Bodo Kachari | Mishing(Miri) | Deori | Rabha | Tiwa or Lalung | khamti | Sonowal Kachari | Tai Phake or Phakial | Dimasa Kachari | Karbi | Barmans | Hmar | Kuki | Rengma Naga | Zeme Nagas | Hajong | Garo | Khasi | Jaintia | Mech
Assam is land of many cultures, tribes and religions. Therefore, when we speak of the culture of Assam, we generally refer to a composite and complex phenomenon that includes the cultures of the various tribes that make Assam their home.
(i) The Bodo Kachari Tribes
The Bodo Kacharies of Assam is a branch of great Bodo Group of Indo-Mongoloid family. It is believed that the origin of the Kachari was Tibet and China.
|The Bodos are basically an agrarian people; still using traditional means to irrigate their land. Their chief produce is classified into the ‘Ahu' and the ‘Sali' crops. Bodo villages are situated in the plains of the valleys of Assam, and hence they are categorized into what is known as the ‘Plains tribe'. The Bodo people are expert in bamboo and cane craft; hence one would usually come across houses fashioned out of bamboo and wood in places where they live in majority. With the changing times, the Bodos have taken in large numbers to the services, business and other non-agricultural modes of livelihood.|
Usually, the Bodo family structure is patriarchal, with the father as the head of the family. The family property usually passes to the male members of the family. The village priest looks after the proceedings of the several rituals that mark their social and religious calendars. The priest, the douri (assistant of priest), and the heads of the families are the revered persons of the family, and are the decision-makers. The most important community institution of Bodos is the village. The village council's decision in all matters is accepted by the people.
Some of the people of the Bodo community are Christians, while a large chunk follows the precepts of Hinduism. Among the Hindus, a few follow the ‘Brahma Dharma' while others follow the ‘Vaishnava Path'. The ancient tribal Bodo religious faith rests on ‘Bathou' which has, since the process of Brahmanization, become analogous to ‘Shiva' of the Hindus. The ‘Sizu' plant, which is known for longevity is planted in front of the Bodo courtyard and worshipped.
The Bodo people, akin to most tribal peoples, are a festival loving people. The three main categories of festivals are ‘seasonal', ‘religious', ritualistic and ceremonial'. The seasonal festivals are (i) Baisagu, (ii) Domashi, and (iii) Katrigacha. These three festivals are parallel to the Bihu. Among the religious festivals of the Bodos, the ‘Kherai' is the most famous; usually understood to be the ‘national festival' of the Bodos.
The festival begins with various dances, songs, and music. The
‘Bagrumba' is the most attractive group dance of the Bodos.
Among other religious festivals of the Bodos, we have the ‘Siba', the ‘Sibrai Langamara Puja', the ‘Apeswari Puja', the ‘Haul Kheta' and others.
The Bodos are known to be exogamous, and cannot marry within the clan. The marriage of traditional Bodo society is different from the Hinduised Brahma society. In the traditional society, the groom does not go to the bride's house, but a small group of relatives go to fetch the bride. After the ceremonial rituals of the marriage, the bridal party is offered a banquet with local delicacies, especially with pork. But in the non traditional (Bodo) marriage, a ceremony takes place at the bride's residence and ‘Hom sacrifice' is done according to Vedic rituals.
In the birth ceremony the family makes an offering to the household deities by sacrificing a cock and a hen. It is also customary to entertain the midwives in a feast who attend the mother during her confinement.
The Bodos are believed to have practiced both burial and cremation in the old days. But in contemporary Bodo (Hindu) society, only cremation is practiced, as per Hindu norm. After ten days, the ‘Daha' ceremony is performed and this is followed by the ‘Shraddh' on the 12th or 13th day. It is interesting to note that widows usually remarried in early Bodo societies, and this practice continues.
Till the mid-nineteenth century, the Bodo Literature was composed of oral like folk songs, ballads, proverbs etc. The pioneering works of Promod Brahma, Ishan Mushahari, and some more will be always remembered in this regard. Subsequently ‘ Bodo Sahitya Sabha' was formed in 1952. Bodo literature is mostly indigenous.
The Bodo language is currently an associate language in Assam. It has also been introduced as the medium of instruction in the school and colleges, especially in the Bodo dominated area. The script that they follow is the Devnagari.
(ii) The Mishing Tribe:
The Miris, also known as Mishings, are the second largest schedule tribe of Assam. Mostly they are based on riverine areas like Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat and Sonitpur.
The Mishing family is generally a joint family. The eldest member of the family is highly respected. Inheritance in the family is a patrilineal one, and the social structure - patriarchal. After the father's death, the property is equally divided among the sons. Daughters have no right over the property. Basically they are peace loving and fun loving. There is no caste system or ideas of slavery in the Mishing society.
Rice is the staple food of the Mishing people. Pork and fouls are popular meat. They cultivate their own vegetables and produce dried fish known as ‘ngo san' that can be stored. Fishing and hunting were at earlier times, the favoured sports, but they have now virtually disappeared due to various environmental concerns. As per tradition, however, they practice group fishing in winter and group hunting in summer. The Mishing women prepare a home-made rice wine called the ‘Apong' that is savored by the entire community.
The Mishing women are expert weavers. They produce all the cloth necessary for the family. The women wear the ‘sampan' around the waist; the married women wear an additional piece of cloth around the hip.
On the upper body, they wear the ‘Galuk'; and adorn their heads with the ‘hura'. Among other garments, the ‘Yamboo' are the ‘riwi gachang' are notable for the women; the ‘mibu goluk', the ‘tongali', and the ‘gonroo' are used by the menfolk.
|Marriages of the Mishing society could be formal or informal. In the expensive formal marriage, the groom's party takes the initiative. In the beginning, the groom has to spend five days in the bride's house. After the marriage is fixed, the groom's parents come to the bride's house with ‘apong' (rice wine), a pig and fish. On the fixed date, the groom goes to the bride's family and spends the night there. The marriage ceremony takes place on next day. In the usual tribal format, the ‘Alig' or the bride price is paid to the bride's family. ‘Informal' marriages may be conducted through|
elopement or kidnapping – this is usually practiced by the poor people. After the elopement, both families meet at the groom's house and settle the matter.
The Mishing community buries their dead ones. For every village there is a common burial place. The dead are placed inside log coffins known as the ‘rung kung' and the last rites are performed. The purification rituals are similar to the Hindu system.
The Mishings observe many festivals throughout the year. Religious prayers like ‘chedi melo', ‘doyi polo' are prayers for the all round development of the society. In the seasonal festivals, various pujas are performed with sacrifices of pigs and apong.
‘Porag' is the social festival observed by the villagers after harvesting the ‘Ahu' rice. Neighboring villagers are invited for celebrations that go on through the night, with a lot of singing and dancing. A great feast is arranged on the event. The ‘Amrok' is the festival observed when food from the harvested crop is offered. A large quantity of pork meat and chicken is also offered along with apong, and the ‘Paskso-Monam' dances are performed by the youth. The ‘Ali-Ai-Ligang' is the most well-known and widely observed festival of the Mishings. It is the festival of sowing seeds, and is celebrated on the first Wednesday in the month of ‘Ligang lange'. The most important feature of the festival is the traditional dancing and singing with Dhol or drum, Pempa, Siphung, and Gagana. This community festival is celebrated for a full five days.
The Mishings have their own language, but no script: hence they use the Assamese language when the written form is required.
(iii) The Deori Tribes:
The Deoris are one of the four divisions of Chutiyas and they represent the ‘priestly' section of the whole Chutiya community. They have a unique cultural and traditional heritage that is nowadays recognized to be something of a hidden treasure for sociologists. The Deoris are nowadays settled mostly in Sivsagar and Jorhat districts.
Deoris are riverine tribes and they are pile of dwellers. All houses are made in similar pattern which are constructed facing the river. One such house can accommodate more than 40 people.
Deories are a mongoloids people, with very strong religious character, and are known to be a brave, tradition-loving and cultured people with deep agricultural roots. Their traditional homes were made out of bamboo and wood upon elevated platforms. These houses are known as ‘Chang-ghar'. The ‘Misso' is the front part used as portico. In the first room of the house there would be a fire place where ordinary cooking could be carried out throughout the day. Every home would include a separate room for guests and relatives. All the people of this community share deep bonds and live with mutual co-operation and harmony.
The Deoris are a hard-working people, and agriculture is the main source of their livelihood. They have for long been engaged in growing various crops such as paddy, wheat, beans etc. Although in modern times the power-tiller and the tractor are not .
uncommon, it is the plough that is synonymous with their identity as farmers. The Deoris have enough fertile land for cultivation and they usually have a handsome crop. They dispose of the excessive produce in exchange for money. The Deoris also domesticate animals like pigs, hens, ducks, cows, and buffaloes.
|Like all the tribal communities of this region, rice is the staple food. The Deuris also consume the meat of pigs, ducks, fowl, and goats. Fish is eaten regularly and dry fish is also well-liked. All the families in the Deori village produce rice beer, which is considered very healthy, and all the Deori people irrespective of age love to drink it. However, in recent times this has undergone a significant change,with rice beer production being banned in a few places, or the legal prohibition for under aged|
children coming underway. The Deoris also love their tea, which they take without sugar and milk.
