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Unveiling the Rich Tapestry of Tagin Community's Traditional Festivals

Text & photos by Barnali Chakraborty

Community performance during Si-Donyi festival in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh

During the age of prevalent individualism, the significance of coming together in groups, engaging in social interactions, and sharing moments of joy collectively plays a crucial role in enhancing people's well-being and building resilience within communities.

Festivals condense the exposure to collective activities and being transversal in nature, appeals to people across generations through socio-economic-cultural backgrounds too.

From the cultural spectacle, festivals provide opportunities for a collective encounter of the intangible heritage of an individual that possesses as generational impact and legacy. It implies returning to values through cultural negotiations, exploring horizons beyond the myopia of culturally prevailing tourism, management and marketing perspectives.

Indigenous communities view festivals as important social institutions that create a platform for passing down generational stories, experiences, and memories. Unlike modern cultural consumption trends and the sense of unity that was once assumed, these communities symbolize a cultural hub capable of spreading shared awareness to the diverse individual perspectives present in society today.

The study was conducted in December 2022 while I held the position of Research Associate at Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture.



Tagin, as a community, plays a vital role in preserving cultural traditions by celebrating festivals that promote unity within society. Part of the broader Tani tribe, the Tagin people predominantly reside in the Upper Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh.

The community is among the top five tribes in terms of population in Arunachal Pradesh. The remaining four are Nyishi, Galo, Apatani, and Adi, all belonging to the broader Tani community, which constitutes the majority of the state's population.

The Tagin community, whose original settlement is in Daporijo (Coordinates-27.9820° N, 94.2160° E), a small town in the Upper Subansiri District, has seen dispersion over time. A significant portion of the population now also resides in and around Itanagar, the state capital. As of the 2011 census, the community is estimated to have a population of around 70,000, spread across India, with thousands living in Tibet.

Traditional Tagin Festivals:

Si-Donyi Festival: The Si-Donyi festival is essentially a Hilo Kinam (the most important Tagin ritual for the well-being of all). Traditionally observed within families and clans; during the Dvra Apo (winter season from December to March) each year, the Si-Donyi festival takes place annually from the 4th to the 9th of January.

The importance of the festival lies in the fact that apart from general wellbeing of human race and other living beings, this festival is generally taken up as a prayer for preventing various natural calamities too.

The Si-Donyi is revered by the Tagin people as the divine embodiment of Sii, the God of Seching (earth), and Donyi, the Goddess of the sun, symbolizing ultimate authority with omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. The celebration of Si-Donyi is a religiously fervent occasion where prayers are offered for the welfare of humanity.


Tagin women performing ritual of pre-mithoon sacrifice by spreading rice paste at the altar, Itanagar

The festivities kick off with a warm welcome, where participants have rice paste applied to their faces. Attendees arrive dressed in their traditional clothing, and the event is filled with lively traditional dances and music enjoyed with great enthusiasm.

The main guests or the guests of honor at the event discuss the mythology of the festival, and a selected group of individuals in respected positions in society carry out the sacrifice of the mithoon (an animal native to Arunachal Pradesh).


Following the event, the performers are welcomed to the Community Cultural Society where they are treated to traditional cuisine. The festivities wrap up with a sense of excitement and optimism, setting the tone for the year ahead.

Donyi Polo Day: The Donyi Polo day is celebrated on December 30th each year. Followers of the Donyi Polo faith come together at the Namlo (the Tagin place of worship) in their community to pray and share a breakfast. They engage in discussions about their religion, culture, traditional practices, and ways to safeguard their faith and heritage. Contributions are made towards the Namlo, and individuals are honored by the committee members during the event.

Indigenous communities are recognized for their dynamic nature, with evolution being a key aspect of their societal progress. To instill a more participatory approach in preserving traditional values for future generations, the community has embraced the exploration of different festivals as a means of addressing contemporary social issues in an inclusive way.

Community people offering prayers at Namlo, Daporijo


Contemporary adoption for celebration of festivals:

The Tagin people are divided into different clans, including Jimi, Miku, Kurum, Rumchi, Chichar, Charbok, Boksin, Sintu, Tuni, Niha, Hade, Degar, Garbe, Bere, and Reri, with each clan having its own sub-clans. One of these sub-clans is Dulom, which belongs to the Reri clan within the Tagin community.


Dulom Alo: The Dulom clan's population is mainly distributed among four villages: Dulom, Daporijo (town), Shikarijo, and Ligu. Traditionally, individuals in the community carry the surname of the village (referred to as "basti") they live in. However, over time, the clan decided to unify under the surname Dulom. The rationale behind this decision, as explained by the clan, is that having a common surname helps to bridge differences and prevents the tendency to forget their shared clan identity. Additionally, the choice of Dulom as the common surname was influenced by the fact that it is the largest village in the community, with the highest population of sub-clans.


On the 28th and 29th of December, this particular sub-clan observes Dulom Alo, also known as Dulom Day. During this celebration, members of the clan gather together, and the location is chosen in a rotational manner among the four villages mentioned above. Preparations for the event commence a week prior to Dulom Alo. It is mandatory for individuals of Dulom descent, regardless of their global location, to take part in this day. A stage is set up for the occasion.

The Dulom men adhere to traditional customs by using bamboo, while the women prepare food and Apong (a local drink made from millets) for the occasion. During this event, a platform is set up on the stage where respected members of the community, representing various sectors, engage in discussions about the clan's progress and development.

