Himalayan Nature and Tibetan Buddhist Culture in Arunachal Pradesh, India: A Study of Monpa

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Email address. The higher limit of the vegetation 4, m is abrupt too [37]. Ladakh 86, km2 is included in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. A high plateau of 4, meters of mean altitude, Ladakh is located between Karakorum to the North and Himalaya to the South. The most important human settlements are spread along the main river valleys, particularly the Indus. Owing to extreme climatic conditions, population is scarce. Most people are culturally Tibetan and speak a Tibetan dialect. Climate is very cold and arid annual precipitation: mm [39]. Mesophyte species are not widespread and hygrophyte scarcely represented.

Few tree species manage to thrive as Juniperus macropoda, J. Sapi valley is located in the west part of Ladakh in Kargil District from 3, to 5, meters. Also inhabited by Muslim Balti, it is one of the most important areas of Ladakh for the collection of herbs. Owing to the greater amount of precipitations during winter, it hosts relatively lush vegetation including also alpine genera as Leontopodium, Polygonum, Aconitum, Delphinium, Papaver, Rheum, and Ranunculus.

In pre-modern Tibet the collection of wild food plants was most probably common practice. When investigating into this field one has to take into account that over the vast area traditionally inhabited by populations of Tibetan language and culture, geographical, climatic, floristic, vegetational,. For example the far-eastern and south-eastern Tibetan regions are hit by monsoon precipitations during summer, host lush vegetation, and have relatively high biodiversity. On the contrary in the cold and arid north-western Tibetan plateau plants manage to thrive only along rivers and streams, and at high altitude where water from melting glaciers and snow is available during the short summer.

So Tibetans may live in regions that, as far as climate, flora, and vegetation are concerned, show contrasting features. That is why on high plateau areas the number of plants traditionally consumed as food is less abundant than in Tibetan south-eastern and eastern regions, and at the limit of the Tibetan plateau, where altitude decreases and biodiversity augments.

This agrees with the author's field data from Ladakh and with ethnobotanical research in Nepal Himalayan high valleys [11,14,15,23,24]. Wild plants have not likely represented a crucial source of food for Tibetans, but have been mainly collected to be.

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Yet wild plants become important during famines, which have occurred at different times in the course of the centuries, the most recent ones that many informants from Lithang often evoke date back to the years of the Great Leap Forward and of the Cultural Revolution At present grown vegetables and fruits are available in many Tibetan towns and villages and wild edible plants are collected only from time to time, except among pastoralists and possibly people from remote areas.

The author observed Tibetans collecting wild food plants notably during the summer transhumance, and travels on foot and by horse between villages. Women from the study areas gather particular plants as the bulbs from some varieties of wild garlic see below. It is worth noting that in the same county several young adults among the settled population do not have familiarity with wild plants whereas most adults and old people do.

They remember plant names and use in local diet, and sometimes still gather and use them.

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So this knowledge may get lost forever in the near future, not being passed on to the new generations, who have changed their way of living and do not need any more to know about the natural environment and its exploitable resources. In Lithang Township, where the author spent most of his research time, several informants report that the use of wild food plants was more significant in the past, and particularly during the periods of economic hardship. At that time wild plants were collected to be consumed as vegetables no tshel , fruits and seeds drebu , and particularly to obtain substitutes for roasted barley flour tsampa , and tea ja , which in Tibet should be seen more as a foodstuff than as a beverage, being traditionally prepared by adding salt and butter.

So nowadays in the study regions only a limited number of wild plants is used as food, more limited among settled population than among pastoralists and people living in remote areas. In the next paragraphs Tibetan knowledge and use concerning the most important plants consumed as food according to the author's field data are examined.

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Out of 75 total wild food plants and mushrooms listed in Tables 1 and 2, 32 specimens were collected in Lithang, 18 in Southern Mustang, 12 in Ladakh, and 13 in Dhorpatan. They belong to 36 genera and 60 species. Data from Lithang, which are more representative, show that among the 30 wild food plant species locally exploited, 21 are consumed as vegetables, 5 as spices, 4 as fruits, 3 represent substitutes for tsampa, 2 substitutes for tea, and 1 is used as fermentation agent.

Wild plants are consumed as vegetables, either fresh or dry, in which case they are usually conserved to be eaten during the long winter. Informants report that some plants need a purification process before being consumed, for example the leaves of Chenopodium neu and the tubers of some species belonging to the Araceae family dawa, Arisaema spp.

