You will love the vibrant festivals in Arunachal Pradesh as much as you will love the state’s stunning natural beauty and its rich traditions, and the culture of the many tribes. I love attending cultural festivals worldwide – from Bhutan to Germany, which all regular readers know.
So naturally, my visit to Arunachal led me to explore its culture further. Apart from the famous festivals of Arunachal Pradesh, I wanted to dig deeper to check out all the cultural celebrations that take place in this state.
Festival in Arunachal Pradesh are extensions to the lives of the tribe like anywhere else and offer ample insights into their culture through rich celebrations. Also, many festivals in Arunachal Pradesh are closely linked to agriculture, the main occupation of the state.
What better way than to immerse yourself in a destination’s culture than witnessing their cultural festivals, right? Hop on with me to check out all about the best festivals celebrated in Arunachal.
TOP FESTIVALS IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Here is the list of the festivals of Arunachal that you need to know.
Siang River Festival (Yomgo River Festival)
Type of Festival – Cultural and Gaming; When does it happen – December every year
Siang River Festival in Arunachal Pradesh is one of the famous celebrations held in the state, also known as the Yomgo River Festival and earlier part of the Brahmaputra Darshan Festival in Tezu and Pasighat. Until 2005, this is a festival for all the games and adventure seekers.
Dedicated to the communal harmony of Arunachal, the purpose of this festival is to promote tourism, especially eco-tourism, and showcase the adventurous travel that you can enjoy in the state.
This festival is celebrated in the East Tiang region in these towns, Tuting, Yingkiong and Pasighat – Arunachal’s oldest town, on the side of Yomgo River, a tributary of the mighty Siang or the Brahmaputra River.
You can enjoy river rafting, hot air ballooning, paragliding, indigenous games, and traditional boat races, among the many fun games and activities.
You can also taste the traditional cuisines of these villages at the food festivals. Attend their cultural shows, enjoy the folk dances, and shop for the local, exquisite handloom products, handicrafts and artworks at the exhibitions where you can buy from local artists from different districts that gather here.
Type of Festival – Religious, Spiritual; When does it happen – January/February every year
Torgya, also known as Tawang-Torgya, is an annual festival that is held in Tawang Monastery. It is one of the religious and colourful festivals in Arunachal Pradesh, giving glimpses of Buddhist traditions.
This 3-day monastic festival, a Monpa tribe celebration, is held according to the Buddhist calendar on the 28th day of the eleventh month, corresponding to the first week of January. This powerful festival is celebrated to eliminate the evil spirits that may harm the universe, protect its beings from disasters, and promote happiness and prosperity.
One of the notable highlights of this three-day festival is the vibrant costumed dances held in the monastery’s courtyard, believed to ward off the evil spirits. All dances are based on myths, with the artists performing the roles of many animals like cows, tigers, sheep, and monkeys.
Some of the popular dance forms are collectively called Chham, amidst the beating drum and cymbals. The vibrating hymns from the vast horns and clarinets give you goosebumps while taking you to the land of evils and their destruction.
The performers wear colourful costumes, and large masks are the Pha Chan and the Losjker Chungiye. The monks of the monastery perform Losjker Chungiye.
Torgya – The First Day
A unique 3-feet image is created for the festival, with the preparations going back to two weeks before by 14 lamas of the Tawang monastery. While some monks make this image from ghee, barley, milk and molasses, the other monks recite the scriptures in the monastery accompanying them.
On the first day, this image, called Torma, is worshipped by the formations of a mound made of dry bamboo leaves gathered from distant places in the shape of a temple known as Mechang. After the monastery’s Head Lama burns the Mechang in the presence of other Lamas, the Torma, carried by Lamas, is brought out in a procession to the mound’s location.
Two other Lamas, one wearing a male mask made of yak horn and the other wearing a female mask, also made of yak horn, appear along with the Torma. And the procession of the Torma continues as other Lamas carry swords, beating drums and cymbals.
The Head Lama touches the Torma when it reaches the mound before being consumed by the flames, which marks the completion of the day’s main ritual.
Wang – Third Day
Wang is the ritual performed at the monastery on the last day when sweets called Tseril, prepared from barley and sugar or molasses and a local beer called Tse-Chang is served in a bowl made of a human skull to the devotees after the Head Lama offers the prayers.
