Feature - Issue #15
How thinking about conservation brought Millo Ankha closer to the ancestral knowledge of her community, the Apatanis.
The village elders sit with the nyibu (a shaman) under the peach tree. The nyibu transcends the Earthly realm, chanting to the ancestral spirits to protect the wellbeing and health of the clan members. My mother and aunts wait to smear rice powder paste mixed with rice wine onto the peach tree. It is said that the peach trees at the altar share their ancestral wisdom. The sacred rituals are carried out to sanctify the relationship between the humans and ancestral spirits. And it is believed that the survival of the peach tree nurtures human life.
The rice fields are sprawled across the valley; the smoke of burning bamboo and pines lingers from the villages. Surrounding them are the rolling mountains of varying green threaded by trailing clouds. During March, the pink burst of blooming peach and plum trees scattered in the Ziro valley herald the arrival of the Myoko festival: one of the biggest ritualistic festivals that is hosted by the cluster of villages in rotation every spring in the Apatani community. The Apatanis are one of the major ethnic groups of the Eastern Himalayas and the descendants of the ancestor Abotani.
One of the attas (elder sisters) tells me: “During Myoko, the forest god is worshipped and appeased. The boundaries between humans and spirits are cleared to acknowledge the community’s ownership of their lands.”
The Wisdom of Peach Trees