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A•chik Mande
A Garo couple in traditional dress
Total population
1.1 million (c. 2011)
Regions with significant populations
India • Bangladesh
 • Meghalaya821,026
 • Assam136,077
 • Tripura12,952
Garo (A•chikku)
Christianity 90%, Songsarek 10%[3]
Related ethnic groups
Bodo-Kachari peoples, Konyak
Garo women and a Garo boy

The Garo people are a Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group who live mostly in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya with a smaller number in the neighbouring Bangladesh.[4][5] Historically, the name Garo was used for a large number of different peoples living on the southern bank of Brahmaputra river, but now refers primarily to those who call themselves A•chik Mande (literally "hill people," from A•chik "bite soil" + mande "people") or simply A•chik or Mande and the name "Garo" is now being used by outsiders as an exonym.[6] They are the second-largest tribe in Meghalaya after the Khasi and comprise about a third of the local population.

Garo Hills / A.chik A.Song

In addition to the Garo Hills population of the community in Meghalaya, there is also a significant number in the Khasi Hills, and a smaller group in Assam and other neighbouring states.

A majority of Garo village or locality names end with -gre. For example, Dakopgre, Cherangre, Goeragre, Simsanggre, etc. There are also names with the ending -para, eg. Salmanpara, Asipara, Marakapara etc. Para is a corruption of -bra, which was the result of a census error. Similarly, the village name Asipara is a corruption of the histrorical place name Asbira. However, the village is listed in census and government records under the name Asipara. This replacement of original names can be seen as a threat to Garo cultural identity.


Today, most Garos in India follow Christianity[7] with a few practising the traditional animist religion, Songsarek. The latter includes deities who must be appeased with rituals, ceremonies and animal sacrifices to ensure the welfare of the tribe.[8]

Ramke W. Momin was the first Christian Garo member, and was born in Goalpara district in the 1830s.

In Bangladesh, 56.02% of Garos consider themselves practitioners of Christianity, while 40.07% are Hindu and the remaining 3.71% are practitioners of Songsarek[9]


The religion of the ancestors of the Garo is Songsarek. The term "Dakbewal" is often used to describe Garo culture[citation needed] In 2000, the group called "Risi Jilma" was founded to safeguard the ancient Garo Songsarek religion. Seeing the Songsarek population in decline, youth from the Dadenggiri subdivision of Garo Hills felt the need to preserve the Songsarek culture. The Rishi Jilma group is active in about 480 villages in and around Garo Hills.

Geographical distribution

The traditional house of Garo tribes

The Garo are mainly distributed over the Garo Hills, Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi districts in Meghalaya, Kamrup, Goalpara, Sivasagar, and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam, in India. In Bangladesh, lesser numbers are found in Tangail, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Sylhet and Gazipur with the highest concentration in Haluaghat Upazila and Dhobaura of Mymensingh district, Durgapur upazila and Kalmakanda upazila of Netrokona district, Nalitabari upazila and Jhenaigati upazila of Sherpur and Madhupur upazila of Tangail district.[10]

It is estimated that the total Garo population in Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, West Bengal, Canada, US, Europe, Australia and Bangladesh combined is in excess of 1 million.[11]

Garo are also found scattered in the Indian state of Tripura. The recorded Garo population was around 6,000 in 1971.[12]

Garo form minority groups in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and West Dinajpur of West Bengal, as well as in Nagaland. The present generation of Garo forming minority groups in these states of India do not generally speak their ethnic language any longer.[citation needed]

Garo also form small communities in various other parts of the world including Canada, America, Australia, and the United Kingdom .[citation needed]


Main article: Garo language

Garo man singing a folk song in Garo language at Ramgarh, Khagrachori

The Garo language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. Brief lists of Garo words were compiled by East India Company officials in 1800, and Garo acquired a Latin-based writing system in the late 19th century. This system was devised by American Baptist missionaries, based on a northeastern dialect of Garo[citation needed]. The first translation of the Garo Bible was published in 1924 and the official language in schools and government offices is now English[citation needed].

Historical accounts

A Garo woman, 1912
Garo boy in traditional dress
Garo girl in traditional dress

According to oral tradition, the Garo first migrated to the Garo Hills from Tibet (referred to as Tibotgre) around 400 BC under the leadership of Jappa Jalimpa, crossing the Brahmaputra River (Songdu Chibima) and tentatively settling in the river valley. The Garo finally settled down in Garo Hills (East-West Garo Hills), finding providence and security in this uncharted territory and claiming it as their own. Records of the tribe by expanding Mughal armies and by East India Company officials in what is now Bangladesh wrote of the warlike nature of the people.

