The Buguns (formerly Khowa) are one of the earliest recognized schedule tribe of India,[1][2] majority of them, inhabiting the Singchung Sub-Division of West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh. Their total population is approximately 3000. The notable features of Buguns are reflected in their simple life and warm hospitality. Buguns live in several exogamous clans. Traditionally, the predominant occupation was agriculture, supported with other allied activities like fishing and hunting, cattle rearing etc. Buguns have their own folklores, songs, dances, music and rituals. A rare bird, the Bugun liocichla, was named after the tribe.

They live mainly in the subtropical Singchung Administrative Sub-Division of West Kameng district with its, almost whole, native population under 6-Thrizino-Buragaon ST Assembly Constituency of the state of Arunachal Pradesh.[3] According to the native legend, they believed that they are the descendants of a single forefather Achinphumphulua.


The Bugun language, one two of the Bugunish/Kamenic language under Kho-Bwa languages is listed as an endangered languages of India.[4]


Acting as a basis of their livelihood, shifting cultivation is practiced and domestic animals such as cow, horse, pig, sheep, goat, fowl and the mithun are reared. To enrich their diet, wild animals are hunted using simple spears, traps, bows and arrows.


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 Buguns are traditionally followers of the animistic religion[5] However, the early 20th century witnessed the gradual penetration of some dominant religions like Buddhism (Mahayana), particularly from the neighbouring ethnic group Sherdukpen, and Hinduism. Some have come under Tibetan Buddhist influence. Profound Buddhist influence has led to the adoption of many Buddhist rituals and the invitation of Buddhist lamas to participate in their communal rituals.[2] As a result, many Buguns declared themselves as Buddhist in censuses.[6][7] 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.


Pham-Kho[8] (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 vital component required for human survival. The benevolent gods manifest in the form of the mountain and river, giving life to the people. Therefore, the Pham-Kho festival is a harvesting festival celebrated by Bugun (Khowa) community of Arunachal Pradesh. Other Important festival of Buguns are Kshyat-Sowai and Diying-Kho.

Especially in Sraiba (a holy place with a ground for worship and related rituals) of every major villages, Kshyat-Sowai/Diying-Kho and Pham Kho is celebrated by the Bugun, in which the Phabi priest plays an important role in conducting the ceremony and religious rituals.

Songs and dances such as Clown and Gasyo-Syo have a close affiliation with their religion. Feasts during these festivals mainly includes their traditional foods and Phua (local brew).


Traditionally, Buguns have their own socio-politico-administrative decision-making system to regulate their society. The traditional village council of the Bugun (Khowa) is known as Nimiyang (Council of Elders), which looks after every aspect of village life, may it be decision-making, utilization of local resources, conflict resolution or regulating the society. Each family is represented in the Nimiang sessions by its head male member. The traditional village council of buguns are headed by Thap-Bkhow (Village-Chief). The Thap-Bkhow is an accepted leader and selected unanimously and not hereditary. There is no strict criterion for selection of the Thap-Bakhow, but a person with economic affluence, social stature, knowledge of customary laws, sound mentality, physical strength and generosity are taken into consideration. He presides over the meetings and sittings of the Nimiyang session. It is customary that only male member possessing above qualities can become Thap-Bakhow. Women may witnesses proceedings of the Nimiyang sessions, but can only contribute if its male member is absent.


Migration of Buguns to its present location are unknown. However, their mythology reveals that they have probably migrated from Tibet via East Kameng.(Buguns are subdivided into sections according to their specific locality known by different names:-Hakhongdua, Braidua, Khuchundua, Hajidua Dachandua and Hayindua).

Bugun villages

Some of the Bugun villages are:-

Buguns relation with neighbouring tribes

Buguns maintained good relations with their neighbouring tribes since they are surrounded by tribes like Sherdukpen, Aka (Hrusso), Monpa (Especially, Bhut Monpa/Sartang)and Mijis.

Active organisations working for the community

Besides these, we will find many other NGOs working actively in some specific areas within Bugun territory like:- BWS- Bugun Welfare Society,[9] Mt. Siphang Society etc.

Art Forms & Music


Gasyo-Syo which literally simply mean "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.

Bugun Music and dances are accompanied by traditional musical instruments like Thabam (Drum), Khenkhyap (Clappers), Beeyen (a single stringed fiddle), Gong (Mouth Organ made by bamboo & a string) and various types of Fly (Flute).

Some popular Music Albums are:

1. Oye (Audio).

2. Guiteh Bugundua (Audio).

3. Charit Lue Khung (Audio).


  1. ^ file:/// Archived 2017-09-20 at the Wayback Machine The constitution (schedule Tribes) Order, 1950
  2. ^ a b Tribes of India
  3. ^ Ram Kumar Deuri (1983). Festivals of Kameng. Directorate of Research, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh. p. 11.
  4. ^ The Kho-Bwa or Bugunish languages are a small family of Tibeto-Burman languages* spoken in India. They are Khowa (Bugun), Sulung (Puroik), Lishpa, and Sherdukpen. Van Driem (2001) suggested the name Kho-Bwa based on their words *kho 'fire' and *bwa 'water'.
  5. ^ Dalvindar Singh Grewal (1997). Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh: Identity, Culture, and Languages. South Asia Publications. p. 53. ISBN 81-7433-019-4.
  6. ^ William Carey Library (2004). Peoples of the Buddhist World: A Christian Prayer. South Asia Publications. p. 135. ISBN 0-87808-361-8.
  7. ^ Shiva Tosh Das (1987). Life Style, Indian Tribes: Locational Practice. Gian Pub. House. p. 28. ISBN 81-212-0058-X.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Bugun Welfare Society |". Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014.