(a) POPULATION :
(i) Total population (male and female) according to the Sub-division and Thanas:
According to the Census of 1971, the district of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills, has total population of 2,79,726 including 1,50,127 males and 1,29,599 females. The accounts for slightly more than two percent of the total population of the State. The following table shows the population according to the Sub-divisions and Thanas as per the Census of 1961.
|Name of Police Station||Area in Sq.kms||Males||Females||Total|
|(i) Baithalangso P.S||3,035.5||33,617||30,941||64,558|
|(ii) Howraghat P.S.||1,986.5||39,026||33,872||72,898|
|(iii) Bokajan P.S.||2,279.2||29,894||25,601||55,495|
|(iv) Diphu P.S.||3,045.9||18,503||13,953||32,456|
|2||. North Cachar Hills||4,890.0||29,078||25,232||54,319|
|(i) Haflong P.S||4,890.0||29,078||25,232||54,319|
Of the two sub-divisions, Karbi Anglong is far larger in area as well as in population. It occupies more than twice the area and has almost five times the population of North Cachar Hills. Among the police stations in Karbi Anglong, Diphu Police Station occupies the largest area but supports the lowest population and conversely Howraghat Police Station occupies the smallest area and supports the largest population. The other two thanas, Baithalangso and Bokajan occupy the second and third position respectively in respect of area and population. The North Cachar Hills has only one thana i.e. Haflong thana. The population of women in the district of United Mikif and North Cachar Hills has always been unusually low. This is Of the two sub-divisions, Karbi Anglong is far larger in area as well as in population. It occupies more than twice the area and has in line with the phenomenon generally observed among all the districts in the State. In 1951, there were only 914 women to every thousandmen and this ratio has declined to 863 in 1961. Sub--division-wise sex ratio came to 862 for Karbi Anglong and 867 for North Cachar Hills. This disproportion between the sexes is perhaps due to immigration and partly to unskilful mid-wifery and the debilitating effects of excessive child bearing which shorten the lives of the mothers. Density of population : The density of population in the district of United Mikir Hills and North Cachar Hills in 1961 stood at 22 and 11 per square kilometre or 56 and 29 persons per square mile respectively. Among the five thanas in the district, Howraghat thana was the most densely populated and Diphu thana most thinly populated. Howraghat thana had 95 persons per square mile against only 28 persons per square mile in Diphu thana. Other thanas in order of density are Bokajan 63 persons, Baithalangso 55 persons, and Haflong 29 persons per square mile. 1 For the earlier decades the density of population of the district per squaremile was as follows :
No of Person per sq mile
Growth of Population : Though first census in Assam took place in 1872 and even prior to that there had been enumerations in 1847-48 and 1852-53, it is not possible to give a detail analysis of growth of population of the district since then as it came into being only in 1951. The district of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills in 1951 had a population of 1,65,444 against 1,33,402 in1941 giving a total variation of 32,038. This increase of 24.02 per cent during the decade has been much smaller had the population of 22,544 persons inhabiting Block I and Block II of the Jowai Sub-division of U.K. & J.Hills district which now form part of this district, been taken into account in the population figures of 1941. The population of Karbi Anglong in 1951 stood at 1,25,777 against 96,041 in 1941 i.e. showing an increase of 31% which included 23.5% due simply to the inclusion of the Jowai area. Thus actual percentage of increase would be hardly 7.5% . The population of North Cachar Hills in 1951 was 39,663 against 37,361 in 1941 showing a nominal increase of 6.2 per cent.
In 1961 the population of the district reached the level of 2,79,726 souls of whom 1,50,127 were males and 1,29,599 females, showing an increase of 1,14,286 persons over that of 1951. The percentage of increase during the decade came to 69.08 which was the highest percentage of increase among all the districts of Assam.2 This high increase in population mainly took place in Karbi Anglong whose population in 1961 rose to 2,25,407 showing a net variation of 99,630. In terms of percentage it was 79.21% increase in population. This increase, the highest in India, was due mainly of tribal people from the neighbouring district after the constitution of the district.
Karbi Anglong though recorded highest increase in population in India, was still extremely sparsely peopled, there being only 56 persons per square mile (22 persons per square kilometre). The density, though increased considerably from that of 1951, was still the lowest among all the districts of Assam except that of Mizo Hills (now Mizoram). However, there were variations from this mean. There were considerable areas which supported a moderately dense rural population. Namati mauza which had the highest density of population of 235, was slightly lower than that of all Assam figure of 252. Barpathar and Sarupathar mauzas supported population of 310 to 160 persons per square mile. The most thinly populated areas of Karbi Anglong were the mauzas of Jamunapar, Naga Rengma, East Rengma, Duarbamuni and Duarsalana where the density of population varied from 20 to 30 per square mile. the density in remaining areas varied from 40 to 70 per square mile.
1. Census of India 1961, District Census Hand Book, United Mikir and North Cachar Hills, pp.21-22.
2.Census of India 1961, Assam, District Census Hand Book, United Mikir and North Cachar Hills. p.21.
The population of North Cachar Hills in 1961 rose to 54,319 showing a decadal variation of 14,656. This increase of 36.9% was slightly over that of the all Assam figures of 34.45 percent . The whole of the Sub-division being hilly terrain is more extremely sparsely populated than Karbi Anglong. In 1961, it recorded a density of 29 persons per square mile or 11 person per square kilometre. The following table shows decadal variation of population since 1901.
|Name of place3||Year||Persons||Decade Variation||Percentage Decade Variation||Male||Female|
|North Cachar Hills||1901||40,812||27,355||13,457|
Immigration and emigration : According to the Census of 1951, 7,519persons were born out side district out of the total people censused in the district (figures for Block I and Block II remain unaccounted). Of these 2,193 came from other districts of Assam, 1,652 from other States of India, and 3,674 from foreign countries. As far as inter-district migration was concerned, more than three-fourths of the people came from eastern part of Bengal through Goalpara and Khasi and Jaintia Hills. As for persons migrating from the other States of India, Bihar accounted for 587, Orissa 366, Manipur 209 and Madhya Bharat 186. The bulk of these persons were coolies serving in the tea gardens or doing other manual works. There were few artisans and petty shopkeepers from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and other States. As regards migration from countries, Pakistan accounted for 3,322 and Nepal 323. 4 The bulk of the immigrants from Pakistan who came after independence in the form of refugees were from East Bengal (now Bangla Desh). They were agriculturists and settled mainly in the areas of the Howraghat Police Station. The Nepalese, for the most part, were graziers who keep large herds of cows and buffaloes. They have penetrated deep into the interior of the district and have established Khuties. Some of them have taken to cultivation also.
3. Population figures of Karbi Anglong from 1901 to 1931 are not separately available as it formed parts of Nowgong, Sibsagar and Khasi and Jaintia hills till 1951,
4. Census 1951, Assam, United Mikir and North Cachar Hills District Census Handbook, pp.208-216.
According to the Census of 1961, migration from rural to rural areas is the dominating feature of the district where as migration from rural to urban areas is very insignificant. The following table indicates the trend of movement within the district as revealed by 1961 Census. 5 Migration of people within United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district.
|Duration of Residence||Male||Female||Total|
|Less than one year||a||1,379||552||1931|
|1 year to 5 years||a||9,395||10,034||19,429|
|6 years to 10 years||a||5,852||6,321||12,173|
|11 years to 15 years||a||4238||3134||7,372|
|16 years and over||a||8,888||7,511||16,399|
|Period not stated||a||630||410||1040|
(a)Indicate migration from rural to rural areas.
(b)Indicates migration from rural to urban areas.