Well-known in Ladakh, lower Mustang, and Lithang, Chenopodium leaves are stir-fried in oil after eliminating their unpleasant taste most informants used the word bitter, khawa, to indicate this by boiling them long time in water, and are eaten with other food. Jest [11] informs us that people from Dolpo north-west Nepal believe that a poison duk , named ya "dirt" , covers Chenopodium leaves and that it is eliminated before use.

Polhe [15] reports that in Nar Manang District, Nepal Chenopodium leaves are dried and eaten in winter as vegetables. Arisaema species thrive in several Himalayan and Tibetan regions. Informants from Lithang, Southern Mustang, and Dhorpatan name these plants dawa, the designation also used in Tibetan medicine; others, mostly non-educated people from Lithang, report the name kha tshawa, "hot mouth", since the taste of the tuber is hot. The most common way to classify this plant differentiates two types: yung, "domestic", and go, "wild", the former grows at lower altitude often near villages and cultivated fields, the latter higher up in the mountains.

Over Tibetan regions, each type may correspond to one or more botanical species Table 1. This categorisation is also described in Tibetan medical treatises [41]. In Dhorpatan the author gathered two types of dawa Arisaema jacquenmontii and A. Overall, informants recognize for types of dawa, all of which thrive in the area. Traditional doctors named the two species that the author collected dayung, since they grow at relatively low altitude 2, - m.

One of the two "wild" types is most likely A. Informants from Lithang, Dhorpatan, and Southern Mustang report that in the past local communities used to consume the tubers of these plants only after eliminating. They add that nowadays these products are rarely used and are only given to animals. Sacherer [14] reports that Sherpa people from Rolwaling valley in Nepal name this plant aluk, a designation that is evidently connected to the Nepali alu, which indicates potatoes.

Sacherer observes that the term aluk could have been used in Nepal before the introduction of potatoes in the 19th century [42] to indicate edible underground organs rich in starch obtained from different plants. Sacherer adds that, if this is true, Sherpa people did not know this plant before their arrival in Nepal in the 16th century and at that time adopted the Nepali term indicating these products.

Yet it is important to note that in eastern Tibetan regions, from where Sherpa people originate, several Arisaema species thrive, are locally well-known as the author's research in eastern Tibetan regions has shown [6], and were most likely known also in the past. Also, dawa, as mentioned above, is used in Tibetan medicine and it is described in several traditional treatises.

Among them it is worth mentioning a Tibetan materia medica treatise [41] compiled in eastern Tibetan regions, which dates back to the first half of the 18th century. Its author mentions the term aluk as a synonym for dawa. So the term aluk was possibly used over a larger area. Informants from Dhorpatan, lower Mustang, and Lithang report that dawa underground organs need to be crushed and boiled for long time before eating.

This procedure is meant to eliminate the poison present in the tuber. Hooker [12] reports that in northern Sikkim, at the junction of the Zemu and Thlonk rivers, near plentiful Arisaema plants, local Tibetan people had dug several small holes in the soil, in which wood poles had been introduced. They were used to crush dawa underground organs consumed as foodstuff during spring by local populations.

After being crushed, the tubers were left in the holes filled with water. After a week they started to ferment, a signal that the poison had been eliminated. At this time the tuber, transformed into a fibrous acid lump, could be boiled and eaten. Yet Hooker adds that the consuming of this product often entailed digestive problems, skin and hair loss, notably when fermentation was not sufficient to dissipate toxins. According to Polunin and Stainton [43] "The tuberous roots of many [Arisaema] species can be ground into a flour and eaten. Care must be taken as the tubers contain minute sharp particles, which can damage the digestive tract".

Tibetan people know sa, "nettles" Urtica spp. Otherwise the plant is dried and stored to be consumed during winter. Jest [11] reports that in May women from Dolpo north-west Nepal collect nettle U. They are used to prepare soups and sauces. The well-known droma Potentilla anserina was frequently used as foodstuff in pre-modern Tibet [44].

Today its rhizomes are consumed occasionally, for example by pastoralists from Lithang County and most likely from other areas. At the time of the fieldwork in Lithang market pastoralists sold grams of droma rhizomes for 5 yuan 50 cent euro. In Lithang droma rhizomes were and are collected mainly in autumn when, according to informants, their taste is sweeter and the size is bigger.

They are boiled in water until they become soft, the volume of the water has to be two times the volume of the rhizomes and, having taken a sweet taste at the end of the cooking, may be drunk. Melted butter is poured on the cooked rhizomes, the mixing is cooked again for a few minutes, and droma marku, "melted butter with Potentilla rhizomes", is ready.

Traditionally this plant is included among the courses prepared during festivals.

