Timeless Appeal – Jewelry from Arunachal Pradesh

Timeless Appeal – Jewelry from Arunachal Pradesh

November 1, 2011 Off By Fried Eye Research Team

Did you know which the oldest recorded jewelry of the world is? Yes! Beads! As per Wikipedia 100000  year old beads made from Nassarius shells are supposed to be  oldest jewelry known to men. Jewelry , found all over the world, as an adornment to various parts of the body and made out of varied materials does spell fashion and has a variety of functions too.  Other than its intended use of artistic display and beautification quality, it also acts as currency and medium of wealth storage. It can be used as a charm or amulet for protection against evil elements or it can be used for its functionality as in pins, clasps, brooches etc.


Many a time, it portrays the social status of the wearer and can be a symbol of a title or importance as in crown or tiara. Though gold and silver have been the most important of metals used to create beautiful pieces of jewelry, but beads have been timeless in its appeal, easily available and accessible right from the prehistoric age till date, as can be seen by its popularity in the markets of Janpath and Sarojini Nagar in Delhi, where you will find enormous collections of beads and jewelry which are commonly termed as tribal jewelry.

Hence in our fashion section, we would like to feature before you this universally appealing type of jewelry- and what better than the example of such  magnificent creations from a state which has a transcending timeless ageless quality to it-Arunachal Pradesh.

But before we take you to a visual treat of explosive colours  and workmanship of the jewelry of Arunachal Pradesh, first a brief on the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and that is because each tribe has their signature workmanship as far as jewelry is concerned and one can identify the tribe he/she belongs to just by having a look at what he or she has put on.

There are around twenty major tribes in Arunachal Pradesh residing in various parts of the state and many sub tribes off shooting from them.  There can be no end to the details about them, hence we will just mention a few of the tribes and a little about them so that you can connect to them when you see the examples of their superior artistic creations. More than the finesse or intricacies, they are an expression of their joyous , carefree ideology and lifestyle.

The major tribes of Arunachal are:-

The Adis are one of the major hill tribes of Arunachal Pradesh governed under a village council. Tattooing is quite popular among the women folk of the Adis.  It was interesting to note that the well being and prosperity of the family is measured by the amount of beads and ornaments along with the land. The older women wear yellow colored jewelry while the unmarried young ones wear beyop which consists of 5 to 6 brass plates worn under the petticoat.

Beyop of the Adis

Apatanis reside mostly in the lower Subansiri district and are considered the most economically stable tribe among all. Their women folk are also considered to be one of the most attractive among the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Their adornments and jewelry are among the most striking with the large sized nose plugs being the most remarkable ones for which it is said, that it was a means of making them unattractive to the raiders. (how very pragmatic!) . Tattooing is popular too. But modern age has diluted much of the traditional signature designs of their costumes and jewelry.

Apatani nose studs


The Mishmis – a tribe scattered both in Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, also have a distinctive costume and jewelry, though they are more famous for their weaves. They inhabit the lower Dibang, Lohit region  and the Dibang district and some of their jewelry will simply amaze you.


The Monpas– The Monpas are a major group of people inhabiting the Tawang district and the West Kameng region. They are also present in Tibet and China and are one of the tribes recognized by China. They are Buddhist of faith and you will find strong Tibetan influences in their attire. Silver jewelry is common but you will also find beads and jewelry made of cane and red beads.


A specimen of a Monpa Clasp or Sort of a Brooch pin

Nishis – The Nyishi or Nishis are the largest group of population residing in the lower Subansiri district . The Men folk tie their hair in a knot in the forehead. Characteristic of their ornament is a band of cane that they wear around there waist. But other than that they also adorn themselves with beads, brass chain, metal bells and large metal earrings.



Khamti– Khamtis or Khamptis a Buddhist tribe, the only tribe with a script of their own, who is supposed to have migrated from the Shan states of Burma.  They love wearing gold and even in beads their choice is towards the flashier variant, preferring bright amber beads or coral ones.

amber colored Beads it has agate and cornelian

That was a brief on the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh who have  made a lasting impression with their ornaments and beads on a large section of neo fashionistas, though there are the Sherdukpen, Wanchos, Noctes, Khamba, Yobin, Singpho to name a few from the numerous tribes who like the above have a similar collection of fascinating ornamental  beads and jewelry.

So next time you are inspired to try some beaded and ethnic tribal jewelry, you know where to look for inspiration.


Pic Credits and valuable inputs- Lovely Arunachal (facebook). You will find it interesting to note that Lovely Arunachal has been singularly trying to bring before all the beautiful world of Arunachal Pradesh through treasure troves of photographs and tidbits of valuable infos.

We welcome your comments at letters@friedeye.com