The four original sub-tribes or clans of Deoris are: Dibongia, Tegaponiya, Borgotan, and Patargayan. Dibongias are further divided into fourteen sub-tribes. The Patorgoyan clans are now completely merged with other tribes or adjacent peoples.
The Deoris are largely monogamous, but polygamy is not unknown. Most of them live in joint or extended families. The societal structure is patriarchal and patrilineal; the male members have rights over property. The children inherit the clan of the father.
The village council of Deori villages is run by the ‘Gaonburha'. This council consists of the village elders, and its jurisdiction covers most civic problems that arise in the village. The ‘Bardeori' is the next important official who performs pujas in the ‘Than'. The ‘Deodhani' claim that they can predict the course of events that is to affect the individuals and the society. He dances before the gods or goddesses and performs the functions of the priest who is also an astrologer and clairvoyant.
Generally, the Deoris live in joint families, but sometimes there are exceptions. They believe in certain taboos: the wife of a younger brother is prohibited from entering the bed-room of the elder brother. These taboos and customs help, the Deoris believe, to maintain peace and harmony within a joint family. Being agriculturists, it is useful to live jointly as they have more hands to work in the fields.
As is the case with most tribal societies, the Deoris conform to both, their primeval beliefs, and Hinduism – mostly Vaishnavism. The ‘Kundi-Mama', ‘Pichsa dema' and ‘Gailrung kundi' are the supreme deities that make up their pantheon, apart from a few other household deities. The Borgonyan and Tengaponia groups worship in the ‘Than', while the Dibongia clan offers prayers in a specially arranged symbolic place of worship, the ‘Midiku'.
The Deori community has almost a century long tradition of bodily adornment, and in the 21st century they continue to nourish it. They use particular adornments on particular occasions. A Deori male uses a loin cloth called "Ikho" at home, usually with a shirt for the upper body. In present times, they generally wear trousers and shirt when going out. They use a necklace (called ‘Konthamoni') while participating in traditional social functions. The Deori women wear a kind of skirt called ‘Igo', which is wrapped tightly above the breast, flowing down to their ankles. They also use a sheet called ‘Jakashiba' which is tied around the waist. However, they sometimes also wear the Assamese ‘Riha' which is referred to as the ‘Tegihra'. Deori women use a towel (Gamucha) to cover their heads – the ‘Gathiki'. Deori woman also love ornaments – they wear a ring called ‘Gema', bangles called ‘Uchu', and necklaces called the ‘Igawa'. ‘Madali', ‘Joonbiri', ‘Dugdugi' etc. are some of the ornaments they use while performing the ‘Bihu'.
Deories largely follow the exogamous system, and nobody is allowed to marry within the same clan. Monogamy is prevalent, but a second wife is taken only after the death of the first wife. The marriages are arranged by the parents. They practice three types of marriages: the Bor Biya (marriage of three days), the Maju Biya (marriage of two days), and the Saru Biya (marriage of one day). The customs that involve in marriage ceremony of Deori community is quite interesting. The ‘wooer' or his parents visit bride's family first and seek her hand for the groom. Gifts are given by the broom's family and both the families make merry. An auspicious day is fixed for the marriage ceremony and the bridegroom sends various ornaments, clothing and other significant things to the bride before the marriage ceremony. This is known as ‘Subi- huta- duba'. Later on, the marriage ceremony is performed with great religious fervour and the people are received with various sumptuous delicacies. The ceremony ends with the bride being brought to the house of the groom.
Apart from the regular marriage, ‘Gandharva' or marriage by elopement is also present. Dry fish, pork, rice beer, betel leaves are essential during the Deori marriage. Widows usually remarry.
The Deoris have their own language which is similar to the Bodo language.
Two major festivals are observed by the Deori people, the ‘Bohagiyo Bisu' and the ‘Maghaya Utsava'. The Bohagiyo Bisu starts on the first Wednesday of Bohag and lasts for seven days. Maghaya Utsava is observed in the first Wednesday of the month of Magh. ‘Bisu' puja is a special feature of the Deori Bihu festival. ‘Suwasani' Puja is celebrated for welfare for the family and is observed inside the house. The main Puja is offered by the Bordeori, after the ritual purification ceremony of all the individuals with sacred water. During the main Puja, various animals and birds are sacrificed and thereafter, a big feast is spread out. Once in every four years, a buffalo is sacrificed as a symbol of highest sacrifice. During the Bihu festival, people go from house to house to bless the owners and offer rice beer and Khaji (bitter meat curry). ‘Husari' parties with dancers move from house to house. Separate male and female performances are usually arranged. The rhythmic dances accompany melodious songs and unique traditional dresses; this festival has great similarities with the Bihu festival of Assam. The ‘Maghiya' festival is a grand feast wherein fourteen fowls are sacrificed.
Generally the bodies of the dead are cremated. But in case of young pregnant women or those dying in epidemics, the dead bodies are buried. The dead bodies are bathed with clean water and new clothes are put on. Before the cremation, an egg is broken by the eldest son of the deceased and some food is offered. He then lights up the funeral pyre. A ceremony to commemorate the dead is observed on the fourth day of the funeral.
(iv)The Rabha Tribes:
One of the nine Scheduled Tribes in the plains districts of Assam. The Rabhas are widely scattered but mostly concentrated on Goalpara, Kamrup, and Darrang.
The Rabhas are like to live in compact blocks having 50-100 families.
The Rabha society is patriarchal in character. The sons inherit the father's property equally; the daughters may inherit the father's property only if the father makes arrangements before his death. A widow cannot claim any portion of the dead husband's property.
Agriculture is the main occupation. Rice is the staple food of this tribe with dried fish, pork and rice beer. Like other tribes they also prepare a special kind of beer which is extremely popular. The Rabha traditional weaving is rich in colour and designs. Like all such people, the Rabhas believe in ‘evil spirits' and perform special pujas to appease the demons.
The structure of the Rabha Tribe is based on ‘Pandulipis" or the local customary laws. The Pandulipis were written on the basis of customs, usages, traditions and religious beliefs. It is believed that the Rabhas were once a matrimonial tribe. But the present customary laws indicate that they were patrimonial one as in case of succession son's claim is socially recognized for his ascendancy.
|Traditionally, the Rabhas are very religious, and nowadays most of them have embraced Hinduism or Christianity. There was no national festival of the Rabhas in the past. But, now some Puja festivals are observed by the Rabhas. In the month of Baishakh, the ‘Baikho' or ‘Khosi Puja' is observed. Some Rabha people also observe the ‘Kechaikhaiti' Puja along with the ‘Langa' puja or ‘Dinga' Puja. In the latter, all the materials of the puja are placed on a dinga or boat. The dinga is then carried to the river bank and the rituals are performed, and at last the boat emerges on the river. Another puja called the ‘Marei' puja, is performed by the ‘Deodhani'.|
It is basically a community festival and observed on the fifth lunar day of the Krishna Pakhsa. The Hatching puja is now assumed to be a national festival of the Rabhas, along with the Baikho. These pujas are observed with an occasional bit dancing and singing in traditional dresses. ‘Hana Ghora' is a festival of merriment, dedicated to a god of fortune.
No Rabha can marry within his own clan. The younger brother can however, marry the wife of the elder brother, in case of his death. Sometimes, ‘cross' cousins are allowed to get married, but marriage is strictly forbidden for ‘parallel' cousins.
Births are celebrated with grand ceremony and feasting. There is no specific enumerated rule for death. The dead body may be buried or cremated. After the cremation the participants take a bath and come to the house of the deceased and a ritual is observed. The last rites are performed seven days after the death. The sons and daughters do not
consume milk for a full year if the mother has died and give up the banana in case of the father's death.In case of birth in the family the Rabhas consider the mother unclean till the umbilical cord of the of the baby falls. On the day of purification, the mother is to give her child a name and the ceremony is observed by killing a pig.
In a normal death the body is washed with sanctified water and after that it the body is dressed with new cloths and kept in outer house for a night. Next morning it is buried or cremated. In case of unnatural death the body is buried. It is customary that the whole village not to take any food till the dead body removed from cremation ground. The final death rites are done on the seventh day.
The Rabha language is now confined among the Rangdhani and Maitory groups. Efforts have been recently made to standardize the language and to impart education at the primary level through mother tongue.
As to literary creations, it may be said that till the Independence, Rabha literature did not bloom. First appearance was made only after independence. Credence goes to ‘Sodou Rabha Kristi Sangha'.
(v) The Tiwa or Lalung Tribes:
Tibet region is considered to be the origin of Lalungs who prefer to call themselves as Tiwa. They landed on the plains following the course of river Brahmaputra. The word Lalung means ‘La' means water and ‘Lung' rescued ie the mighty river Brahmaputra gave shelter to the Bohemians. It is believed the Lalungs had migrated to Assam somewhere in the middle of the 17th century AD. Mainly they are found in the district of Nowgoan.
