One of the prettiest landscapes in all of India, the fertile Ziro Valley finds a place within Arunachal’s formidable mountains. Abundant layered landscape of rice and paddy fields, streaming rivers, a music festival and the gorgeous Apatani tribe, are some of the undisputed high points if you’re thinking of a trip to Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast. Also Read - Unlock in Arunachal Pradesh to Begin From Monday, Curbs to be Lifted Outside Containment Zones
The main attraction here though is meeting the older Apatani tribal people; especially the women who have these traditional ornamentation of tattooed faces and oversized nose piercings. Legend has it that the Apatani women were renowned for their startling beauty; and their pretty faces and sharp features ended up attracting a lot of attention from the men of the neighbouring tribes, who started to kidnap and forcefully marry them. As a solution to that problem, the women were asked to practice facial distortion by covering their faces with tattoos and nose plugs so that they appeared ugly to these men. This practice has long been discontinued (since 1970’s), but one can spot these on the older women still living in the village. The best way to experience the Apatani culture and hospitality is to ditch the resorts for a homestay.
The Apatani is the most industrious, literate and responsible tribe of Ziro. Their main occupation includes farming and cultivating permanent wet lands and paddy farms, known for its unique paddy cum fish cultivation using traditional irrigation methods, in knee-deep water. It’s a great practice because the pests and weed are kept away as the fish feed on both, while organically fertilising the field with their excreta.
The most authentic Apatani villages are Hong, which is the biggest and best known, and Hija, which is quite atmospheric. Other villages include Hari, Bamin and Duta, none of which are more than 10km apart. Remember to a local guide to take you to these villages, otherwise you could be made to feel quite unwelcome.