The preponderance of the males is indicated in the above table. This is largely due to the fact that in the hill areas married couples have to make their own establishment and live in their own houses after marriage. Among certain tribes like Khasis etc., who are matriarchal, males generally go to live in their wives' houses after marriage permanently in case of the youngest daughter and temporarily in the case of other daughters. People also move in search of better fields for cultivation and for seasonal or permanent employment. Female migration is caused because of universality of the marriage as they have to move to the houses of their husbands after marriage. The movement of the people from rural areas of the district to the urban areas of the district was almost insignificant.
The inter-district migration figures reveal that United Mikir and North Cachar hills district occupied the first place in Assam in respect of inter-district immigration and last place in respect of inter-district emigration during the decade 1951-61. The following table shows the extent of inter- district migration in the district.6
| Year ||Density per sq mile|| Percentage of inter-district imigration to total |
| Percentage of inter-district emigration to total |
Analysing the salient features of migration it is observed that in the case of the hill districts of Assam, the figures of immigration mostly relate to movements of people in the service of government as well as of some traders excepting in the case of the Garo Hills and United Mikir and North Cachar Hills where some population of the cultivation class have also moved.7
6. Census of India, 1961, Vol. III, Assam Part I.A p.130.
7. Ibid, p.131
It has already been mentioned elsewhere that immigration from outside the State of Assam has been the important cause of the population spurt in the district. The following table shows the extent of immigration into the district from outside the State.8 Figures of immigrants of earlier decades coming to the areas constituting the present district are not available. But there has been an alarming rise in the immigrants population during the decade 1951-61. The immigrants are mainly from East Bengal. It is belived that the number of immigrants was very high during those two decades. It has been observed in the Census report of 1961, that many immigrants did not disclose their true birth places obviously to avoid detection. 9
|Year||Percentage of immigration to the total population of the district.|
8. Ibid, p. 133.
9. Ibid, p. 134.
(ii) Distribution between urban and rural areas :
Urban population constituted only a very small fraction of the total population of district. The percentage of urban population to the total population in 1961 came to 1.17. No drift of population from rural to urban areas is noticeable in the district. According to the Census of 1961, the district had only one town, namely Haflong. Diphu though headquarters of the district since 1951 and had all the requisites of small township was not treated as an urban area in the Census of 1961. Haflong, the Sub-divisional headquarter of North Cachar Hills is categorised as town since 1941. It then had a population of 1,471 which in 1961 increased to 3,265. This increase in population is mainly accountable to the opening of new government offices. The following table shows the growth of population of Haflong town since 1941 :
|Year||Area in sq mile||Persons||Decade Variation||Percentage Decade Variation||Males||Female|
|1951||2169|| + 667 || 47.38 ||1302||866|
|1961||5.18||3265|| + 1097 || 50.60 ||1992||1273|
From the above it is evident that both Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills are overwhelmingly rural in character. In 1961, the Karbi Anglong had whole of its population living in 1,446 villages and the North Cachar Hills had 93.99 per cent of its population inhabiting 423 villages. The following table shows the number of villages since 1901.
|Name||Number of villages in the year.|
|North Cachar Hills||423||417||341||339||354||312||254|
According to the census of 1961, the villages have been divided into seven groups according to the population. Classified as such 1,446 villages of Karbi Anglong fell into five groups. In the first group having less than 200 inhabitants, there were 1,097 villages having 83,702 persons. In the next group having between 200 to 499 persons, there were 275 villages inhabited by 84,740 persons. Both the group of villages i.e. having population less than 500 constituted 94.9 percent of the total villages inhabited by 74.7 percent of the total population. The third group having a population of 500 to 999 persons included 67 villages with 45,889 persons which formed 20.04 percent of the total population. There were 6 villages having 8,022 persons or 3.5 percent of the total population in the next group of villageshaving 1,000 to 1,999 persons. The fifth group having 2,000 to 4,999 persons included one village with a population of 3,054 persons who formed 1.4 percent of the total population. There was no village in Karbi Anglong in the group having 5,000 to 9,999 persons and above.
In 1961, there were 423 inhabited villages in the North Cachar Hills. Classified by population in the first group having less than 200 inhabitants there were 379 villages having 35,748 persons. In the next group having between 200 to 499 persons there were 39 villages inhabited by 11,702 persons. Both the group of villages constituted 98.8 percent of the total villages and inhabited by 93 percent of the total population. The third group having a population of 500 to 999 persons included 4 villages with a population of 2,565 persons who formed 5 percent of the total population. There was one village having 1,039 persons or 2 percent of the total population in the fourth group having between 1,000 to 1,999 persons. There was no village in the North Cachar Hills which can be categorised in the next three groups of villages. The following table shows percentages of villages and population by size, class of villages in Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills as per Census of 1961.
(iii) Displaced persons :
In the wake of partition of India large number of Hindu refugees who were victims of communal riots in the erstwhile East Pakistan migrated to Assam . In 1951 Census, 1,948 refugees were censused in the United Mikir and North cachar Hills district. 10 Flow of refugees continued thereafter also and about two thousand displaced families migrated to this district. The district council of Karbi Anglong agreed to the rehabilitation of 450 families in and alloted 3,390 bighas of land for the same. Each family was provided 6 bighas of land and house building loan of Rs. 500/-. Almost all the displaced families rehabilitated in the Karbi Anglong are agriculturists.
(b) LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS :
According to the Census of 1961, the people of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district spoke as mother tongue as many as 91 languages and dialects. 1,33,507 persons constituting 47.73 percent of the total population spoke Karbi as their mother tongue. This shows reducing over that of 1951 when Karbi speakers constituted 52.02 percent of the total population. The next in importance were the people speaking Bengali as mother tongue who numbered 23,473 forming 8.30 percent of the total population of the district. this is an improvement over that of 1951 when Bengali speakers constituted only 4.37 percent of the total polation. The speakers of the Assamese language came to occupy third position and their strength increased from 3.5 percent in 1951 to 7.77 percent of the total population in 1961 and numbered 21,738. Speakers of Dimasa and Kachari as mother tongue numbered 19,534 and 16,001 and constituted 6.98 percent and 5.72 percent of the total population respectively. Speakers of other notable languages viz. Nepali, Hindi and Naga unspecified respectively numbered 9,234 , 9,047 , and 7,128 constituting 3.30 percent, 3.23 percent, and 2.55 percent of the total population. This shows the polyglot nature of the district and this is one of the districts of Assam where according to the Census of 1961, the predominant language is spoken below 50 percent of the total population of the district. But all tribal languages taken together constituted 72.04 percent of the total population and consisted of 2,01,521 speakers. The following table shows the numerical strength of the people of principal language groups inhabiting the district.11
10. Census 1951, Assam, United Mikir and North Cachar Hills District Census Handbook, p.102.
11. Census of India, 1961, Vol-III, Assam Part -1-A, general Report. pp. 218-219.
| Number |
| Percentage |
| Number |
| Percentage |
| Percentage of |
these figures show an alarming decrease of Karbi speaking population in contrast to other tribal and non-tribal linguistic groups between 1951 to 1961. The reason may be explained by the fact that authenticity of linguistic survey made in 1951 Census is still questioned by some quarters and probably in 1951, some kin tribal languages were wrongly grouped. It may also be mentioned that after 1951, good many developmental works were taken up in the district along with setting up of district, sub- divisional and local supervisory offices, resulting in flocking of people from other parts of the country as well as of the State to the district for livelihood and settlement, in form of Government employees, cultivators, farmers, traders and labourers.
