The Mishing are the second largest tribal group in North-East India. They are known to be laid-back, simple-living people, hospitable and very fond of festivals. Therefore, it is hard to believe the legends telling that the Mishing were very violent in the past.
There is no written history of Mishings. However, it is believed that originally they were living on the high hills of present day Arunachal Pradesh. Hundreds of years back, they started migrating towards the plains of Assam, most probably in search of fertile land. Customarily, several generations of Mishing families live together near the river banks and in their “Chang Ghar” –house with raised platform, build with the help of timber, bamboo and thatch. The raised platform of the houses protect from pouring rain and flood.
The Mishing can be broadly divided into two clans: Pegu, and Doley – the clan can be understood from a person’s surname. A marriage among the same clan is not allowed.
Mishings are animist by nature; they believe the Sun (Donyi) is their mother and, the Moon (Polo) is their father. However, many Mishings follow Hinduism along with their traditional religious rituals. The main festival is “Ali-Aye-Ligang” known as the most colourful spring festival; all the people in the villages gather together to dance wearing their traditional colourful clothes.
The Mishing are experts in weaving; the Mishing women are experts in using handlooms. Their skills to combine colours and designs have given them a special position in Assamese clothing culture. In Mishing weaving, priority is given to the bright vivid colours and designs reflect the surrounding nature, animals and the legends of the tribe.