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Mising girl in traditional dress
Total population
687,836 (2011 census)
Regions with significant populations
Arunachal Pradesh15079+[1]
Donyi-Polo, Hinduism, Christianity[2]
Related ethnic groups
Nyishi, Adi, Apatani, Galo, Tagin, Lhoba people, Tibetans

The Mising people are a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group inhabiting mostly in the Northeast Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They are part of the greater Tani group of people of India and Tibet Autonomous Region of China.


Mising is an endonym which literally means "man of the soil." Miri, on the other hand, is an exonym commonly applied by plains Assamese people that has become obsolete. The origin of the term Mising is believed to be coming from the river named Siang that connects with Brahmaputra in Assam. There is still much scholarly debate on the origin of the term "Miri." Some colonial scholars argued that 'miri' referred to their status as intermediaries between plains people in the Brahmaputra Valley and hill tribes towards the north. More recent scholarship associated miri with being religious functionaries with Tani hill-tribes. So when the Misings migrated to the plains they were identified as coming from the Miri pahar ('Miri hills'), whose feats of magic would have been well-known back then, and the name stuck.


See also: Lhoba people and Derung people

The Misings belong to the greater group of Tani people who belong to a Sino-Tibetan linguistic group inhabiting in the Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Tibetans refer to the Tani people as the Lhobas (Tibetan: ལྷོ་པ།); 'lho' meaning 'south' and 'ba' meaning 'people,' "Lhobas" meaning "southerners" i.e. people who reside in South Tibet. Mising is a subgroup of the greater Tani clan or so called "Lhobas" as addressed by the Tibetans. In older times, Mising and other Tani people traded swords and other metals to Tibetans in exchange for meat and wool and used Tibetan language for written communication as they had no written language of their own.[6]

The earliest mention of Misings in Assam comes from the Ahom Buranjis when Misings were still independent hill-tribe towards the north of the Brahmaputra valley after their migration to the plains. In 1615, the Misings raided Ahom territory and the force sent to subdue them failed. In 1655, the Misings launched another raid which resulted in a successful counterraid by Ahom forces during which the Misings were subjugated. They agreed to pay an annual tribute to the Ahoms and gave 12 men for the two they burnt. Afterwards many Misings were given high positions in Ahom administration, evidence of their greater cultural contact with the Assamese compared to other hill-tribes.[7]

The Mising or Miri karnis (archers) who were employed in the Ahom army rendered great service in suppressing the Nagas who obstructed the supply of food provisions to the Ahom army during Rudra Singha's expedition of Kachari kingdom. The Misings also served in the Jaintia expedition of Rudra Singha. Although, the Misings living near Sadiya gave trouble to the Ahom government during the 17th century, they became submissive by the reign of Rudra Singha, afterwards they remained peaceful till the end of Ahom rule. Even during the Moamoria rebellion, when most hill tribes turned rebellious towards the Ahom government, the Misings or Miris remained neutral.[8]


There is no written history about Misings migrating from the Himalayas to the plains of Assam but history was passed down orally in the form of folk songs and stories by their ancestors from generation to generation and is still prevalent among their society. Although they were initially hill dwellers, they later migrated to the plains in search of fertile land and started living on the banks of rivers i.e. present day Assam. A theory suggests that the Misings presently living in the plains of Assam were not a single ethnicity, but it evolved into being one when many people from various Tani ethnic groups of Arunachal Pradesh migrated to the plains of Assam. Surprisingly, this explains the presence of many Mising clans with different Mising dialects and levels of development. As per historians, the Misings came down to the plains in two groups, the Barogam and the Dohgam.[9] Another theory suggests that the Misings in hilly areas of the Subansiri-Siang region were subordinate to the Abors and so migrated to the plains to escape their plight. Mising folktales speak of an ambush on Burmese soldiers on the Brahmaputra, implying Misings were established in Assam before the Burmese invasions of 1817. However, during the early British period, Misings continued to move down to the plains since even then they would continue to face raids from their former Abor overlords. British administrators also tried to force many Misings back to the hills into their old subordinate status. However, when the British pacified the hill tribes, the Misings were able to live in peace in the plains.[7]

In 1924, educated Mising people formed the Mising Bane Kebang (Greater Assembly of the Misings), now an important Mising organisation.

