> Development > Traditional knowledge  
Jayanta Kumar Sarma
Date of Publish: 2018-05-09

Reducing carbon footprint: The Monpas have been doing it for ages by preserving traditional water-powered grinding technology Chuskur


Countries and communities across the globe are struggling to innovate technology that can reduce carbon footprint and increase handprint to address global climate change challenges. The Monpas of Arunachal Pradesh have been passing down, from one generation to the next, their traditional technology of ‘Chuskur’- a water-powered grinder that has no carbon footprint and carry only the handprint of community knowledge and culturally tuned management approach.


‘Chuskur’ is an indigenous technique of Monpa community of West Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, in which flowing water power is used for grinding millet, buck wheat, maize and barley grains. It is a unique technique where flowing water of stream and rivulet is diverted through a manmade conduit and flown from a height above the water-powered mill so that the water can produce adequate force to run the turbine of the grinding system.

Chuskur Brang in Sagar village

A wooden channel is connected to manmade conduit through which water is flown to main mill part which is called ‘Tse-Zarr’. A wooden regulator called ‘Chn-go’ is there at the mouth of the wooden channel to run the mill. Core components of grinding system consist of wooden tribune called ‘Grow’, attached with wooden propeller called as ‘Olla’ and above this a stone platform called ‘Kartey’ is attached, which is again attached to grinding stone plates called as ‘Chuskur khacut-machut’. When the ‘Chn-go’ is opened, water through ‘Tse-Zarr’ flows in and this flowing water applies force on ‘Grow’ and simultaneously ‘Olla’ starts to rotate, which applies force on ‘Kartey’. As a result of which ‘Chuskur khacut-machut’ rotates grinding the grains.

To control the grain size, a storied wooden block is attached with the ‘Chuskur khacut-machut’. If a bigger size of the wooden block is placed at bottom, the size of flour grain will be bigger and if smaller block is used it will produce fine flour.

Usually a conical wooden container is fitted above the grinding stone plates where grains are kept and gradually from this grain fall for grinding, this component is called as ‘Grom’. Sometime people use conical bag made of Yak skin for the purpose instead of wooden one. Grinded flour falls on a big wooden container which is called as ‘Zongpu’. Entire mill is placed on a two storied building made of mud and stone where floor is made of wood, it is called as ‘Chuskor Brang’.

Chuskur’ is similar to the ‘Rantak’ of Ladakh, ‘Gharat’ in Uttarakhand and Himchal Pradesh. However, in case of Chuskur it is a traditional heritage of the Monpa community where each of the components of the technology has its own name and there is a traditional management practice associated with it. There is a possibility of infusion of this technology through Buddhism. The Buddhist prayer wheel ‘Mani’ is found in different corner of Himalayan region ( including Eastern Himalaya) which is run by flowing water. In case of Monpa community also there are possibilities that their ancestors got an idea of Chuskur from water-powered Mani in different location of Monpa regions.

One of the oldest Manis can be observed in Sagar village of West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh about 28 km off Dirang in south-Western direction. The villagers say that this Mani is more than hundred years old. It is noteworthy that the stream water which run the Mani considered as the sacred by the people of the area.


There is a ‘Chuskur’ in Sagar village, which provide services to not only to Sagar but to the neighbourhood villages like Dirang, Tsokphusia,Mosing, Khurung, Yangdarko etc. The ‘Chuskur’ of Sagar belongs to an individual because the water flows through a ‘Gosa’ (individual land) , earlier it was a ‘Khreisa’( Cultivable land); the owner of Chuskur is called as ‘Chuskor-dekpa’. Whoever uses this Chuskur has to offer an amount of ground flour to dekpa. The operation of Chuskur is known to common people. Usually a group of women from a village comes for grinding of their grain together and they operate the Chuskur. Even though no one from dekpa’s side is always available to monitor the uses everyone uses the Chuskur responsibly and clean it after every use and keep away the share of ground flour for dekpa there itself. Members from dekpa’s family collect flour offer as charge of use of Chuskur according to their convenient time.

However, sometimes it remains there itself for several days but there is no fear of it being damaged or stolen as people consider it as a crime. Moreover, the stream from which water is diverted for running the mill is considered as sacred one and local community never throw any garbage or other waste to this stream. They offer prayer by the stream time to time.

On March 30, 2018, (when this author visited the site) a group of women from Sagar and Dirang village was there in Sagar Chusku and grinding Buck wheat. They said that usually they use to come in group to grind their grain, each time it may require around four to five hours including their travel time from home and back. Rinsing Tsirin of Dirang village said that around eight years back throughout the year adequate water flow was there in the stream and Chuskur was functional all throughout the year, but now, the water level of the stream goes down during three dry winter months during which period they are unable to operate the Chuskur. So, the people have adjusted to it and grind their grains in the months when water is available in the stream.

Jayanta Kumar Sarma

(Jayanta Kumar Sarma is a freelance consultant in the area of Environment and Development and he has been working with NGO, Educational Institutions, private entrepreneurial farm and government agencies of North-east region. He did his Post graduation in Geography from Gauhati University and Post Master in Natural Resource Management from IIFM. He can be reached at jayanta.sarma@gmail.com )

All photographs used in this feature were taken by the author.





From 'Look East' to 'Act East': Whither Northeast?
A few poems of Saratchand Thiyam
The Captive
Reflection of nature inspired motif and design in the traditional textile practices of North East India
A few poems of Kamal Kumar Tanti
Twisted- 26
No man’s land