Folklore From North-East India: Tale Of A Mishmi Girl

This folktale, from the Idu Mishmi Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, tells about the moral behind the Idu tradition of naming their new born babies within 5 days after delivery. If not followed, it is believed that a khinu (Eng: spirit) will name the baby and take it away.

One upon a time, a beautiful daughter was born to a married couple who lived in the hills of Dibang Valley. Even after five days after birth, the parents had not decided upon her name, and that’s when they heard a bird sing “anchi-anchi”. They liked the twitter of the bird a lot and accordingly named their daughter Anchi.

Years passed by. Anchi reached her adolescent years and got engaged to a young man who was from the village of Angolin. Life went well for Anchi, until one day, when she was on her way to her husband’s home, a khinu (spirit) caught her. A struggle ensued between the spirit and Anchi’s companions, with both sides trying their best to not let go. Anchi was in terrible pain as she was being pulled in opposite directions. Not able to withstand, she requested her companions to let go of her. Immediately, a thundering voice was heard and Anchi floated in air and the disappeared. Her companions, now in fear, hurried back to the village and explained their Igu (Eng: Priest) about what happened. The Igu, with his god-gifted wisdom and insight, found out that Anchi was the name suggested by the spirit and therefore she belong to him. Nothing could be done.

Idu Mishmi man and woman in their traditional attires.
Idu Mishmi man and woman in their traditional attires.

Many years later, Anchi somehow managed to return to her parents. She was accompanied by a tiger and her body was covered with hair. The villagers were concerned, as the Anchi they knew was beautiful and had no hair in the body. Anchi reasoned with them, explaining that there was hair because she stayed with her husband who was a spirit. Her husband had sent with her a mithun (a kind of semi-domestic Himalayan bovid) as the bridal price for the parents. But the villager couldn’t find a mithun and saw only a tiger. Anchi then took a ihu~to (Eng: machete), struck the fierce tiger with it, and later distributed the beast’s meat among the villagers.

For the coming years, Anchi lived with her parents. Many people witnessed extraordinary things when she was around. One day, she brought her parents a red cloth and a cock. She told them that as long as she will be alive, the cock will grow and the cloth will be seen. For five years, villagers saw the cloth spread out during the sunny days in  a distant hill and heard the sound of a cock’s crow. Finally, a day arrived when nothing could be heard or seen. All were then convinced that Anchi has left for good.

The hill came to be known as “Nani Anchi Allomi Ako’ and is today located between the villages of Angolin and Apruli in middle Dibang Valley.

Adapted from:
Jonomo Rondo,
District Research Officer,
Lohit District, Arunachal Pradesh.

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