Heirloom Blue-Glass Melon Beads of the Tani Tribes, Northeast India
The Tani tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in India's remote northeast wear various heirloom necklaces including those composed of highly distinctive melon-shaped beads of wound turquoise-blue glass. These are unique to central Arunachal and were already of considerable age and very highly prized in the early 19th century. The Tanis believe their beads were made by a mythical ancestor in Tibet, but their bubbly opaque blue glass and wound method of production suggest a Chinese origin. The beads have local names which appear to link them to Tsari, one of Tibet's most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For centuries, the hostile animist Tanis were bought off by the Tibetan government with ornaments and other gifts in return for not robbing the Tsari pilgrims. This article seeks to determine if the Tani melon beads were part of this Tsari "barbarian tribute," as well as where and when they were made, and why they were traded into this region of Northeast India and not elsewhere.
The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.
Cole, Barbie Campbell
"Heirloom Blue-Glass Melon Beads of the Tani Tribes, Northeast India."
BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers
24: 7-25. Available at:
Back issues of the journal not presently available on this site are available for purchase.
Visit the Society of Bead Researchers for details.