The Miji, also known by the names of Sajolang and Damai, inhabit the districts of West Kameng, East Kameng, and a minuscule region of Kurung Kumey in Arunachal Pradesh, India. Their population of 37,000 are found near the lower parts of the sub-Himalayan hills bordering Assam; they speak the Sajolang language.
The word Miji is derived from two distinct words :
1) Mai means fire and 2) ji meaning Giver.
The word/name came into being after the Aka ( Hrusso) community regarded the Sajolang/Dammai people for their gracious help during the past (pre-historic period).
The Mijis or the Sajolangs are classified under three categories :
- Western Miji :
The Mijis inhabiting the Bomdila-Nafra division in West Kameng district are recognized as the Western Miji.
- Eastern Miji :
Occupying the Lada-Bana tract in the East Kameng district, one can find a sizeable amount of the group well adjusted with the Akas, their very brethren tribe and the comparatively larger tribe Nyishi. The eastern Mijis shares little contrast in terms of language vocabulary with their western counterparts and together they institute the broader Sajolang group. Eastern Miji speakers refer to themselves as the Nəmrai (nəmrai)
- Northern Miji (bangru) :
The third is the most debilitated and ambiguous group known as Bangru, also known as Bengru in China. Not very much studies have been done on this group and the tribe lives in acute isolation. These groups are mainly found in Sarli circle and the numerous adjacent villages in Kurung Kumey district. Researchers have also claimed that this same people are also found in Longzi County, Shannan Prefecture in China where they are categorised under the wider Lhoba ethnicity.
The Bangru refer to themselves as the taːdə or taːdʑuː baŋruː, and to the Eastern Miji and Western Miji as waːduː baŋruː.
There are five Bangru clans: Pisa , Melo , Tagang , Mili , Sape
It is believed that Miji Tribe was originally settled in the plains of Assam and subsequently made the hills their habitat. Mijis claim their name as Puroik and even to have connections with the kings who ruled over Assam.
The Bangru claim that they are the descendants of one of the sons of the Grandmother Sun , while the Miji are the descendants of the other son who migrated to the Lada Circle area in East Kameng district.
Miji or Sajolang is the spoken language with 2 or more dialects. “Dialects” include at least two distinct languages, which are not particularly close, with only half of the vocabulary in common between the languages of East Kameng District (Eastern Miji) and West Kameng District (Western Miji). Long assumed to be Sino-Tibetan languages, they may be a small independent language family.
Bangru (Tadə Baŋru or Tadʑu Baŋru), also known as Ləvai (Ləwjɛ) and occasionally as Northern Miji is a language spoken in Sarli Circle by Northern Miji (bangru).
Culturally and linguistically, the Miji and Hrusso Akas form a cognate group. Their ancestors are called Bor (Robo),or the brother of Tanis, like the Nyishis, Apatanis, Tagins, Galos and the Adis which share common features but are also distinct in themselves. Robo being the elder brother and Nyibo (tani) being younger are actual brothers, who belonged to same father.
Mijis inhabit the Lada circle of the East Kameng district, Sarli region of the Kurung Kumey district and Nafra and Bomdila Sub-Division of the West Kameng district with a few of them also found in the Assam-Arunachal border towns of Sessa and Bhalukpong who settled down there some time ago because of better access to facilities.
Mijis are basically agriculturists. Rice being their staple food, paddy is obviously their agricultural product. They also produce pulses, vegetables and other food requirements. Bamboo is the main industrial raw material. Bamboo baskets are made for storing and carrying goods, and they wear bamboo ornaments, bamboo rain coats and hats. Their loin looms are also made of bamboo.
Most Miji are adherents of Animism, although a few have adopted Christianity. The Mijis practise a distinct religion which rely entirely on nature and god ( nature- being the replica of god);
The Sajolang’s believe in a large number of gods, goddesses, deities, and spirits which may be benevolent or malevolent in nature. Mijis believe that god prevail in every aspects of nature, such as trees, water tributaries and even stones. They consider Jang-Lang-Nui as the supreme god. Each Miji village has their own priest known as Givi who mediates between the worlds. The head priest of a village is known as Givi mukho and the assistant is known as Givi mineu.
Each village has a sacred place called ‘Phung-brung‘ which is used for worshiping and sacrificing animals.
There is some Buddhist influence as a result of long-standing cultural contacts with Buddhist tribes to the west, and the celebration of Losar as well as the usage of prayer flags are some indicators of this.
Chindang — Oct-Dec
Traditionally, Khan was the most important festival of the Sajolang’s and was organnized on community basis. Khan is a harvest celebration, where they pray to the creator, Jang-lang-noi, for killing various creatures while preparing jhum fields. Prayers are also offered to the gods and goddesses for happy and prosperous life.
While celebrating the Khan festival, a number of worships and prayers are offered by slaughtering a mithun, a bull, an uncastrated goat, three cows and eight fowls. The period of festival varies from five to ten days, depending on the type of animals to be sacrificed. Generally mithun is slaughtered in the name of the creator. Bull is slaughtered in the name of the gods of the hills (Phungringnoi-The ramo), the god of water (Bhublyanoi – Sando), the god of the earth (Sulu – khaitho and Dema – Khaiju) and the goddess and richness and prosperity (Buchiyang Bujoi)”. The remaining all animals are also slaughtered in the name of different gods and goddesses.
In Khan festival, the priest is remunerated in minds which consists of a large bead (Thaichu) and endi silk cloth (Orija) and a headgear (Who). Apart from the above items he is given meat from the chest portion and the left forelimbs of the animals that are slaughtered on the occasion.
On the last day, the priest wraps a piece of wool around everybody’s neck for the well being and then a feast is arranged for the villagers. The day after the end of the festival is observed as taboo, when no outsider is allowed to enter the village nor anybody goes out from the village. Like the Chindang festival, on the next day,, the villagers proceed for community hunting.
The traditional costume of Miji women is an ankle-length white garment with a decorated red jacket. They also wear silver ornaments and glass-based necklaces. Indigenous cosmetics are made from pine resin and coal.