At The Edge Of Civilisation In Ziro

The smell of the mist, the taste of the breeze and the sound of the forest make it worth the travel
Beautiful valley of rice fields in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
Beautiful valley of rice fields in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

Just having a name that sounds like zero opens the door to a great deal of random guesswork and bad punning. I mean, what kind of a place is Ziro likely to be An end-of-the-map town with its own set of rules, where the outside world is a strange and unfriendly place Not too far off the mark&ndashZiro is pretty much at the edge of the Indian map. This is as northeast as it gets. 

The smell of the mist, the taste of the breeze and the sound of the forest make it worth the travel. That&rsquos what the anthropologists who first stumbled this way must have felt. Amongst the first people they met were the Apatani tribals, perhaps the most well-settled of the indigenous people of Arunachal. Well, the Brits came and went but the Apatanis have stayed behind, moving from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled agricultural economy, harnessing the murmuring rivers Subansiri, Nishi, Apatani, Dafla and Miri to produce rice. Little wonder, then, that the valley is called the Rice Bowl. 

Exploring Ziro

Ziro town, comprising the original Ziro village and the new town Hapoli, doesn&rsquot have too many touristy sights to offer. After navigating the town, hire a taxi (5&ndash8 per km, plus fuel) and head out to the Apatani villages that are at a distance from the new town. It&rsquos best to reach the villages before 7.00 am, or else you&rsquoll have to wait until evening when the villagers head back from the fields and bamboo groves. 

District Museum 

Established in 1956, the museum hosts a collection of artefacts, turquoise and coral jewellery, bone and ivory ornaments, bamboo and cane household products, textiles and a small collection of Dao machetes. If you don&rsquot mind the randomness of display, it gives you some interesting insights into the indigenous skill base of the tribal communities of the district. 


Try spotting the mithun, a bovine that&rsquos a cross between the wild gaur and the buffalo. A large and lumbering loner, the mithun prefers the quiet of the forests and the beautiful Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 38km away, to the banter of the villages and towns. The Apatanis too let the mithun be, until, that is, there&rsquos a bride price or a fine to be paid or a sacrifice to be made. Then, a hunting group sets out into the forests with salt, said to attract the mithun and help it identify its owner. 

Government Handicrafts Museum 

Situated at the other end of the new town Ziro, this outlet is the best place to buy souvenirs, including Apatani weaves, cane and bamboo products. A highly recommended souvenir from Ziro is a locally crafted, scaled-down metal replica of the mithun. 

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