Bilingualism : Although there are numerous linguistic groups in the district bilingualism has blunted the edge of their differences and has brought about emotional integration of the people. Hindi and English are taught in the secondary schools having Assamese or Bengali as the medium of instruction. Assamese is widely understood in Karbi Anglong and even the people of interior areas can express themselves in broken Assamese. Same in the case with Hindi in the North Cachar Hills. Broken Assamese serves as a lingua franca among different tribes while broken Hindi is used in communicating with other linguistic groups. According to the Census of 1961, out of 1,33,507 people speaking Karbi as mother tongue, 70,916 people were shown as bilingual speaking any of the three languages. Assamese could be spoken by 69,328, Khasi by 1,058 and Hindi 530. Among 21,738 people whose mother tongue was Assamese, 1,556 could speak English, 1,554 Hindi and 290 Bengali. Out of 23,473 whose mother tongue was Bengali 6,826 could speak Assamese, 1,261 English and 898 Hindi. Among 9,047 speakers whose mother tongue was Hindi, 2,252 could speak Assamese, 386 Bengali and 111 english. Out of 9,234 people who returned Nepali as their mother tongue, 1,874 could speak Assamese , 1,627 Hindi and 168 Bengali.
Both the Assamese and Roman scripts are used by Karbi , Kachari and Dimasa tribes whereas Hmar and other Naga tribes are using only the Roman script for their dialects. The people amongst whom the number of converts to Christianity are in the majority, they have invariably taken up Roman script for writing their dialects.
(c) RELIGION AND CASTE :
The religious life of the people of the district is predominated by Hinduism which according to the Census of 1961 claimed 81.22 percent of the total population as it followers. Next comes Christianity whose followers constituted 9.85 percent of the total population in the district. Muslims formed a very small segment of the population of the district. Out of the total population only 1.25 percent were returned as followers of Islam. Other religious communities such as Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains etc., formed even less than one percent of the total population in 1961.
Hindus : The Hindu community numbered 1,84,021 in 1961 against 84,768 in 1951 in Karbi Anglong and 43,181 in 1961 against 30,275 in 1951 in North Cachar Hills. This phenomenal increase of Hindu population is mainly due to the fact that many Karbis and Kacharis have returned themselves Hindus. Formerly tribal communities used to be classified as animists. According to the Census of 1961, Karbi Anglong had a scheduled tribe population of 1,88,129. Of this population 1,33,501 returned as Hindus ; 16,941 christians ; and 17,687 professing other religions like Garo, Karbi and other indefinite beliefs. According to the same source scheduled tribe population of North Cachar Hills numbered 43,202 of whom 32,610 were returned as Hindus, 10,538 as Christians and only fifty four as other indefinite beliefs. Migration of Hindu refugees and other Hindu people into district have also contributed to the increase of Hindu population.
Christians : Christian population in the district has made rapid headway during the period 1951-61. In Kaarbi Anglong it increased from 4,954 in 1951 to 16,988 in 1961 showing a decadal variation of 12,034 . In North Cachar Hills Christian population increased from 6,070 in 1951 to 10,560 in 1961 showing decadal variation of 4,490 . Christianity has its followers among all the tribes of the district but it has made much inroad among tribes like Nagas ,Kukis, Hmars etc.
Muslims : Muslims though constitute a very small proportion of the total population is showing signs of rapid increase. Karbi Anglong in 1951 recorded only 41 Muslims. This in 1961 increased to 3,026. Most of the Muslims are concentrated in Howraghat P.S. area and are agriculturists by profession. They have migrated from neighbouring district in search of land or other agricultural avocations. Muslims in North Cachar Hills are few. in 1951, there were 235 Muslims who in 1961 increased to 474.
Other Religious Communities : Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains each claiming 870,221 and 28 persons constituted a very small percentage of the total population of Karbi Anglong. In North Cachar Hills it is still smaller and number of Buddhists and Sikhs are only 9 and 13 respectively. The following table shows the population of the district religion-wise as per Censuses of 1951 and 1961.
| Karbi Anglong || North |
| Karbi Anglong || North |
| Zerostrians ||--||9||--||--|
|Religions Not Stated||--||--||314||68|
Principal Communities, Castes, Classes and tribes : The district has been the habitat of many tribes and races from time immemorial. Presently more than fifty percent of Karbi Anglong and sixty nine percent of North Cachar Hills population belongs to Schedule tribes. The Karbi tribe is more numerous especially in Karbi Anglong while Dimasa Kacharis in North Cachar Hills. The other tribes inhabiting the district are Lalung, Nagas, Kukis, Khasis etc. The caste system and social life of the non- tribal is more or less the same as in neighbouring plains districts and will be elaborately found in the District geers of those districts. As such, only the scheduled tribes found in this district will presently be described here.
(d) SOCIAL LIFE :
The Karbis : The Karbis are one of the most numerous tribe inhabiting the Karbi Anglong. They are also found in other districts of Assam viz., Nowgong, Kamrup, Darrang and Sibsagar. According to the Census pf 1961, speakers of the Karbi language numbered 1,54,232 constituting 1.30 percent of the total population of the State. In Karbi Anglong they accounted for 47.73 percent of the total population.
The origin of the word 'Mikir', which was originally used to denote the Karbis is still shrouded in mystery. Perhaps it is the name given by the Assamese. They call themselves Arleng or karbi which means man in general. According to their own legends they originally settled in Tularam Senapati's territory (in North Cachar Hills) but were driven into Jaintia Hills (now in Meghalaya) by the Kacharis. Being harassed by the Khasi or Synteng Chiefs they moved into the Ahom territory and placed themselves under protection of the Rajas of Assam. Since then Karbis are living peacefully in their hilly country assigned to them.
Racially, the indigenous people of Karbi Anglong who call themselves Karbis or Arlengs, belong to the Tibeto-Burman race. Their colour is light yellowish brown and the girls are often fair. The men are as tall as the majority of the hill tribes. The nose is broad at the base and often flat. The facial hair is scanty and only a thin moustache is grown. The front of the head is sometimes but not generally shorn. The hair is gathered into a knot behind which hangs over the nape of the neck. The is muscular and capable of enduring prolonged exertion.12 The Karbi people, those who continue to live in the hills are divided into three sections or groups called Chinthong , Ronghang and Amri. However , these groups or sections do not indicates true tribal division suposed to be derived from common ancestors and united in blood. These names in all probability refer to their habits. Amri seems to be a Khasi river name and Ronghang is the legendary site of the Sot Recho caapital. The real tribal exogamous division is called Kur ( a Khasi word ). Each of the three sections of the race has within it the same Kurs and the individual belonging to these Kurs whether Chinthong, Ronghang or Amri must marry outside his own Kur. Each of the Kur is again sub- divided into number of sub-groups. The number and names of the Kurs of exogamous groups are differently described by the different writers. Probably, there are, in all, five principal Kurs viz., Ingti Teron, Lekthe, Timung and Terang. Each of these Kur is further sub-divided into a number of sub- groups. All the Kurs are socially on an equal status.