Type of Festival – New Year/Cultural; When does it happen – February/March
The New Year festival of Monpas called Losar is one of the important festivals in Arunachal Pradesh celebrated on a grand scale. The festival is celebrated by Monpas residing in Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.
The festival was initially known as the Agrarian Festival in the pre-Buddhist period in Tibet and was celebrated on account of the blooming of apricot.
Today this winter festival is held to mark the arrival due to the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and Arunachal. It is celebrated as the Tibetan New Year. The term Losar consists of two words, and in the native language, ‘Lo’-means year and ‘Sar’ means new.
The Monpas are one of the oldest and predominant tribes of the Tawang and West Kemang districts. The festival usually takes place in February or early March and lasts for about 8 to 15 days.
The preparations for the festivals begin weeks before the festival dates. Families thoroughly clean their homes and decorate their homes with artistic as well as traditional signs. People shop for new clothes, jewelery, sweets, and drinks. They also prepare delicacies at home and the local barley beer.
On the first day, people bring water from their taps, sanctifying their homes to drive off evil spirits. Then they get ready by wearing the new clothes and jewellery and praying at home until the night by lighting lamps and eating traditional food. Some of them also visit the Tawang monastery to offer their prayers.
On the second day, people celebrate by visiting each others’ houses, where they dance, sing, gamble, and play games. On the third day, people hoist prayer flags on their roofs and recite prayers to honour spirits and deities.
If you are part of this famous festival of Arunachal Pradesh, make sure to savour the local drinks and traditional delicacies. During this festival, Aji Lhamu, the traditional mask dance and Yak dance are also performed.
Type of Festival – Religious/Cultural; When does it happen – February every year
Nyokum is a cultural festival celebrated by the Nyishi tribe. One of the most spiritual festivals in Arunachal Pradesh, taking part in these celebrations is a great way to get peeks of the rich traditions of the Nyishi people.
The word Nyokum comes from Nyok, meaning land, and Kum, which means people or togetherness. This festival is celebrated to ensure the prosperity and harmony of the people by invoking the blessings of all the spirits, Gods and Goddesses of the Universe.
This unique festival of Arunachal Pradesh is celebrated for two days on February 28 of every year in East Kemang, Lower Subansiri, Papumpar and Kurung Kummey districts of Arunachal. Special prayers are offered, followed by singing, dancing, and merrymaking.
Yugang, a unique prayer structure, is made of bamboo for this occasion, upon which the animals are sacrificed for appeasing the gods. The high priests who perform the main ritual decide the number and kinds of animals for sacrifice or any other offering to be made.
Then men and women hold hands and in a circle for traditional dances after the prayers. It is one of the intimate celebrations that will allow you to experience the culture of the Nyishi tribe up close. It is also a great time to travel in Arunachal as the spring season brings magical landscapes.
Type of Festival – Religious; When does it happen – February every year
One of the significant festivals in Arunachal Pradesh celebrated almost throughout the state is Sanken, one of the beautiful religious fests. Originally celebrated by the Khampti tribe of the Lohit district, today this festival is held all over the state for three days in February, especially with great pomp by Singpho, Tikhaks, Khamyang and Phakyal communities of Arunachal Pradesh.
Sanken or Sangken is a religious festival where many prayers and rituals are performed to Lord Buddha. The festival also marks the beginning of the New Year. People bathe the statue of Buddha early in the morning on the first day, after which prayer sessions begin.
People gather and play musical instruments, including drums and gongs. Also known as the Water Festival, people sprinkle clean water on each other during Sanken, symbolising peace and purity. And then offer sweets and gifts to each other.
Throughout the festival, people do not kill animals, consume alcoholic beverages, cut trees, do not gamble or engage in any form of manual labor. On the last day of the festival, the decorated statue of Lord Buddha is installed back in the main temple, followed by a community banquet.
Attend Sanken to witness a wide range of traditions and experience the rich culture of the people of Arunachal, including the various customs and ethnicity of all the tribes.
Type of Festival – Agricultural/Cultural; When does it happen – September every year
Solung is one of the popular agriculture festivals in Arunachal Pradesh, celebrated by the Adi Tribes. It is primarily an agro-based monsoon festival usually celebrated during the first week of September every year after the sowing of seeds to seek prosperity and a good harvest.
This colorful cultural festival is one of the best experiences you can have if you want to combine traveling in Arunachal and having your share of cultural immersion.
