Tah Thavan: A Uniquely Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh’s Wancho Tribe

Namskar, adventurers and culture seekers! My heart overflows with aplomb (excitement) to share a remarkable experience from the captivating land of Arunachal Pradesh, where the one-of-a-kind Tah Thavan festival takes place. This northeastern rugyang (gem) of India isn’t just a feast for the eyes with its verdant pahars (hills), tranquil dibangs (rivers), and mornings cloaked in mist – it’s a treasure chest overflowing with culture. Arunachal Pradesh’s beauty transcends its landscapes; it lies in the vibrant lore (traditions) and festivals that reverberate through its valleys and villages.

Among the many districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Longding stands out as a beacon of cultural richness and natural splendor. Home to the fascinating Wancho tribe, Longding offers a journey into the heart of age-old traditions and breathtaking scenery. The people here are as warm and welcoming as the sun that rises over their beautiful land. And today, I am thrilled to take you on an exclusive tour of one of the most unique and joyous festivals I have ever witnessed—the Tah Thavan Festival, a celebration that truly showcases the spirit and beauty of Arunachal Pradesh.

ShivaTells celebrating Tah Thavan: Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh
ShivaTells celebrating Tah Thavan: Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh

Longding, Arunachal Pradesh

Ah, Longding! Tucked away in the gorgeous hills of Arunachal Pradesh, this place is a true gem. It’s not just about the scenery, though – lush greenery that stretches as far as the eye can see, calming landscapes that soothe the soul, it’s like stepping into a postcard. But the real magic lies in the vibrant tribal communities that call Longding home.

Each tribe here has its own unique story, traditions passed down through generations that come alive in their festivals. You can feel the deep connection they have with nature, a respect that’s woven into the very fabric of their lives.

How to reach Longding, Arunachal Pradesh?

Reaching Longding, secluded amidst the Arunachal Himalayas, might take a bit of adventurous spirit, but the journey itself is an unforgettable experience! Here’s how you can get there:

By Air: The closest airport to Longding is the Dibrugarh Airport (Dibrugarh Mohanbari Airport) in Assam, roughly 200 km away. From Dibrugarh, you can take a taxi or hire a car to reach Longding. The drive is scenic, offering glimpses of the changing landscape as you enter Arunachal Pradesh.

By Road: Longding is well-connected by road to other parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. You can take a state bus or hire a taxi from major towns like Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, or Guwahati in Assam. The roads can be curvy and hilly, so be prepared for a longer travel time than on flat terrain.

Local Transport: Once you reach Longding, you can get around easily by shared taxis, jeeps, or hiring a motorbike (if you’re comfortable riding in hilly terrain).


Important Note: Always remember that Arunachal Pradesh is an Inner Line Permit (ILP) area. To enter Arunachal Pradesh, you will need to obtain an ILP in advance. You can apply online or at the designated government offices. Here’s a link to [Arunachal Pradesh ILP ON Arunachal Pradesh Tourism] for more information.

The Wancho Tribe

No Man Allowed in Tah Thavan: Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh
Female Festival at Kamhua, Arunachal Pradesh

Speaking of tribes, let me tell you about the Wanchos. These folks are famous for their colorful festivals, bursting with energy and joy. Their hands are incredibly skilled, crafting beautiful handicrafts that are a feast for the eyes. And the best part? There’s a strong sense of community, a feeling of looking out for each other that’s truly heartwarming.

Now, here’s something truly special – the Wanchos practice shifting cultivation. It’s not just a way of farming, it’s a tradition deeply ingrained in their culture. They’ve got a rich history too, stories and folk songs passed down by word of mouth, keeping their heritage alive.

But wait, there’s more! The Wanchos celebrate a one-of-a-kind festival called the Tah Thavan. In a region where festivals are often dominated by men, this one is a celebration of women, a unique display of their strength and spirit.

Tah Thavan: A Celebration of Womanhood and Fertility

Tah Thavan: Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh
Wancho Community Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh

The Tah Thavan Festival is a special celebration within the Wancho community, held to honor the women of the tribe. This festival is a rare occasion where men are not allowed, emphasizing the importance of women in Wancho society. The Tah Thavan Festival is dedicated to celebrating girls who have reached puberty and praying for the fertility of plants and animals.

