Definitions

Monpa

Monpa

The Monpa (Tibetan: མོན་པ།) are an ethnic group in the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh, with a population of 50,000, centered in the districts of Tawang and West Kameng. Another 25,000 of them can be found in the district of Cuona in Tibet, where they are known as Menba (). Of the 45,000 Monpas who live in Arunachal Pradesh, about 20,000 of them live in Tawang district, where they constitute about 97% of the district's population, and almost all of the remainder can be found in the West Kameng district, where they form about 77% of the district's population. A small number of them may be found in bordering areas of East Kameng and Bhutan (2,500).

They also share very close affinity with the Sharchops of Bhutan. Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family, but it is significantly different from the Eastern Tibetan dialect. It is written with the Tibetan script.

The Monpa are sub-divided into six sub-groups because of their variations in their language. They are namely:

  • Tawang Monpa
  • Dirang Monpa
  • Lish Monpa
  • Bhut Monpa
  • Kalaktang Monpa
  • Panchen Monpa

Religion

The Monpa are generally adherents of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which they adopted in the 17th century as a result of the evangelical influence of the Bhutanese-educated Mera Lama. The testimony to this impact was the central role of the Tawang monastery–which aligns with the Gelugpa tradition–in the daily lives of the Monpa folk. Nevertheless, some elements of the pre-Buddhist Bön faith remained strong among the Monpas, particularly in regions nearer to the Assamese plains. In every household, small Buddhist altars placed with statues of Buddha are given water offerings in little cups and burning butter lamps.

The belief in transmigration of the soul and reincarnation is widespread, as their life is largely centered on the Tawang monastery in Tawang district, where many of the young Monpa boys would join the monastery and grow up as Buddhist Lamas.

The Bhut Monpa led a hunter-gather lifestyle and believed that the main totem and clan idol is the spirit of the tiger, who will torment any initiate while he sleeps. It is also believed that the spirit of the tiger is the manifestation of the ancestral forest spirit, who took a young shaman into the jungle to be initiated.

Culture

The Monpa are known for wood carving, Thangka painting, carpet making and weaving. They manufactured paper from the pulp of the local sukso tree. A printing press can be found in the Tawang monastery, where many religious books are printed on local paper and wooden blocks, usually meant for literate Monpa Lamas, who use it for their personal correspondence and conducting religious rituals.

Principal Monpa festivals include Choskar harvest, Losar, Ajilamu and Torgya. During Losar, people would generally pray pilgrimage at the Tawang monastery to pray for the coming of the Tibetan New Year. The Pantomine dances are the principle feature of Ajilamu.

The Buddhist Lamas would read religious scriptures in the Gompas for a few days during Choskar. There after, the villagers will walk around the cultivated fields with the sutras on their back. The significance of this festival is to pray for better cultivation and protect the grains from insects and wild animals. The prosperity of the villagers is not excluded as well.

It is a rule that all animals except men and tigers are allowed to be hunted. According to tradition, only one individual is allowed to hunt the tiger on an auspicious day, upon the initiation period of the shamans, which can be likened a trial of passage. Upon hunting the tiger, the jawbone, along with all its teeth, is used as a magic weapon. This is believed that its power will enable the tigers to evoke the power of his guiding spirit of the ancestral tiger, who will accompany and protect the boy along his way.

Society

The traditional society of the Monpa was administered by a council which consists of six ministers locally known as Trukdri. The members of this council were known as the Kenpo, literally the Abbot of Tawang. The Lamas also hold a respectable position, which consists of two monks known as Nyetsangs, and two other Dzongpon.

The man is the head of the family an he is the one who takes all decisions. In his absence his wife takes over all responsibilities. When a child is born they have no strict preference for a boy or a girl. Some however prefer a daughter for she stays in the house of her parents once she is married. Her husband is the one who moves to the house of his parents-in-law.

Lifestyle and Dress

The traditional dress of the Monpa is based on the Tibetan Chugba, although woolen coats and trousers maybe worn as well. The men wear a skull cap of felt with fringes or tassels. The women tend to wear a warm jacket and a sleeveless chemise that reaches down to the calves, tying them round the waist with a long and narrow piece of cloth. Ornaments that include silver rings, earrings made of flat pieces of bamboo with red beads or turquoises are worn as well. One can see a person wearing a cap with a single peacock feather round their felt hats.

Due to the cold climate of the Himalayas, the Monpa, like most of the other Buddhist tribes, construct their house with stone and wood with plank floors, often accompanied with beautifully carved doors and window frames. The roof is made with bamboo matting, keeping their house warm during the winter season. Sitting platforms and hearths in the living rooms are also found in their houses.

Economy

The Monpa practice shifting and permanent types of cultivation. Cattle including yaks, cows, pigs, sheep and fowl are kept as domestic animals, and meat is hunted using primitive methods.

To prevent soil erosion by planting crops on hilly slopes, the Monpa have terraced many slopes. Cash crops such as rice, maize, wheat, barley, chili pepper, pumpkin, beans, tobacco, indigo and cotton are planted.

History

Earliest records to the area which the Monpas inhabited today indicated the existence of a kingdom known as Lhomon or Monyul which existed from 500 B.C to 600 A.D. Subsequent years saw Monyul coming under increasing political and cultural influence, which was apparent during the years when Tsangyang Gyatso, an ethnic Monpa, became the Dalai Lama. At that time, Monyul was divided into thirty two districts, all of which spanned the areas of Eastern Bhutan, Tawang, Kameng and Southern Tibet. However, Monyul, also known as Tawang Tract remained thinly populated throughout its history.

In the 11th century, the Northern Monpas in Tawang came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism of the Nyingma and Kagyu denominations. It was at this time when the Monpas adopted the Tibetan script for their language. Drukpa missionaries made the presence felt in the 13th century and the Gelugpa, in the 17th century, which most Monpas belong to today.

Monyul remained an autonomous entity, of which local monks based in Tawang held great political power within the community, and direct rule over the area from Lhasa was established only in the 17th century. One of the first travellers into Monyul, Nain Singh, who visited the area from 1875-6 noted that the Monpas were a conservative people who shunned off contact with the outside world and were making efforts to monopolise trade with Tibet. Subsequently the British sought to make their political influence felt and the drawing of the McMahon Line in 1913 drew the modern boundaries which divided the land to which the Monpas inhabited, and became a source of contention in the subsequent years to comec owing to ambiguities to the specific location of the McMahon Line.

Notable Monpas

See also

References

External Links

Search another word or see Monpaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;