Wancho Dance – The Vibrant Cultural Heritage of Arunachal Pradesh

Wancho Dance of Arunachal Pradesh

Wancho dance is another great folk dance belonging to Arunachal Pradesh. The Wancho dance, performed during major festivities, is an important part of the celebrations. It is done for recreational purposes and has quite a new feel.

The origin of the dance of the Wancho tribe

The Wanchos were known as Nagas of the East or Banferia Nagas during the pre-independence period and during the British administration. In the days of the Ahom king, they were called Bar-Mithunias, Haru Mithunias, Banferias, Bar-Banchang, Haru Banchang, and so on.

The tribal name Wancho became widely accepted after the administration of the area was taken over by the Indian government after Independence. Wanchos were commonly known as bounty hunters. The Wanchos came to be recognized after the massacre of the Survey Party led by Captain Badgley and Lieutenant Holcomb at the Wancho village of Nino more than a century ago. During various development programs of the government, the tribe came to light.

Wancho Dance - The Vibrant Cultural Heritage of Arunachal Pradesh
Wancho Dance – The Vibrant Cultural Heritage of Arunachal Pradesh

There is no documentation of the tribe’s migration to their current location. The oral tradition of the people noted their presence even before the Ahoma occupation of Assam in the early years of the thirteenth century AD (1828). Their contact with the plains during the Ahom period is available in some histories and chronicles in its modest form. Rather, more detailed information is available only from the beginning of British rule in this part of the country.

Even Dalton referred to them by the general term “Eastern Nagas”. Relevant info regarding the Wancho tribe is obtainable from the post-British amount. The Wanchos within the foothills close to the Assam border maintained a detailed reference to the plains. These individuals served to keep up contact with individuals living in midland and on the borderlands.

According to myths

the Wanchos migrated to their present environment from Nyannu, located to the southwest beyond the Patkai Hills or Purvanchal Ranges. From Nyann, they traveled to their current abode via Tangna and Changu, two villages in the Tuensang district of Nagaland. Those UN agencies came through Tangna area unit referred to as Tangjan et al. who came through Changna area unit referred to as Changjan. These 2 area units are the most divisions of the Wanchos.

The total population of Wancho tribes is uncertain. The first British officer, Captain Brodie, who traveled in their territories, devised the rule of paying an annual tribute as a sign of their submission to British rule. In view of this, a policy of active control was practiced and soldiers were deployed to enforce law and order in the Wancho area. A “non-interference” policy was later adopted because the earlier policy had failed. Frequent visits were then discouraged.

This policy prevented feuds. During the Ahom and British periods, there were frequent inter-village raids and disputes between the Wanchos. However, the situation improved as the Indian government took over the administration of the area.

Wancho Dance Costume

To perform the Wancho dance, the use of traditional clothing is a must. Men are uncovered on top and wrap a loincloth below. The fabric is usually light in color with darker edges and beading for detailing. A cane belt goes around the waist. Ivory or cane bracelets, bead necklaces, coin necklaces, and clusters of red threads in the ears are accessories worn by men. The sword he carries has a golden hilt enhanced with goat hair. On his head, he wears gear made of bamboo with hornbill feathers.

All dancers hang a cane basket around their waist. This basket features wild boar tail decorations, animal skulls, seashells, and colorful beads. A bell is attached to the bottom of the basket. When dancing, these bells jingle and create music with which the dance steps are synchronized

Women wear a traditional blouse and wrap a skirt around their waist. Necklaces made of coins and beads adorn the look. The shoulders are decorated with metal jewelry. He wears ankle and toe rings on his feet. Women wear a headdress or a headdress with colorful ornaments.

Dance Performance of Wancho dance

They dance from about 9 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. inside the boss’s house. Among the male people, boys, youths and adults participate, while among the female people, only girls and young married women who have not joined the husband’s family dance.

The dancers, dressed in their finery, stand in a circle around the fire. The girls stand on one side of the circle and hold hands. Male dancers hold a sword in their right hand and most place their left hand over the shoulder of the dancer on the left. The dancers begin to sing as they all take a short step with their right foot to the right, bend their knees with an accompanying swing of the sword forward, and gently raise their left foot to the heel of their right. They repeat this sequence of movements.

