Monday, April 30, 2012

Do you know Donyi Polo is the major traditional religion of Arunachal Pradesh?

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Arunachal Pradesh is a big state--just a bit smaller than West Bengal and more than twice the size of Kerala.

Still, how little we know about this state that borders China. How many among us are aware that the main traditional religion of Arunachal Pradesh (AP) is Donyi Polo.

Have you heard of that? In the last couple of decades, followers of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism have grown at the expense of Donyi Polo.

It is commonly referred to as the 'faith of the Sun and the Moon'. Interestingly, here Sun is regarded as Mother while Moon is father.

But still, the religion remains one of the most dominant faiths in the state. As converts to other faiths still carry the traditional beliefs.

Whenever Arunachal is described, its religious composition is shown in terms of Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and OTHERS.

And it is these others who form almost 30% of the population of the state, and are carelessly termed as followers of tribal religion or simply as Animist. The Donyi Polo religion also has over 3.3 lakh followers. Donyi Poloism is the religion that believes in supernatural. 

They have their own rites and rituals apart from sacrifices to appease deity. There are legends, myths and practices dating back to centuries. All the tribes of the state have faith in this belief. The Donyi Polo mission is active for several decades. Now there are people converting to this faith and also reverting back.

The Encyclopaedia of North East says:

The Donyi-Polo has emerged as a symbol of synthetic force. It represents almighty in its omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent form. Donyi-Polo is the source of light, generator life, sole protector of all creatures. It is the essence of truth, justice, beauty, morality, love and goodness.

The person having faith in Donyi-Polo will not continue in metaphysical dwarfism, he raises himself to high orders of spiritualism. Donyi-Polo is the set of eyes of Lord that observes all living beings from heaven, day or night, each creature is under surveillance.....

The uniqueness of culture of North Eastern states is often praised but rest of India still doesn't know much about the beautiful region, except, perhaps, Assam. Apart from names of states and their capitals, little effort is made by us to know more about Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Meghalaya et al.

Religion is just an aspect. There are big and small states with indigenous population, that have varied customs and culture. There is enormous tourism potential also. However, for us North East remains a distant land.

While ending this post, just another addition. Arunachal is much bigger than Haryana, Jharkhand and Punjab and just a bit small than Bihar, but it is 28 times the size of Goa. This could perhaps give us an indication of how little we know about states in our own country. 

*This piece was written when Census 2011 report hadn't come out. The 2011 census figures appeared after 2015.