Tiwa people are known to be a group of Tibeto-Burmese tribe. Although they were also referred to as the Lalungs, they prefer the name Tiwa. Rice, beer, pork, fowl, duck and dry fish are the favorite food items of the Tiwas, apart from various vegetables like bamboo shoots, creepers, tuber roots etc. The basic occupation of the Tiwas is cultivation of the land. Fishing and hunting were traditionally practiced by the Tiwa people, until the modern concerns with the environment did away with hunting. Community fishing is still practiced.
Tiwas are divided into a number of clans that are further sub-divided into several sub-clans. A clan is generally consists of several ‘Khutas'. A single khuta does not constitute a khel or a clan. No family can remain outside a clan.
A ‘Giyati' is the priest who performs the socio-religious functions of the Tiwas. Clans are maintained in a kind of hierarchical order. Traditionally, the ‘Na Bhuni' clans are considered superior to the ‘Sat Bhuni' clans; the Tiwas seem to accept this divide without any social tension.
The Tiwas have a traditional faith akin to the Hindu Sakta religion, but the mode of worship is not quite the same. The Tiwas living in the hills worship stone images. A ‘tripod' is established on the altar which represents the Lord Shiva or Lord Mahadeva, the Supreme God in Tiwa tradition. Each clan possesses a community hall, which known as ‘Bor-ghar'. It is used for community worship, and is usually constructed in a public place. Religious functions are observed in the ‘Than'. In the plains most of the Tiwas have adopted Hindu gods and goddesses and some of them taken to Vaishnavism. These people usually build the ‘Nam-ghar' as the space for offering prayers.
The main festivals of Tiwas are the (i) three ‘Bisus' (Bihus), (ii) ‘Barat Utsava', (iii) ‘Sagra Misuana', (iv) ‘Wansua', and (v) ‘Jone Beel' Mela. Usually, two types of songs are sung by them during the festivals – the ‘Lo Ho La Hai' – songs of religious festivals; and the ‘Lali Hillalli' – songs of marriage. Songs and dances are the life spirit of the Tiwa community; the tribe is considered to have one of the richest reservoirs of folk songs and dances in Assam.
The Tiwas of different areas observe Bihu during different days of the week. One of the most attractive festivals of the Tiwas is the ‘Jon Beel Mela' of Magh Bihu. This is the traditional ‘Gobha Haat' or the space for barter exchange. This ‘haat' has been continuing from time immemorial at a place name Jon beel, an ancient water-body.
Here, the hill people and plains people exchange commodities. On the preceding day of the Mela, the ‘Gova Raja' and other officers enjoy a community feast or the ‘Noan Joa' on the banks of the Jon Beel.
The Barat Utsava is the community festival of the Tiwas which bears a religio-cultural character. It is observed in the month of ‘Puha'. Youth from different villages gather and assemble birds carved out of wood and bamboo that are fixed to a long bamboo or reed. While singing songs of ‘Barat', the rope is pulled to make the birds dance atop the poles. ‘Peerajuj' is one special feature observed at the end of the festival.
‘Sagra Misawa' is a spring festival that echoes with its music and dance. It is a bachelor's festival that begins with the worship of ‘Langkhun' and ‘Mahadeva' with sacrifices of goats, fowl, and other birds. Significantly, masks are used in the dance.
The Lalung families are nuclear family. After death of the father or before the death the land is divided equally divided among his children. The house goes to that son who lived with father till death.
This tribe construct their house on plinth. Thatch is used for roofing. The granary is constructed on the east and there should be a courtyard in front of the house. The dresses of women are similar to the Assamese woman. The womenfolk are expert weaver where they express their artistic outlook through designs. They are also great lovers of music and dance.
The Lalungs considered the marriages as the form of union between a man and woman. Illegal unions are hated. Marriages are solemnized after attainment of property. Clan exogamy is strictly adhered to. Monogamy is recognized but polygamy can not be ruled out. Widows can get remarried and cases of divorce are few.
Both cremation and burial are practiced. Normal deaths done by crimination and unnatural deaths are buried.
(vi) The khamti Tribe:
The Khamti is a branch of the Tai race; their total population is only about five thousand.
They are found in Bihpuria and Narayanpur areas of North Lakhimpur subdivision and Sadia region. They are very progressive in the terms of art and culture, and knowledge. The Khamtis are followers of the Buddhist religion. Physically, the Khamti people are similar to the Chinese. The women of these tribes are very beautiful. In the past they are said to have dressed like the Chinese, but with time they have adapted their dress to the Assamese tastes. Like all the other tribal people, the basic occupation of the Khamti is agriculture. In the past they seem to have cultivated the opium plant on large scale. The woman folk actively help in agricultural activity. Occasional hunting and fishing is also present.
They have a very well defined set of villages with ten to forty houses in one village. The central road connects each house. The houses are built four to five feet above the ground, split bamboo are used for floor and walls and Takau or Jengu leaves are used for roofing. Temples is constructed in the centre of the village.
Although the Khamtis are followers of Buddhism, but they are non-vegetarians, and eat fish and meat (provided that the animal is killed by other person). Drinking is prohibited by religion. The Khamti women are expert cooks and weavers and they share equal position in the society like man folks. . They make all their required clothes at home. They also make various pieces of artistic ornaments. The Khamtis are good tradesmen, a unique characteristic for tribal societies.
The social structure of Khamti tribes is divided into several clans. The Khamti family is patriarchal. After the death of father, his property goes to his sons. Daughter and widows can not inherit property. Marriage in the same clan is prohibited. Adult marriage is a rule. They are monogamous. Divorce is not common. Bride price is taken at the time of marriage. They are followers of Hinajan Buddhists.
The Khamti festivals are closely connected to religious beliefs. Some of the festivals observed by the Khamti tribes are Poi Changken, which is similar to the Rangali Bihu of Assam, Poi Nen Hok, Paribot, Maico Chumfai etc.
Generally dead bodies are cremated. But dead body of young one ie below ten year and dead due to unnatural cause are buried. A purification ceremony is observed on the sixth day.
(vii) The Sonowal Kachari Tribes:
The Sonowal Kachari is an endogamous group of Kachari tribe. They mainly live in Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Jorhut, and Golaghat districts. Their main occupation is gold-washing and agriculture. Rice is their staple food. The clan system is present and exogamy is the general rule in marriage. The Sonowals usually live in a joint family.
The Sonowals are believed to have very rich traditional knowledge of indigenous medicine. They have their own methods of treating different kinds of diseases, using locally available herbs and plants for treatment; following the knowledge inherited from their ancestors. These medicine-men were earlier known as ‘Bez'.
Sonowals believe that they are the descendants of great Bhaskar Barman, Narakasur, Ban Raja, Bhagadutta, Harimba, Ghototkach, Bhim, Prahlad and Bali.
The Social Structure of Sonowal Kacharis is similar to the any other non tribal communities. The Gaonbra or head of the village is the key man of the village. He presides over the village assembly. He has some subordinates who helped him day to day office work. Other than the Gaonbura, the institution Namgargh also a centre of solving disputes of the villagers. Complaint regarding any social or religious are solved by elder villagers and the punishment given to the guilty according to the nature of the crime. Ex-communication is considered to the severest form of punishment.
Agriculture is the main means of their livelihood. Along with rice they grow mustard, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc for local consumption.
Rice is the staple food of this tribe. They do not eat or rear pigs. Fish, mutton and chicken are the main delicacies. Rice beer is locally prepared and people take occasionally. Guest is welcomed by acre nut and betel leaves.
The pattern of house is similar to the non tribal constructions with separate shades for cattle, ducks, and poultries.
Co-operation is the salient feature of their social life. All villagers co-operates with others activities. The unity is scrupulously maintained and inters family disputes are solved in the village. The youth plays active role in the individual or community festive and religious occasions.
The Sonowal Kachari families are nucleus one. Both primary and joint are seen. The eldest male of the family is considered to be the head of the family. The system of inheritance is peritoneal one. Generally the eldest son becomes the owner of the house.
The Sonowal Kacharis have seven clans called ‘Khel'. They are 'Balikhitiari', 'Chiripuria', 'Dhulial', 'Amarabamiya', 'Ujani-Kuchiya', Namoni-Kuchiya' and 'Tipamiya'. These clans are exogamous and are again subdivided into fourteen sub-clans – 'Hagral' , 'Muktal', 'Madan', 'Manikiyal', 'Ahmal', 'Formal', 'Borttajoal', 'Saru Hazowal', 'Kumral', 'Dhekial', Oingial', 'Lothial', 'Dangral' and 'Chetial'.
The Sonowals were offered non-tribal titles like ‘Saikia', ‘Bora', ‘Hazarika', in the process of their assimilation with the non-tribal people, especially during the Ahom rule. The Sonowals at present have no dialect of their own. All the people speak Assamese language, although they still retain some tribal names such as 'Gossain', 'Baitha', 'Gojai', 'Khiring Raja', 'Kechaideo' and so on.
Marriage in the same clan is strictly prohibited. Monogamy is the general rule but considering second wife is not prohibited. Every girl is considered to be an asset for the family. The grooms' family should pay bride price before the marriage. No fixed bride price is charged. It may vary according to the status of the groom.
