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Fairs and Festivals


Dree- Apatani Festival

The Apatanis observe a series of agriculture rites and festival by sacrificing domestic fowls, animals and eggs in different times, starting from the sowing to the harvesting periods for ensuring of bumper yield of crops in the year such as Dree, Tamu, Metri, Chandii and Yahung etc. Chandii Tamu rite is performed during the sowing period, Dree during every growing periods of crops and Yahung just before the harvest. The literary meaning of 'Dree' is one who borrows or purchases food grains from others in order to meet out the shortage by addition to one's old and new stock of food grains.

During Dree festival, a few rites are performed to worship and appease Gods and Goddesses, who protect the crops, and ensure well-being of man. These divinities include Tamu God, Metii God, Sky God and Danyi Pilo (sun and moon). They are worshipped by offering sacrifices of fowls, dogs, pigs, chickens, eggs, mithuns and cows. The divinities associated with Dree are collectively knows as 'Dree or Dri Wuhi' (Gods).

For conduction of ritual of Dree, one or two persons  are appointed permanently or temporarily from each clan of the village. These persons are known as Dree Kholi or Dree Gora. They collect small quantity of rice or millet from each individual in order to meet the expenditure of the ceremony. The collected rice is kept by these persons. When the time of festival approaches, they prepare rice beer and collect the sacrificial animals, fowls, chicken and eggs for sacrifices. After completion of these preparation they inform the people about the date of performance so that they could store the required food grains and fire woods etc for the taboo period observed after the festival.

On the appointed day, the priest, his assistant and other Dree Kholi or Gora sit on the oldest clan 'lapang' of the village after being dressed up as warriors. They recite incantations called Dree Barni for a day. For instance, Hong village priest sits on the lapang of Nami clan, which is one of the oldest clans of the Hong village. After the completion of the recital of incantation, they go round all the clans lapang of their village along with sacrificial animals, fowls and eggs and sacrificial structure (Yuygyang). All these things are taken to the place of sacrifice. The sacrifice-place is generally located near the river of Apatani valley. The sacrificial structure or Yuygyang is cut into pieces and thrown into the river and it implies that the pests and insects are to be flooded out from the agricultural fields.

The Yuygyang for Dree is constructed from a particular plant called 'pemupello'.  Only two pieces are required for the construction of sacrificial structure for Dree. The Yuygyang for Tammu God and Metii are constructed from bamboo decorating it nicely with bamboo shaves and basket (Byodungchukha). The children and women are not allowed to take the meat of sacrificed animals and fowls.

On the festive occasion of Dree, every individual prepares rice beer and women present a vessel of rice beer to their elderly bothers, sisters, son-in-law etc, as a symbol of love and affection. They reciprocate by presenting a piece of bacon or roasted meat of mithun-cow to them. 

On the same day, the woman and children are involved in rejoicing and merry making singing traditional songs called 'Damingda' which is associated with Dree festival. This song basically welcomes man and god on this occasion, describing the greatness of Apatanis of the past and present, sketches the geographical location 'Khallo Sanii' of the Apatanis and their neighbouring tribes, and recalls beautiful memories of love affairs of man and woman exemplifying their ancestors Loder-Byai and Umi-Ubyang etc.

After observing Dree, seven days taboo period is strictly observed in every village with effect from the date of festival. During this period, people are not allowed to work in the field or garden nor they can bring green vegetables and fire woods. It is believed that if the observance of these taboos is violated the performance at the time of festival may not be successful. 

Dree festival has been modernised with increasing popularity all over the state as well as outside. The joint celebration at a central place was started in 1967 at Nenchaya near the old Ziro town by the initiation of intellectual group of Apatanis. Since then the date of celebration of the festival was fixed from 4 to 7th July for every year. They not only introduced folk-song and dance competition, but also introduced various games and sports.

On the appointed day, mithun, cow, goat, fowls and eggs are sacrificed at altar of Dree. In olden days, these were not sacrificed except fowls and eggs. The meat of these animals are cooked and offered to the guest along with rice, cucumber and beer. 

One of the most important change of the Dree celebration is, singing of 'Dree Flag song' in the inaugural function at altar of Dree and modern songs, dance, games and sports introduced which gives great gaiety of enthusiasm. Now-a-days, they do not strictly follow the religious taboos of Dree. It is celebrated as a seasonal festival of joy and glee when plantations of all crops are over, for the well being of the seasonal crops like paddy, millet etc. This celebration is done to appease the gods and goddess to ensure better crops and prosperity to mankind. The season is marked by maturity of strawberries and cucumber which are the only two fruits utilised in the celebration of  Dree. In this community festival the children normally takes maximum part.

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Last Updated on : 4 June 2014