The IDU-MISHMI is a major sub-tribe of Mishmi group. Their brethren tribes are namely the DIGARU-MISHMI (TARAONS) and the MIJU-MISHMI (KAMANS). They inhabit the Lohit district, Dibang Valley district and Lower Dibang Valley district. They are of mongoloid stock and speak the Tibeto-Burman language.
The Idu Mishmi is one of the two major tribes of the district. The Idu Mishmis can be distinctively identified among other tribal groups of Arunachal Pradesh by their typical hairstyle, distinctive costumes and artistic patterns embedded on their clothes. People of sober nature still maintain deep-rooted aesthetic values in their day-to-day life with great pride and honour. All pervading goddess Nani-Intaya is the sole creator of the universe for the Idus.
The Idus have their distinct dialect, which falls under the Tibeto-Burman group of languages. Traditionally, Idus believe in animism. They worship several benevolent and malevolent spirits. Nani-Intaya and Masello Zino are worshipped as creators of mankind and universe as a whole. Mythological characters like SINE-RU a first IGU (Idu Priest) still holds high place and reverence in the minds of the people. The prints of his palm on the huge rocks at Athu Popu near Keyala Pass in Dibang Valley district on China border, is supreme and holy shrine. The major festivals of the Idus are ‘Reh’ and ‘Ke-meh-ha’. Reh festival is held during the month of February. It is an occasion for people to relax, enjoy, dance, eat and drink.
The Idus are expert craftsman. The Idu women, in particular, are very good weavers. Their great aesthetic sense is well reflected in the exquisite designs created on the clothes produced on handlooms. The Idu men are well apt in making beautiful basketry items of bamboo and cane.
A well-developed civilization dated back in the pages of history can be found in the region. Remnants of 10th Century AD found at Bhismaknagar, Chidu & Chimri villages in the lower belt of the district prove that the Idus coexisted with great harmony with the people of plains and adjoining states.
Apparently the Idu-Mishmis migrated towards the south to present habitat from Tibet through Dibang and Lohit Valleys. Some of the prominent migration points from the Tibet indicated by the ancestors are – (i) ANDIKU – the direction towards North-Pole Star, (ii) ASE-ALE – the course of Lohit river and (iii) INNI LON PON – the region where the first rays of the sun falls. There are about seventy-six clans. Some clan counts their genealogy up-to about twenty-eight generations.
Idus believe that to have pregnancy is a great blessing of the Divine mother “INNI MASELO ZINU AYA” or Sun Goddess. After pregnancy is noticed, two cocks are tamed as sacrificial bird to offer their blood to beneficent and maleficent spirits at the time of birth ceremony for the welfare of newborn. During pregnancy the couple follow some taboos. They should not utter any abnormal outcries of birds and animals or imitate the activities of handicap persons, or kill snakes, or offer any kind of articles for burial in the grave, since the exercise of above activities is supposed to lead to deformation of the child at the time of delivery. Food and rice beer is stocked before three to two months ahead for consumption during taboo days. On delivery of the child, the father puts a bunch of shrubs at the entrance gate of the house and goes to jungle to collect the elephant grass-EPONTOH and RONTHEPA- a creeper of thorn species. He places them over the entrance of the room for protection of evil spirit and for welfare of the child. A well versed in hymn and experienced priest is invited to perform A-TA-YE- a ritual ceremony. He propitiates the INNI MASELO and other beneficent and maleficent spirits of parent and grant-father and mother of the child and appeases them with the blood of sacred cock and water adulterated with rice beer.
The members present on the occasion are entertained with food and drink and they abstain from doing hard work for one night. The name of child is decided within five days. Main taboo remains for six to nine days. The parent including members of the house should not do any hard work like cutting with axe, digging of earth, killing of wild animals, touching of poison or irritating objects. Purification of taboo called ANGI ATHON NU is held again one day within the period in between six to nine days with the help of priest. Ritual ceremony is performed as that of A-TA–YE. On this day food and drink are prepared on large scale for entertaining the invitees.
The Idu-Mishmi society is patriarchal and patrilineal. The property is inherited by the son from the father. The Idu–Mishmis used to practice polygamy, but incestuous marriage is prohibited.Marriage be have through elopement and abduction but the most preferable one is by negotiation or arranged marriage. The younger or elder brother can marry the widow of his deceased brother. A man may marry his step-mother (other than his mother’s sister) after the death of his father. If the step-mother refuses to remarry, she or her parent or guardian has to pay back the bride price. To marry a girl it involves a huge expenditure in cash and kind for the bride price.
Construction of House:
An Idu-Mishmi house is a long one like a bus, rectangular size raised above two feet from the ground and supported on wooden posts usually accommodate a joint family. Bamboo, cane, wood and leaves of toku and straws are used for construction. The front is an extension of roof with ground floor to keep the
domesticated animal and next to it is a small veranda/corridor made of bamboo or plank for stepping up from the ladder to enter into house. A house may have a number of rooms with partitioned as per strength of the family members. There is a straight corridor/passage. Each room has a hearth and is used for both cooking and sleeping. The serial allocation of room consists of male room, which is called AGRAH. There may be passages in between two rooms for latrine and husking of paddy. Each room has one window towards the poultry yard and pigsty under the house.
Cultivation and Food Habits:
The Idu-Mishmi practice both terrace and wet rice cultivation. Rice, Maize and Millet are the staple food of the Idu–Mishmis. Sweet potato and different kinds of Arum and vegetable are the usual crops. Their main meal is taken twice a day. They are fond of fish and meat. They preserve food by smoking and drying over the fireplace. The home brewed rice beer (YU) is quite popular.
Modern education had a late start among the Idu Mishmis as they didn’t have early contact with the British colonizers. But educational institutions and literacy have multiplied rapidly since independence.
Idus are expert in handicraft and weaving.
The man makes basketry items out of cane, bamboo for household. The women weaves cloth with different design on both ETONWE (coat) & THUNWE (shirt). Many Idus purchase tractors and other machinery equipment for cultivation of cash crops like ginger, mustard seed and other cultivation of fruits (orange, pineapple, pears etc.), tea and paddy etc. Many literate men and women have joined government jobs, while others also undertake contract/supply works in various departments for earning their livelihood.
To die at the old age is treated as normal death but if it is accidental or premature, past acts of the deceased are supposed to have indirect effect. When a person is dead the entire village undergoes taboo for five days. During period of taboo, one does not undertake any new construction work, agricultural activities, fishing, hunting and weaving. The location or house where dead body is kept said to have been origin of taboo, so one can go there but before coming out of house or premises of taboo one must attend the purification ritual of the priest to continue normal life.
They bury their dead body along-with all movable articles. One day before of burying the dead body a well-versed and experienced priest is called to perform ritual ceremony for negotiating with the departed soul! The ritual ceremony is performed according to capability of deceased family members. If there is no custodian of the dead body, purification ritual is held for only two to three hours. The ritual ceremony of BRONCA is held for two days and AYA for four days, which involves a huge expenditure in cash and kind. The kith and kin contribute for burial ceremony. All the movable articles, irrespective of their cost/price, which belonged to or were liked by the deceased, are buried. Hence the burial is quite akin to the old Egyptian Pyramid traditions, except that burial among the Idus requires digging of sufficient rooms for the deceased and his articles.