When the dancers’ chant ends, which is usually on the eighth or ninth step, everyone stomps their right foot on the ground twice. The dancers take over singing in response. During the chant, they stamp their right foot on the ground twice, once usually on the fourth step and another at the end of the chant, which usually falls on the ninth step. The dancers take up the singing again and the dance continues.

All the dancers have a reed basket suspended from their waist over their buttocks. The basket is decorated with colorful straw tassels, monkey skulls, or wild boar ink. The straw tassels of the baskets are decorated with colorful beads. The straps of some cups are decorated with white shells. Each basket has a bell attached to the bottom.

Music and Instruments of Wancho dance

The reverberant of such a lot of bells is the sole musical sound. All have anklets of straw, girdles of 1 or 2 loops of red cane, or bands of cowries or beads slightly below the knee. The boys and a few youths are naked, but others wear a loincloth of white or light blue color with two red stripes at the ends decorated with small beads of different colors. This loincloth is tucked in place with a cane waste that is about six inches wide. The bracelets are either ivory, brass, or red reed loop.

The handle of the sword is decorated with colorful goat hair. They all wear some sort of beaded necklace. Some wear coin necklaces. Ear ornaments are tufts of red woolen threads or earplugs decorated with red seeds. Some have headdresses made of bamboo, silver shaped in a cone, and decorated with horns. Some have red reed headdresses decorated with wild boar ink.

The hair up to the middle of the crown is brought forward and trimmed so that the fringes reach close to the crown of the forehead, while the hair on the back is long and tucked around a red or yellow rectangular piece of wood called a Kahpak. Some of these kahpaks are studded with small pieces of glass, others are decorated with carvings of a human figure or human skull or a tuft of colorful goat hair. The side of the head is shaved.


The Wancho Dance of Arunachal Pradesh is a vibrant and culturally significant form of dance that holds deep-rooted traditions and rituals within the Wancho community. This dance form showcases the rich heritage and artistic expressions of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. The energetic movements, colorful attire, and rhythmic music create an enchanting atmosphere that captivates both locals and tourists alike.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

Q: What is the Wancho Dance?

A: The Wancho Dance is a traditional dance form indigenous to the Wancho community of Arunachal Pradesh, a state in northeastern India. It is performed on various occasions, such as festivals, weddings, and other social gatherings.

Q: What is the significance of the Wancho Dance?

A: The Wancho Dance holds immense cultural significance as it portrays the customs, traditions, and history of the Wancho community. It is believed to bring prosperity, ward off evil spirits, and unite the community.

Q: How is the Wancho Dance performed?

A: The Wancho Dance involves a group of dancers, usually men, who perform synchronized movements accompanied by traditional music. The dancers wear vibrant traditional attire adorned with feathers, beads, and ornaments. The dance involves vigorous footwork, hand gestures, and body movements that are in sync with the beat of the music.

Q: What is the attire worn during the Wancho Dance?

A: The dancers wear traditional Wancho attire, which typically includes a headgear made of feathers, intricately designed jackets or coats, waistbands, and skirts adorned with beads and shells. They also wear traditional jewelry and carry traditional weapons as props.

Q: Is the Wancho Dance open to everyone?

A: The Wancho Dance is primarily performed by members of the Wancho community. However, it is often showcased during cultural festivals and events, allowing people from different communities and tourists to witness and appreciate this unique dance form.

Q: Are there any specific occasions when the Wancho Dance is performed?

A: The Wancho Dance is performed during various occasions, including Wancho festivals like Oriah and Poanam. It is also performed during weddings, community celebrations, and cultural events organized in Arunachal Pradesh.

Q: Where can one witness the Wancho Dance?

A: The Wancho Dance can be witnessed in the Wancho-inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh, particularly during festivals and cultural events. It is advisable to check the local event calendars or contact the Arunachal Pradesh Tourism Department for information on specific performances.

Q: Can tourists participate in the Wancho Dance?

A: While tourists may not be able to actively participate in the Wancho Dance itself, they are welcome to observe and appreciate the performances. It is a great way to experience the rich cultural heritage of Arunachal Pradesh.

Q: How does the Wancho Dance contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage?

A: The Wancho Dance plays a crucial role in preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the Wancho community. By showcasing their traditional dance form, the community ensures that their customs, rituals, and artistic expressions are passed down to future generations, keeping their identity alive.

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