The earliest written records about the Garo date from around 1800, and were described by officials of the East India Company as follows: "... looked upon as bloodthirsty savages, who inhabited a tract of hills covered with almost impenetrable jungle, the climate of which was considered so deadly as to make it impossible for a white man to live there".[13]

In December 1872, the British Raj dispatched a military expedition to the Garo Hills to establish control over the region. The campaign was conducted from three sides – south, east, and west. The Garo warriors (matgriks) confronted them at the Battle of Rongrenggre, equipped with spears, swords, and shields. Inevitably, the Garo were defeated in the battle, lacking the guns or mortars of the British Indian Army.[citation needed]

By the early 1900s, the American Baptist Mission was active in the area, working from Tura, Meghalaya.[14]

Two early histories of the Garo people were written by deputy commissioner for Eastern Bengal and Assam Major A. Playfair, The Garos (1909), and by Sinha T.C., The Psyche of Garos (1955).


The Garo are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world, and Garo individuals take their clan titles from their mothers. Traditionally, the youngest daughter (nokmechik) inherits property from her mother. Sons leave their parents' house at puberty and are trained in the village bachelor dormitory (nokpante). After getting married, the man lives in his wife's house.

In Garo tradition, the house where unmarried male youths live is called Nokpante. Traditionally, women were forbidden from entering the Nokpante, and any woman who broke this rule was considered tainted or "marang nangjok." However, this taboo is less common in the present day[citation needed].

Despite the matrileneal nature of Garo society, it can not accurately be described as matriarchal. While property is owned by women, the governing of society and domestic affairs and the management of property is carried out by men.[citation needed]

While Garo people have traditional names, [15] modern Garo culture has been greatly influenced by Christianity.[citation needed]

A Garo woman with traditional ornaments

Ornaments: Both men and women enjoy adorning themselves with ornaments:

The dresses of Meghalaya worn by the Garo tribe vary depending on the basis of the place of residence of the people. Women who belong to remote villages in the Garo hills wear an eking, a small cloth worn around the waist.

Clothing: The traditional dress of Garo Women is Dakmanda, Dakshari. But in the present day, jeans, Sari, T-shirts, pajamas are also worn. By contrast, Garo men wear jeans, T-shirts and shirts.

Weapons: Garo have their own weapons. One of the principal weapons is a two-edged sword called mil·am made of a single piece of iron from hilt to point. There is a cross-bar between the hilt and the blade where a bunch of ox's tail-hair is attached. Other types of weapons include shield, spear, bow and arrow, axe, dagger, etc.

Food and drink: The staple Garo food is rice. Kochu (taro), millet, maize, and tapioca are important substitutes for rice in times when it becomes scarce.[16] Other foods such as kochu, dried fish, bamboo shoots, sorrell, sweet potato, pumpkin, gourd, and banana are also popular.[17] Although meat is eaten less often, the flesh of wild animals, beef , pork, chicken, and fish and other aquatic fauna are also consumed occasionally.[18]

The Garo have traditionally used a kind of potash in curries, which is obtained by burning dry pieces of plantain stems or young bamboo, known locally as kalchi or katchi. After these stems are burnt, the ashes are collected and dipped in water; these ashes are then strained in conical shapes in a bamboo strainer. However, cooking soda is more commonly used as a replacement for this 'ash water' by Garo nowadays.

Garo are known to ferment a special type of rice to create a liquor named "Minil Bichi". This 'country liquor' plays an important role in the life of the Garo[citation needed].

Chu: The Holy wine of Garo society: The sacred drink of the Garos is Chu. Garo children are given it to drink at birth, and visiting guests are traditionally offered it as well.[19]


Young Garo girls in traditional dress before the start of a festival in Resubelpara in 2016
A 'Wangala' drummer of Garo Tribe of Meghalaya at the Republic Day Folk Dance Festival 2004 which was inaugurated by the President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam in New Delhi on January 24, 2004

Most Garo festivals are based on the agricultural cycle of crops. The harvesting festival Wangala is the biggest celebration of the tribe happening in the month of October or November every year. It is the thanksgiving after harvest in the honor of the god Saljong, provider of nature's bounties.

Other festivals include Gal·mak Goa, Agalmaka, etc.[citation needed]

Asanang Wangala

The '100-drum festival' is held in Asanang near Tura in the West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India usually in October or November. Thousands of people, especially young people, gather at Asanang and celebrate Wangala. Garo girls known as nomil and boys (pante) take part in 'Wangala' festivals. The pantes beat a kind of long drum called dama in groups and play bamboo flutes. The nomils with colorful costumes dance to the tune of dama and folk songs in a circle.

Dhaka Wangala

The Wangala festival is held by Garo in Dhaka every year, usually in November or December. It is estimated that 30,000 Garo are living in Dhaka, and this festival is one way that they can be seen to preserve Garo Culture and traditions[citation needed]. For the Wangala festival, Garo travel from every corner of the city, to the Lalmatia Housing Society ground to gather and celebrate. Approximately 10,000 people attend the celebration.[citation needed] It is a vibrantly colorful rally with traditional dress, and drum performances. Speeches from special guests are also a highlight of the festival. The AMUA for Misi Saljon is take place by the original Kamal from villages. Display stalls are arranged with traditional food, dresses, and other materials. There is also amSouvenir publication from the Nokma Parishad where the Prime Minister's Message is included. It is a festival of great significance for the Garo in Dhaka.


