Accepted Paper:

Cosmology and eschatology in the cult of the dead among Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh (India)  


Stefano Beggiora (University Ca' Foscari of Venice)

Paper short abstract:

This article proposes a full immersion in the shamanism and the special features of the worship of the dead and the funeral ceremonies (burial rite, mithun/mountain-buffalo sacrifice) of the Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh of Northeast India.

Paper long abstract:

This article proposes a

full immersion in the worship of the dead and the funeral rites of the

Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. The purpose of this study is to

examine, from a religio-historical and ethnographical perspective, the

fundamental aspects of a tribal religion which is rapidly disappearing

due to modernization and the social changes in act in the region. The

documentation of a magnificent funeral in honor of a recently deceased

chieftain will be the backbone of an analysis of the conception of the

cosmos and of the eschatology of the tribe. The collective,

interconnected rituals of the various ceremonies shall be described in

detail: oracle practices, the celebration of the memorial/funeral

tears, the sacrifice of the mithun (a local species of mountain

buffalo), the cult of the ancestors, and the ritual burial in an

underground funerary room. I will then proceed to interpret the symbols

included in the ritual praxis through the lens of local shamanic

tradition. From a socio-anthropological perspective, this culture

appears to have many ties with the traditions of other tribes of the

Indian subcontinent. However, it also presents unique archaic cultural

features, which are peculiar of the so-called Tani groups of Central

Arunachal Pradesh. Some cultural and religious simplifications and

their attempt to recover the power of the ancient niybus (priests)

through peculiar techniques, evidences how this tribal society is

rapidly changing.

Panel P14
Circulation of cultural tropes in indigenous Adivasi India