Situated in the extreme east of India, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is strikingly different from the classic image of Himalayan scenery and culture. Although the Tibetan worlds of the Monpa and Sherdukpen people can be seen on the northern frontier with China (see article on the Tawang monastery, Trek magazine, no 2), the main attraction of Arunachal undoubtedly lies in the richness of its animist-shamanist populations who are of Tibetan, Burmese and Mongol origins. You cannot help but feel the proximity of South East Asia, Burma and Laos.
Over sixty different ethnic groups share this immense territory with its swathes of barely penetrable forest. Whether they are rice growers, hunter gatherers or farmers, the Apatani, Nishi, Tajin or Adi tribal groups you come across on this journey reflect a true 'ethnic state' where the ancestral Dony-Polo religion has not died out in spite of the recent rise in conversions to Christianity.
With its twelve towns, 3,500 villages, one of the largest concentrations of primary forest in the world and the smallest population of any Indian state ( one million inhabitants), Arunachal is unique. The road network is almost non existent and the area is geographically isolated as well as politically marginalised (the former North East Frontier only became the 25th Indian state in 1987).