In religious beliefs and practices they have borrowed much from the Hindu mythology . The ideas and the names of Baikuntha ( Vaikuntha, Vishnu's paradise), Norok ( Naraka, Hell), Jom Recho ( Yama Raja, the lord of spirits), are the few to be mentioned . Elaborate death ceremonies are performed so that spirit of the dead gets admittance to the Jom's city. The characters and episodes of Rama Alun more or less resembles the story of Rama narrated in Ramayan . But it is to be remembered that they do not have idols, temples or shrines. They have plurality of gods and also believe in God Almighty whom they call Arnam Songsar Recho ( the creator of the universe ). Some of the gods of Karbi pantheon are Arnam kethe (the great god), Peng (household god ), Hemphu (head of the house), Mukrang (similar to Hemphu ), Rek-anglong ( the mountain of the community ) or Inglongpi (great mountain), Arnam paro ( the hundred god ) etc. These gods are invoked and propitiated both individually and publicly to grant prosperity and avert misfortune. Besides there are numerous gods whose names are associated with special diseases over which they preside or which they are asked to avert . Some of them are Chomang-ase (Khasi, fever), Ajo-ase ( the night fever ), the deity of cholera ( ma-vur or pok-avur), So-meme (evil plain ), Thengthon (recurring sickness and troubles ) etc. Throughout the year , the Karbi perform various religious rites to appease various gods. Sacrifice pf fowls and use of rice-beer are indispensable for the performence of various rites and ceremonies.
The Karbi also believe in witchcraft and black magic. Long and severe sickness is often attributed to maja (witch-craft). To discover the author of the spell , of the god or demon who has brought the trouble , the services of a diviner are necessary . The diviner, if male is called Uche, if female uche-pi (ojha). They are of two grades - the humbler whose craft is acquried merely by instruction and practice, and the higher who works under the inspiration or afflatus of divine powers . The former is called Sang kelang abang (the man who looks at rice and in Assamese who is known as Mangalsua), the latter , invariably a women, is the lodel or lodelpi. In serious sickness or distress the latter is called in, on ordinary and less important occasions, the former.
They follow a patriarchal system of family . The line of descent is patrilineal and the children assume the title of father. At death, the sons inherit the property , though the eldest gets somewhat more than the other sons. If there is no son, then the property passes to the brothers and after them to the nearest agnate of the deceased. The wife and daughter get nothing. But the widow can retain the property by marrying into her husband's Kur.
Polyandry is not known to the Karbis. Monogamy is the rule, though there are some execptions to it . The marriage before maturity and between the same clan does not take place, the boy and girl must be of two different clans. Marriage is also not allowed if the mothers of both boy and girl are of the same clan or the girl's clan is that of his maternal uncle's wife. Marriage with maternal uncle's daughters is preferred.
Three kinds of marriage are prevailing among the Karbis. First, there is a akejoi marriage i.e. marriage without price. The bridegroom has to pay nothing as a bride price to the bride's father. Secondly , there is akemen (literally ripe) i.e. marriage with service. The bridegroom has to serve in the bride's house for a certain specified period for a year or two or even it may be for life acording to agreement. Third kind of marriage which is very rare is known as osomer jijan chalanglok. It resembles gandharva marriage among the Hindus in former times. The boy and girl unite themselves in a marriage tie without the consent of their parents and without undergoing formal marriage ceremony . The formal ceremony may be held at a later stage even in the presence of groown up children but must be celebrated within the life of both the partners . No discrimination is shown to such couples in the village.
Marriage is generally held with the consent of the parents. If a young man takes a fancy of a girl, then he sends his parents to her father's house and if the girl's parents agree, the boy's father presents a betrothal ring or bracelet for the girl. Sometimes even a gourd of rice beer is taken and accepted. This ceremony is called ke-roi-dun. With the fixing of the marriage day, rice-beer and spirits are prepared by both the families. If the bridegroom is rich, he provides liquor to the whole countryside (hor-hak hor tibuk) . On the way to the bride's house ,the bridegrom's party offers one gourd of beer to each village they pass through and arrive bride's house in the evening. Then one gourd of beer and one bottle of spirit are offered to bride's father. Thereafter follows the most interesting cermony of the marriage. A calloquy ensues between the bride's and bridegroom's parties. "The bride's father asks the bridegroom's why they have come, and why these offereings. He answers, 'Yor sister (i.e. the wife of the speaker ) is becoming old and cannot work , so we have brought our son to marry your daughter.' ( The custom formerly was that a boy must marry his first cousin on the mother's side, and if he did not , the maternal uncle could beat the lad as much as he liked ; but now they can do as they please). The reply follows: 'My daughter is unworthy , she does not know weaving and other house-hold work.' 'Never mind, we will teach her ourselves.' The bride's father then asks his wife to enquire of girl if she will take the lad; without her consent, the beer and spirits cannot be accepted. If the wife reports consent, the beer and spirits are drunk by two fathers. Sometimes they sit the whole night before the girl's consent is obtained. If any knowing old men are there , they sing in two parties, 'we cannot send our daughter to your house., 'We cannot leave our boy to stay with you.' When the question of consent is settled , all eat together. Then the bride prepares the bed inside the house for the bridegroom, in the kam; in the tibung if there is room; if not, in the thengther; but if the lad is ashamed, he sends one of his garments to take his place in the bed."13 If the marriage is akejoi, the bride goes to her husband's house next day accompanied by her parents. There they are entertained with food and drink and returns the folowing day. If the marriage is akemen then the boy stays in father-in-laws's house. He rests for a day and then works there for the term agreed upon. Usually if the daughter is the only child of the parents, the marriage is akemen, otherwise in a great majority of cases marriages are akejoi Adultery is very uncommon. Widow marriage is allowed. Divorce is also permissible but cases are very rare. Divorce is allowed if there is no child or the girl goes home and refuses to return to her husband. In that case husband takes a gourd of beer to her parents and declares himself free. After the divorce, both the parties can re-marry. Among the Karbis women occupy an important position in the society. The wife is treated by the husband with respect and accepts her as an equal partner. She takes an equal part in all occupations, ceremonies and diversions of the men. Prostitution and traffic in women are unknown in the society. The Karbis cremate their dead. Funeral ceremony is the most elaborate, costly and important of all the elements in the Karbi society. This can be held either at all the time of cremation or after-wards when the relatives are financially able to undertake it. Poor families have to wait for the performance of this ceremony for five years or even longer. This is performed over the burnt bones, and consists in the offering of a victim to the spirit of the departed followed by drinking, singing and dancing often kept up for several nights in succession. This ceremony is also known as Chomangkan. Such ceremonies are obligatory in all cases except that of child who has been born dead or who had died immediately after birth. Such a child is burried without any ceremony. Persons dying of cholera and small pox are burried immediately. Later on funeral service is held for them on the bones sometimes dug up and duly cremated. Death caused due to the mauling of tiger is imputed to the victim's sin. The dead is buried at a distance from the village as it is believed that tiger visits the burial place.He can not be be admitted to Jam-arong ( abode of dead ) unless there are elaborate funeral ceremonies performed for him.14 Rice is the staple food. Rice is husked at house usually by the females . It is pounded with a long pestle in a wooden mortar. Fowls, pigs ang goats are reared for food as well as for sacrifices. Pupa or eri silk worm (attacus ricini) is a delicacy. This is eaten roasted and curried. Fish is also eaten but dry fish is most commonly used. Eating of cow flesh is a taboo. Even milk is not drunk. Vegetables are also used. Morning meal is taken ar about 7 or 8 a.m. and evening meal after the day's work is over. At every meal a pinch of food is set aside as offering to Arnam (God). Drinking is most common. Rice beer is the national drink and every household makes it. It is required on all the ceremonial occasions, be it connected with the child birth , marriage or even death. Women also equally share drinks with men in marriage and all other social ceremonies. Most favourite are