The Sonowal Kachari tribe is followers of Mahapurushia Baishanv Dharma. They also maintain their traditional religious believes and practices. Good luck, flourishing agriculture, misfortune etc are attributed to the pleasures and furies of various deities. Also the Sonowal Kacharis worship Lord Siva and they observed Bathow Puja. Throughout the year they observed various religious ceremonies in their Namghars like Janmasthami.
This tribes observed Rangali Bihu like Assamese people which falls on the Sankranti of Chot (14th April). Various traditional delicacies made during this time. Magh Bihu and Kati Bihu are also celebrated by the Sonowal Kacharis like Assamese people.
Dead bodies of Sonowal Kacharis are cremated. The dead bodies of children and woman are buried. Purification ceremonies are similar to any other non tribal. But they do not employ Brahmins to preside over the pacificator ceremony.
(viii) The Tai_Phake or Phakial Tribes:
The Tai Phake is a tribe of Assam with a tiny population – it comprises of only two thousand people. They are also known as the Phakial. They are said to have come to Assam from Thailand in the late 18th century A.D.
Some scholars are of the opinion that these people living in North-Eastern India migrated from the Yunnan province of China in 12th century A.D. Yunnan was then ruled by Tai kings. The Tai Phake tribes live mainly in the Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts of Assam. They speak both Assamese and the Phake language.
Despite their small number, they maintain their unique identity and traditions with great dignity. This tribe follows the practices of Theravada Buddhism.Tai Phake is the branch of the great Tai race. It is believed that in the 18th century, they
entered Assam through the Patkai range. They established their village on the southern bank of Buridihing River in 1850 and this village is now known as Namphake village.
|The Tai Phake people are believers in the teachings of Lord Buddha. Among their most well-loved festivals is the ‘Poi-Chang Ken' (water splashing festival) which is celebrated on 14th April every year. Buddha Purnima is celebrated with great enthusiasm and known as ‘Poi-Nun-Hok'. In October-November, the ‘Pai-Kathin' festival is celebrated and in the month of March comes the ‘Poi-Nen-Chi', or the Death festival.|
The main features of this Phakial village are its traditional stilt houses, its Buddhist Monastery, the symbolic Ashoka Pillar, the ‘Nong Mungchiringta', the traditional dances and so on. They have a rich dance repertoire which includes the ‘Kakong' (drum dance); the ‘Kapan' (welcome dance); the ‘Kachong' (umbrella dance); and the ‘Ka feefai' (diamond dance). They used have servants to help the owner in agriculture and such other allied activities.
The Phakeals have a nice tradition of keeping records of family history. Holikboi is such a record in which genealogies of a particular family are recorded. This particular work is done by Pathek who is well informed and knowledgeable. The oldest Holikboi was written in 1790. This tribe has one thousand and nine clans. The Mongolian peculiarities are visible in looks.
The Buddha Bihar or the village temple is constructed in the middle of the village. All the religious and socio-cultural activities are performed in the temple. Gaonbura is the head of the village. He is the one who has total control in all social matters. Pathek is also has an important role along with the Gaonbura. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood and rice is the staple food. Panao and Pasom are two special preparations of fish. Both man and woman are hard working. Women are expert weavers. Phakeals follow their each religious and other ceremony with great dignity. They have a very good sense of etiquette. They are very kind by nature and offer food to every body. Unknown guests are sheltered in the temples. Each child should go through training. Basically they are peace loving persons.
The Phakeals has nucleus family. The properties go to the sons. Regarding marriage clan exogamy is a rule. Monogamy is present. A widow without child may live with the younger brother of the deceased. Divorce is not common in the community. The cross-cousin and parallel cousin marriage is socially accepted. Two forms of marriage like formal and informal are present. There is no fixed bride price. They believed in immortality of the soul. Dead bodies of natural deaths are cremated when unnatural dead bodies are buried. A purification ceremony is performed on the 6th day of death.
(ix) The Dimasa Kachari Tribes:
The Kacharis are the most widely spread tribe in northeast India, and are said to be the earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra Valley. The Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid (Kirata) group which includes the Bodos and their allied tribes. They have prominent Mongoloid features with high cheekbones; slit eyes, a slight growth of hair in the body and a scant beard. They call themselves Bodo or Bodo-fisa in the Brahmaputra valley and Dimasa or Dima-fisa or ‘sons of the great river' in the North Cachar Hills & Karbi- Anglong district.
The Dimasa family is unitary and patriarchal in character. Only unmarried sons or daughters can live with the parents. After marriage the sons have to live separately in nuclear families. Only the Dimasa tribe confers separate ‘Gotra' for men and women. The boys inherit from his father after his death and the girls from their mother; the boys do not have any right over their mother's property.
An important institution of the Dimasa village is ‘Hangsao'. It is an association of unmarried boys and girls of the village. It is organized for the purpose of creating a worker's pool for facilitating cultivation, and lasts only for one year. Throughout the year, the members of the Hangsao work together in the Jhurms, cultivating by rotation an area of land at every member's field.
Marriage is monogamous and generally conducted by negotiation. Earlier, there was a system of paying bride price ranging from Rs 300/- to Rs 500/- depending upon the economic condition of the groom and the ‘quality' of the bride. According to their traditional law, the males have no rights over the property of the females and vice-versa. Child marriage is absent here.
The Dimasas are a very religious people. Their religion is a mixture of the Hindu and Bodo traditions. The main gods worshipped by the Dimasas are ‘Siva Deo', ‘Rajo', ‘Naikhu' and so on. The Supreme God is ‘Shibrai'. They believe in different spirits and think that the natural calamities are deliberately wrought by the evil spirits. The priest of the Dimasas is selected from the ‘Hojaisa' clan. Buffaloes, pigs, and fowls are offered as sacrifice.
The ‘Pathri', a kind of fortune teller, has a special place in Dimasa society. They believe in the existence of a supreme being – ‘Madai' – under whom there are several Madais including the family deities and evil spirits. The religious practices of the Dimasas are reflected in their ‘Daikho' system. A ‘Daikho' has a presiding deity with a definite territorial jurisdiction and a distinct group of followers known as ‘Khel'. Every Dimasa Kachari family worships its ancestral deity once a year before sowing the next crop of paddy: the ‘Madai Khelimba'. This is done for the general welfare of the family. ‘Misengba' stands for the good of the whole community.
The Dimasas cremate their dead. The dead body is washed and dressed in new clothes; then laid inside the house on a mat. A fowl is thrashed to death and placed at the foot of the deceased so that it might show the deceased the right path to heaven. The widow does not tie her hair till the cremation has been performed. This is usually done by the side of a river or stream.
The culture and festivals of Dimasa is rich and distinctive. Their cultural foundation was laid in the ancient and medieval period when they were very powerful. Their architectural designs and artistic creations are proof of their rich civilization. ‘Busu', a harvesting festival, is the main socio-cultural festival of the Dimasa. ‘Rajini' and ‘Harni Gabra' are festivals related to productive work. In the ‘Rajini' festival, the village people worship their presiding deity.
Although the Dimasas have their own language, there is no recognized script. Economically, they are self sufficient and agriculture is their main occupation.
|The dance form of the Dimasa people is an extremely complex form, based strictly on instrumental music. No songs are used. ‘Khram' (drum) follows the rhythm of the ‘Muri' (fife) and so do the dancers. Although one may find the Muri to be a trifle monotonous, there are variations with noticeable microtones suitable for different dance movements. That is why young men practice their dancing at the ‘Nadrang' (the common houses for the youth) during leisure hours and the village children follow the rhythm and learn the steps from an early age. Music and dance play an important role in the day-to-day life of the Dimasa Kacharis. They sing and dance to express their joy at the common houses or at the courtyard of the ‘Gajaibaou's (female owner of the property) house during popular festivals like ‘Bushu' or ‘Hangsao-manauba'.|
(x) The Karbi Tribes:
Racially the Karbis belong to the Mongoloid group and linguistically to the Tibeto-Burman group. The original home of the various people speaking Tibeto-Burman languages was in western China near the Yangtse-Kiang and the Hwang-ho rivers and from these places they went down the courses of the Brahmaputra, the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy and entered into India and Burma. The Karbis, along with others entered Assam from Central Asia in one of the first waves of migration.
From the pattern of distribution or habitation, the Karbi are divided into three groups, viz, (i) Chinthong, (ii) Ranghang , and (iii) Amri.
|The Karbis have five exogamous clans and each clan is divided into several sub-clans. They can not marry within the clan. In the cremation ground separate areas are demarcated for each clan. The ‘Ingti' is a priestly clan and has since ancient times occupied higher status in the social hierarchy. The Karbi people are peace loving and social.|
The place of women is same as the men, and women help their men in every step of life.
The Karbi people are basically live on agriculture.Karbis are exogamous and while monogamy is the general practice, polygamy is not prohibited. Widow remarriage is permitted and the younger brother of the deceased is required to marry the widow. Cross-cousin marriage is also present. The consent of the girl is essential in marriage of the Karbi society. Marriages are contracted through selection, negotiation or elopement. After marriage, the bride uses the surname of her father's clan, though the offspring use her husband's surname. There is no bride price in Karbi society and divorce was allowed even in early times. The Karbi society is a patriarchal one and the father is the head of the family.
|The traditional religion of the Karbis is animistic with two types of gods and goddesses: the benevolent and malevolent. It is somewhat like Sakta and Shaiva Hinduism in a more basic form. Traditional Karbi religion propagates that the Supreme God of the Universe is the highest|
God or creator. The traditional way of worshipping is based on some of their oldest customs. Pigs, birds, various animals and eggs are offered to the deities accordingly. Traditionally prepared rice beer is essential in all rituals to satisfy the deities. In modern times, a small percentage of the Karbis have adopted the Vaishanava and other Hindu faiths, and a few follow the tenets of Christianity.
