The lifestyle of the Apatani hill tribe of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, fascinates every traveller on many aspects. But the thing that can be seen with great intensity is the two tribal signatures of the apatani tribe of arunachal pradesh, face tattoos as well as nose plugs.
This practice was then abolished soon after India’s independence when the government provided security against these kidnappings. As a result of which, no one have their faces tattooed for past 30 to 35 years.
During ancient times these Apatani women were abducted by their neighbouring Nishi tribesmen for their beauty, so just to make themselves look more unattractive, they started tattooing their faces and wear a huge circular nose plugs.Though women who were born in the last three decades, have chosen to get their faces inked, so the practice was later banned by the government in the ’70s. But some, elderly Apatani women can still be seen with the thick blue line that runs from the forehead to the tip of their nose and six smaller lines on the lower chin.
The tattooing procedure of the apatani tribe of arunachal pradesh used to be a very painful affair. It was not like the state-of-the art tattoo guns and ink, that is being used today. The Apatanis used the thorns to cut their skin and then soot it mixed in the animal fat for the dark blue color.The wounds were then being allowed to get infected so that they became more larger as well as clearer.
The apatani tribe of arunachal pradesh are not the only one tattooed tribe in Eastern India. The headhunting tribe of Konyaks of the Nagaland used to tattoo their faces like the headhunters from the Philippines, Taiwan and many other Pacific islands. Facial tattoos are marked at the head-taker, the various designs indicate a person’s prowess in battle and the headcount. Some researchers, say that tattoos also help to establish tribal identity besides the recognition after their death in a war or in a fatal accident.
Some married women of the Singpho tribe, who were found in both Assam as well as Arunachal, were tattooed on both their legs from the ankle to the knee, while the men tattoo the limbs, unmarried Singpho girls were generally barred from wearing a tattoo.
With the urbanization as well as modernization of the northeastern India over some decades, the tattoo culture has also shifted very significantly. These traditional patterns have been replaced by many modern motifs, but the meaning behind this pain-inducing practice has not changed much. Naga people regarded tattoos as theirs sign of courage, strength, and virility.
Indian tribes are not the only one who tattooed themselves. The Ainu of Japan, wore facial tattoos as their tradition. You can also see Berbers of Tamazgha, North Africa; Maoris of the New Zealand; Arabics in the east of Turkey and the Atayal from Taiwan also do facial tattoos. This practice is also widespread among the Polynesian peoples and also among the tribes in the Philippines, Samoa, Borneo, as well as Cambodia.
Tribal adaptation of some of the popular designs like the dragon as well as the tiger and the abstract art is gaining more popularity among the youths. It is mostly done in black ink, which shows up very beautifully on Indian complexion.