Indigenous Faith Day in Arunachal Pradesh Date in the current year: December 1, 2024

Indigenous Faith Day in Arunachal Pradesh Indigenous Faith Day is an official holiday in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh celebrated on December 1. It was established to raise awareness of the importance of preserving the religion, culture and languages of the indigenous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh is a state situated in Northeast India. It is bordered by Assam, Nagaland, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China (although its border with China is disputed). Arunachal Pradesh is noted for its ethnic diversity; there are the Monpa living in the west, the Tani in the center, the Mishmi to the east of the Tani, the Tai and the Singpho at the border with Myanmar, and the Naga in the south. Overall, there are several dozen minor tribes and ethnic groups in the state.

The religious landscape of Arunachal Pradesh is just as diverse as its ethnic makeup. There is no dominant religion in the state. Around 30% of the population are Christians, about the same percentage of people identify as Hindus or follow traditional beliefs. Less popular religions include Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and Jainism.

Indigenous religions of the Tibeto-Birman peoples of Arunachal Pradesh and neighboring Assam are collectively known as Donyi-Polo. This name means “Sun-Moon” in the Tani languages. It was chosen by a group of intellectuals who set out to revitalize and institutionalize indigenous religions in the late 1960s to protect them from becoming instinct due the spread of Christianity and Hinduism.

Donyi-Polo is an animistic and shamanic religion. Its central concept is the balance between Donyi (the Sun) and Polo (the Moon), which resembles the dualistic concept of yin and yang from ancient Chinese philosophy. Donyi and Polo are associated with female and male, heat and cold, light and darkness, representing the harmony and balance in the universe.

The followers of Donyi-Polo believe in the creator God who created the world but is no longer involved in it, content to observe creation though his eyes, as well as a variety of lesser gods and goddesses who are believed to be manifestations of the creator God that have specific roles and functions. They take care of humanity and maintain the universal balance. Tani-speaking peoples also believe in having descended from a common ancestor named Abotani, but other peoples that follow Donyi-Polo do not share this belief.

Despite its long history, the indigenous religion of the Tibeto-Birman peoples of Arunachal Pradesh was not formally institutionalized until the late 1960s, when it faced extinction due to the heavy influence of Hinduism and spread of Christianity. Since then, multiple prayer places (gangging) have been consecrated throughout the state.

The government of Arunachal Pradesh established Indigenous Faith Day to highlight the importance of protecting Donyi-Polo and other traditional religions in order to preserve the culture and identity of the state’s multiple ethnic groups. The holiday is marked by religious ceremonies and colorful festivals celebrating the rich cultural heritage of indigenous tribes.

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