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They are famous for their unique methods of sustainable farming and social forestry.

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The Apatanis are primarily into farming. They are famous for the sustainable and efficient methods that they have been following to cultivate rice. The farm lands are built on flat lands and therefore wet rice cultivation is followed along with fish culture. Even the elevated partition bunds between rice plots is utilised to grow millets. Their farms are uniquely marked with efficient channels and canals for irrigation purpose.


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There are no farm animals or machines used, instead the focus is on using nature friendly and sustainable methods only. They have also successfully been able to conserve the forests around the valley which serves as water sheds for streamlets flowing down to the fields thereby helping them in the irrigation system. They live in very simple bamboo huts perched on top of vertical wooden stilts and forming dense settlements called Bastis.

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In spite of this, these simple yet just adequately furnished houses are one of the examples which forced me to rethink on our consumerist approach towards living. The centre of the house, not only serves as a kitchen where food is cooked over wood fire, but also as a gathering point to talk and discuss matters. Fire is lit right in the centre, around which family members and visitors sit to chat and spend time with each other.

A usual day in a Ziro village can begin as early as am when all the adults, after finishing their morning chores, leave for their farm lands and children to school. Whole village seems to come to halt in late morning hours till evening with just a few women engaged in weaving traditional clothes, if not going to the fields. Being on the eastern side of the country, sun sets at about pm depending upon the time of the year. As a result, all the evening activities are rolled around pm which is also the time for everyone to be back in their homes, take a stroll, meet neighbours and friends and for children to play in open spaces around the village.

Every evening after sunset our hosts received their neighbours and relatives who would mostly just stop by to say hello, and they all will be served the traditional homemade rice beer with special Apatani salt called Tapyo. Traditionally Tapyo is made at home using ashes of certain indigenous plants, which to a large extent is also responsible for saving Apatanis from problem of goitre, otherwise a great concern in other nearby tribes.

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Now, of course with the easy accessibility of Iodised salt, this problem has been tackled by all. Drinking freshly made rice beer is more of a social activity and along with it comes discussions and insight into lives of the Apatanis. One of the unique features of Apatanis, as already mentioned earlier, and probably most photographed by tourists is the women with facial tattoos and nose plugs. There is no documented reason as to why the tradition started, but we notice that this tradition is no longer followed in younger generation.

Even many of the women from older generation have opted to take off their nose plugs. Food in a traditional Apatani home revolves around rice for obvious reasons.

Rice is often accompanied with boiled vegetables, meat preparation or other delicacies cooked in bamboo shoot. There are hardly any spices used in traditional Apatani food, hence the green chili which accompanies every single meal. Fortunately my travel coincided with Myoko festival in the month of March. Its a month long festival of friendships and merry making, starting somewhere around 20th March every year and going on for one whole month.


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