laopani ( rice-beer kept in a gourd ) and distilled drinks but the first one is more popular. The Karbis have their own traditional dresses and ornaments. On his head he wears a turban (pahu,poho) and a dhoti (rikong) of cotton on his loins. The coat is sleeveless striped jacket (choi) with a long fringe covering the buttocks and coming round in front (chos-apre). A thick wrapper ( Assamese, bor kapor) of eri-silk (pe-inki) is used in winter. The legs remain uncovered and shoes are not worn. Female dress consists of peticoat (pini) of white and red striped eri cloth, secured round the waist by an ornamental girdle called Vankok.The ji-so a wrapper covers the upper part of the body passing under the arms and drawn tight over the breast. The head remains uncovered except in funeral dances when it is covered with a black scarf (ji-so- ke-ik). Only women on attaining puberty tattoo. There is only one perpendicular line with indigo down the middle of the forehead, the nose, upperlip and chin. No other part of the body is tattooed. Traditional jewellery mainly consists of Kadengchinro (a large silver tube weighing three or four tolas in serted in the lobe of the ear ), hanging earrings (ko-rik,) neckless (lek) made of gold or silver, and coral beads. Rings (arnan) and bracelets (roi) of gold and silver are also worn. The Karbi people have a liking to build their houses on the hill tops. Their villages are small and scattered. Villages are generally named after Gaonburas and even a small village of hemlets has its own gaonbura (to be distinguished from Sarkari Gaonbura appointed by the Govt.). They are known for their migratory character. They are prone to shift from place to place on pretexts like outbreak of diseases, failure of crops and mauling of villager by tiger and in search of new pastures for jhuming. Their migratory habit has proved to be a bane in consolidation of their economic life. It frustrates all developmental efforts for building the village economy on a firm foundation, for when villages shift, schools, wells,and roads are left behind, never to be used again. Traditional Karbi houses are generally build on stilts and the floor is several feet above the ground. The material used for the super- structure is bamboo and for the roof , the thatch. The house is divided lengthwise by the partitions into living, guest and servant's room. The pigs are kept under the house. Furniture of the house is of very simple nature. Floor or raised plateform of bamboo serves as bed. A block of wood is used as a stool to sit on. Baskets of bamboo and canes are used for storage. Joints of bamboo (lang bong, Chunga in Assamese ) are used for holding and carrying water from springs or rivers. Household valuables are also kept in these chungas. There is a village council in each village. It is presided over by gaonbura (sarthey) and all male householders are its members. Minor village disputes are referred to it. It also inflict small fines and takes decision regarding the shifting of village to a new site. There is a great council (mepi) composed of gaonburas only and presided over by the mauzadar. Grave matters such as charges of adultery, witch craft aimed at life (maja kechonghoi), tigers in the mauza, arrangements for the Rongker or annual village festival and such other matters are referred to it for decision. In former times there used to be another important village institution called risomar (association or club of youngman). This used to be composed of village lads (from twelve to twenty years of age and had its own house. There used to be a number of office bearers in this organisation and village gaonbura used to exercise general authority over them . But this institution has now become extinct. The Karbis are great lover of dance and music. Their traditional musical instruments are pongi (flute), muri (fife), cheng (drum), cheng-brup (small hand drum used by the risomar to accompany dancing at funeral feasts), and a kum (one stringed fiddle). The beginning of the cultivation is celebrated with a great festival Rongker. It is an annual village festival. Gods are invoked and goats and fowls are sacrificed. The meat of the slaughtered animal is eaten with rice beer. It is a festival of menfolk. Women are not allowed to participate in this festival. Similarly at the harvesting, another festival Hacha is celebrated but no sacrifice is held. The whole village mutually co-operate in bringing the crops in and feast together with rice and rice beer, dried fish and dried meat saved up for this occasion. Hunting and fishing are the other past-times of the village life. Deer, wild pig, iguana (gui) and tortoise are the usual prey. They also lay traps with spears for tigers. A spear is so placed to get it discharged from a spring formed by a bent of sapling. Twice round the pug gives the height of his chest at which the spear is pointed and a rope of creeper stretched across the path releases the spring when the tiger passes that way and comes against it. Fishing is done by means of traps and baskets. It is also done with rod and line.15 The Dimasa Kachari : The Kacharis are one of the most numerous an widely spread tribe in the north eastern India. They have been described as " the aborigines or eariest known inhabitants of the Brahmaputra Valley. They are identical with the people called Mech in Goalpara and North Bengal." 16 According to Dr. S.K. Chatterjee and Fr. Matthias Harmannas they belong to Indo-Mongoloid (Kiratas) group which include the Boros and their allied tribes. 17 " As is the case with the Meche (Mech) " , says Fr. Harmannas " so also with the Kacharis (Boros), the Mongoloid features are very prominent, the strong cheek bones, silt eyes, a-slight growth of hair in the body and scant beard".18 The origin of the word Kachari is difficult to trace. Different versions have been adduced as regard to the origin of the word . According to Sir Herbert Risely, one of the two progenitors of the human race settled in the tract at the foot of the hills between the Brahmaputra and the Kosi river, called Kachar by the Nepalese and his descendants were Mech, Koch and Dhima tribes. If Kachar was an early home, then they may well be called Khacharis or Kacharis. But according to E.A.Gait , the word Khachar is derived from Sanskrit which means 'broadening region.' The district of Cachar might have been named from this word or might have been so called after its great tribe, the Kacharis. But Gait opines that Kacharis did not get their name from Cachar as they were known by that name in other parts far removed from Cachar.19 According to B.K.Barua the word is " connected with Sanskrit Kaksata a hypothetical formation paralleled to Sanskrit Kirata." 20 The Kacharis do not call themselves by this name, that is, Kachari, and it is certain that it is a name given to them by others. 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. The Dimasa Kacharis greatly inhabit the northern half of the North Cachar Hills and ravines of the Jatinga valley and the adjoining tract. They are also found in small scattered groups in the Karbi Anglong. According to the Census of 1961, the speakers of Dimasa language constituted 6.98 percent of the total poppulation of the United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district. The average Dimasas are physically strong and squatty with thick calves, broad heads with stumpy nose of snubbed tip, high cheek bones with languish eyes with top eyelids drooping. Their complexion is of saffron or mixed of it. Their belles dress the hair in the back in tight knot. The Dimasa Kackaris believe in existence of one supreme being whom they call Madai-i under whom there are several other Madais, including family deities and evil spirits. The creator of these Madais is known as Arikhidima who is supposed to have the form of a big female bird. Tradition has it that at the beginning of the world , Arikhidima had a divine conception. There was a great difficulty for her to find a suitable nesting place for laying the eggs. At long last, after having flown out all the four corners of the earth in search of a suitable place, she landed on a big banyan tree (paradesari para phansari ). This tree was said to be so strong that not a twig , nor even a leaf of it would drop even at the heaviest storm. There on that tree, Arikhidima made nest and laid down seven divine eggs . Six of these eggs hatshed out in due tims. The first one to come out was Brai-Sibrai. He was followed in succession by Aloo Raja (also known as Doo Raja ) Naikhee Baja, Wa Raja, Ganyung-Braiyang (Mungrang Raja) and Hamyadao. The last named one, Hamyadao or the bad one as the name indicates, got impatient at the last egg for not hatching out in time, and is said to have kicked at the egg which was yet to mature. It broke and the liquid content fell hither and thither, on land and water, hills and dolls, trees and rocks and turned to be evil spirits possessingwhich ever objects it fell on. These spirits are also called Madais but they are said to torture human beings and make them suffer until propitiated because, the egg having been broken, prematurely the prospective madai insidde it was deprived of being worshipped as an ancestral god by men like the other six duly hatched out. Sibrai, being the eldest, is worshipped as common god by all the Dimasa Kacharis and is honoured by them mentioning his name first in all their prayers. The last one Hamyadao because of his misdeeds