious past genre whereupon the inheritors of this pristine and ancient religion have the most pluralistic outlook in perception of God that is embodied in everything. The very principle of the Danyi-Pulo (Donyi-Polo, for other Tani groups) is the only living faith and culture that is existing in a harmonious alignment with the Nature, and weaved into way of living in the very original and natural fashion and appropriately fitted in the indigenous dispensation. 

One can judge and query oneself, “Whose God of any religion in the world can be seen and manifested in a physical shape?” The Danyi-Puloism (Donyi-Poloism) is the only religion whose God himself reveals amidst the disciples and alike. The Sun and the Moon (Danyi & Pulo) represent in the way in which the divine principle manifests itself, that is eternally veiling, unveiling and then revealing themselves in nature; for example, in the alternation of light nad darkness, heat and cool, or unity (analogically, the sun of the daily sky) and multiplicity (analogically, the stars of the night sky).

The basic concept of the Danyi-Puloism is that the chief guardians of the universe are the Sun, the Almighty Ayo Danyi, and the Moon, Ato Piilo-as the eyes and ears of human conscience. The Divinity has projected in the ways to man showing him the right path to tread in his life. All the happiness is given through his right action, and the right action is that which follows the order of nature, that of Danyi-Piilo. By that way of right conscience nature guides man. Therefore, prayers are to be offered to him in a regular basis as to keep a close link between God and man. According to our traditional beliefs, love, compassion, equality and selflessness are naturally orders of Dany-Pulo and they are inscribed in nature. The ethical dimensions of Danyi-Pulo also mean- purity, beauty, simplicity, uprightness and frankness.

Scopes, Challenges and concurrent status:

To quote Mihin Kaning (an Apatani scholar), “Religion  is a system of faith and worship or it can be stated as the outward act, or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or gods having the power over their destiny.” Although there had neither been a written scripture nor any organized religion and educational institutions in the past, yet our eternal traditional faiths and culture was very much strong and vibrant in the olden days as it upholds the old values enshrined in the saying, “Nyukhu naming ho pwmw rwgyw, Nayo naming ho tako gyegyw”. Meaning, -one’s home is the place where one and all use to meditate and pay obeysance to the gods. So, our dwelling house has been regarded as a holy and sacred place where one and all used to perform almost all the rituals, and equally has been the very place where the knowledge and wisdom is assimilated and disseminated. 

So, it is our age old tradition that we, the Apatani parents and elders, do impart or share the oral literature among youngsters, friends and relatives at home sitting around the hearths till very late nights. Also in the festivals like Subu, Murun, Myoko, etc. where there used to be competitions of ballad songs such as Ayu, Busi etc.., mainly among male folks where one and sundry evaluates, reviews and recharges one’s knowledge and only thereafter, one is acknowledged as learned and earned as Miji according to his profoundness in term of knowledge and expertise on the oral tradition. Such is the very way how the ‘Miji-migun’ has been inculcated and percolating down to the next generation thereby maintaining a balance between the matter and spirit of which self confidence of each member of  society is ensured and rejuvenated. 

If such a link is not followed up, the existing culture is definitely going to fade into oblivion. The question is whether we can tolerate such a situation to happen in the Apatani society and still live a life happily ever after, owning and accepting an alien culture instead,neglecting our very own centuries’ old forefather’s gifted and blessed tradition, owing to our laziness or carelessness? There is a kind of a situation today similar to one stage during Abotani’s life and times. In those days, when all the malevolent spirits of this Earth, viz. Tubo,Lyabo, Myotw-Pilya, Dingyan-Su, and others did conspire to eliminate Abotani from this Earth as the later was very clever, cunning and powerful than them. Somehow, later on, Abotani overcame that situation with the help of his sister, Dolyang Changjang and well wishers and by performing the Myoko rite. 

So there is that similarity of the situation prevalent in the present day. Our very own Indigenous faith and culture is being attacked covertly and overtly by various hostile elements particularly Christanity to swallow up and wipe out from this world. Thus, the very pristine and ancient living culture is being pushed towards backyards. 

It is admittedly true that many of the Indigenous customs and traditional rituals may have few or many elements that are in consistent with the modern day life. But it is true for most of the religions including very established religions of the world. It is noteworthy that all religions have passed through successive reformative movements initiated by preachers and thinkers. We too can do kinds of review and reform or modify such many or few contents and text versions of our culture with due help of living Miji personnel and Nyibus alike. It is high time to come forward by elites and intelligentsia groups to break the barriers of shyness and reluctance to forge ahead to make our age old culture and faith vibrant, alive and kicking as ever before it is too late. 

