Unexplored Shades of Monpa

Author: Ankita Karmakar (Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, India)
Speaker: Ankita Karmakar
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


The present paper exposes multiple unexplored interesting aspects about the different and unique traditional practices of the Dirang Monpa community. The Monpa tribe is one of the most populous and major tribal communities in Arunachal Pradesh. The Dirang Monpa live in the Dirang Circle in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh in north-east India. The Dirang Monpa claims that they were the first inhabitants of the Dirang area. Some of their elders claim that their forefathers originated from eastern Bhutan, before migrating to their present location in India. These people belong to Tibeto-Burman language family, and established contact with the Tibetans in the north ,and adopted Mahayana from the Buddhist faith.

The paper will mostly focus on how the culture is reflected in the language. The people are losing their special knowledge systems, through impact of dominant languages. Hence, this paper presents an attempt to illustrate the undocumented items of the language community. This paper discusses the following aspects: The unique style of making of kʰərpʰei (traditional Monpa house) structure, the indigenous harvesting festival or tʃʰoskor ceremony, the typical Monpa marriage (ŋʲen) rituals, shamanism (ŋakmuna) or magico-religious practices, ethnic medicine, the gestation period (during pregnancy), the story of ʃiŋka (traditional dress), death practices, usage of watermills, and so forth.

Most of the community’s literature remains oral till date, and hence this study presents an initial trial to preserve the language through the culture of the community. Some initial effort can be made by encouraging the community to write their own stories, recitation of folklores, creating pictures related to their surroundings/neighbourhood (e.g. hills, trees, rivers, stories of bravery) and history.


Andvik, Erik E. 2010. A Grammar of Tshangla.Brill’s Tibetan Studies Library, Leiden.
Blench, Roger. 2014. Sorting out Monpa: The Relationship of the Monpa Languages of Arunachal Pradesh. United Kingdom: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.

Das Gupta, K. 1968. An Introduction to Central Monpa.Shillong: North-East Frontier Agency.
Das Gupta, R. [2nd ed.] 2007. An Introduction to Central Monpa11. Itanagar: Director of Research, Arunachal Pradesh Government.
Dutta, D.K. 1999. The Monpas of Kalaktang: Arunachal Pradesh. Itanagar: Director of Research, Arunachal Pradesh Government.
Lama, Tashi 1999.The Monpas of Tawang.Itanagar: Himalayan Publishers.
Norbu, Tsewang 2008.The Monpas of Tawang.Itanagar: Director of Research, Arunachal Pradesh Government.

Keywords: Dirang Monpa