an elderly Adi women from Arunachal Pradesh singing a folk song
Regions with significant populations
           Arunachal PradeshN/A
           Tibet Autonomous RegionN/A
Tani languages, Mandarin
Majority: Donyi-Polo
Minority: Christianity, Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Tani people, Lhoba people

The Adi people are one of the most populous groups of indigenous peoples in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. A few thousand are also found in the Tibet Autonomous Region, where they are called the Lhoba together with some of the Nyishi people, Na people, Mishmi people and Tagin people.

They live in a region of the Southern Himalayas which falls within the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Mainling, Lhunze, Zayu, Medog, and Nyingchi counties in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. The present habitat of the Adi people is heavily influenced by the historic location of the ancient Lhoyu. They are found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions within the districts of Siang, East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, Lohit, Shi Yomi and Namsai within Arunachal Pradesh. The term "Adi" however, is not to be confused with the Lhoba people, since the Lhoba also includes the Mishmi along with the Adi people. All the ethnic groups recognizing themselves as "Adi" are believed to be descendants of the Abutani/Abotani. The older term Abor is an exonym from Assamese and its literal meaning is "independent". The literal meaning of adi is "hill" or "mountain top".

Organisation of the community

The Adi live in hill villages, each traditionally keeping to itself, under a selected chief styled Gam or Gao Burra who moderates the village council, which acts even as the traditional court, referred to as a Kebang. The olden day councils consisted of all the village elders and decisions were decided in a Musup/Dere (village community house).


It has been suggested that this section be split out into another article titled Adi languages. (Discuss) (February 2023)
(not a single language)
Abor, Lhoba
Native toIndia, China
RegionArunachal Pradesh, India and Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Native speakers
150,000 total for the various languages (2011 census)[1]
  • Tani
    • (some East Tani, some West Tani)
      • Adi
Language codes
ISO 639-3adi
Speakers of Adi by Indian district
Adi is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

The various languages and dialects of the Adi people fall into two groups: Abor (Abor-Minyong, Bor-abor (Padam), Abor-Miri, etc.) and Lhoba (Lho-Pa, Luoba).

Adi literature has been developed by Christian missionaries since 1900. The missionaries J. H. Lorrain and F. W. Savidge published an Abor-Miri Dictionary[2] in 1906 with the help of Mupak Mili and Atsong Pertin, considered the fathers of the Adi language or Adi script.[clarification needed][3]

Adi[which?] is taught as a third language in schools of communities dominated by the Adi.[4]

The Adi speak Hindi as a lingua-franca for communicating with other indigenous groups of people in Arunachal Pradesh and the other northeast states. [citation needed]


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A documentary film produced by RIWATCH depicting the cultural heritage and lifestyles of Adi people in Arunachal Pradesh.

Dormitories play an important role among the Adi people, and certain rules governing the dormitories are observed. For example, a male can visit the dormitory of a female, although he is not allowed to stay overnight. At times, guardians will have to be around to guide the youngsters.

There are separate dresses for women and men which are woven by women of the tribes. Helmets made from cane, bear, and deerskin are sometimes worn by the men, depending on the region.

While the older women wear yellow necklaces and spiral earrings, unmarried girls wear a beyop, an ornament that consists of five to six brass plates fixed under their petticoats. Tattooing was popular among the older women.

The traditional measure of a family's wealth is the possession of domestic animals (particularly gayals), beads and ornaments, and land.

Festivals and dances

The Adi celebrate a number of festivals, in particular, their prime festivals are Aran, Donggin, Solung, Podi Barbii and Etor. Solung is observed in the first week of September for five days or more. It is a harvest festival performed after the sowing of seeds and transplantation, to seek for future bumper crops. Ponung songs and dances are performed by women folk during the festival. On the last day of Solung, throne and indigenous weaponry are displayed along the passage of the houses – a belief that they would protect people from evil spirits (This ritual is called Taktor).

Traditional basket of the Adi people

Adi dances vary from the slow, rustic and beautifully enchanting Ponung style (performed in Solung festival) to the exhilarating, exuberant thumps of Delong performed by men during the Etor festival. These dances have led to certain forms of dancing which jointly narrate a story, the Tapu (War Dance). In the Tapu, the dancers vigorously re-enact the actions of war, its gory details and the triumphant cries of the warriors. Yakjong is performed in the Aran festival. This is another kind of dance whereby the dancers carry sticks with designs created by removing the barks in certain patterns and then put into the fire for some time, which creates the marked black designs.

Name of festival Dates
Donggin February 2
Aran or Unying March 7
Etor (Lutor) May 15
Solung (Lune) September 1
Podi Barbii December 5


A traditional Adi hut

The Adi practice wet rice cultivation and have a considerable agricultural economy. Rice serves as the staple food for them along with meat and other vegetables


The majority of Adi traditionally follow the tribal Donyi-Polo religion. Worship of gods and goddesses like Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin and Pedong Nane, etc., and religious observances are led by a shaman, called Miri (can be a female). Each deity is associated with certain tasks and acts as a protector and guardian of various topics related to nature which revolves around their daily life. This includes the food crops, home, rain, etc.

Adi in Tibet, in particular the Bokars, have adopted Tibetan Buddhism to a certain extent, as a result of Tibetan influence. However, in recent years a revival in indigenous identity on the part of the Tibetan Adi people has made traditional religion popular with the youth again. In modern times, a few Adi people have converted to Christianity. But been increasing and call of local leaders to stop converting and demographics shift.


  1. ^ Adi at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Lorrain, J. H. (reprinted 1995). A dictionary of the Abor-Miri language. Mittal Publications.
  3. ^ "Adi Agom Kébang". Archived from the original on 2015-02-01. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
  4. ^ "Arunachal to Preserve 'Dying' Local Dialects - North East Today". Archived from the original on 2018-08-25. Retrieved 2019-01-12.


Further reading