There are several rituals and festivals of the Karbis. The rituals are generally related with birth and death. The birth of a child is marked by various ceremonies. The naming ceremony in particular is very interesting. The maternal uncle conducts this ritual where rice beer is given to the child drop by drop.
The death ritual of the Karbis is a distinctive one. ‘Somangkan' is the main death ritual that is observed by the family at any time according to the preparation of the family. Large quantities of rice beer, pigs, and rice are necessary for this ceremony.
‘Me' is the Karbi village council where all social and family matters are discussed.
Dance and Music play an important role in the life of the Karbi Society. Various dances are performed by the youth during the performances of ‘Chomangkan', the death ceremony and other socio-religious festivals. ‘Hacha Kekan', the dance performed at the harvesting festival is lively and eye-catching. Their traditional songs, both folk and religious, are generally sung by experts only who are not only well conversant with their meaning but are also endowed with sweet voices. During the performance of the cremation rites and the performance of the death ceremony, only a professional weeper called ‘Uchepi' is allowed to sing the elegiac dirge called ‘Sarhe'.
There exists a Karbi version of the Ramayana called Sabin Alun, and the most interesting thing about this epic is that it is an unwritten, oral text that has been handed down from one generation to another.
The Karbis have a very limited number of musical instruments. A huge drum called ‘Cheng' is their main musical instrument that is generally played by a master drummer called ‘Duihudi'. They also use smaller drums called ‘Chengbruk'. Two kinds of flutes are in vogue – the wooden flute called ‘Muri' and the bamboo flute is called ‘Pangche'. In some of their dances they use war shields made of rhinoceros skin called ‘Chong' and a prototype war sword called ‘Nok'.
The Karbi festivals are mainly related to the agricultural seasons. ‘Rongker' and the ‘Hacha Kekan' are their two main festivals. The former is celebrated before the Jhum cultivation starts in winter and again in the summer, just prior to the planting of rice. The ‘Great Rongker' is celebrated after an interval of five years. In all the Rongker festivals, only the males are allowed to participate. The ‘Hacha Kekan' is celebrated at the end of the planting season. Public feasting and elaborate dances are organized to mark this festival.
There are two types of shirts worn by the Karbi men folk. The traditional turban is called ‘poho'. Traditionally, a loin cloth was used by the male – a trend that has disappeared now. The short mekhela of Karbi women is called the ‘pinicamflak'. The upper part of the body is covered by another piece of cloth named ‘jar-ek', and the artistic waist band is known as ‘Wanpo'.
The Karbi men and women wore beautiful ornaments made of valuable metals in the past. In the bygone days, a Karbi man would put on a brass ear-ring called ‘Narik', a silver bracelet called ‘Prinsoroi' and heavy silver necklaces called ‘Lekrooa' and ‘Lek-Enji'. Nowadays, these male ornaments are rarely seen. The female ornaments are ‘nothenpi', ‘rup-arori' silver bracelets) and ‘lek-lo-so' and the like.
The most beautiful ornaments used by the elderly Karbi woman is ‘Nothenpi', a pair of very large ear-rings made of silver. This is about two and a half inch long, with a diameter of about half an inch. This ear-ring is detachable into two parts. The women and girls use silver bracelets called ‘Rup-Aroir'. Besides the necklace made of white beads called ‘Lech-lo-so', the women are also found to have used a kind of necklace made of silver coins and red beads called Lek-Chike.
The Karbis do not have their own script, and generally use the Assamese script.
(xi) The Barmans of Cachar :
The Barmans of Cachar considered being a part of Dimasa Kachari Society. They are plain tribes and lived in Barak Valley. It is believed that (according to UC Guha) Barmans are those Dimasas who considered themselves to be decedents of Bhima, the second Pandava of Mahabharata, and follow Hindu religious principles and wear sacred threads like Khatriyas. Thus the Barmans of Cachar is a branch of Dimasa Kacharis but they are very much distinct regarding their culture and religion. This tribe concentrated on North Cachar Hills and the Karbi Anglong Districts.
The father is the head of the family, so they are patriarchal by nature. They live in joint family. They have 40 male clan called Semphong and 42 female clans called Julu. These clans are exogamous and marriage within same clan is prohibited. Marriage ceremony is done by Brahminical Hindu system. Bride price was not fixed but now-a-days the parents of the bride do not insist on bride price. They follow monogamy and divorce is rare and widow marriage is absent.
Birth ceremony is observed with joy. Both mother and the child is separated from the other family members till novel chord falls and the purification ceremony is performed.
The Barmans cremate the dead bodies. Only the dead bodies of babies who die before the teething age are buried. This tribe believes on rebirth and life hereafter. A purification ceremony is observed for the eternal bliss of the departed soul.
Because of the presence of two clan (the fathers clan and the mothers clan), the inheritance system of Barmans are somewhat peculiar by nature. The Barmans have two kinds of properties the paternal and maternal properties. The paternal properties consists of real estates, cash money, weapons etc goes to the sons and the maternal properties consists of jewellary, loons, cloths of mother goes to the daughters.
The village system of the Barmans depends on the ecology and environment. Their houses are quite big and various fruits plants are planted on the homestead land. Houses are built on timber posts and thatch is used for roofing.
Kunang (headman) is the leader of the village and Dilo is his assistant. The Gaobura or the headman is appointed by the Government. Both of them take active part on village administration.
Basically the Barmans of Cachar are Hindus. They are followers of Sakta ie all the God and Goddess are worshipped. Agriculture is the sole livelihood of the Barmans of Cachar. Along with rice cotton, mustard, sugarcane is cultivated. Weaving is common cottage industry. Women are expert weavers. Rearing Endi is also very common among this tribe which is one of the main sources of income.
The Barmans of Cachar are a culturally very rich tribe with rare heritage. The archeological remains of the royal palaces, gateways, and temples at Dimapur, Maibong and Khaspur show their expertise in this field. The mother tongue is Dimasa but the medium of school is Bengali. The Bengali influence is prominent in the culture and society of the Barman of Cachar tribe. Dance and music is dominated by the Manipuri culture as the King Krishna Chandra was married to a Manipuri prince. Rice is the staple food and taken with vegetables, mutton and fish. They do not take pork. Rice beer is prohibited and tea is taken two times daily.
The Barmans of Cachar is a peace loving tribe. They have maintained their ethnic identity to day also. Their villages are very clean and they are very much interested in education and development.
(xii) The Hmar Tribe:
The tribe Hmars migrated from China and settled first in Burma and then scattered around Manipur, Mizoram and North Cachar Hills in Assam.
The Hmar are supposed to be the aboriginals of the Brahmaputra Valley, who came from mainland China through Himalayas. The Hmar are believed to have their roots in ‘Sinlung', the ancestral home of ‘Zonhnathlak'. However, the location of Sinlung is mired in controversy. The Hmars eventually left Sinlung which was once a democratic state.
|The Hmars belong to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group of tribes, and are recognized as a Scheduled Tribe under the 6th Scheduled of the Constitution of India. Physically they are medium statured, usually 5-5.6 ft in height, sturdy, dark-haired, brown-eyed and are known for their bravery. Hmars still has traditional culture and they observe traditional festivals.|
They have a very rich culture which reflected in their folk songs and dances. Some musical instruments are Khoung (drum), Pheiphit (whistle made of bambo), Theihlea (bamboo flute), Darmang (Flat brass gong), Seki (set of Mithun horn), Hna Mut (Leaf Instrument), Perkhuong (guitar made by bamboo) etc.
The language of the Hmars is Hindi, English and Hmas, and Christianity is their religion. The basic occupation of this tribe is agriculture. Their rich heritage of handicrafts speaks of their fondness for battles, adventure, love, victory and history that is reflected on their crafts. They have their own traditional folk dance and songs which they play on festival times.
|According to the Hmar geneology, the following are the major clans. They are Lawitlang, Zote, Lungtau, Thiek, Khawbung, Pakhuong, Faihriem, Darngawn, Leiri, Ngurte, hiengte, Pautu and Ngente. The chief of their village is called ‘LAL', is the most powerful man and everybody follows his leadership.|
Usually the Hmar tribe built their village at hill top and it is surrounded by bamboo or wood fencing. There are 20 to 40 houses in each village and each house has a kitchen garden. Woods are used to construct the houses and thatch for roofing. They also manufacture their own household equipments with bamboo and canes. Some of them are ‘paikong', ‘rael', ‘leikhor' etc.
The Hmar women are very good at weaving and used to produce exquisite clothes for the family. The aristocrat women wear Hmar- am, a finely weave cloth. Generally woman wear a body wrapper with colored strips on the back called Tharlaikawn. Hmar-puon is a striped common cloth. Some of the traditional ornaments used by the Hmar women are Thrifang, Thriwal, Changeng, Harban.