Preparations and Rituals

The preparations for the Tah Thavan Festival begin early in the morning, with every female, young and old, dressing in their most beautiful traditional clothes and ornaments. The women gather at their farms, where shifting cultivation is a common practice. Each clan has its own farmhouse designated for the celebrations.

I was fortunate to receive permission to enter one of these farmhouses and be part of the festivities. The women prepare local delicacies such as fish, pork, and even farm rats, ensuring that no men touch the food or enter the space. Despite the strict rules, I felt honored to be the first male person to witness and document this rare privilege.

Significance of the White Skirt Ritual

After enjoying a hearty meal, the village’s elderly lady chants and performs a ritual for all the girls who hit puberty in the previous year. On this significant day, these girls are given a white skirt to wear, symbolizing their maturity and readiness for marriage. In the past, the prayers of the elderly lady were for the girls to give birth to strong, healthy males. However, now the prayers have evolved to wishing for a child with a pen and paper, signifying the importance of education.

ShivaTells’s Experience at the Women’s Festival

Participating in the Tah Thavan Festival was an unforgettable experience. Witnessing the deep bond between the women and their cultural practices was truly inspiring. The traditional method of determining when a girl is ready for the white skirt ritual, known as the “nine into two” rule, is fascinating. This rule ties a girl’s maturity to the natural farming cycle. In jhum cultivation, a farm is harvested every nine years. A girl’s birth is marked by the harvest of a particular farm, and when it is harvested for the second time, she is ready to wear the white skirt at around 18 years old. This unique practice highlights the tribe’s deep connection to their land.

The celebration continued with women chanting and singing traditional folk songs. These songs tell stories of lost love, the sadness of lost youth, and joyous melodies of teasing and playfulness. Sadly, many of these songs are fading away as younger generations are not as familiar with them. It was heartening to see the community come together to keep these traditions alive.

Later, the entire village gathered at a common point to sing these songs and then moved to the village swing to enjoy games and activities. Seeing the village roads filled with women walking, celebrating, singing, and enjoying was a beautiful sight. The women of the king’s family stood out in their distinctive blue skirts, a privilege reserved only for them.

The Deeper Meaning Behind Tah Thavan

The Tah Thavan Festival is deeply rooted in the Wancho tribe’s connection to nature and their agricultural practices. The word “Tah Thavan” means “calling the paddy spirit.” In the past, women performed various rituals, bringing back a sapling from the field and tying it in their homes to wish for better fertility and prosperity. A unique aspect of this festival is the Mithun, a significant animal in Arunachal Pradesh. It is brought home and tied outside but not sacrificed on this day, honoring a woman who spoke to the rice spirit. This practice emphasizes the deep bond between women and the paddy fields.

Unfortunately, many of these beautiful rituals are slowly fading away as modern influences spread through the region. Yet, festivals like Tah Thavan remain a testament to the rich cultural heritage and the indomitable spirit of the Wancho women.

Travel Tips for Experiencing the Tah Thavan Festival

  • Timing is key: The Tah Thavan Festival is usually held in March or April. Aim to be in Longding during this time for the full experience.
  • Respect the culture: Dress modestly and be mindful of local customs during the festival.
  • Seek permission: It’s always best to ask permission before taking photos or videos, especially during religious ceremonies.
  • Hire a local guide: A guide can provide valuable insights into the festival’s significance and traditions.

Conclusion on Female Festival in Arunachal Pradesh

The Tah Thavan Festival is a beautiful celebration of womanhood, fertility, and the deep connection between the Wancho tribe and their land. Witnessing this festival was a profoundly moving experience, one that highlighted the strength and unity of the women in this community.

As I walked through the village, surrounded by the joyous singing and laughter of the women, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and respect for their traditions. The stories and rituals of the Tah Thavan Festival are a vital part of the cultural tapestry of Arunachal Pradesh, and it’s essential to preserve and celebrate these unique practices.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the heart of the Wancho tribe’s Tah Thavan Festival. Stay tuned for more stories from the hidden corners of India. Until then, keep exploring and embracing the rich diversity of our incredible country.

Khushiyan Always!

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