According to Rinzin Thargyal [45] in pre-modern Dege Kingdom in today north western Sichuan Chinese Province women used to dig droma in spring and autumn, "its harvest itself could not supplement the household income, but it was indispensable for the New Year celebrations during which a dish called droma marku was eaten.

It included barley, wheat, rice, cheese, roots of Potentilla, bamboo shoots, peas, mutton, and salt. Also Duncan [8] writes that at Bathang in today western Sichuan Chinese Province "Droma are the conventional present in the spring at festival season; and are important at wedding as the first food given to the bride when she arrives at the groom's home upon the betrothal night". Rambu Polygonum spp. Informants from Lithang, Dhorpatan, and southern Mustang report that its roots can be eaten fresh and that its ground seeds were consumed in the past mixed with tsampa.

Some of them state that the rambu roots that are internally reddish in colour are very sweet and the most sought after, as the ones from the plant specimen collected in Dhorpatan Polygonum macrophyllum var. Rockhill [9], who visited eastern and north-eastern Tibetan regions, reports that: "On the sides of the mountains overlooking the Rama ch'u, we passed a number of women picking ramba, the seeds of which, when dried and ground, are. These women told me that it was jimbo, jimbo re, "very, very good", but they are not hard to please".

Polhe [15] informs us that rambu "was formerly an important nutritive plant for the Manangis, serving to supplement the harvest of grain. From the unroasted flour flat round breads were made and notably that since today [] there is no longer any dependence on a supplement to the grain harvest, the spikes are no longer gleaned.

These two denominations are most likely local synonyms for rambu. A few wild plants are regularly consumed as vegetables by travellers and herders. People from Lithang collect and eat on the spot, after removing the skin, the stem of two kinds of rhubarb, chukyur Rheum alexandrae and chum Rheum palmatum , and of Himalayan Knotweed, another polygonaceae named nyalo Polygonum polysta-chyum. Chukyur is so named because the abundant water chu that its stem contains is sour kyur in taste.

Similarly herders from Ladakh often consume petioles and stems of another rhubarb named chutsa Rheum spiciforme. Informants from Leh Ladakh mention a wild plant designated sat, also mentioned by Rizvi [47], which merchants travelling from Ladakh to west Tibet used to gather and eat. Rizvi informs us that a mixture with tsampa was prepared, and that this plant was the only food consumed in eastern Ladakh regions during 10 days trip. The term sat might correspond to the Tibetan name srad, pronounced sat in Ladakhi Tibetan dialect.

It is generally used to indicate wild Fabaceae, among them several species belonging to Hedysarum and Thermopsis genera. It is interesting to note that the wild fruits regularly consumed in pre-modern Tibet according to travellers' accounts [9] are nowadays almost only eaten by children from the study areas.

Tibetan people from the study areas know a few plants that may be used as spices in local cuisine recipes. The majority of them are well-known over Tibetan regions. Gokpa, wild garlic Allium spp. Many informants from different regions report that its bulbs also help to relieve high altitude headache. In Lithang informants recognize three or four types of it: chiugok, "small bird's garlic" Allium macranthum , rukgok Allium prattii , shagok, "meat? Also in southern Mustang informants distinguish a few types of this plant.

The most significant distinction separates the varieties named gokpa from dzimbu Allium roseum. The latter is deemed to be more valuable than the others since, as also Sacherer. People from Lithang prepare a sauce with garlic. The entire plant is cleaned and cut into small pieces. It is mixed with butter, tea, roasted barley flour tsampa , salt, and chilly. Tsampa may not be added. The sauce so obtained is eaten with Tibetan dumplings mokmok and fried meat-filled pancakes shapakle. Informants from southern Mustang and Sapi Ladakh report that Thymus linearis, respectively named maktokpa by local traditional doctors in the former and sulu in the latter region, leaves and stems mixed with chilly are used as condiment.

The same use is reported by Polhe. The result was a condiment used to flavour food, for example tsampa dough. Tea is by far one of the most important products in Tibetan traditional diet and economy. That is why Tibetan people selected from the wild several substitutes for it, which were used when tea was lacking, an event that was not rare in pre-modern Tibet.

Several informants from Lithang recall a plant, named tonja, "autumn tea" Potentilla sp. The aerial organs of the plant were dried in the sun, and then boiled in water for long time. The scented flowers and leaves of surkar Rhododendron sp. Tibetans from Dhorpatan give the same information. Some of educated informants from Lithang report that nowadays surkar tea is sometimes used by traditional doctors for relieving blood diseases. Concerning pre-modern Tibet Rockhill [10] explains that in eastern Tibet willow Salix sp.