for-feited his right to be worshipped as an ancestral god. The remaining four became Nokhoni Madai or family deities and are worshipped by the respective Khels, a group of sengphos or sects of the Dimasa Kacharis. According to another account, the six gods from Sibrai to Hamyadao in the form of human being were the ancestors of Dimasa Kacharis and are worshipped by them as their ancestral gods.21 The religious practices of the Dimasa Kacharis are reflected in their Daikho system. Daikho ( Madaimi Boko) literally means God's house or temple. A Daikho has a presiding deity with a definite territorial jurisdiction and a distinct group of followers known as Khels. generally speaking it is a group of Sengphos or sects but there are Sengphos which may belong to more than one khel according to the Khisang family line. There is a fixed number of twelve Daikhos only to which every Dimasa must belong just as he must belong to any of the fixed forty Sengphos. The presiding deity of each Daikho is periodically worshipped ceremoniously which is known as Misengba or sacrifice of animals. At an interval of three or more years, sometimes at a shorter interval , at times of threatened famine, such as successive failures of crops due to drought etc., a date convenient to the followers, generally in dry season, is fixed for the purpose and the representatives from various places, as also animals and bird required for the ceremony are assembled at an appointed place. The ceremony is then held with solemnity by the Jonthai, the priest of that Daikho and his assistants called Dainyabs. Every Dimasa Kachari family worships its ancestral deity once a year before sowing the next paddy and the ceremony is known as Madai Khelimba. This is done for the general good of the family as Misengba is for the general welfare of the community. It has the same procedure and formalities as Misengba but is performed on a much smaller scale. Moreover the services of priest and jonthai are not used for its performance. The family deity is also worshipped for the welfare of an individual. This form of worship is called Madaima Dainba. It is a miniature form of Madai Khelimba. The Dimasa Kachari believe that illness of person is a mishap caused either by one of the evil spirits born of the premature divine egg already mentioned which are also called Madai or by any one of the innumerable witches called Sagai njik. Oracles are consulted to determine as to which of the Madais or Sagai njik is involved and a sacrifice is made to propitiate him or her as the case may be. This form of worship is known as madai Huba or Sagai Njik Huba depending upon the spirit causing trouble. The priest doing the ceremony is called Hojai. He is assisted by other functionaries. Madai Huba ceremony is done in the day time excepting Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday where as Sagai- Njik Huba may be performed on any day but always at night as the witches are considered to be noctural spirits. The Dimasa Kacharis believe that a witch is a women without a Julu (female sect ). She is supposed to possess supernatural powers capable of causing harm to the person with whom she is displeased. It is believed that such a woman can transform herslf into any convenient object and enter into any being to bring harm to it or to worsen the condition of the ailing person. Such suspects are therefore both feared and looked down upon in the society. Witch-craft is also believed to be hereditary on the female side i.e., the daughter of a witch automatically inherit the knowledge from the mother. Such girls are therefore seldom formally married and when a marriage takes place the bride can not demand the usual kalti (the bride price paid by the bridegroom). Women bearing Julus are so much scared that they would not allow any woman other than belonging to the same Julu to use their wearing apparels, ornaments, combs, cosmetics from the same container, as transmigration of witchcraft is believed to take place by such inter-use. There are innumerable Sagai-njiks the highest among them is known as Heremdi who has the place of Hindu Goddess, Kali. While all other Sagai-njiks are considered to be evil spirits, Heremdi has the place of goddess. She is worshipped once every year by the whole village for protection of the community and is never known to trouble any individual like the other witches who do so always. She is also worshipped by a family occasionally for the good of the members. Para Khoba and Dithar Khoba are the other pujas performed to propitiate the evil spirits, the former in case of repeated mishaps or accidents with narrow escapes such as attack of wild animals , snakes or fall from tree and the latter in case of general run down of death or chronic ailments. The Dimasa Kacharis also offer sacrifice to the spirits of their dead ancestors every year in the Jhums after paddy has been sown. This is called Simang Khoba. This is supposed to bring good harvest. The Dimasa Kacharis follow the patriarchal system of the family and father is the head of the household. As this society is comprised both of male clans and female clans, the system of inheritance is some what peculiar. The sons inherit the property of their father and daughters inherit the maternal property or mother's property consisting of jewellwry cloths, looms etc., used by the mother. The sons can never inherit the mother's property even if there is no daughter. In such a case , the maternal property is inherited by the nearest female or cognate relative belonging to the clan of the deceased women. Conversely father's property can not be inherited by the daughters even if there is no son. In such case the property is inherited by the nearest agnate of the deceased. In the event of disputes regarding the rights to the property of a deceased person, the Khunang the headman of the village alongwith other Khunangs of the neighbouring villages decide the case. But the most interesting part of this customary rule of inheritance is taht as soon as a man inherits the property of the deceased, he also inherits all the debts of the deceased and becomes liable to pay off the debt, no matter if the amount of debt is more than the value of the property inherited by him. The marriages in Dimasa Kacharis are strictly monogamous. One wife and one husband is the rule of the society. Widow marriage is allowed. A younger brother may marry the elder brother's wife, but an elder brother can never marry the widow of his younger brother. Similarly a man can marry the younger sister of his wife but not the elder. Marriage between persons standing in the relationship of cousins is allowed but within the nearer tie of consanguinity is not permitted. As already mentioned, the Dimasa Kachari society is comprised forty male clans (Sengphos) and forty two female clans (Julus ) . Both of these clans are exogamous. To give an example, one male sect is called Hasungsa and one female sect Sagaodi. In case a Hasungsa male marries a Sagaodi female , their male issues will be Hasungsas and female Sagaodis. The sons (Hasungsa) can not marry any woman of the mother's clan. In the same manner the daughters can not marry the man in their father's clan. Thus though no blood ties exist, in many cases marriage between certain persons can not take place simply for the bar of the sect or clan. On the other hand cousins marriage is allowed. If two brothers of Hasungsa respectivaly marry women of Pasaindi and Sagaodi clans and have as issue a daughter and a boy respectively, the boy will be Hasungsa and the girl Pasaindi. The first cousins can not marry, both fathers having been Hasungsa. But allowing the first cousins to marry a Banglai wife and a Rajuing husband respectively, their children as Hasungsa (the boy ) and Pasaindi (daughter) may contract marriage ties, the male having no Pasaindi clan in his family. Marriage by negotiation is the prevailing practice among the Dimasa Kacharis. After a boy has fixed his choice on a girl of his own or any other village, intimates his parents about it through his friends and relatives and sends them to the parents of the girl to find out whether they have any objections to the match. But in most cases it is the parents who make the selection though it is done only after ascertaining the wishes of the boy. On this occasion (Sandi-dangsingfa) the boy's party carries a packet of salt (about one kg. in weight) wrapped up in plan-tain leaves tied with seven threads and offers the same to the girl's parents after initial discussions. If this packet of salt is not returned within a reasonable time, then marriage is considered settled. There after the boy's parents has to visit the bride's house three times along with gourds of beer, the occasions being called Lao thai langba. It is only on third visit that the bride price is settled. Among Dimasa Kacharis bride price is called Kalti and it varies from rupees fifty to rupees two hundred depending upon the means of the bridegroom. After this , marriage day is fixed according to the convenience of both the parties. Marriage takes place in the bride's house and isconsummated there. After third day the bridegroom with bride return to his parents house, the occasion being called Phira phoiba. After staying three or four days he returns to his father-in-laws house, for Min-phabha (the period of stay is decided along with Kalti). During this period, the newly married couple is obliged to live with bride's parents. On completion