Though Christmas is a religious celebration, December is a great season of celebration in Garo Hills. In the first week of December, the town of Tura and all other smaller towns are illuminated with lights. This celebration featured by worship, dance, merry-making, grand feasts, and social visits goes on till 10 January. People from all religions and sections take part in the Christmas celebration. In December 2003 the tallest Christmas tree of the world was erected at Dobasipara, Tura by the Baptist boys of Dobasipara. Its height was 119.3 feet, covered by BBC and widely broadcast on television. The tree was decorated with 16,319 colored light bulbs; it took about 14 days to complete the decoration.

Ahaia Winter Festival

The annual festival, conceptualised in 2008, is aimed to promote and brand this part of the region as a popular tourist destination by giving an opportunity for the local people to showcase their skills and expertise. The three-day fest features a gala event with carnival, cultural show, food festival, rock concert, wine festival, angling competition, ethnic wear competition, children's fancy dress, DJ Nite, exhibitions, housie housie, and other games. The entry forms for carnival and other events are available at the Tourist Office, Tura.

Samsung Festival

It was first started in 2006 in Williamnagar, Meghalaya. Simsang festival was known as Winter festival before and it promotes the talents of the local people. It also promotes the local bands and the exhibition on hand crafts made by local people. It also promotes the indigenous games of Garo.

Music and dance

Group songs may include Ku·dare sala, Hoa ring·a, Injoka, Kore doka, Ajea, Doroa, Nanggorere goserong, Dim dim chong dading chong, Serejing or Serenjing,[20] Boel sala etc.

Dance forms are Ajema Roa, Mi Su·a, Chambil Moa, Do·kru Sua, Chame mikkang nia, Kambe Toa, Gaewang Roa, Napsepgrika and many others.

Traditional Garo musical instruments can broadly be classified into four groups.[21]

Apart from traditional music and dances, Garos are now excelling in modern music creation. Garo community has popular modern music singers and music producers.


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The Garo relied on nature. Their profession was hunting and warrior known as Matgrik. They practice jhum cultivation which is the most common agricultural tradition. For more than 4,000 years, until modern times, the Garo have been practicing jhum cultivation. Since the middle of the twentieth century, most Garo work in private industry or have government jobs. There is coal mining in the area, as well as the cultivation of bananas and other fruits.

Notable Garo people





  1. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Government of India. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Garo". Ethnologue. SIL International. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Missionary is not a very popular word in India. But in the Khasi hills, it holds a different meaning in their culture". 16 October 2021.
  4. ^ "5 facts you must know about the Garo Tribe of Meghalaya". 4 October 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2023."The Garos are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group in Meghalaya also known as the A·chik Mande (literally hill people) or simply A·chik or Mande."
  5. ^ R. Marak, Silba; Sharma, Dwijen (11 September 2023). "Funeral Rites of the Garos: Unveiling Cultural Assimilation Amidst Christian Influence". Journal of Contemporary Rituals and Traditions. 1 (2): 55–66. doi:10.15575/jcrt.354. ISSN 2988-5884.
  6. ^ Official Homepage of Meghalaya State of India Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "People of Meghalaya". Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  8. ^ Paulinus R. Marak: The Garo tribal religion: beliefs and practices (Delhi: Anshah Pub. House, 2005) ISBN 8183640028
  10. ^ "Garo, The - Banglapedia". Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  11. ^ 'Garo' in: Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2013. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 17th edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International: 889,000 in India (2001 census), 120,000 in Bangladesh (2005). Population total all countries: 1,009,000.
  12. ^ Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. Tripura: The Land and its People. (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10
  13. ^ Playfair 76-77.
  14. ^ Playfair vi.
  15. ^ An academic study about personal names in Garo villages
  16. ^ Marak, Queenbala (2014). Food Politics: Studying Food, Identity and Difference among the Garos. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-1-4438-5710-9.
  17. ^ Marak, Queenbala (2014). Food Politics: Studying Food, Identity and Difference among the Garos. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-4438-5710-9.
  18. ^ Marak, Queenbala (2014). Food Politics: Studying Food, Identity and Difference among the Garos. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4438-5710-9.
  19. ^ "Chu: The Holy wine of Garo society | Travelife".
  20. ^ "SERENJING the story that came up from the hill | Travelife".
  21. ^ Culture section in the official Garo Hills area Archived 2 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Footballer Debinash passes away". The Daily Star. 8 August 2005. Retrieved 20 June 2023.