The day's festivities commence with a worship ceremony led by a Nyebu (Tagin priest) to ensure the well-being of the community. Following the ritual, the senior women of the clan ceremoniously fasten a Rindin (a sacred bamboo thread believed to offer protection from negative spirits and accidents) around the wrists of those in attendance..

The 'Dulom Welfare Society' is formed within this sub-clan, with all members of the clan contributing a fee to support its activities. The society conducts regular elections and has a democratically elected leader. Any clan member who marries into another clan automatically becomes a member of the society, regardless of gender.

The society under democratic exercise has their written set of bye-laws which contains points like:

  • Restriction of Hunting under Environment Protection Act, 2019; Hunting is permitted as operational under 3 conditions, viz-

  1. According to tradition, the Mithoon is sacrificed by family members after a death, as it is believed that the body of the Mithoon is consumed by their ancestors, often in the form of crows.

  2. If a leopard attacks a small mithoon calf, hunting the leopard may be permitted.

  3. If farms are destroyed by wild pigs, then those wild pigs can be hunted.

Proof should only be submitted to the society under the above specified conditions, and permission will be granted if deemed necessary by the society.


  • Restricting early marriage of both boys and girls, encouraging them to study and even providing scholarshipsto students willing to take up joint entrances and public service commission exams.


  • Under the scenario of excess drinking of Apong, the men fail working in the fields and die early leaving their women widowed at a very young age.

In Tagin households, women engage in subsistence farming, while men are encouraged to pursue orange farming due to its popularity in the Upper Subansiri district. The government support, driven by favorable climatic conditions, has facilitated the growth of orange farming in the region. Although similar assistance was extended for cloves production, it did not generate the same level of interest among the community, as spices are not a significant component of their staple diet.

The society is also planning to offer formal training to the male members for cultivating oranges, with the aim of keeping them occupied and discouraging their drinking habits.

  • On this occasion, the community acknowledges individuals who have excelled in exams and made meaningful contributions to society by presenting them with appealing gifts. This gesture serves as a form of encouragement for their future accomplishments.

Additionally, significant events such as target practices, traditional music performances, and dances in traditional attire are also organized.

On that particular day, both men and women from Dulom dress in traditional clothing in a unified blue color, adhering to a specific dress code that symbolizes the significance of the occasion.

Inauguration of the programme, Nima Basti, Daporijo


Picnic for the New Year:

The concept of picnic, immediately captures the idea of a peaceful social gathering with friends and family. The Tagin community too, celebrates a picnic in their village every year, but themed with a social message every year.

In the world, where the elderly men and women are retired to old age homes, by their children, making them vulnerable to mental illness, along with other physical morbidities, in the year 2023, the community picnic in Daporijo was themed with ‘Respect to elders.’

On the day, the elders of the community of that village were made to sit on the dais, where the younger ones performed for them.

As social values have changed over time, the idea of a picnic has been embraced as a way to promote mental well-being. The community has made every effort to uphold the social message about the significance of elders in a community, recognizing them as a crucial source of traditional knowledge essential for preserving the generational heritage of the community.

The theme was adhered to so meticulously that even children with elderly and sick parents, unable to walk through the basti to attend the program, were carried on their backs to the event.

This picnic is open to all clans, and the donation of Mithoon for such events is highly esteemed in society. Those chosen to butcher the Mithoon are regarded with prestige, and this responsibility is seen as an honor.


Various traditional dishes are prepared by the locals, with surplus food being donated to the attendees of the event. Additionally, the elderly residents of the village receive blankets and other household items as gifts on this day.

Tagin women performing traditional dance at the picnic, Nima Basti, Daporijo


Observations and Learning

  • The nature culture relationship of the indigenous communities is reflected not only in their daily activities, but also in festivals where Si-Donyi is celebrated as a form of prayer to the Almighty as seeking protection from natural calamities. The celebration of this festival in cities like Itanagar is somewhat different from the villages or basti, as the locals call it. The Nyebu (priest) performs the rituals before the sacrifice of mithoon and takes bath and cleanses himself after everysingle ritual. Such practices are not possible in cities where the rituals take place in community societies with no such cleansing facilities. But this cultural nurture that is required for a collective planning to inherit, is well exemplified by this community, despite today’s social mobility of the community and the problems that comes along with that.

  • With social mobilization of the community, certain positive changes have been marked in the procedural life style of the community people. It is mandatory in Dulom Alo for all the food preparation by the women to be over by the previous night, so that they can equally participate in the celebration the next day. Such approach of gender equality and discipline in celebration is a contemporary form of traditional value system, adopted by the community is an impactful lineated learning for the upcoming generations.

  • The younger generation acquire knowledge through the practice system, and participating in traditional dance and music performances at these festivals is a way to honor and uphold the community's rich heritage in performing arts.

  • The participation of diverse communities in festivals, whether tribal or non-tribal, highlights the unity of the ecological framework through the embrace of modern values in present times.


The cultural and symbolic significance of festivals sustains the diverse liveliness of communities worldwide, and these traditions help in recognizing, safeguarding, and emphasizing the connections within social groups in the present day.

About the Author :

Barnali Chakraborty is currently employed as a Project Officer in the Tiger Research and Conservation Division (TRCD) at Aaranyak. Having gained valuable experiences in various fields such as science, mathematics, social and behavioral science, and law, her learnings have led her to advocate for the re-establishment of harmonious coexistence on our planet.

You can reach her at

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