Autonomy movement

The Misings currently have some state autonomy under Mising Autonomous Council (MAC), which was formed in 1995 following violent clashes in the early 90s for greater autonomy. MAC includes 40 constituencies in eight upper Assam districts comprising core areas and satellite areas. Executive Councillor from 36 constituencies are elected democratically while 4 other members are elected through the state government. Tensions have occurred between the Misings and other communities regarding the inclusion of a few non-Mising villages in MAC.


According to the census of India conducted in 2011, the population of Mising in Assam is approximately 8 lakhs. They live in 10 districts of Assam: Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Majuli, Charaideo, Jorhat and Golaghat, and in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh: East Siang district, Lower Dibang Valley, and Lohit. The most prominent Mising villages in Arunachal Pradesh include Oyan and Namsing of East Siang district. In Lohit District's Namsai, a good number of Misings are found, especially in the areas around Silatoo Mising village.[1]


Music and dance

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The Misings have a variety of different types of folk songs.

There are many types of Mising dances, and each has its particular rules. Gumrag is performed five times in circles. Drums and cymbals are the usual musical instruments for the dances.


Mising people celebrate various festivals, though, the two chief traditional festivals of the Misings are the Ali-Ayé-Lígang, and the Po:rag, both connected with their agricultural cycle.

Mising women dancing on Ali Ayé Lígang
Mising girls performing gumrag dance

Ali-Ayé-Lígang is a festival marking the beginning of the sowing season, and marks the start of a new agricultural calendar. Ali-Ayé means seeds in a row, and Lígang means sowing of seeds. Ali-Ayé-Lígang starts on the second Wednesday of February, considered an auspicious day, and lasts for five days. Ali-Ayé-Lígang is a five-day festival. The celebrations begin with the heads of families sowing ceremonially rice paddy seeds in a corner of their respective rice fields in the morning hours and praying for crop abundance. Young men and women participate in the occasion by singing and dancing at night in the courtyard of every household in the villages to the accompaniment of drums, cymbals, and a gong. The gong is not used on any festive occasion other than the Ali-Ayé Lígang. Similarly, the drums have specific beats for this festival. The troupe accepts from each household offers of rice beer and fowls. After the singing and dancing in this way is over, the youths hold a feast on the third day.

Po:rag is the post-harvest festival of the Misings. Harvesting of paddy rice in autumn is usually observed now sometime in early winter or early spring. But there was a time when a harvest in summer was very common amongst them and so, Po:rag was celebrated earlier in the months of August or September also.

Another occasion called Dobur is an animistic rite performed occasionally by the village community by sacrificing a sow and some hens for different purposes. The form of observance of Dobur varies according to the purpose. In the most common form, the younger male members of a village beat the walls of every house in the village from one end to the other with big sticks to drive away the "ghosts and goblins hiding" and hold a feast there.

Some of the features of Bihu dances, boys and girls dancing together for instance, may have been borrowed from the Misings.[citation needed]


The traditional craft of weaving is a very important aspect of Mising culture.[10] It is an exclusive preserve of the Mising woman, who starts her training in the craft even before she reaches her teens. Men wear cotton jackets (Mibu Galuk), light cotton towels, endi shawls, thick loin cloths, and, occasionally, even shirtings. The sword that mising men carry is called "yoksa" and mising muffler is called "erpob". Women wear a variety of clothes.

Original traditional attire of woman

Like any other tani tribes, mising people also wear mising gale and abotani ornaments which is their original attire, and in abotani culture, bindi and sindur is not used but it is actually very concerning that, the original way of wearing is slowly fading away with time and it limits to some certain parts of society only

Influenced mix attire

The ege is a lower garment, comprising a sheet of cotton. Above this they drape a ri:bi or Gaseng, both cotton sheets used to cover the ege and blouse. However, while the ri:bi has narrow stripes, the gaseng has broad stripes of contrasting colours. They wear a Gero: a sheet, usually off-white, wrapped round the waist to cover the lower part of the body, or round the chest to cover the body down to the knees or so, or a seleng gasor: a light cotton sheet, worn occasionally instead of a ri:bi or a gaseng. Other forms of clothing include the riya, a long, comparatively narrow sheet wrapped a bit tightly round the chest. Married women will wear the segrek, a loose piece of cloth, wrapped round the waist to cover the ege down to the knees.


include a po:tub: a scarf used to protect the head, and nisek: a piece of cloth to carry a baby with.

