The East Siang District is a wild mountainous area and presents a remarkable topographical variety. The District has an area of 3603 sq.km. and is lying approximately between 27º 43′ and 29º20′ North latitudes and 94º 42′ and 95º 35′ East latitudes. The Name of the district is derived from the Mighty River Siang that, originating from Tibet, where it is called Tsangpo, transcends down and flows through the entire length of the area until it descends down into the plains of Asam south of Pasighat town, where it meets Dihang and Lohit and becomes the Brahmaputra.
The Pasighat town, the headquarter of the East Siang District, is situated at an altitude of 155 metres above main sea level and is the oldest town in Arunachal Pradesh – established in 1911 A.D. A political Officer was appointed in that year with a view to help the natives of the area to come down to the plains of Assam for trade and commerce. It would not be wrong to say, therefore, that the people of East Siang District were the first natives of the state to come in contact with the mainstream. Therefore this district is called as `the gateway to Arunachal Pradesh’. The mighty Siang river is the life-line of the East Siang District and in Pasighat, it calms down before entering Assam south of Pasighat. The town covers an area of 4005 sq.kms. and supports a population of nearly eighty thousand persons.
The East Siang District is mostly populated by the Adi tribe which comprise of a large number of tribal groups and can be divided into various subgroups such as the Minyongs, Padams, Shimongs, Milangs, Pasis, Karkos, Ashings, Pangis, Tangmas and Boris. The Adis belong to the Astro-Mongolide race and are good looking, sturdy and vigorous. According to Griession’s linguistic classification, the language spoken in East Siang District are put together under the North-Assam group of the Tibeto-Burmese group. There are various theories regarding the original home of the Adis; however it seems probable that they came to their present habitat from the north i.e. Tibet. River Siang had a major role in determining the route of migration of most of the Adi clans. However, the exact location of their original home in Tibet or beyond that is still to be ascertained.
The society in East Siang, like most parts of the state, is organized on the basis of clan and village and the social relationships are determined on the basis of kinship or locality. The family, called rutum, is the smallest social unit. The society is basically patrilineal and patriarchal and the sons inherit the property. One outstanding feature of the Adi society that sets it aside from the mainland is the absence of the caste system. Of course, there are some social distinctions, but all people eat together on social occasion and take their part in social councils. Any mention of the Adi community of the district will not be complete without giving a brief account of the system of local-self government called Kebang. These village councils are time-honored socio-political institutions deriving their authority from tradition. They function as village governments expressing the will and power of the members of the society. The functions of these Kebangs are three-fold – judicial, administrative and developmental.
Dances are an integral part of the lives of the people of East Siang. These dances are simple, rythmic, colourful and participative. Some of the famous dances are:
This dance of the Minyong group of Adis is performed especially on the occassion of the Solung festival. The priest, caled Miri, rattles and ancient Dao (sword) and sings legands.
This dance is similar to Ponung but is performed on the occasion of Mopin festival of the Galos. The dancers wear white dresses and elaborate headgear of straw.
This dance is performed by men folk. It is a community dance and sticks are used.
This is an interesting martial dance. This is performed with long traditional swords, vigourous cries and rapid movements by men folk.