of this period the boy takes his bride to his own village where he generally puts up in a newly constructed house. Among Dimasa Kacharis, child marriage is unknown. Marriage outside the tribe is not at all favoured. Divorce is permitted if the aggrieved party or parties appeal to Khunang, the traditional village headman and village elders. If the divoce takes place because of the fault of the husband, he can not demand the repayment of the Kalti. On the other hand if the divorce is due to the fault of the wife, the Kalti must be returned to the husband. In cases of mutual divorces, the repayment of Kalti is also settled mutually. The woman in the Dimasa Kachari society is assigned quite a a high place, next only to the position of woman under the matriarchal family. She has her own Julu (clan ) and daughter takes the Julu of the mother not of her father. In matter of inheritance also mother's property is inherited only by daughters. In certain functions like the christening of the child , women, especially the Hojai Jika and Annuamala, have the absolute say. However in the administrative sphere of the village or society they have no voice. In certain Pujas they are not allowed to participate. Except these few disabilities, they participate in community dances and songs and freely mix with the opposite sex. They are free to seek divorce before the village council in cases of maltreatement, adultery, and such other cogent grounds. The birth of a child is an occasion for joy in the family. After the birth of the child the mother is isolated. This isolation lasts till the Daosathaiba ceremony which is held after the removal of the naval cord. The dhai (Hojai jig) christens the child by breaking the eggs. Then a feast is held to celebrate the occasion. In addressing the married people who have children itis customary to call them by the name given to the eldest child woth the affixes Pa or Fa (father) and Ma (mother), so and so father and so and so mother and not by their real name. In the case of the couples who have no offspring the term Shagrifa and Shagrima are used signifying the father of no child and mother of no child. The Dimasa Kacharis cremate their dead. The dead body is washed and dressed in new clothes, the corpse is placed 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 right path to heaven. Every funeral guest places a gift by the side of the corpse calling out at the same time name of deceased and expressing his regret at not having seen him before his death. Widow does not tie her hair till cremation. The dead body is cremated by the side of the river or stream. A frontal bone is retained and on the day following the cremation is placed carefully wrapped in cloth in a miniature house raised on the spot where the body was cremated. The bone is allowed to remain in the Mankulung as this house is called until the next Bishu (Bihu) or harvest time. It is then taken out and dropped into the nearest river or stream. On the third day after the cremation, a function called Jumangsao Khainba is heed for purification. On this occasion only rice beer is served . Sradha ceremony is performed according to the convenience of the family. generally it is held in dry season. The whole village is entertained. Pigs, fowls and zu are the pre-requisites of this feast. This ceremony is called Maimuthesha. The body of child less than two months is not cremated but buried and no ceremony is performed. Women dying of child-birth is buried and all her property is thrown in the jungle or buried. No feast is also held. The body of the man who has been carried away by a tiger is buried on the spot where found. Rice is the staple food of the Dimasa Kacharis. It is husked at home by the females. Perhaps with the exception of beef, they deny themselves almost nothing. Pork is the great delicacy. There is, however, one common article of food, which no orthodox old fashioned Kachari will ever take i.e. milk. Among other delicacies is the dried fish. The small fishes are not cooked or prepared in any way but simply dried in the sun. Vegetables grown in the kitchen gardens, jhums or procurred from forests supplements their staple diet. Home brewed rice beer called zu is like a vintage for them after the days hard work. It is a must on all occasions of feasts, wedding and death ceremonies and festival of Bihu. There are many who indulge in drinking country liquor. The female dress consists of rijamfai, worn round the breast and rigu worn round the waist with a shoot used as Duptta called Rikhaosa. All these three pieces of dress , they weave themselves with their own distinct designs of embroidery and display. They wear ornaments viz Poal (necklace made of silver with costly sea shells), Khamonthai (gold earring ), Chandrawal (silver necklace), Rongborsa (necklace made of silver coins), Khadu (silver bracelet), Easidam (nose ring made of silver), Khamonhai (silver earring), Liksim (necklace made of blackbeads), Likjai (necklace made of beads) etc. The male wears a Risha (like Dhuti), shirt and Chaddar (Rimsao). The Dimasa Kacharis have a tendency to built their houses on hill slopes with river or streamlet flowing near by. The houses are constructed in two rows facing each other with a sufficiently wide gap in between . The villages used to have protecting fencing with only two gates, one at the top of the village and the other at the bottom. The practice has been given up now. Like the villages of other tribe's each village have bachelor's dormitory called Nodrang for the unmarried boys of the village. The female are never allowed to enter it. In front of it a big piece of wood is placed where the villagers often assemble to fix the dates for village functions etc. The Dimasa Kachari's dwelling house is a simple hall built on plinth of earth. It is a bamboo and ekra structure with posts and thatch foe roof. The floors and walls are plasteres with mud. The hall is divided by a partition wall into two parts . The outer chamber is known as Nokhong which is about two-third of the entire hall while the remaining one-third comprises the inner chamber called Noringh. The outer chamber is meant for the use of all purposes including dinning, sleeping and sitting while the inner chamber is used as kitchen and dormitory for the unmarried girls. All the articles of daily use belonging to the household are kept in the same house at different places meant for particular purposes. The houses have no particular furniture except piras for sitting and bamboo mats for sleeping . Utensils are of bronze and brass. For keeping or carrying requisites, various types of baskets are used. Every village has a headman called Khunang. He is assisted by Dilig and Habaisagao. Traditionally Khunang is to be elected by the village elders in a formal meeting held infront of Nodrang but in practice he is succeeded by his male descendent. The three together constitute a sort of an executive body with all the administrative functions of the village. The Khunang presides over all the meetings assisted by two other dignitaries. The Dilig acts as a sort of vice-chairman and can perform some of the functions of the Khunang in the absence of the latter, while the Habaisagao does the duty of the announcer. The Khunang wields considerable influence and in fact his authority in village affairs is undisputed. He along with two dignitaries and village elders tries petty cases of criminal and civil nature Another important institution of the village is Hangsao. It is an association of unmarried boys and girls of the village. It is organised for the purpose of working together in cultivation and lasts only for one year. At the beginning of the cultivation, the youngmen of the village assemble in a meeting to decide to form a Hangsao. They elect their leader. The leader is called Naga Hoja (Naga means unmarried young-man). He is the guiding spirit of the party and commands implict respect and obedience from every member. The next in command is Naga Pharai. They have their girl counterparts known as Matla Hoja and Matla Pharai ( Matla means unmarried young girl). These two girls conduct the affairs of the girls association. Hangsao has its president called gejebao. Throughout the year , the members of the Hangsao work together in the jhums cultivating by rotation an area of land at every member's field. No member should remain absent during the work but should a member fail to be present for unavoidable reasons his absence is made good by a fine of one basket of paddy called Bangki. Such fines in the shape of paddy are collected for preparation of Zu for use during the occasional meeting in the house of the gejebao. A nominal amount is also charged for the work done in the fields of every member which is collected at the end of the year for expenses during Bishu ( Bihu) festival. They also work for the non-member family on payment of nominal charge. It is however their duty to cultivate free of charge for gejebao. Usually a large area is cultivated and Zu for Bishu festival is prepared from the paddy of such cultivation. The entire show of the festival is run by this organisation. The amount thus collected is spent in procuring animals for meat and other edibles for the festivel . The Hangsao lasts till the final function or parting social Digarlaiba which takes place during the Bishu (Bihu). Another institution of the village is Surem. It is Hangsao in a miniature form with less formalities. It is an organisation of persons