The women whose looks are spoiled for their own protection: Indian tribe forces females to wear nose plugs to stop rivals from kidnapping them
- Apatani Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, India, used to force young women to have their noses pierced
- The nose plugs and black face tattoos were designed to make the female members of the tribe unattractive
- Apatani women were known for their beauty and would often be kidnapped by rival neighbouring tribes
- The practice was outlawed in 1970s and tradition died with lack of threat of kidnapping and the modern age
These fascinating photos show the last living female members of an Indian tribe who were forced to have their noses plugged and faces tattooed to ruin their looks and stop other tribes from kidnapping them.
The Apatanis, or the Tanis as they call themselves, trace their origin as being a migratory tribe in the Apatani Plateau in Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, India.
Known for their agricultural skills and a tradition not to keep written records, the group’s oral accounts have been converted into folk tales over the years, and passed on from one generation to the other.
Last of a dying breed: An elderly Apatani woman with nose plugs and face tattoos is seen in her home in India
The Apatani tribe would force young women to tattoo their faces and put disfiguring plugs in their noses to ruin their looks and stop other tribes from kidnapping them
Outdated: The practice has since died out due to a government ban, a lack of threat of kidnapping and the coming of the modern age
According to Apatani folklore, their women were known in the region for their beauty and so the tribe was often invaded by neighbouring groups who would kidnap them, never to return.
In a desperate attempt to protect them, the tribe’s elders allegedly ordered that all women, young and old, should have their faces tattooed and their noses plugged to ruin their looks.
While the threat of kidnapping disappeared over the centuries, the tradition of nose piercings and face tattoos remained.
It became a rite of passage for a young girl once she had her first period and, in the Apatani’s view, therefore entered womanhood.
The Apatani religion is called Donyi-Polo, where they pray to the Sun (Donyi) and the Moon (Polo)
A new generation: A group of young boys are pictured in an Apatani village in Arunachal Pradesh, India,
Remaining: While some women who once had plugs have had them removed, pictured, the traditional tattoos are permanent
Prepared to work: An elderly Apatani man is seen sharpening an axe outside his home in a village
Doing it old school: The Apatani people use traditional, handmade agricultural tools, to harvest rice fields and fish
The remote location had enabled the tribe to continue their tradition and practice their religion, known as Donyi-Polo, where they pray to the Sun (Donyi) and the Moon (Polo), in peace for centuries.
The Indian government reportedly banned the tradition of nose plugging in the 1970s, and while it does not appear to have been a strict enforcement, it helped killed the practice.
Other contributing factors were the obvious lack of threat of kidnapping from rival tribes, and a younger generation wanting to leave the settlements to look for work in nearby communities and towns, where the disfiguring plugs could hamper opportunities.