Sherdukpen in India






Largest Religion

Main Language



Approximately 3,000 Sherdukpen people inhabit the Bomdila Subdivision of the West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh in north-east India. The three main villages are Rupa, Shergaon and Jigaon. The 1971 census figure returned 1,635 Sherdukpen. This increased to 2,096 by the 1981 census and to 2,952 in 1991. A small number of Sherdukpen have moved down to the Assam plains.

The Sherdukpen language is part of the Kanauri branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. There are dialect differences between the Sherdukpen spoken in different villages. The dialect spoken by the inhabitants of Rupa village is called Thungjee Ngnok, while the other main dialect is called Sanjee Ngook. The Sherdukpen culture and language are strange in that they are quite distinct from the other Tibeto-Burman varieties in Arunachal Pradesh. This suggests that this group migrated into the area from far away.


The Sherdukpen's oral history says that 'they originated from the marriage of a Tibetan prince with a princess of Assam, possibly of Kachari origin' Some scholars have thought that the Sherdukpen and some of the Monpa living in the Kameng District originated in eastern Bhutan because of the many cultural similarities that these groups share. Today, visitors to the region can easily identify the Sherdukpen because their dress is totally different from that of other peoples. The men's dress consists of a shawl, waist belt, jacket and a cap made of yak's hair. The Sherdukpen women wear a white cotton or silk gown called a sinka.

Buddhism first came to the Sherdukpen in the mid-1700s. The strength of Buddhist belief among this group can be seen from figures returned in the 1981 census, when 2,087 out of the 2,096 Sherdukpen people declared themselves Buddhists. The remaining nine individuals included a few who said they were Hindus, and some who filled their form out incorrectly!


The Buddhist lamas, known as chize, double as shaman priests among the Sherdukpen. They perform weddings and funerals and act as mediators between the spirit world and the community. Before a wedding can take place, a suitable bride price must be negotiated between the families of the bride and groom. The groom's family must come up with an acceptable form of payment to compensate the bride's family for all the years of expense and effort they spent in raising the girl. Traditionally, the bride price is 'two sheep, two yaks and a piece of endi cloth [a shawl]. The most common form of marriage is a negotiated arranged one. The parents of both the boy and the girl arrange the marriage. The girl is ritually eloped by the boy's parents and their relatives. These days love marriages are increasing in number.' After the bride price has been settled, a Buddhist lama is called in to consult the horoscopes to determine the best time and day for the wedding to take place.


For countless centuries the Sherdukpen people, few in number yet unique, lived and died without any knowledge of the gospel. The 1991 census returned just 13 Sherdukpen people who declared themselves as Christians.

Profile Source:   Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  

Expanded PDF Profile

People Name General Sherdukpen
People Name in Country Sherdukpen
Population in India 4,500
World Population 4,700
Countries 2
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Jioaonpu, Ngnok, Sainji, Sajee, Thungjee
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Tibetan
People Name General Sherdukpen
Ethnic Code MSY50r
People ID 18087
Country India
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country They inhabit the Bomdila Subdivision of the West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh. The three main villages are Rupa, Shergaon and Jigaon..   Source:  Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004
Total States on file:  2  (up to 20 largest shown)
Arunachal Pradesh (4,500) Assam (60)
Total States on file:  2  (up to 20 largest shown)
Arunachal Pradesh (4,500) Assam (60)

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Enthologue Language Map

Ethnolinguistic map from University of Texas or other map

Languages & Dialects on file:  10  (up to 20 largest shown)
Sherdukpen (3,900) Hindi (300) Tibetan, Central (300) Nyishi (40)
Assamese (30) Monpa, Tawang (20) Nepali Naga, Wancho
Garo Adi
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Sherdukpen 3,900 Hindi 300
Tibetan, Central 300 Nyishi 40
Assamese 30 Monpa, Tawang 20
Nepali 10 Naga, Wancho 0
Garo 0 Adi 0

For Main Lanugage: Sherdukpen

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions No
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Buddhism

Major Religion Percent
93.35 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.46 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
5.88 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.02 %
0.29 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Profile Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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