Arunachal Pradesh is a land of beautiful handicrafts comprising a wide variety. Artistic craftsmanship has been passed on from one generation to other. A wide range of crafts such as weaving, painting, pottery, smithy work, basketry and wood carving flourish. From the viewpoint of the art and culture the state may be very conveniently divided into three zones. The first of these zones includes the Buddhist tribes; the second occupies the central part (from east Kameng in the third zone is the south eastern part of the territory.
The people of the first zones make beautiful masks. They also periodically stage pantomimes and masked dances. They also make exquisite carpets, painted wooden vessels and silver articles. Those of the second zone are expert workers in cane and bamboo. They weave articles that are in common use in their daily lives. The shawls and jackets, shoulder bags and coats all stand for the perfection that the people have attained in this art. The people of the third zone are famous for their wooden carvings. They weave beautiful bags and loin cloths too. Goat’s hair, ivory, boar’s tusks, beads of agate and other stones as well as of brass and glass are the specialties of the people of this zone.
Weaving is the occupation of the womenfolk throughout the territory. They have an excellent sense of color. The basic colors that dominate the weaves are black, yellow, dark blue, green and scarlet – all put together in the most fascinating combinations. Originally natural dyes were used which today have given way to synthetic dyes. The designs are essentially geometric varying from formal arrangement to lines and bands. Items that could make excellent buys are sherdukpen shawls, Apatani jackets and scarves, Adi skirts, jackets and bags, Mishmi shawls, blouses and jackets; and Wancho bags.
Cane and Bamboo works
The cane and bamboo industry of the state has made a name for itself. As a matter of fact most of the domestic requirements are made of these materials. Hats, baskets, cane vessels, cane belts – woven and plain, bamboo mugs with carvings, a wide variety of ornaments and jewelry items are all crafted by workmen.
A specialty of the Monpas, the Buddhist community, is carpet weaving, with exotic designs of dragons, geometric and floral patterns. Carpet weaving has today become a major occupation of the womenfolk and with an increase in demand, production of the carpets is now being undertaken on a large scale.
Wood carving is a tradition with some of the tribes of the state. The Monpa wood carver scoopes out beautiful cups, dishes and fruit bowls and magnificent ceremonial masks for dances and pantomimes. Another tribe that is famed for this art is the Khamptis who carve out beautiful religious images, figures of dancers, toys and other objects.
Crafting ornaments is another art widely practiced by the Arunachalis besides multicolored beads, feathers of birds and wings of the green beetles are also used as embellishments. The Akas make bamboo bangles ear rings which are occasionally decorated with pocker work designs.
Paper making, smithy work, carpentry, pottery and ivory work are the other crafts practiced by the Arunachalis. The Mongpas make paper locally, from pulp of trees called Sukso or the paper trees. This hand made paper is used for writing religious prayers on them. Hunting, fishing also form the subsidiary occupations.
These are some of the traditional crafts of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. There are many more minor arts such as pocker work, doll making, ivory work etc. Practiced in different parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
With a view to help developing arts and crafts and to substantiate the livelihood of the people, local boys and girls are imparted training in specially set up craft centers. The rich heritage of arts and crafts of Arunachal Pradesh is sure to add color to the cultural heritage of the country.