Monpa

Monpa people

The Monpa are a major people of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. Currently they are also one of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China. Most Monpas live in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, with a population of 50,000, centered in the districts of Tawang and West Kameng. Around 25,000 Monpas can be found in the district of Cuona in the Tibet Autonomous Region, where they are known as Menba. Of the 45,000 Monpas who live in Arunachal Pradesh, about 20,000 of them live in Tawang district, where they constitute about 97% of the district's population, and almost all of the remainder can be found in the West Kameng district, where they form about 77% of the district's population. A small number of them may be found in bordering areas of East Kameng and Bhutan (2,500).

They also share very close affinity with the Sharchops of Bhutan. Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family, but it is significantly different from the Eastern Tibetan dialect. It is written with the Tibetan script.
The Monpa are generally adherents of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which they adopted in the 17th century as a result of the evangelical influence of the Bhutanese-educated Mera Lama. The testimony to this impact was the central role of the Tawang monastery–which aligns with the Gelugpa tradition–in the daily lives of the Monpa folk. Nevertheless, some elements of the pre-Buddhist Bön faith remained strong among the Monpas, particularly in regions nearer to the Assamese plains. In every household, small Buddhist altars placed with statues of Buddha are given water offerings in little cups and burning butter lamps.

The belief in transmigration of the soul and reincarnation is widespread, as their life is largely centred on the Tawang monastery in Tawang district, where many of the young Monpa boys would join the monastery and grow up as Buddhist Lamas.

The Bhut Monpa led a hunter-gather lifestyle and believed that the main totem and clan idol is the spirit of the tiger, who will torment any initiate while he sleeps. It is also believed that the spirit of the tiger is the manifestation of the ancestral forest spirit, who took a young shaman into the jungle to be initiated.

The Monpa are known for wood carving, Thangka painting, carpet making and weaving. They manufactured paper from the pulp of the local sukso tree. A printing press can be found in the Tawang monastery, where many religious books are printed on local paper and wooden blocks, usually meant for literate Monpa Lamas, who use it for their personal correspondence and conducting religious rituals.

Principal Monpa festivals include Choskar harvest, Losar, Ajilamu and Torgya. During Losar, people would generally pray pilgrimage at the Tawang monastery to pray for the coming of the Tibetan New Year. The Pantomime dances are the principle feature of Ajilamu.

The Buddhist Lamas would read religious scriptures in the Gompas for a few days during Choskar. Thereafter, the villagers will walk around the cultivated fields with the sutras on their back. The significance of this festival is to pray for better cultivation and protect the grains from insects and wild animals. The prosperity of the villagers is not excluded as well.

It is a rule that all animals except men and tigers are allowed to be hunted. According to tradition, only one individual is allowed to hunt the tiger on an auspicious day, upon the initiation period of the shamans, which can be likened a trial of passage. Upon hunting the tiger, the jawbone, along with all its teeth, is used as a magic weapon. This is believed that its power will enable the tigers to evoke the power of his guiding spirit of the ancestral tiger, who will accompany and protect the boy along his way.

Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monpas