Wanna get our awesome news?
We will send you weekly news & updates. Isn't that cool?

Actually we will not spam you and keep your personal data secure

Wanna get our awesome news?
We will send you emails only several times per week. Isn't that cool?

Actually we will not spam you and keep your personal data secure

Fri, 27 Mar 2020

Northeast Today

Mamang Dai: A literary Stalwart of NE

Mamang Dai: A literary Stalwart of NE
May 29
17:04 2019

Himashree Das

Mamang Dai a poet, novelist, and journalist based in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh who writes in English and Adi. She was the first woman from her state to be selected for IAS/IFS from her state in 1979. However, she left it to pursue a career in Journalism. While working as a journalist, she was correspondent with The Sentinel, Hindustan Times and The Telegraph. Appointed as a programme officer at World Wide Fund for Nature she worked in the Eastern Himalayas Biodiversity Hotspots programme. She worked as an anchor and conducted interviews in radio, as well as TV-AIR and DDK, Itanagar. As a journalist, she held many powers earlier. Presently she is the President of Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists.


Born on 23 February 1957 at Pasighat, East Siang district, to Matin Dai and Odi Dai her family belonged to the Adi tribe. She completed her schooling from Pine Mount School, Shillong, Meghalaya and her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Gauhati University, Assam. Her mother tongue is Adi.



She was hailed as one of the most intensely poetic voices from the North East region for her first publication “River Poems” She has featured in several national and international forums to promote the disappearing traditions of her state in the face of modernity and give voice to its people through the imaginative space of prose and poetry. She was honoured with the state’s Verrier Elwin Award for her book Arunachal Pradesh: the Hidden Land in 2003. It documented the culture and traditions of her land.

She published her first novel, The Legends of Pensam, in 2006, which was followed by Stupid Cupid (2008) and The Black Hill (2014). Some of her non-fictional works includes-Arunachal Pradesh: The Hidden Land (2003) and Mountain Harvest: The Food of Arunachal (2004), The Sky Queen and Once upon a Moontime (2003). She wrote romantic verse and stories during the beginning of her writing career.  But then she moved from the theme of the self to focus on a larger aspect of reality. She reflected upon the sense of a closely knitted community living in remotest towns and villages.

She also has been the General Secretary of the Arunachal Pradesh Literary Society, member of the North East Writers’ Forum and General Council member of the Sahitya and Sangeet Natak Akademi. She has featured in several national and international forums, and her poems, fiction, and articles have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. In 2011, she was awarded the Padma Shri, in recognition of her contribution to the field of literature and education from the government of India. She is the most celebrated writer from the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Mamang dai has always worked hard to bring up the traditions of her land in front of the world. Her pieces of works are writing that delights the mind. Many books of her are about history, the tribes, the rituals, and everything. Through her books, one can inherit a lot of knowledge about the tribal culture of the northeast and especially Arunachal Pradesh. The author beautifully portrays the plight of its characters highlighting the pain behind ever situations.


Synopsis of her major works:

‘The Black Hill’
Set in the mid-19th century; it highlights the History and imagination. The book throws a great insight on how the story is about a love that knows no boundaries, a trek to the forbidden kingdom. The Black Hill, an overzealous priest, a headstrong girl and a simple tribal guy takes us through the Arunachal Pradesh of mid 19th Century. It acquaints us with the tribes, their lives, the changes that to tried to come in their way and their unity in spite of differences among them. The setting of the story is set just before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. It primarily talks about two tribes-the Abor and Mishmee who residing in the different parts of Upper Assam. It narrates a priest who walked across the hills carrying a cross to establish a Church suddenly disappeared, and a Mishmee tribal man, Kajinsha, was executed for his murder. The author weaves a rich combination of the tapestry of characters, landscapes, and incidents. The Black Hill misses out on a certain fluidity and lightness that could have elevated it from a shuffling of history and thinking into something that illuminates or gives light to a dark corner of our past. The author picks out three characters against a certain historical context, but silently avoids the bogies of colonialism and reorganization hovering just beyond the beam, and the personal stories are simply not captivating enough to distract us at all.


‘ Hambreelmai’s Loom’

The book weaves its narrative and illustrations flawlessly. The story’s protagonist is Hambreelmai who is the first weaver taught by the goddess Matai. The author’s simple yet evocative style makes it a delightful reading piece. It covers the right amount of descriptive text and onomatopoeic refrain. Also, the illustrations are both vibrant and eye-catching, mixing textures and forms interestingly. Distinct colors like “red, black, brown and blue “colors of the traditional Mishmi textiles of Arunachal Pradesh is being highlighted in her palette vividly. The book gives us an authentic feel.


‘The Legends of Pensam’

Here the author talks about the tribe called adis and their territory in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh is called ‘Pensam’ meaning “the in-between” place. The novel narrates the strange incidents of the individuals. Firstly a mysterious boy who fell from the sky is accepted as a son of the village and grows up to become a respected elder. A young woman wounded in love is healed by a marriage of which she expected nothing. A mother battles against the law for a son she has not seen ever since she lost him as an infant. A remote hamlet gets a road, but the new world that comes with it threatens upheaval. And as villages become small towns and town’s approximate cities, the brave and patient few guards the old ways, negotiating change with memory and remembrance.  The Legends of Pensam is an intricate web of stories highlighting the histories of tribes.



Mamang Dai has garnered a lot of attention for her books and novels in which half of them is dedicated to her land Arunachal Pradesh. Her books highlight the customs of the tribal groups which gives a unique identity to her books. Her books have got wide recognition all over India and she is one of the topmost writers of Arunachal Pradesh.



Related Articles