When our other Indian counterparts like Hindus, Sikhs etc. and other ancient civilizations, notably the Chinese and Japanese could invariably embrace modernity by vigorously preserving their ancient faith and culture, why we too similarly can’t  carry forward the legacy of our forefathers? However, it is also worthy  to note that the success of our Donyi-Polo faith movement has crossed the Tani cultural borders recently which is indeed inspiring the rise of the ‘Rangfraism’ among the Tangsas of  Changlang District and ‘Intayaism’ among the Mishmis of Dibang Valley. 

It is a matter of pride that Arunachal Pradesh is one of the few remaining places on this Earth where indigenous faiths are still the living systems. In other places, tribal religions have either drastically been modified or abandoned altogether due to proselytization or conversion to other faiths. In many of such places, the people are only now trying to rediscover the inner core essence of their original traditional religions. Such ones can be cited as an instance of the Seng-Khasi movement among a section of the Khasis of Meghalaya. After more than a century of conversion to Christianity, a section of Khasi tribe wishes to return, revive and reinstate the pre-Christian, Naturalistic indigenous faith called the ‘Seng-Khasi’ religion. The similar is a case in Imphal Valley of Manipur, where the dominant Meitei-speaking Manipuris have been Hindu Vaishnovites for nearly 300 years now, following the patronization of the new faith by King Garib Nawaz. And yet, among such ardent Vaishnovites there arose,especially in the recent past centuries, a revivalist movement to restore the Pre-Vaishnova Nature worshipping religion, called’Senamahi’. The Senamahi faith has certain following in the Imphal valley. The revivalist movement also lent an edge to Meitei ethnic cultural identity consolidation. 
By and large, the culture and faith are only two sides of the one same coin. One cannot be separated from the other. But now a days some section of our society attempt to separate these two and erroneously tend to own and accept only one and discard the other which is nothing but their illusion only. 

Analyses of Core Issues:

Today, it has become oblivious that the pristine and unabridged forms of our faith, tradition, customs and practices are getting diminished due to modernization and centrifugal mode of dispersal of populace, also because of obligatory absorption towards various livelihood professions. 

Some of the principal factors may be enumerated as follows:

1) Due to the perennial absence of incorporation into the study lessons/course of study containing traditional, moral and cultural values in the modern education system so introduced in educational institutions, although having been able to produce bright professionals among today’s generations but with miserably weak in cultural sensibility and having a inherent feeling of traditional learning system being obsolete. As a consequence, today’s people’s attraction has been drawn only towards material prosperity giving rise to vulnerability apostasy. 
2) Lack of written documentation of oral tradition, giving rise to confinement of text and ballad literatures conservatively only with the Nyibus(priests), making them beyond the reach of common men, resulting to latter’s ignorance, awkwardness/ lack of proximity to the subject-matter and weak in self-confidence. 
3) The incessant onslaught of alien faiths and cultures projecting themselves as the only saviours of humanity as well as epitome of modernity and civilization with huge resources and well prepared strategy having covertly and overtly. 


To uphold the very value of an old adage in Apatani: ‘‘Popi Nitin ka lenda mi sanw lyipu kune masa, Sarmin hormin ka lenda mi kusu lyiru kwne masa’’,
It would be an act of wisdom to mend our own house and stay in conformity with the changing times and modernity than to stay in obeisance with an alien friend whose house is well built but who hates our nature of dwelling. These hostile elements well realize the diminishing pattern of interest and difficulty in applicability among the present generation people in dissemination and assimilation of age-old oral traditional methods. Hence, their exploitation is beyond a limit. So, one should stay grounded and must not allow to die this living culture, lest our revered ancestors and progenies would blame the present generation. Lessons should be learnt from the Jews who have still preserved their ancient faiths from the external cultural onslaughts by their much stronger neighbors since 1800 years with their faith and social responsibility alone. To preserve, protect and promote the indigenous faith and culture, the Meder Nelo Council movement by Apatani Danyi Pulo meder-Nello Council, Ziro has been taking up various reformation activities which is aimed at sustaining and maintaining our indigenous faith uninterruptedly.