Situated in Namsai in the Lower Dibang valley of Arunachal Pradesh, the Research Institute of World’s Ancient Traditions Cultures and Heritage (Riwatch) Museum is one of the best museums of Northeast India. This newly built facility is an institute-cum-museum and is a non-profit, non-governmental, community-based research organisation that demonstrates how cultural empowerment of ethnic communities is crucial for sustainable development.
Its mission is to empower ethnic communities to prosper sustainably by strengthening their value system. An initiative which began with the aim to preserve the age-old traditions of tribes of the region today showcases fascinating exhibits related to the lifestyle of the local tribal communities, including the Idu Mishmis.
The museum houses exhibits which have been donated by the local populace. Some of the relics are gifted by His Holiness The Dalai Lama himself. One can also view weapons, relics, archaeological exhibits, sculptures, stone jewellery, old pictures among others. Of special note are the 200-year-old earthen cooking pot and an 80-year-old stone utensil. Also on display is a small family heirloom and tribal attire.
With Assam coming up with more museums to highlight the culture and practices of various indigenous communities, the recent visit of the State Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma to this museum bears significance.
“Delighted to get a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of various tribes of Arunachal Pradesh during my visit to Riwatch Museum at Khinjili. What’s unique about Riwatch Museum is that articles on display here have been contributed by the respective communities free of cost,” he tweeted.
Riwatch was born as a project of the International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS USA) and was founded in November, 2009. Since then, the facility has gone on to add:
- Ethnographic Museum of Northeast India
- Independent Research cottages to accommodate about 20 scholars at a time
- Model Medicinal Plants garden of 80 varieties of herbs
- Documentation Centre, with state-of-the-art Audio Visual documentation facilities, which is under construction.
- Conference Hall, facilitation for Home-stay with indigenous communities, etc.
Further, Riwatch has been recognised by United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) as a Regional Center of Education in Sustainable Development. It also has study abroad programmes with University of South Florida, every alternative year since 2014. Moreover, it is an affiliate unit of International Center for Cultural Studies, United States.
What makes Riwatch special in the world is its unique approach in bringing ethnic knowledge into academic forefront. This has provided open access for all scholars to interact with ethnic communities in their living environment. To be more precise, Riwatch’s approach has made access easy to the “living laboratory of rich culture”.