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Garo
A•chik Mande
A•chik
GARO TRADITIONAL DRESS-9.jpg
A Garo couple in traditional dress
Total population
1.1 million (c. 2011)
Regions with significant populations
India • Bangladesh
 India997,716[1]
 • Meghalaya821,026
 • Assam136,077
 • Tripura12,952
 Bangladesh120,000[2]
Languages
Garo (A•chikku)
Religion
Christianity 90%, Sangsarek 10%[3]
Related ethnic groups
Bodo-Kachari peoples, Khasi people
Garo women and a Garo boy
Garo women and a Garo boy

The Garo is a Tibeto-Burman ethnic tribal group from the Indian subcontinent, living mostly in the Indian states of Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland, and in neighbouring areas of Bangladesh, including Madhupur, Mymensingh, Haluaghat, Dhobaura, Durgapur, Kolmakanda, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Jhinaigati, Nalitabari, Gazini Hills Madhyanagar, Bakshiganj and Sribardi. Historically, the name Garo was used for wide range of inhabitants in southern bank of Brahmaputra but now refers 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.[4] They are the second-largest tribe in Meghalaya after the Khasi and comprise about a third of the local population.

Religion

Many of the Garo community follow Christianity,[5] with some rural pockets practising traditional animist religion known as Songsarek. It is argued that the indigenous groups who settled in the Garo Hills brought their ancient animistic religious beliefs and practices, with deities who must be appeased with rituals, ceremonies and animal sacrifices to ensure the welfare of the tribe.[6]

Rev Ramke W. Momin was the first devout Christian from among the Garo. Rev Ramke W. Momin was born in Goalpara, Assam, India, sometime in the 1820s.

Sangsarek

The religion of the ancestors of the Garo is Songsarek. Their tradition "Dakbewal" relates to their most prominent cultural activities. 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 traditional house of Garo tribes

The Garo are mainly distributed over the Garo Hills, Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi Districts in Meghalaya, Kamrup, Goalpara, Sivasagar, Karbi Anglong districts of Assam, Khasi Hills in Meghalaya and Dimapur (Nagaland State), lesser numbers (about 200,000) are found in Mymensingh (Jamalpur, Sherpur, Netrakona, Mymensingh) and capital Dhaka, Sylhet, and Moulovibazar districts of Bangladesh.

It is estimated that total Garo population in Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, West Bengal, Canada, USA, Europe, Australia and Bangladesh together is more than 1 million.[7]

Garo are also found scattered in the Indian state of Tripura. The recorded Garo population was around 6,000 in 1971.[8]

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 that do not speak the ethnic language any longer.[citation needed]

Garo form small communities in different parts of the world including Canada, America, Australia, England.[citation needed]

Language

Main article: Garo language

The Garo language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. The language was not traditionally written down; customs, traditions, and beliefs were handed down orally.

Brief lists of Garo words were compiled by East India Company officials in 1800, and Garo acquired a Latin-based spelling system during the late 19th century, devised by American Baptist missionaries and based on a northeastern dialect of Garo. The first translation of the Garo Bible was published in 1924. The modern official language in schools and government offices is English.

Historical accounts

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

According to one 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 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 brutality of the people.

The earliest written records about the Garo date from around 1800, and were written by officials of the East India Company. They "...were 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".[9]

In December 1872, the British Raj dispatched a military expedition to 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. They were defeated in the engagement, as the Garo did not have guns or mortars like the British Indian Army.[citation needed] By the early 1900s, the American Baptist Mission was active in the area, working from Tura, Meghalaya.[10]

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).

Culture

The Garo are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. The individuals take their clan titles from their mothers. Traditionally, the youngest daughter (nokmechik) inherits the 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 habitations, the house where unmarried male youth or bachelors live is called Nokpante. The women were forbidden from entering the Nokpante. Any woman who broke this rule was considered tainted or "marang nangjok." But this is not as common now.

Garo is a matrilineal society but is not to be mistaken to be matriarchal. While the property is owned by women, the men govern the society and domestic affairs and manage the property.

The Garo people have traditional names.[11] However, the culture of the modern Garo community has been greatly influenced by Christianity.[citation needed]

A Garo woman with traditional ornaments
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 faraway villages of Garo hills wear an eking, a small cloth worn around the waist.

Clothing: The traditional dress of the Garo Women's is Dakmanda, Dakshari. In keeping with the modern age, Garo women wear jeans, Sari, T-shirts, pajamas. Garo men wear jeans, T-shirts, shirts.

Weapons: Garo have their own weapons. One of the principal weapons is a two-edged sword called mil·am made of one 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. The other types of weapons are shield, spear, bow and arrow, axe, dagger, etc.

Food and drink: The staple cereal food is rice. They also eat millet, maize, tapioca etc. Garo are very liberal in their food habits. They rear cows, goats, pigs, fowls, ducks etc. and relish their meat. They eat other wild animal like deer, bison, wild pigs etc. Fish, prawns, crabs, eels and dry fish are a part of their food. Their jhum fields and the forests provide them with vegetables and roots for their curry. Bamboo shoots are esteemed as a delicacy. They use a kind of potash in curries, which they obtain by burning dry pieces of plantain stems or young bamboo locally known as kalchi or katchi. After they are burnt, the ashes are collected and dipped in water; they are strained in conical shapes in a bamboo strainer. These days most of the townspeople use cooking soda from the market in place of ash water. The Garo make their own liquor by fermenting a special type of rice and the finished product is called "Minil Bichi". Besides other drinks, country liquor plays an important role in the life of the Garo.

Garo architecture

Generally one finds similar types of arts and architecture in Garo Hills. They normally use locally available building materials like timber, bamboo, cane, and thatch. Garo architecture can be classified into the following categories:

Festivals

Young Garo girls in traditional dress before the start of a festival in Resubelpara in 2016
Young Garo girls in traditional dress before the start of a festival in Resubelpara in 2016
Wangala
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
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

The common and regular festivals are those connected with agricultural operations.

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.

Asanang Wangala

There is a celebration of the 100-drum festival in Asanang near Tura in 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 flute. The nomils with colorful costumes dance to the tune of dama and folk songs in a circle.

Dhaka Wangala

Garo in Dhaka celebrates wangala festival every year in November-December. There are 30,000 Garo in Dhaka Metropolitan city who are preserving the Garo Culture and tradition. In the Wangala day Garo arrive from every corner of the city in Lalmatia Housing Society ground to celebrate the festival. A total number of ten thousand people attend the celebration. Colorful rally with traditional dress, musical drums are played. The speeches from the guests are also one of the attraction for the people. The AMUA for Misi Saljon is take place by the original Kamal from village. The display stalls are arrange with traditional food, dresses, and other materials. There is also Souvenir publication from the Nokma Parishad where Prime Minister's Message is included. The Walgala festival in Dhaka bring special day for the Garo in Dhaka city.

Christmas

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.

Simsang 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, 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.[12]

Professions

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The Garo rely on nature. Their profession is 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

Indians

Bangladeshi

References

Notes

  1. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". censusindia.gov.in. 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. ^ Official Homepage of Meghalaya State of India Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "People of Meghalaya". Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  6. ^ Paulinus R. Marak: The Garo tribal religion: beliefs and practices (Delhi: Anshah Pub. House, 2005) ISBN 8183640028
  7. ^ '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.
  8. ^ Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. Tripura: The Land and its People. (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10
  9. ^ Playfair 76-77.
  10. ^ Playfair vi.
  11. ^ An academic study about personal names in Garo villages
  12. ^ Culture section in the official Garo Hills area Archived 2 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine

Bibliography