North-East shares philosophical, religious, historical and cultural oneness with Sanatan Dharma. Tribal communities like Hindus believe in monism
Tribal people in the North-East believe in nature worship as they believe that nature and its creations & creatures are manifestations of the self-effulgent, self-actuating, formless and all-pervading substance in different modes and designs. The Nagas of Arunachal Pradesh call this formless all-pervading substance as Rang-Fraa or Rang-Jawban or Tingkao-Wa, the Nagas of Nagaland, Manipur and Assam call it Tingkao-Rakwang or Ting-Wang, the Taanis of Arunachal Pradesh call it Donyi-Polo, the Mismis call it Amik-Matai or Ringya-Jawmalu and the tribal communities of Assam call it as Bathou, Shibrai. Its equivalent term in Hindi is Ishwar which has two aspects—Objective and Subjective. The objective aspect of God or Ishwar is nothing but the unseen self-effulgent power that operates and controls the Nature which is called by various names like Rang, Tingkao, Amik, Ringya and Donyi while consciousness and its related existents like thoughts, feelings, emotions, peace, perfection, justice, dharma constitute the subjective aspect of God which is basically formless but we generally conceive him in human form as symbolic for which we call as Fraa, Matai, Jawban, Jawmalu whose equivalent term in Hindi is Bhagawan.
We the tribal people of North-East believe in the universal principle which states that ‘God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent’. The Hindus including the tribal people of the North-East believe in Manifestation and not in Creation because a belief in creation contradicts this very universal principle. So, the term Creation suggests that there is a Creator and the Created. This type of belief in duality is called dualism. The dualists hold that the Creator and the Created have two separate and independent existences. If they are separate and independent then the Creator is definitely absent in the Created which denies the omnipresence of God. If God is not omnipresent it cannot be omniscient too. Again, if God is not omniscient then it is not omnipotent either. If God is not omnipotent; it is at all not God, hence believing in Creation leads to absurd result thereby contradicting the Universally Accepted Principle.
All western religions especially of Semitic origin like; Christianity, Judaism and Islam believe in Creation that is they believe in dualism. Therefore, there are countless contradictions in their religions and philosophy for example; they believe in the existence of Satan (Devil) which directly contradicts the omnipresence of God because there must be no God at least in Satan; had there been God in Satan then there would not have been a Satan at all. Whereas, the tribal communities of North-East and the Hindus of the plains especially the Advaita Vedantists believe in Manifestation that is they believe in monism hence no contradiction in the oriental religions and philosophy because if everything is the manifestation of God then God must be present in everything; just as water is found throughout the ice. Therefore, the Hindus and the tribal people of the North-East do not believe in the existence of Satan or Ghost. Since the tribal people of the North-East and the Hindus have same belief, it would not be wrong to treat the Indigenous people of the North-East as Hindu or belonging to the Sanatan Dharma.
Before any attempt is made to trace the link of the North-East with Bharat with regards to past civilisations, we should be very clear about what civilisation actually means. If it means modernity in terms of physical development or scientific advancement, to be very true, I don’t think there had been any civilisation in the North-East but if it means the advancement or evolution in human thought process or unfolding of human true nature; I would say, the people of the North-East are no less advanced than any other race. Unlike present, in the past the tribal people of the North-East always lived with a high sense of dignity and pride. In fact, they are brave yet very innocent, simple, straight-forward, honest people on the earth. They are the most God fearing people who especially in the past never felt the need of locking their doors because the word like ‘theft’ or ‘steal’ etc. were never found in their dictionary but now they are little bit degrading due to the influence of outside cultures. Therefore, in order to make a retreat to the original state, many reformation movements like Rangfraa Faith Promotion Society (RFPS), Donyi-Polo Yelam Kebang (DPYK), Zeliangrong Heraka, Seng Khasi, among others have been launched in various parts of North-East.
Like the Hindus of the mainland, the people of the North-East also believe that God is one which is worshipped by the entire humanity in different names and forms. Therefore, we all being the children of the same heavenly Father, irrespective of our nationality, caste, creed, race and religion, belong to the same family. This had been said long ago in Samskrit ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which means the entire world belongs to one single family. We the people of the North-East believe that every religion is a gift of the same God; therefore, we respect all religions. We believe unity in diversity and not in uniformity. Unlike the West, we believe in co-existence and mutual respect but not in exclusive survival or survival of the fittest. The theory ‘Survival of the fittest’ is not applicable to human society. Rather, to live for the poor and weak is the true dharma according to us. The race that applies this theory on human society is the most degraded race on the earth. Therefore, by civilisation if we mean the superiority of thought, we are no less civilised than any other race on the earth.
So far as historical oneness is concerned; North-East has been an integral part of Bharat since the time of Mahabharata war. Malinithan is one of the evidences that link up the history of the North-East with Bharat. According to the local legend associated with the place; Lord Krishna and Rukmini, the daughter of Bhismaka, the Vassal King of Magadha, fell in love with each other but Rukmini's eldest brother named ‘Rukmi’ was against the marriage of his sister with Lord Krishna. He was willing to give his sister to his friend Shishupala, the crown prince of Chedi. Therefore, Lord Krishna came to Vidarbha and eloped Rukmini on the eve of her marriage with Shishupala. After elopement, they are said to have been welcomed by Parvati at Malinithan near Likhabali in Arunachal Pradesh. Thus this place was named ‘Malinithaan’ after Malini or Parvati, the Goddess of wealth.
Similarly, Brahma Kund or Parashuram Kund is another evidence to prove that North-East is an integral part of Bharat. According to the Hindu mythology, Parashuram was the sixth avatar of Vishnu. He was the son of Renuka, a kshatriya mother and the Saptarishi Jamadagni, a Brahmin father. Parashuram was an immortal soul who actually belonged to Treta Yuga but he witnessed the Mahabharata war also that took place in the end of Dwapar Yuga. He received a blessed Parashu (axe) after undertaking penance for thousands of years to please Mahadeva, who in turn taught him the martial arts, hence the name Parashuram. As recorded in the Kalika Purana, once the mother of Parashuram was charged by his father of adultery who then ordered Parashuram to kill his mother and accordingly he carried out the order of his father. The great sage Parashuram is said to have washed away the sin of killing his mother in the water of Brahma Kund located near Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh.
Therefore, we can easily conclude that North-East and its people are not different from the rest of the country but very much a part and parcel of it from ages.
(The writer is Secretary General of the Rangfraa Faith Promotion Society (RFPS) in Arunachal Pradesh)