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The Seven Sisters of India: Tribal Worlds Between Tibet and Burma (African, Asian & Oceanic Art) [Hardcover]

Peter Van Ham , Aglaja Stirn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

4 Oct 2000 African, Asian & Oceanic Art
This photographic record illustrates the various aspects of the culture of the area comprising the seven states of India's northeast territories stretching from Tibet in the north to Myanmar (Burma) in the South, among them Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam. It is a region rarely visited by foreigners where people scarcely known to the western world continue a way of life steeped in ancient ritual which was last examined some 50 years ago. It focuses on the different aspects of life, religious belief and ritual. The geography of this region of contrasts, the origin of its people, their houses, the cult of the sun and the moon, ancestor worship, weaving, dance, beliefs connected to headhunting and matriachal structures are among those aspects given special attention.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel (4 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791323997
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791323992
  • Product Dimensions: 30.7 x 24.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,862,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A beautifully illustrated and highly informative book that focuses on seven relatively unexplored and isolated Indian states."

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a book which has required painstaking determination to compile. It portrays the fast disappearing cultures of tribal societies in North East India. The photography is superb. Very few books of this quality exist on this subject.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feast for the eyes tableau 25 Jan 2011
By monyouk - Published on Amazon.com
accompanied by an informative text that serves as a colourful introduction to a barely known region, linked to mainland India via the narrow 'chicken neck' corridor of Cooch Behar (with Bhutan to the north, Bangladesh to the south). From the Himalayas through the jungles to the fertile valleys of River Brahmaputra, the seven states of NE India are home to anthropologically/linguistically/culturally diverse peoples: Tibeto-Burmans, Austroasiatics, Indo-Aryans.
Yet the authors focus, quite understandably, on the unifying elements. Hence the topics visited: animistic-shamanistic Donyi-Polo (Sun-Moon) belief system, traces of solar and lunar cults (chapter 4), as well as religious syncretism (ch. 10); Christian missionary activities (ch. 11); ritualized dance traditions, festivals, etc. (ch. 7-8); material culture: tubular long-house structures (up to 90-m-long, ch. 5), textile and jewelry art (ch. 6); hunting, the significance of mithan buffalo, animal sacrifices (ch. 9, 11); megalith cultures (Khasis, Mizos, Nagas) related to ancestral worship, funerary rites, and fertility cults (ch. 12); tattooing and the once widespread practice of head-hunting (ch. 12); clannish or tribal societies where matrilineal descent is held in high esteem (Khasis, Jaintias, Garos, et al., ch. 13); the Hindu Tantric Mother Goddess Kamakshya/Kali's (blood) cult in Assam and vestiges of human sacrifices (pp. 159-63).
While there is no shortage of folkloric and mythological accounts, historical references are lot more sporadic. A brief overview concerning, say, the Ahom monarchy in Assam (1228-1826), the British (East India Company's) intrusion/colonization, ethnic or ideological insurgencies (especially since 1947), the border war between India and China in 1962 that affected NEFA/Arunachal Pradesh and occupied Tibet, would have been useful.

Corrigenda - Addendum:

+ The Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (of the Great Wall fame) ruled 221-210 BCE, not 7th c. AD (p. 27).
+ Gompa (Tib. dgon-pa) denotes monasteries, not temples (p. 109).
+ It's worth to note that the sky-ladder motif in connection with the ancestors of the Tibeto-Burman Akas (p. 27) can be found among other ethnicities, too. In (Old) Tibetan lore, for instance, it is called dmu/gnam skas/thag (heaven/sky ladder/rope) that was irrevocably severed by the "Sovereign Slain by Sword" (Tib. Gri-gum btsan-po) in a fatal duel.

Further reading:

A paper by Robbins Burling (University of Michigan), "The Tibeto-Burman Languages of Northeastern India" (1999) -- 7-9 years ago it was available online;
Ranju Bezbaruah - Priyam Goswami - Dipankar Banarjee (eds.), North East India: Interpretating the Sources of Its History 2008.
3.0 out of 5 stars basically ok 30 July 2014
By A. Lawson - Published on Amazon.com
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