This 10-day festival is one of the most famous harvest festivals in North East India. It is celebrated in West Siang, East Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, Upper Dibang Valley and Upper Siang districts in Arunachal Pradesh District. The purpose of celebrating Solung is to showcase the Adi community’s cultural, socio-economic and spiritual inclinations.
The date of the festival is decided by the Kebang or the village council, depending on the convenience of the villagers. After the date is set, locals begin the preparation of the festival, including the making of the local beer Apong or rice beer.
On the first day, Indian bison and wild boar are killed in the early morning. They are offered as a sacrifice to the goddess of crops, Kine Nane, known as Binnayat, and prayers are offered along with some other traditional rituals, including Ekop, a ceremony performed to seek protection against evil spirits.
On the second day, people prepare lavish delicacies with the meat and offer a portion of this meat to extended families. On the fourth day, do not miss witnessing the highlight of this festival, the traditional Ponung dance performance by the ladies.
Also, on this day, people sacrifice fowls in the fields for the Goddess, Kine Nane. The festival’s last day involves clearing the fields from any disease-ridden crop plants and readying the farms for the next harvest season.
Pangsau Pass Winter Festival
Type of Festival – Cultural; When does it happen – January every year
One of the recently added festivals in Arunachal Pradesh that has grown to become popular among travelers is the winter festival of Pangsau Pass.
This modern festival, which was started in 2007 by a group of locals, is today one of the famous festivals of Arunachal.
Pangsau Pass winter festival is a three-day cultural fest celebrated by the locals in Nampong in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh every January. If you love arts, dances, and getting to know the local folklores, you will love attending the Pangsau Pass fest as the celebrations are packed with these types of performances.
The purpose of this Fest is to uphold and cherish the ethnicity of the tribes of Arunachal. You can also find many unique tribes of neighbouring Myanmar showcasing their culture and traditions in this winter festival.
You will find many local handicrafts, handmade products, and other items ideal for taking home as souvenirs. You can also try many regional cuisines of Myanmar tribes and the tribes of this part of Arunachal.
Pangsau Pass winter festival is a cultural extravaganza and one of the best times to experience the stunning snowy landscapes of the state during this festival.
Ziro Festival of Music
Type of Festival – Music; When does it happen – November every year
One of the latest additions to the list of festivals in Arunachal Pradesh that has become increasingly popular is the Ziro music festival. Launched in 2012, it is one of the best festivals of Arunachal for music lovers, and those that favour eco-friendly travel hosted by the Apatani tribe.
It is regarded as the Sunburn festival of Arunachal no wonder thanks to the long list of popular artists that perform in this festival. Targeting the youth, travelers, and music enthusiasts, Ziro is one of the most happening festivals in Arunachal.
It is also one of the most eco-friendly festivals in India where most of the items are recycled and reused. The festival has two bamboo stages, Donyi(Sun) and Polo(Moon), constructed by local artisans. There is no use of plastic at the venue as well, along with excellent waste management in place.
This four-day festival brings together the best talent from North East India as well as from other countries, showcasing the local culture, music and folklore.
Type of Festival – Agricultural/Harvest; When does it happen – July every year
Dree is one of the pretty festivals in Arunachal Pradesh that you will love attending. It is celebrated by the Apatani tribe and is their biggest harvest festival held in the Ziro district and Lower Subansiri of Arunachal Pradesh.
The three-day festival is celebrated to ensure a bountiful harvest season. Hence, you can see the rituals where unique sacrificial offerings and prayers are made to four Gods – Tamu, Harniang, Metii, and Danyi.
People wear new clothes and offer prayers seeking protection of their crops, protection against famines, epidemics, and prosperity. You can taste delicious tangy rice, rice and millet beer during this festival.
Also, participate in the traditional dances and songs or take part in the fun indigenous games. It is a complete festival to enjoy the food, drinks, games, and culture of the local tribe on your visit to Arunachal.
Boori Boot Festival
Type of Festival – Religious/Cultural; When does it happen – February every year
If you want to attend a unique festival in Arunachal, there is no better than the Boori Boot festival. The Nyishi tribe, the largest among all the tribes, is celebrated to welcome the spring season and ensure a successful harvest season in the following season.
The festival is celebrated on a grand scale for three days in the Daporijo, Upper Subansiri, and Raga and Dollungmukh ranges of the Lower Subansiri Region of Arunachal Pradesh. It is not just a religious or cultural fest but involves a lot of fun and games, including archery, tug of war, and other native sports.