Rice is the staple food of the Hmars. Vegetables and meat is also served with rice. Fowl and pig meat is very favorite dish of this tribe. They live in joint family and follow patriarchal system. The father is the head of the family. The youngest son inherits the father's property. Marriage within the clan and cross cousin marriage is permissible. Monogamy is the prevailing rule but polygamy is also permissible. Bride price is not fixed, it may be goods or animals or cash. The bride price of the youngest daughter is highest. Divorce is possible and widow marriage is prevalent.
Birth is celebrated with great joy. Name giving ceremony is the most important one where maternal uncle is special invitee. Dead bodies of Hmar tribe are buried in graves. They believe in immortality of the soul and life hereafter. Death ceremony is observed within one year of the death where specially cooked meal offered to the departed one. Priest performs the last rite. They worship animate and inanimate objects of nature. They believe in innumerable spirit. Most of the Hmars of North Cachar hills are Christians and has Church for prayer.
They observed agricultural festival Sikpuiruoi and Butukhuonglom. The harvest dance is Chon lam. Dar lum and Parton lam are folk dances. Hmars are great hunter. To honour a great hunter they perform Pheiphitlam dance, which is accompanied by melodious tune from flutes. Another hunter dance is Salu lam. In Fahral Tawk lam bamboo poles are used which has a similarity with the famous Cheraw Dance of Mizo. The dancers are both boys and girls and they wear colouful traditional dresses. Usually boys wear headgear made of either bird's feather or bamboo. The colourful ornaments that wore by girls are Kutsabi (ring), Banbu (bangles), Nabe (earings), Thi val (beaded ornaments. etc.). All of them drinks ‘Zu' (rice beer), and smoke ‘tuibur' pipes.
(xiii) The Kuki Tribe:
The origin of Kuki tribe is full of myths and mythologis. They are the mixed group of tribes who entered India from Burma and Central Asia. According to the traditional myth the Kukis are believed to originate from the Bowles of the earth or cave called Chinlung or Khul. The Kukis form a part of the great Mongolian race. They belong to the Tibeto-Burman family of the Tibeto-Chinese race. Patraitic custom is followed in the society that is the son inherits the father's property. Physically they are stout and strongly built. The Village Headman is in charge of the village and they follow their old custom, habits and traditions. The male of Kuki tribes wear colourful Sangkhol, a jacket, and a pheichwam. Nih-san is worn by the women folk. Bilba, Hah-le-chao is the ornaments worn by the kuki women. Kuki males are good hunters.
The main festivals of Kukis are Ai-San, Sel Bonchon, Seljangboh, Sel-mei-lah and many more.
Ai San festival is related to hunting. In Kuki Ai means wild turmeric which has very significant role in Kuki traditional rituals. This particular ritual is done to get blessing of ‘Allhimipu' for hunter to attain success.
Sel-bonchon festival is about wrestling with Mithun. About sixty people gather around the Mithun and performed body-swaying movements with clapping. A few young boys then wrestled with the Mithun and try to excite the animal. This ritual is more fun and this is the platform where youths show their bravery and strength.
After the game is over the Mithun bring back to the hunter's house, performed Selangboh rite and then the Mithun is killed.After that Sel-mei-lah ritual is performed where one person is selected to stand by the hunter in the time of his misfortune. Then Mithun is chopped and distributed. The feast is celebrated with great merriment. The entire guest is served wine and meat. The singing and dancing continued till the morning which is called ‘Sajanha'. Next day there is ‘Lom' ritual where ‘Lom Ihah na Ju' (a special wine for youths) is prepared in the host's house and they celebrate ‘Lom La'.
This is the great Kuki ritual of Sa-ai.
This is another festival of Kuki's to represent the integration of Kukis from ancestors' times. Here also Mithun is killed and the festival is celebrated with drink ‘Ju'.
This festival is celebrated in the autumn season ie in the month of November and December at the end of the harvesting season. In this festival they thank to God ‘Pathen' for the guiding the whole year in their works of life.
After that ‘Kut' celebration is organized by the village Chief. In the morning the Priest of the village offer a sacrifice of white fowl for the evil spirit and make an incarnation. Villagers wear traditional dresses and the women folks bring their fermented rice beer in their pitchers. Several games like Bonkho, Suhkho, Kungkal, Selkal played till the noon.
In the evening huge feast is served to all the villagers. Bon-fires are set and all the villagers enjoyed with rice beer till late night.
Each Kuki tribes has a number of clan. Marriage within the same clan is discouraged and inter clan marriages are permissible. Bride price is present. They follow patriarchal system and the sons inherit the father's property. Kuki tribes are ruled by hereditary chief who possess unlimited power. He is considered to be the supreme of the village. But the Rongholes have a different one; they have democratic tradition where the villager elected a group of officials to administer the village.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the Kuki tribe. They produce their crops by Jhum cultivation. They are good horticulturists. They grow pineapples, lemons, gingers etc. they are good at craftsmanship also. The Kuki tribe lives in hill top and houses are of cluster type and build with wooden plateform.
Some of the important traditional musical instruments are - Kho'ng-pi (big drum), Kho'ng-cha (small drum), Dah-pi (gong), Pe'ngkul (trumpet), Gosem (bagpipe), Theile (flute), Se'lki (horn), Lhe'mlhei (a peculiar mouth instrument) etc. These instruments were useful not only for raising the festive spirit, but also for adding solemnity to certain serious occasions.
Suhta Lam, Pheiphit Lam, Jangsha Lam are the name of few folk dances of Kukis. Kuki wamen used to wear Khamtang, Pong Mong Vom, Len Boung Thom, Nih San, Pon Lem Nei, Pon Lem Nei, Hahle Chao and Bil Kam traditionally. Men's traditional dresses are Saipi Khup, Thang Nang, Pondum, Ponlhe, Boi-tong, Del Chen, Tuh-Pah.
(xiv) The Rengma Naga Tribes:
The Rengma Naga Tribes are one of the major Naga Tribes of Nagaland. A section of the Rengma Naga had migrated to Karbi Anglong districts and settled in between Barpathar and Chokihola. The Rengma Naga tribes are one of the sixteen major Naga Tribes. But the precise period of migration can not been determined. It can be assumed that they entered Karbi Anglong at 19th century. During the Ahom days the Rengma Nagas paid tribute to Ahom king and got the title ‘Phukan'. After Yandaboo treaty, the British started to collect stipulated revenue from the Rengma Nagas.
The Rengma Naga of Karbi Anglong are divided into eight clans but the origin of the clans are not definite. The clans are exogamous and marriages between the same clan are prohibited. The bride price is somewhat peculiar in this tribe. The groom has to serve one year in the farms of the would be parents-in-laws. In the marriage ceremony a feast is served by the bride's family to the bridegroom's party and to his own village. Even if they follow monogamy, there is no bar to polygamy. Divorces are very rare. Widow marriage is permissible. Cross cousin marriage is absent.
The Rengma Naga's family is nuclear one and father is the head of the family. They follow patriarchal system. The eldest son inherits all the fathers' property and he has to equally share the property with all his brothers. Birth in the family is celebrated by observing ‘Genna' for nine days. On the tenth day a small feast has to be offered to the villagers. The dead bodies are buried and nine days ‘Genna' is to be observed by the family members. In this period nobody from the family should work in the field and leave the boundary of the village. They believe that the soul leaves the body for good on the tenth day of the death. The family has to offer a feast with a pig as death ceremony to the villagers.
Originally the Rengma Nagas were animist. They believed in various god and goddess. The Rengma Nagas do not have any priest among them. All the socio-religious festivals are observed under the oldest member of the clan. The Christianity is also present among the tribe. The bachelor's dormitory is present in this tribe this means the unmarried boys leaves separately from their parents and live in Rensi.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the Rengma Nagas. They practices Jhumming. They grow rice, maize, cotton, chillies, ginger etc and very good at horticulture. Women are expert weavers. They dye yarn by collecting materials from forests. Two other cottage industries are blacksmith and manufacturing cane and bamboo goods. Their festivals are associated with agriculture. Nyada is celebrated in early part of December. This is to mark the end of the agricultural years. It lasts for eight days. At the beginning of the month of January ‘Pi Pe' is celebrated to get rid of all evils of the preceding year and lasts for three days. ‘Lotsung Nga' is observed with the clearing of burnt woods from the Jhum lands. The first harvesting of the ripening paddy is celebrated with ‘Khong Kepang Kennyu'.
The Rengmi Naga has own traditional dresses and ornaments. The men have their traditional dress named ‘Nzanyan'. ‘Pihu', ‘Phehong', ‘Ginhu', are some dresses wear by this tribe. ‘Benpen' is a cane armlet wear by each male. ‘Tabinyu', ‘Teharou', ‘Tesang' are some ornaments wear by womenfolk.
The villages are constructed in two rows facing each other. The headman of the village is ‘Songpeyue' who is the most respected person in the village and he solved all disputed with the assistances of the village elders. Houses are built on raised platforms.