Before yarn was available in the market, Misings used to grow cotton and obtain cotton yarn by spinning. The use of endi yarn, obtained from worms fed on leaves of castor-oil plants, was once common amongst them. However, they have learnt the use of muga (silk obtained from silkworms fed on a kind of tall tree, called som in Assamese) and of paat (silk obtained from silkworms fed mulberry leaves) from neighbouring indigenous communities in the valley. Mising women weave cloths, using muga and paat silk, very sparingly.

The Misings also have a blanket called gadu, fluffy on one side, and woven on a traditional loin loom. The warp consist of cotton spun into thick and strong yarn, and the weft of cotton turned into soft yarn and cut into small pieces for insertion, piece by piece, to form the fluff.


Misings practice their own animistic belief, called Donyi Polo the Sun and the Moon God. They are still mainly animists and adopted some aspects of Vaishnavism after the Bhakti movement that was started by Sankardev, (1449–1568 AD), the saint-poet of Assam.

Their creation myth is as follows: first was Sedi babu, the Supreme Being. He created Melo-Nane, and together they created Ditem (the Earth), Adi-Ditem (the mountain), Nei-Negan (green-leafed trees), Rukji-Merang (Acalypha indica and insects) and Peyi-Pettang (birds and animals). They also created the sun (Donyi) and the moon (Polo), the wind (echar), water (aasi), fire (ímí), and other aspects of the universe. Sedi then created Diling, whose descendant Pedong gave birth to Dopang, Domi and Doshing. Domi's son, Miniyong, was the ancestor of the Misings.

Misings believe in different supernatural beings haunting the earth, usually unseen. These supernatural beings fall into four categories: uyu or ui – usually malevolent spirits inhabiting the waters, the woods, the skies, etc. capable of causing great harm including physical devastation, urom po-sum – hovering spirits of the dead, who may cause illness or other adverse conditions, guhmeen-sohing – benevolent ancestral spirits, and epom-yapom – spirits inhabiting tall, big trees, who are generally not very harmful, but who may abduct human beings occasionally, cause some physical or mental impairment and release them later. Barring the epom-yapom, all the supernatural beings supposedly need to be propitiated with sacrificial offerings (usually domestic fowl), both periodically and on specific occasions of illness, disaster, etc. Even the benevolent guardian spirits are propitiated from time to time for the all-round wellbeing of a household. The god of thunder is propitiated from time to time, and although not worshipped or propitiated, the Sun (who they call Ane-Donyi 'Mother Sun') and the Moon (who they call Abu Polo 'Father Moon') are invoked on all auspicious occasions.

The leader of their animistic faith is called a mibu (also called miri earlier), their priest or medicine man, who is supposed to be born with special powers of communion with supernatural beings. While mibus are on their way out amongst the Misings owing to the introduction of modern education and healthcare amongst them, propitiation of supernatural beings continue to mark their religious life.

In addition, they have embraced in the valley some kind of a monotheistic Hinduism as passed on to them by one of the sects of the Vaishnavism of Sankardeva.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b c "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  2. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  3. ^ "639 Identifier Documentation: aho – ISO 639-3". SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics). SIL International. Retrieved 2019-06-29. Ahom [aho]
  4. ^ "Population by Religious Communities". Census India – 2001. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 2019-07-01. Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities
  5. ^ "Population by religion community – 2011". Census of India, 2011. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015. 2011census/C-01/DDW00C-01 MDDS.XLS
  6. ^ Xiaoming Zhang (2004). China's Tibet. 五洲传播出版社. p. 23. ISBN 7-5085-0608-1.
  7. ^ a b Bhandari, J. S. (1984). "Ethnohistory, Ethnic Identity and Contemporary Mishing Society". Indian Anthropologist. 14 (2): 79–103. ISSN 0970-0927. JSTOR 41919494.
  8. ^ (Devi 1968:163–165)
  9. ^ Das, Juthika, The mishing culture of assam: A socio philosophical study,p. 44
  10. ^ Farida, Syeda (2019-04-22). "#WhoMadeMyClothes". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2019-04-24.