The spirit of Boori Boot is appeased through special prayers and animal sacrifice performed by the high priest known as Nibu, and nature bestows prosperity, all the happiness and frees them from diseases. People of all castes and creeds celebrate Boori Boot, and the locals welcome the beauty and the bounty of the spring season during this festival.
Apart from witnessing the lovely culture, you can enjoy the blooming of the spring flowers and the stunning landscapes if you plan to travel to Arunachal during this season.
Type of Festival – Agricultural; When does it happen – February every year
One of the important agricultural festivals in Arunachal Pradesh is the Loku festival celebrated by the Nocte Tribe of the Tirap district. The word Loku comes from Lofe, which means to take out and Rangku, which means season.
It is celebrated to bid farewell to winters. The annual festival happens in February, but the festival dates are decided by the days of the waxing moon and are celebrated for three days.
Phamlamja is the name of the first day of the festival, and on this day, buffaloes and pigs are slaughtered for meat and get ready with their traditional costumes, which are worn along with jewellery on the second day of the fest. On the second day, called Chamatja, a ritual for male members who have attained adolescence on the day of Chamkatja.
On the final day, called Thanlangia, all the villagers participate in the local folk dances, where the dancers are invited to the families’ houses that perform Chamkat. After folk dance performances, the dancers are offered dinner. People also get together at home on the third day of the festival.
Type of festival – Agricultural; When does it happen – March/April every year
One of the popular harvest festivals in Arunachal Pradesh is the Mopin festival, celebrated by the Galo tribe residing in East Siang and West Siang districts. This agricultural festival is also among the oldest festivals in the state, held during the spring/early summer months of March and April, coinciding with the New Year for the Galo tribe.
The festival dates were decided a few days before, but the villages began preparations many months back. It is celebrated to drive away evil shadows and bring blessings, peace and prosperity for all. Mopin Ane is the Goddess worshipped during this festival, where the local animal Mithun and boars are offered as sacrifices.
The people dress up in traditional white clothing and apply rice flour on each other, kicking off the festivities. People prepare local rice beer and other specialities exclusively for the festival, including traditional bamboo cuisines.
After eating and drinking, the evening becomes more fun as the dance performances begin. Do not miss attending their traditional dance Popir.
BEST FESTIVALS IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH FOR OFFBEAT EXPERIENCES
Reh Idu Festival
Type of Festival – Religious; When does it happen – February/August every year
Reh is one of the lovely festivals in Arunachal Pradesh celebrated by the Idus tribe. This six-days long festival is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the traditions of the Idus tribe.
The festival is celebrated at different times in February and August to ensure the prosperity and well-being of the community. The people from the Idus tribe in the villages of Talo, Amru, and Dri celebrate Reh Idu during summer and monsoon.
Folk dances, traditional dance performances and rituals by the priests, and prayers the people offer highlight this fantastic festival. Andropu is the festival’s first day, during which extensive prayers and traditional practices are performed, and boars and other animals are worshipped.
In the night, traditional dances are performed. On the second day, Eyanli, the animals are offered as a sacrifice.
On the third day, Iyili, special delicacies are prepared from the gods’ meat. On the fourth day, Ilyiromunyi, a traditional ritual, is performed for the people’s wealth and prosperity.
On this day, a tradition of pouring rice beer into the ears of a pig is performed, and if the pig doesn’t show any sign of concern, it is considered evil.
The fifth day of the festival, Arugo is a special day, as many rituals, dance performances, and gatherings take place during this day. On the sixth day, Etoanu seeds smeared with sacrificed animal blood are sown in the fields, and rice beer is offered to the household goddess, where people pray for a successful harvest marking the end of a week-long celebration.
Type of Festival – Religious/Social; When does it happen – February every year
One of the oldest festivals in Arunachal Pradesh celebrated with much fanfare is the Tamladu festival, held in the Lohit and Anjaw districts. Celebrated by the Digaru Mishmis tribe is a beautiful religious and cultural festival providing glimpses of the rich culture of Arunachal.
It is celebrated to foster the unity and prosperity of the tribe, making it one of the unique festivals of Arunachal, focusing on the religious or cultural aspects and promoting social harmony.
Unlike the other festivals in Arunachal Pradesh, which involves worshipping the local gods, the Tamladu festival is about offering prayers and performing rituals to appease nature and its spirits. The high priest performs the practices in a central place, where the villagers gather.