Bell [48] likewise informs us that poor Tibetan people who could not afford to buy tea, used some plant substitutes as maple leaves yalishing, Acer caudatum in Sikkim. The same utilisation of maple leaves was also common in Shar Khumbu, as the author's informants report. Sacherer [14] reports that in in Rolwaling valley pemakoko Epilobium conspermum dried leaves were used as a substitute for or were added to tea, because the latter was too expensive, being imported in the region on foot, a travel that took eight days.

Seabuckthorn Hippophae spp. It has been used in local diet, popular and learned Tibetan medicine, and nowadays it is also commercially exploited by locally established companies. People from Jarkhot and adjacent villages in southern Mustang prepare a juice from the fruits of this shrub tora, Hippophae tibetana. Today it is drunk with sugar, in the past without. Informants report that a concentrate well-known among Tibetan traditional doctors as khenta of the juice is prepared through boiling the fruits for long time and it is added to pickles and several food recipes.

In Ladakh children used to roll a big leaf up to form a cone used as a container. The juice obtained by squeezing seabuckthorn named tshogkyur in Sapi, Hippophae rhamnoides subs. Also, in the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and the Defence Research and Development Organisation launched a major initiative for sea-buckthorn cultivation in the Himalayas. Women's self-help groups in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will be included for the project, which is expected to provide employment opportunities [50].

Informants from Lithang state that seabuckthorn fruits possibly obtained from the species Hippophae litangensis [51], a specimen of this plant has not been collected by the author during his fieldwork in Lithang growing in the region are nowadays much less consumed than in the past before the s. In Lithang the few people who consume the well-known yartsa gunbu Ophiocordyceps sinensis, a parasitic. This drink is not only consumed as a tonic and aphrodisiac, but also as hard liquor. The author observed Tibetans sharing these beverages kept in tiny bottles while conducting activities such as carving religious prayers on stones, gambling, and taking picnics in the summer pastures.

Informants explain that these drinks are prepared by dipping a few yartsa gunbu specimens into a container filled with arak, a local alcoholic spirit processed from barley or rice. The number of specimens may vary according to the quantity of arak held in the container and the strength required. Usually 3 to 5 specimens of yartsa gunbu are used for each half-litre of arak. The drink is ready after having been kept in a cool place for months. Some people wait a year or more before consuming it, claiming that the long period of the drug permanence in the alcohol increases the beverage flavour and potency.

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It is worth mentioning that Tibetans traditionally conceive yartsa gunbu as a plant, and particularly as a "grass". It is seen as a single substance or phenomenon, which is subject to a metamorphosis occurring from the beginning of spring to the early summer. The Tibetan designation of that substance is very accurate and shows a good knowledge of its biological and seasonal changes based on exact observations in the field.

Indeed, this appellation, which is a compound word formed by four nouns meaning "summer-grass winter-worm", gives all the necessary explanations to understand its cycle and transformation. Tibetans believe that during winter the yartsa gunbu lives as a worm bu and that, after a metamorphosis occurring at the beginning of spring, it changes into a kind of grass tsa [19].

According to Tibetan people [6], the category designated tsa includes all the various common wild plants with narrow green leaves that are of little dimension and flexible nature, that are fixed to the ground by means of underground structures, and that are eaten by yaks and sheep. Actually, the fruiting body of the fungus is very similar to a blade of grass as concerns size and general aspect. Indeed, all the early studies on the use of wild food plants in Europe - from those coming from the 19th century until more or less the s - capture the memory of famine and the use of wild plants as a means of basic survival, including the consumption of starvation foods that in normal times would be discarded by the community" [52].

This assertion is also valid for Tibetan cultural regions. According to the author's field data, which are homogeneous throughout the study areas, two kinds of. In case of famine, bedo shing fruits Quercus sp. The first two plants represent the most important natural products used as substitutes for tsampa. Informants from Lithang report that oak acorns were boiled for long time in water, dried, and ground.

Oak acorns are to be seen as a starvation food that in normal time local people would discard. Informants from the study areas except Ladakh informs us that ram bu rhizomes were eaten fresh after eliminating the skin, or rhizomes and seeds were dried and ground. They add that at present only pastoralists sometimes produce flour from this plant, which is given to yaks, goats, and sheep.

Jest [11] reports the same use of ram bu seeds during famines in Dolpo north-west Nepal , which were lightly parched, then powdered, and eaten as tsampa or mixed with curdled milk. Informants from the study regions report that the flours obtained from different plants were often mixed.