(xv) Zeme Nagas:
The tribe Zeme nagas are scatter around the North Cacher Hills and parts of Manipur and Nagaland. They are considered as one of the sub-tribes of the Kacha Nagas. Originally they are from Nagaland through Manipur and settled down in the North East side of N C Hill sand South Maibong which was the ancient Capital of the Kachari kings. But after the down fall of Kachari kindom they shifted to west and settled in the hills beyond Diyung valley.
They have their own dialect are very peaceful by nature. With black hair and fair complextion the Zeme tribes are physically very strong, well built and healthy. There are six clans of Zeme Nagas and they are Napame, Nkuame, Heneume, Nriame, Sogame, and Pnma. Napame and Nkuame are considered as belonging to the same clan and marriage between these two clans is not encouraged. The clans are exogamous. During the marriage the system of paying bride price (in terms of Mithuns) by the bridegrooms side to the bride's parents. are present.
The Zeme Nagas believe in One Supreme God and eight other Gosds were believed who are associated with health, water etc. Concept of Witchcraft and black magic are also present.
The dead body of the Zeme tribe is buried after putting in a coffin. They believe that after death the soul goes to the spiritual world and therefore they keep a basket of food from the feast made for death occasion (for the departed soul). For identification a stone slab is placed on the grave.
The villages of Zeme Nagas are specially situated in hill tops. They have two separate dormitories where all young unmarried boys and girls spent night in the respective ones. These dormitories are considered as the centers for learning and recreational activities. The girls become expert in weaving, spinning, singing, dancing etc and the the boys in hunting, wrestling, fine arts etc through this dormitory.
This tribe basically agriculture based. They celebrate six agricultural festivals in a year namely Helei-ngi, Nchang-ngi, Paukpat, ‘Nsim-ngi, Hega-ngi and Kahagaba. Zeme Nagas are rich in folk dance and folk lores. Some of the folk dances are Haripivelim, Johumpeselim and Kanguibelim. The dances are accompanied by traditional instruments like Inchum, Hembeu, Inlubai etc. Helei-ngi is the seed sowing festival of the Zeme Nagas of N C Hills. Helei means seed and bambe means puja, Heleibambe or Helei-ngi, therefore, literally means the puja of seeding or sowing. Generally, this festival is celebrated for two or three days continuously. After the completion of their hard labour in seedling and sowing in their respective village, there is a puja called Nchang-ngi. Generally this ritual day is observed in the month of June, two months after the celebration of Helei-ngi. In the month of September or October when the paddy and grains become ripe and ready for harvest, then it is the time to celebrate the Puakpat. Literally puakpat means ‘Period of scarcity is over'. Just after the collection of crops and all sort of work is more or less completed, ‘Nsim-ngi a festival of harvesting is observed annually by the Zeme villages of N C Hills. Hega-ngi is a year ending festival of the Zeme Nagas of N C Hills. It is usually celebrated in the month of December or January every year.
The traditional dresses for men are Injingni, Heni, Mopahai etc. and for women are Mini Hegiangnine, Faimang, Faitik, Limphai etc. Just below the knee the young boys decorate their legs with rice powder paste and tie cane ropes. The girls wear silver, brass and bird feathers ornaments.
(xvi) The Hajong Tribe:
The Hajong are a small community which originally belonged to the Bodo tribe. They have great physical similarities with the Garos and Bodo Kacharis. They are scheduled as a tribe in two autonomous hill districts Karbi Anglong and North Cachar hills.The Hajongs are mostly Hindus.
A clan is called NIKNI in Hajong. But there is no precise number of clans of the Hajongs. The Hajongs have a patrimonial family structure. Father is the head of the family and he is the final decision maker of the family regarding all aspects. Sons inherit the property after the death of the father.
They follow the exogamy fully. Marriages within the same clan are barred. Marriage outside the community is not accepted. There is no dowry, but ‘Khalti' the bride price should be paid the brides family. The Hajongs are monogamous, Second marriage in presence of the first wife is rare. Divorce in the Hajong community is very rare and child marriage is completely prohibited.
Birth in the family is celebrated by a purification ceremony after one week of the birth in case the baby is a male and for female the period is five days only. Name giving ceremony is also celebrated. Another ceremony is observed when the child attains five year, the traditional headman and the village priest initiates the child to the Hajong society by chanting some mantras in his/her ears. Without this ceremony the child can not enter into wed-lock.
The Hajongs are Hindu, so death ceremony is observed in Hindu way with some distinctions. They believe in immortality of deaths. They bring the dead body near a tulsi plant, washed it with turmeric paste, then the thumbs of both hand is tied together with white thread. Then the body is taken to the cremation ground and burnt it in a funeral pyre. A few charred bones are collected and brought home. The death ceremony ‘Sardha' is celebrated on the 13th day of the death. The rice beer or wine is not served in this function.
Basically the Hajongs are Sakta Hindu; some of them are Vaishnavas also. They worship various god and goddesses some of them are Hindu and some are their traditional belief. The tulsi plant has a great importance in the Hajong Community. Among the pujas, ‘Bash Puja' or worship of bamboo is one of the important religious ceremonies of the Hajongs. Other than that Padma puja, Kartik puja, are also performed.
The Hajong tribes like to live on high grounds they construct their houses in the country yard of the village headman. The houses constructed on earthen plinth and walls are made from bamboo and mixture of cowdung and mud.
Rice is the staple food of the Hojongs. Fish and vegetable are taken with rice, generally they do not take pork. Betel nut with betel leaves are taken by all Hajongs and the male smocks tobacco. Rice beer is brewed at homes and served occasionally.
The Hajong has own language in the mixture form of Assamese and Bengali. It is believed that they had their own dialect which has disappeared. Like Assamese people they celebrate three bihus with different names. The Hajong women wear Putin or Rangaputin. They do not wear blouse, in stead they wear a home weave piece of cloth called Pasra or Agrun. During the festival they use a piece of cloth called Kamarbandha. The men folk wear Ningti and during winter use a scarf and Kampesh. Some traditional ornaments wear by Hajong women are Kata Baju, Baghh, Harsara, Gunjar, Kairu. They also use silver made nose ring called Nalas.
The Hajongs have their own musical instruments; some of them are Dhuluk, Khul, Rasamandali, Dotara etc.
Agriculture is the primary occupation. They produce jute, mustard etc.
(xvii) The Garo Tribe:
The Garos are the earliest human group that migrated into North East India from the Tibetan plateau during the pre-historic period; the evidence of this being the Garo villages found across the Brahmaputra Valley, including many in and around the Guwahati metropolitan area. It is often put forward that the famous Kamakhya was a Garo shrine before it was stolen by the patriarchal Aryans during the reign of the Koch kings.
|There are eight different clans of Garos with specific names like ‘Abe', ‘Chichak', ‘Abeng', ‘Gara-ganching', ‘Atong', ‘Ruga', ‘Megam' and ‘Matchi' as per their differently established territories. Out of the two major matrilineal communities in the North-East, the Garo is usually recognized one.|
The basic occupation of the Garo people is agriculture and they usually follow the method of Jhum cultivation. They live in small villages with clusters of 22 to 25 houses. There is a separate accommodation for young boys called ‘Nukphanthe'. In the ancient times, the Garo people worshiped their own deities like ‘Saljong Tatala' and ‘Mitte Dalgipa' and so on. However, after the advent of the Christian missionaries, most people have converted to varieties of Christianity like the Baptist and the Roman Catholic.
The Garos follow matriarchal family structure. The line of descent is always traced through the females only. The mother of the family is the head of the family and the father does not play any important part in a Garo family. Marriages are exogamous. Marriage between the same clan is prohibited. Cross cousin marriage is not present. After marriage the son-in-law has to stay in the in-laws house which is called ‘Nokrom'. A very interesting custom is present in Garo tribe that is after the death of father-in-law he become the husband of the mother –in-law also. The youngest daughter of the family inherits the property. The Garo follows polygamy system. After the prior consent of the first wife the marriage is possible. There is no bride price. Divorce is present and child marriage is unknown to them.
Traditionally the ‘Nokma', the chief clan is the custodian of all lands in the village. Any villager is free to cultivate wherever he wants. Any outsider who wants cultivate in a village has to pay land revenue. The Nokma plays a very important role in village administration.
In a unique legal system all of their own, the elderly people are the decision-makers and arbitrators. Should any one be found guilty of some misdemeanor, then the entire clan must share in the punishment.
Although the Garo tribe is converted to Christianity, they have their traditional religious beliefs and practices. According to them there is Supreme Being along with many deities/spirits. Each of them is assigned a particular role.
Agriculture is the primary occupation. Rice is the staple food. They have their own traditional dresses and ornaments. The traditional attire of man is a strip of woven cloth and turban. The main attire of woman is consists of a cloth wear around the waist. In the upper part they wear blouse. The Garo people are very fond of ornaments. Some of the ornaments wear by them are ‘Nadongbinr Sisha', ‘Nadirong', ‘Natapsi', ‘Jaksan', ‘Ripok', ‘Jaksil', ‘Sengki', ‘Pilne'.
Bachelors' dormitory is very important in a Garo society known as ‘Nokpante'. There must be at least one ‘Nokpante' in a Garo village. It serves as an institution of informal education.