Animal sacrifices are performed at night, followed by traditional dance performances, including the popular Tanggong dance.
You can witness this small-scale festival by being a part of it as the locals welcome guests with open arms and make you feel at home. This is also the best time to explore the spring landscapes in Arunachal, so if you feel like experiencing the state’s culture and the natural beauty, this is the best time to plan your trip.
Type of Festival – Agricultural; When does it happen – April/May every year
Another agricultural or harvest festival of Arunachal that is worth experiencing is the lovely Choekor celebrated in late April or early May every year.
One of the close-knit festivals in Arunachal Pradesh, this harvest festival is celebrated by the farmers in the community to seek blessings from supernatural beings and protection of their crops and a successful harvest year.
It is held right after the crops are sown in the fields. The entire village communities come together where the priests read from the scriptures and worship the images at various places, which is believed to drive away evil spirits and safeguard the village from any disasters.
You can taste special local food and drinks if you visit the villagers’ homes during the festival times.
Type of festival – Cultural; When does it happen – January every year
Celebrated by one of the major tribes, Tagin, Si-Donyi is one of the beautiful festivals in Arunachal Pradesh, which marks the beginning of a new year, and is celebrated to ensure prosperity and wellness the community. It is celebrated in January every year in Upper Subansari and West Siang districts by the Tagin tribe.
The word Si-Dyoni comes from ‘ Si,’ which means sun; and ‘Dyoni,’ which means the world. So as the name suggests, it is a festival of the planetary objects, mainly the sun, moon and the earth, and other deities. Unlike the other festivals in Arunachal Pradesh celebrated in homes, Si-Dyoni is celebrated at a community level.
The high priest, Nyibu, performs many traditional rituals, offers prayers and initiates the sacrifice of animals believed to ward off the evil spirits. The meat is distributed among the devotees later for preparing special delicacies. In the evening, many traditional folk dances like Chungne, Riabu, Takar Ghene, Konyi Bokar and Hoyi Penam are also performed.
MORE BEAUTIFUL FESTIVALS IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Nechi Dau Festival
Type of festival – Religious; When does it happen – November every year
Celebrated by the Aka tribe, one of the best winter festivals in Arunachal Pradesh you will enjoy is the Nechi Dau festival.
This four-day festival is celebrated in November in Thrizino, Bhalukpong, Buragaon, Jamiri, Palizi, Khuppi and other districts in West Kameng. It is a religious festival celebrated to protect from disasters, diseases and ward off evil spirits.
People also pray for good luck, successful harvest season, and happiness, and they make animal sacrifices and pray the nature and spirits along with the local gods.
Longte Yullo Festival
Type of festival – Agricultural; When does it happen – April every year
One of the oldest festivals of the Nyishis tribe is Longte Yullo, one of the best religious festivals in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a unique festival because, unlike other celebrations, there are no animal sacrifices, traditional rituals and other practices.
Longte Yullo is a harvest festival where the high priest decorates the images of the local gods with bamboo and flowers available. Unique dishes are prepared, and people pray for a great harvest and protection of their crops.
The Ojiyale Festival
Type of festival – Religious; When does it happen – March/April every year
Celebrated by the Wancho tribe, one of the offbeat Arunachal festivals is the Ojiyale, celebrated during the spring season in late March or early April for about six to twelve days.
Prayer, traditional songs and dance performances are a part of this festival which brings the villages together. People offer the skin of the boars to the chief, followed by song and dance performances. They prepare unique dishes for the festival and exchange bamboo tubes of rice beer when they visit each other’s homes.
Saga Dawa Festival
Type of festival – Religious; When does it happen – May every year
One of the Buddhist festivals in Arunachal Pradesh is the Saga Dawa festival, celebrated to mark the attainment of Nirvana by the Buddha. Celebrated in May, the sacred month of the Buddha attaining supreme enlightenment and his passing into the state of Nirvana, various prayers and traditional rituals are held in the monasteries.
People also prepare unique dishes, offer food and flowers and drinks to the deities, visit monasteries, seek the blessings of the head monk and greet each with gifts during Saga Dawa.
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Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Jet Radar, Kiwi, or 12go.Asia (for Asia planning). Book and fly mid-week, taking red-eyes flights or those in the early mornings for better deals and lower prices. Avoid check-in bags on a budget airline.
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Travel Insurance: No matter whether it is a short trip or longer trips abroad, I strongly recommend buying travel insurance for international trips. I recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
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