"Know your Neighbour"- Singpho Tribe

 

The Singpho are a beautiful tribe that inhabit in the district of Lohit and Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh, India and are immediate neighbours of Chakma people. They live on the banks of Tengapani
and Noa Dehang rivers. The Singpho also inhabits in Assam in the district of Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat. They are agriculturists and expert blacksmiths.

The Kachin State of Burma and Dehong of Yunnan Province, China also comprise a sizeable population of Singpho and are called as Kachin in Burma and the Jingpo in China.They speak the Singpho dialect of the Jingpo language. They have a rich cultural heritage which has faded away slowly in course of their living in the midst of blended cultures and different tribes and communities.

Clans:
The Singphos are divided into a number of clans, each under a chief known as a Gam. The principal Gams include the Bessa, Duffa, Luttao, Luttora, Tesari, Mirip, Lophae, Lutong and Magrong. The Singpho are also divided into four classes, namely Shangai, Myung, Lubrung and Mirip.

Lifestyle & Food Habit:
Singphos don't practice shifting cultivation (Jhum) as widely as other hill tribes. It is believed that Singpho people were the one who gave British the idea of tea in 1820. The Singpho produce their tea by plucking the tender leaves and drying them in the sun and exposing to the night dew for three days and nights. The leaves are then placed in the hollow tube of a bamboo, and the cylinder will be exposed to the smoke of the fire. In this way, their tea can be kept for years without losing its flavour. The Singpho also depended on yams and other edible tubers as their staple food.

Religion:
The Singphos in India are mainly Theravada Buddhist by religion but the Jingpo of Burma are Christians. Animism is also widely followed in this community. The ancestor of the Singphos worshiped spirit or god, is held to be named Madai. Singpho Animists believe that spirits reside everywhere, from the sun to the animals, and that these spirits bring good or bad luck. For the Singpho, all living creatures are believed to have souls. Rituals are carried out for protection in almost all daily activities, from planting of crops to warfare.

Dress:


The Singpho made shields from buffalo hide, many of them can be as long as four feet. They also have helmets are made from either buffalo hide or rattan-work, and vanished black and decorated with the boar's tusks. Most men tie their hair in a large knot on the crown of the head. The women dress their hair gathered into a broad knot on the crown of the head, fastening it by silver bodkins, chains and tassels, which is similar to the architecture of the modern skyscrapers. The maidens tie their tresses into a roll and keep it tied just above the nape. Singpho dwellings are usually two stories and built out of wood and bamboo. The houses are of oval form; the first floor serves as a storage and stable while the second is utilized for living quarters. Women often dress in black jackets with silver decorations during festival known as Munao Poi. This dress are one of the most beautiful and attractive dress in Northeast India. They also wear wool skirts made in bright red colors. The men often wear a white shirt with colorful Lungi, covering their heads with turbans.

Relation with Chakmas:
As a matter of fact, in 1964, the Government of India settled Chakmas in NEFA or the present day Arunachal Pradesh after due consultation with the Singpho people. Singpho leader Pisila and nameless others provided the necessary support to Chakmas during the time of migration in Arunachal.

Today, all these noble people are no more but the legacies of their motto to help the distressed still persists in Singpho community. May the Singphos and Chakmas live in peace and harmony and attain sustainable and self-determined development that respects cultural identity and integrity.

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