The third important poverty food was droma. Its rhizomes were still consumed at the time of the fieldwork in Lithang. Stein [44] comments that in Tibetan epic tales it is frequently mentioned that hunting marmots, consuming their meat and droma rhizomes found in their burrows, means to live away from one's own country because forced to do so.

Informants from Lithang affirm that during famines nettles Urtica triangularis were also important sources of food, particularly sought for at the beginning of spring. Sacherer [14] reports that in autumn when a famine struck the entirety of Nepal, Sherpa people from Rolwaling collected different kinds of Arisaema dawa rhizomes that, as it has been mentioned above, were regularly used as foodstuff in the past. Pastoralists and settled people from Lithang regularly collect, eat, and trade mushrooms, and particularly the ones growing in the lower forested valleys.

This may also be affirmed referring to people living in eastern Tibetan regions, which benefit from similar climatic and vegeta-tional conditions [18]. A few explorers and missionaries that travelled and lived in pre-modern Tibet substantiate this. For example according to Rockhill [9] mushrooms possibly represented a significant resource to several Tibetan communities from eastern Tibetan regions. He reports that Tibetan people from Chamdo ate a mushroom. According to the missionary Duncan [8], people from Bathang region used to collect mushrooms, cut them into pieces, which were dried strung with threads under roof cornices.

They were usually eaten with soups. The author could not identify most of the mushrooms that he collected in Lithang, yet it is interesting to present here the use of some of them. Besha Tricho-loma matsutake is by far the most important mushroom after Ophiocordyceps sinensis collected today by local people, trade in which plays an essential role in present economy. The fungus is sold to Chinese merchants and mainly exported to Japan [18]. Informants from Lithang County state that besha bedoshing shamo , "oak mushroom", connotes a fungus shamo that mainly grows in oak bedo, Quercus sp. The fungus is collected mainly in August.

It is worth noting that the popular Tibetan designation besha appropriately indicates Tricholoma symbiotic partnership with oaks. Local people fried fresh or dry besha in oil. The drying process is made by hanging the fungi on the ceiling, threaded with a string. These mushrooms are always cooked without skin and consumed with vegetables. Their price is relatively high Yuan - 25 USD at the time of the field-work - for grams of the best quality and few people can afford to buy them. Traders describe the best besha specimens as follows: the stem is 4 fingers long, the cap should not be wide-open, its organs must be hard when touched, it must not be black, and it must not host worms.

In the same area, the cap of a mushroom named pango "meadow egg", non-identified specimen is heated in the ashes. When hot, it is used as container to stuff other food items, notably salt, tsampa, and butter. It is then eaten. Another mushroom consumed in Lithang is chiukanlag, "small bird's legs", non-identified specimen , so named because its fruiting body has several ramifications that are very similar to small bird's legs.

It is worth noting that educated and non-educated informants from the study areas often talk about poisonous mushrooms, which must be avoided. According to many of them the sun's rays contain a kind of poison, and sun potency is so strong that it can negatively influence plant and mushroom qualities. Forest covers accounts for The Khamptis and the Singphos, inhabiting the eastern part of the stat ,are Buddhists of Hinayana sect. They are said to have migrated from Thailand and Burma long ago.

They have migrated from Zeyus in Tibet. They are characterized by their expertise of carpet making, weaving, dancing, painting, mask -making and elaborate dresses. The religion of this group can be termed as animistic-naturalistic. They worship natural objects and ancestors. These tribes are excellent in weaving and fine works of cane and bamboo. The third group comprises the Noctes, the Tangsas, and the Wanchoos of Tirap and Changlang districts. These tribes are known for their masculine dances, and art of woodcarving. They have been known for their association with the practice of headhunting and their contacts with Burmese tribes.

The festivals, marked by elaborate rituals and dances, form an essential element of the socio-cultural life of the people. All the languages of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh except Khamtis belong to "Tibeto-Burman family". The Khampti language belongs to Tai group of the Chinese Siamese family. English is the official language of the state. Hindi and Assamese serve as the lingua franca in absence of a commonly accepted language for all the tribes. History and Tourist Interest. Excavation of ruins of ancient fort have revealed the high standard of civilization that once prevailed there.

The temple dedicated to Goddess Durga at Malinithan is built on the classical tradition of Orissa. According to the local legend associated with the place, Lord Krishna carried away Rukmini the daughter of King Bhismaka, on the eve of her marriage with Shishupal. Krishna and Rukmini were welcomed here by Parvati with garlands. Parvati thus acquired the name Malini and the place Malinithan. It is a place of pilgrimage and on Makara Sankranti day people in large numbers come to have a holy dip in the Kund.