(xviii) The Khasi Tribe:
The Khasis are numerically very small Scheduled tribe. Mainly they are found in Meghalaya. In Assam the Khasi tribe is found Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills bordering Meghalaya. It is believed that the origin of the Khasi and the Jaintia is same. According to E Gait the Khasis belongs to the Mon-Khmer family and entered to North-East India.
|The Khasis have the matrilineal family where the entire affair of the family creates around the mother who is also the head of the family. A Khasi family being a nuclear one and consists of woman, her husband and their children. The woman of the family inherits all the property and the father of the family is responsible for upbringing of the children, protecting the family. For a Khasi family the mother's clan called ‘Kur' is very important. The Khasi tribe has seven clans and every clan is supposed to be originated from an ancestors. The Khasis are exogamous and marriage within the clan is barred. Cross cousin marriages are prevalent under certain circumstances. In the Khasi society the girl has more freedom than the boys. The traditional Khasi marriage is a simple one, in case of Christianity the marriage is performed in the Church. After marriage the bridegroom is to be stay with his wife in his mother-in-laws house and their children will be inducted to the mother's clan.|
Child marriage is not present, divorce and remarriage are permissible.
The birth in the family is considered to be a joyous one. The maternal uncle plays a very important role in the name giving ceremony on the new-born baby. They believed in rebirth. The dead body is cremated. After the death the body is washed and dressed and after putting the corpse bed food articles and betel leaf and nut offered. The cremation ceremony is performed by the maternal uncle, after the cremation bones are collected and kept in cist made of float stones where specially prepared food articles, rice beer, betel nuts and betel leaves are offered to the deceased.
The youngest daughter of the family inherits all the property. She leaves in the ancestral house and her brothers and elder sisters leave the house after marriage. In the Khasi land system two types of land are present, namely ‘Ri-Kynti' and ‘Ri-Raid' where the former is owned by the clan and the later one owned by the community.
The entire territory inhabited by the Khasi democratically elected Chief and ruler called Syiem. Every ruler has a ‘Darbar' consisting of several officials including ‘Mantries' and village elders to assists him administration and other matters. Severe punishment is given to the person who committed the crime including the capital punishment and life imprisonment. That's why there is lesser number of crimes in the Khasi society. AA Khasi village is built on the both side of the main street and villages are not shifted. A traditional Khasi house is build without nails and uniformity in regard of building materials is maintained.
|The Khasi people believe in one supreme God called ‘U Ble Nongthaw' who is the Creator of all lives and beings. They also believe in some other smaller god and goddesses. They worshipped those deities and other natural objects like sacred groves, hills, peaks etc. The Khasi tribes believe in the existence of haven, life hereafter and rebirth. Majority of Khasi families are converted to Christianity, but still some of the families practice the traditional religious rituals. Agriculture is the primary occupation. They produce rice and practice Jhum cultivation also.They raise pigs and fowls. They produce various articles made from bamboo, cane. Rice is the staple food of the Khasi tribe. Pork, beef, mutton and chicken is served with rice. Use of betel nut and betel leave is very common among them. Smoking is a very much present. They take rice beer and other alcoholic drinks also.|
They have their own traditional dresses for both men and women. Since weaving is not present in the Khasi society, they collected their dress materials from the plain of Assam. Women wear ‘Ka Jympiem', ‘Ka Jainsem', ‘Jainkup', and the Khasi men wear ‘Dhoti' and ‘Chaddar'. They also have their traditional ornaments. Their ornaments are made of gold, silver and coral beads. The Khasi tribe has many folk tales and mythological tales which are passes from one generation to other orally. They are great lovers of music. The folk songs are believed to be century old. Some musical instruments used by the Khasis are ‘Ka Sharati', and ‘Ka Duitara,. Archery is most popular game. The Khasi tribe observes ‘Ka Pomblang Nongrem' as main festival.
The Khasi tribe is a very hard working tribe.
(xix) The Jaintia Tribe:
In ancient times the Jaintia kingdom was a powerfull kingdom of Assam. The capital was Jaintiapur. Treaty of Yandaboo was signed between British Government and the Burmese on 26 February 1826 and under the treaty on 15 March 1835 AD the Jaintia kingdom was annexed by the British Government. The reason was human sacrifice and the last king was Raja Rajendra Singh. Now the Jaintias are found in Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, N C Hills and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam. They found in Karimganj, Hailakandi also.
The Jaintia tribes are unique socially because they are follower of matriarchy. The family property goes to the daughters. The youngest daughter is considering having the main custody of the family property and she is expected to perform all the rites and rituals. Marriage within the clan is strictly prohibitated. After the marriage the husband stays in the wife's house.
The female member receives highest priority in the society. The mother of each family is the most important member in a Jaintia family. Next to her is the marternal uncle who has the complete hold in his sister's family.
The Jaintias mainly celebrate agricultural festivals. They offer prayers to rivers, mountains, and peaks. Kopili river is the most sacred river and in ancient times human sacrifices also was offered. In the summer weeding festival is celebrated. A fertility rite is perfomed and the Longhai Dance is danced by the youths. In November Raliang Daloiship is observed by sacrificing a He-goat. Human was sacrificed in this festival in old days.
This festival ends with a grand feast of animal meat and beer.
Another adventurous festival for young boys and men is the ‘Siat khnam` or the archery competition. This is very popular festival among young crowd.
A popular Jaintia dance is Laho dance which similar to the Bihu dance of Assam. ‘Shad Pliang` or plate dance was performed in the Royal palaces to please royal guests. This dance is performed in fields also.
Traditionally ‘Ryndia khyrwang', ‘Ryndia Saru`, ‘Ryndia Stem`, ‘Ryndia Tlem` were worn by Jaintia ladies. Men used to wear Sula, Yuslein, Patoi, Dhara etc. Usually women wear gold and silver ornaments like Khaila, Kpien Ksiar, Sahkti, Khadu etc. during Lahu dance the women wear Pangsngiat (headgear).
The Jaintia people usually meat eater. They eat different type of meat like mutton, chicken, deer, fowls etc but the pork is most favorable meat. Beef is taken in the Christian families. The famous rice dish Jadoh is prepared from pig head. Jadoh is served with Dokhlieh (local spices). Jantias are famous for preparing ‘Tunktoh' and ‘Tungrymbai' prepared from fermented beans. ‘Kwai' which is similar to ‘Tamul-Pan' in Assam has a special social importance. Homemade beer is used in all social functions like birth, death and any other festivals. Beer usually prepared from rice or millet. Almost all types of fruits are found here.
Jaintia people have a rich culture. They play various types of musical instruments like Duitara, Sarong,(both are stringed instrument), Ka Nakra, Padiah, Katasa (different types of drums), Marynken,(harp) Chuwiang, Tangmuri (flutes) etc. they are music lovers and consider ‘Ka Duitara' as the Queen of music.
(xv) The Mech Tribe:
The Meches are a numerically small scheduled tribe of Assam. This tribes found in Goalpara Districts and a small portion are exists in Khowang area of Dibrugarh district, Parakhowa area of Karbi Anglong District.
The Meches are of Tibeto Burman origin and belong to the great Bodo section of Tibeto-Burman people. It is believed that the Meches and the Kacharis are from the common origin.
The Meches has five principal clans with different origin. A clan is called ‘Ari' by the Meches. Other than these five principal clans, the Meches has four clan based on occupation. There are similarities between the clans of the Bodo-Kacharis os Assam. The presence of similar clans indicates that the Meches and the Bodo-Kacharies are one and same people.The clans are exogamous and marriages within the clan are barred.
The marriages should be within the community. Marriages were settled by the mother and other elderly women of the family in old days. Bride price called ‘Jan' was paid in cash and it is varied according to the accomplishment and the beauty of the girl. The marriage ceremony is very simple and it is similar to the marriages of Rajasthan and Gujrat. Widow marriage is prevalent among them. The widow of the elder brother can marry the unmarried younger brother. But widow of the younger brother can not be married by the elder brother. Divorce is allowed but not common. Child marriage is not present.
The Meches follow the patrilineal system in the family structure. They lived in a joint family. Now some of the Meches goes for nuclear family also. Sons inherit the property after the death of the father. Daughters have no right over the property.
The traditional houses pattern is similar to that of Bodo-Kacharies. Four houses are constructed in the country yard with locally available material. Rice is the staple food. Boiled rice is served with vegetable, meat of pork, duck, and pigeon. They drink tea without milk and sugar. The most favorite drink is home made rice beer which should be served in any socio-religious festivals.
The Meches dead bodies are cremated or buried depending on the circumstances of death and social status and economic conditions of the concerned families. In case of unnatural death the dead bodies are buried only. The dead bodies must be carried by the member of the clan only to the cremation/buried ground. Death ceremony is performed is performed in eighth or twelveth day. On the day of Shradha the village people and the relatives of the deceased are served.
Some of the Meches family converted to Christianity and the other follow Hindu religion. They follow Brahma cult and Vaishnava cult of Srimanta Sankardeva.
Tribes of Assam Vol I, II, II by B N Bordoloi, G C Sharma Thakur and MC Sharma.
The Plains Tribes of Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar and Nowgoan by G C Sharma Thakur.
Photos are taken from Google