The Bugun villages which are found in the Circle Sinchung of West Kameng are: Singchung, Wanghoo, Bichom, Mangopam, Namfrey, and others. The immediate neighbours of the Buguns are the Akas (Hrusso), Sherdukpens, Monpas, and Mizis.
The Bugun tribe consists of the following sub-tribes:
» Hakhuang Tua, » Brai Tua, » Haying Tua, » Khunjun Tua, » Haji Tua, » Dechhan Tua.
As per the Census Report of 2011, the population of the Bugun tribe is 1432. But a population survey conducted by the All Bugun Youth Association (ABYA) in 2010 shows the population at 1720. The low population count of the Bugun is due to the death of thousands of natives in the 1950’s due to an epidemic.
The Khowa are a colourful people. Their dresses during day-to-day occasions are very colourful which they also use during dances and festive occasions. That means they do not have any special dress for their dances and festivals, since they are colourful round the year.
The Khowa say they originated in the north, in today’s Tibet, before they moved southward in search of a new place to live. Locals believe that they arrived in the area before the Sherdukpen. For many years the Khowa were oppressed by the Aka tribe, who used to plunder them on the pretext of collecting taxes. The Khowa responded by relocating away from them.
According to the native legend, they believed that they are the descendants of a single forefather Achinphumphulua.
Bugun (Khowa) is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken. It is an unclassified Tibeto-Burman language. Van Driem (2001) groups Bugun (Khowa) with Mey (Sherdukpen), Lishpa and Puroik (Sulung) referring to them as the Kho-Bwa cluster.
Besides Hindi, the Bugun people are well versed in Nepali. Arunachal Pradesh has a huge migrant Nepali population. The migrant Nepali population makes around 60-70 % of the population in Bugun villages and hamlets like: Singchung and Ramaling. Though most of the Nepalis work as daily wage labourers in the Bugun fields; the native Buguns communicate with the Nepalis in Nepali or Hindi. There is no resistance from the Bugun community in picking up the Nepali language. On the other hand the Nepalis resist speaking in Bugun. Due to the close contact of both the communities there are quite a number of marriages between the the Buguns and the Nepalis. The children of these marriages may have a Bugun surname but they adopt Nepali as their first language.
Due to small population and multi-lingual community; with code switching and mixing with english, hindi, nepali, and assamese prevalent; native Bugun speakers are dwindling in numbers and the language is now considered ‘definitely endangered‘ by UNESCO.
Like Miji and Aka, long hair is kept by some members of both sexes. While both sexes adorn themselves with silver ornaments, the men wear a very long white garment and a very high hat, resembling a Turkish Fez. The women wear a skull cap, sometimes decorated with beautiful patterns. White and checkered jackets are worn as well, usually accompanied by another singlet
The Bugun people are divided into clans based on the location of their villages. The Nimiyang, or the village council of elders, is headed by a unanimously selected chief, known as Thap Bahow. The chieftain takes decisions on behalf of the community and decides the functioning of the society and use of the forest resources. Each family is represented in the Nimiyang proceedings by a male member. However, women can participate in the absence of a male representative.
Buguns are generally endogamous as they marry within their community, but there are instances of inter-tribal marriages with Sherdukpens to maintain peace and alliance. However, they strictly follow clan exogamy like many other tribes of Arunachal and do not marry within their own clan.
On their houses, writes anthropologist Col. Ved Prakash, “For reasons of security perhaps, their villages are sited on the hilltops. Their houses are built on raised platforms, with split bamboo walls and thatched roofing. Majority of the houses are double storied; only a few triple storied.”
Unlike their Sherdukpen neighbours, the Buguns practice shifting agriculture (jhum), which is the traditional practice of cultivation of most tribes in the region. Though they practice sustenance hunting, the Bugun people have also started domestication of cattle, pigs and Mithun (Bos frontalis).
Like most other Himalayan tribes of Arunachal, the Buguns also originally believed in animistic beliefs and nature worship, they were originally believers of the indigenous Donyi-Polo religion until they were exposed to the Tibetan faith.
Religion and culture of the Buguns have been greatly influenced by the Shertukpen people. The Shertukpens, believers of Gelugpa Buddhism, also introduced Tibetan religious traditions to the Buguns. Profound Buddhist influence has led to the adoption of many Buddhist rituals and the invitation of Buddhist lamas to participate in their communal rituals. As a result, many Buguns declared themselves as Buddhist in censuses. Though they have formally declared themselves to be Buddhists, a majority of them continue to believe in their old faith.
Recently, some Buguns have converted to Christianity. Nevertheless, a large portion of Bugun (Khowa) population are still following their tradition way of animistic rituals and priesthood.
Children are named immediately after birth, because the Bugun’s believe if there is a delay, some evil spirit will name the baby, and as a result the baby will suffer. When the child grows up to 16 to 17 years, the parents hold a worship called chhoacshao. This ritual is performed to please the spirit responsible for the welfare and betterment of the children.
Pham-Kho-Sowai — 10 Sept
Pham-Kho (a harvesting festival) is a popular festival of the Bugun people which is now celebrated on 10 September every year. Pham Kho Sowai literally means “mountain” (Pham) and “river” or “water” (kho), which are considered as an important element because mountain, river and water is necessary element which plays a crucial and vital role in human lives and also for human survival.
The compassionate god is believed to be visible in the form of mountain, river, and the environment itself giving life to the people. Therefore, the Pham-Kho festival is a harvesting festival celebrated by Bugun (Khowa) community of Arunachal Pradesh.
Kshyat-Sowai — 11th-15th Jan
Kshyat-Sowai is celebrated from 11th January to 15th January. It’s is a community festival. During Kshyat-Sowai festival, villagers offer prayers to the mountain named Khyasi for better yield of crops and good health and prosperity of people.
The festival is initiated by a local priest (Phati). In each village, there is a particular place known as ‘Suaiba’ for the celebration of the festival. The Khowas celebrate their festival with great enthusiasm with the whole village participating in feast, dance and merriment.
Diying-Kho — 13th Feb
Bugun’s celebrate other festivals like the Buddhist festivals celebrated around the region by the neighbouring communities.
Bugun people are involved in keeping long hair which is kept by some members of both sexes. Both sexes decorate themselves with silver ornaments.
The men wear a very long white garment and a very high hat which is similar to a Turkish Fez. They wear a woven straw hat with cultural patterns. White and checkered jackets are worn as well, which is usually accompanied by another singlet. Both men and women of Bugun tribe cover their body, neck to knee, with help of loose ends cloths, which looks like a gown.
Both male and female wear colorful waist band, which protects the white gown at the waist. A white cloth is wrapped around the male’s leg in order to cover’s the leg from below the knees to the ankle, with its upper edge decorated with beautiful and unique patterns & designs also with colorful beads. The man also wears a hat made up of bamboo.
When it comes to Bugun women, they wear a headdresses of conch shell and amber. skull cap, which is sometimes decorated with beautiful patterns and designs.
Traditional Bugun longhouses were built on platforms with walls of wood and bamboo and with thatched roofs. They had a long row of fireplaces, one for every family, quite similar in looks with Nyishi longhouses. Now they have given way to small, wooden one-family houses with several rooms, also on a platform but with a metal roof.
Gasyo-Syo which literally simply means “To Dance” or “Lets Dance“, is a popular dance form of Bugun (Khowa) Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. There are many forms of Gasyo-Syo like Gek, Gidingdak etc. It is performed usually at every festive occasion like birth, marriage ceremonies, and festivals like Pham Kho Sowai.