of similar age group and sex for working together in the fields. It has no office bearers. There may be more than one Surems in a village but there can be only one Hangsao in a village. Music and dance play an important role in the day-to-day life of the Dimasa Kacharis. Their wind instruments are Muri, Muri-wathisa and Suphin. Another one-string instrument which is like a Been is called Kharam Dubung. They have only one type of drum called Kharam . In every dance use of Muri and Kharam is indispensable. Among the important festivals of the Dimasa Kachari's mention may be made of Rajini Gobra, harni Gobra and Bishu or Bihu. The celebration of the former two is held once a year before the cultivation. Rajini Gobra is celebrated in day time and Harni Gobra during the night. The celebration of Bishu is an occasion of joy and merry making . It is most important festival of the Dimasa Kachari. No date is fixed but it is held after harvesting is done as per convenience of the village. It continues for seven days, first day is devoted to the worshipping of deities and remaining six days are exclusively for drinking, dancing, feasting and merry making. As already mentioned Hangsao take the leading part in making arrangements for the celebration of Bishu. The Lalungs : The Lalungs who numbered 4,916 and formed 1.76 percent of the population of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district in 1961 are mainly concentrated in the Amri Community Development Block area of Karbi Anglong . They are also found in small pockets in the Howraghat Community Development Block area. the Lalungs in the hills unlike those in the plains follow matriarchal system. They call themselves Tiua which in their language means the people who were lifted from below. They are one of the autochthonous people of Assam. It appears that Lalung is a Karbi word formed of two parts,Lang and Lung meaning 'water' and 'to sink in it' respectively. The story goes that during the invasion of Assam by Man (Burmese) the Lalungs were driven from the eastern part of their habitat in the plains towardsd the Kalang river of Nowgong district. In their attempt to cross the river they were drowned and were rescued by the Karbis. After this incident the Karbi people started calling them lang-lung which later changed to Lalung. Certain accounts connect the Lalung with Hindu tradition and myths. There is a belief that the original language of the Lalungs was Sanskrit and that they were Kshatriyas. When Parasuram set out to destroy all the Kshatriyas to avenge the death of his father at the hand of a king named Sahasrabahu Arjuna, The Lalungs decided to go to hiding and escaped to the Lailung hill on the northern side of the Brahmaputra. They stopped speaking Sanskrit and discarded the sacred thread. Eventually they forgot their original tradition and language. When they returned to their homeland they were not recognised as Kshatriyas but were called Lalungs after the Lailung hill where they hid themselves so long. Yet another story attributes their origin to the God Mahadev one of the Holy Trinity of the Hindus. One day Mahadev fell into a deep sleep after taking a huge quantity of lao-pani (rice-beer). Saliva rolled down from both sides of his mouth. Since things coming out from the body of God may not be wasted, a man and women were born of the saliva . They were the first Lalung couple. Tradition also has that as the Lalungs were born from the mouth of Mahadev they were endowed with the capacity of keeping in memory their songs and lore uttered through mouth. According to belief, their original homeland was Helem in the eastern part of Darran district. After they had lived there for centuries, dispute arose between them and the Bodos. Eventually they left that place and after crossing the Brahmaputra settled at Charaideo. They did not live long at this place. They left Charaideo to be occupied by Chutiyas, a separate tribe- with whom they claim to have many similarities. They migrated south-west by the fringes of Karbi Anglong anf entered the Khasis and Jaintia Hills. There they settled at a place called Khyrim and lived many years under the Jaintia king. Again dispute arose among them and a large number migrated to the north to the plains of Nowgong. The tribe can be divided into two groups - hill Lalungs and plains Lalungs. In their settlement pattern, there are environmental differences. In the hills, dwelling houses are built on high knoll. Every house has a small patch of kitchen garden and a courtyard well protected on all sides with bamboo stakes. The living house has a rectangular ground plan with thatched gabled roof on the top. The door is at the end overlooking the courtyard. In the plains they build their houses on plinth. The materials used are available in forest. But they always build their granaries on stilts. The house are generally two-roofed each having a door but no window. In the homestead three houses are often built enclosing a courtyard on three sides. One is for sleeping, one for cooking and eating which is known as family Barghar and the other is for storing paddy. Agriculture is their main occupation. They rear pigs and fowls and as such their houses are devoid of fruit trees which are found in Assamese houses. Their staple food is rice. Chu or country liquor prepared and brewed from rice plays an important part in all their rituals. They eat the flesh of all domestic animals except the cow. According to one account Lalungs have twelve main clans which are named after the places where they live in originally. each clan has its own sacred house (Barghar) and its presiding deity is Mahadev. In the Census of 1961 a list of twenty-seven phoids or clans has been given which is said to be not exhaustive. Besides there are numerous sub-divisions of each phoid.22 Lalung clans are strictly exogamous. Though marriage through negotiation is the usual practice they prefer marriage by elopement. Child marriages are unknown among them and polygamy is not common. A widow can remarry and can claim the hand of her deceased husband's brother. The Lalungs originally formed a matrilineal grup and continue to be so even today in the hills. But those who have settled in the plains tend to be patrilineal. They cremate their dead in a specially erected pyre. For post - funeral ceremony they do not have any fixed time limit. generally every three or four years all the members of clan together perform the post-funeral ceremony for all those who died during the period. Their villages are well organised and all disputes are decided by the village-council (Bura- Khel). In the hill areas custom of separate sleeping houses for the married youths and maidens is still kept up. But in the plains this institutions is not functioning. However, its aims and traditions still survive in the community works by the young men. The dormitories are now used as a club-house by the young boys and as meeting place for the village council. The leader of the young men Changdoloi plays an important part in community life. The organisation are responsibility of the spring festival Sagrame-chewa which is led in March is borne by him. The Loro and Deuri are two other important village functionaries who conduct rituals. They perform a number of religious ceremonies like Magh Pisu (Magh Bihu) in January, Sagramechewa and Barsela in March. Boisag Pisu (Bohag Bihu) in April, Jogkhong Puja in May , Mahadev Puja in August, Laiyiu Rakhewana in September and Washriawana in October.23 The Rengma Nagas : The Rengma Nagas of Karbi Anglong inhabit the strips of hills that lie between Barpathar and Chokikhola. Their population is about 2,000 scattered in 12 villages. They are believed to be of the same stock of Rengma Naga in Nagaland. According to one account, they migrated from Nagaland to the present abode due to internal strife during the reign of Kamaleswar Sinha. Their Chief Kehang offered tribute to the Ahom king and he was bestowed woth a title of Phukan. But some belive that their migration took place during the reign of Ahom king Rudra Sinha. All the Rengma Nagas living in Karbi Anglong have embraced christianity.
The Rengma Naga family is patrilineal. Father is the head of the family and after his death sons inherit the property. If there is no sons the property passed to the nearest agnate. Adoption is allowed but adoptee must be of adoptor's clan. The Rengma Naga society is divided in to eight exogamous clans of Kenpuvnyu, Kanrinyu, Resobinyu, Jisenbinyu, Sabinyu, Nyenthanyu, Nangdunyu, and Henbunyu. Marriage between the same clan is prohibited. A man will have to find out his life partner outside his own clan. A Rengma Naga also can not marry the daughter of his maternal uncle (Mother's brother's daughter which is preferred among some of the tribal communities). Widow marriage is allowed. An elder brother can not marry the widow of his younger brother but vice versa is the practice. If there is no younger brother, then widow must marry within her deceased husband's clan. Marriageable age for a boy is about twenty years and for a girl sixteen years. Monogamy is the rule. Divorce, though permitted, is rare.
Marriage takes place by negotiation. genrally boy's parents approach the girl's parents and makes a present of tea-leaves, sugar etc., and rice beer. If the girl's parents are agreeable then a date for Sempen is fixed. On that day the boy's father presents a Jenkathang (long dao ) and a Miik (spear) to the girl's father. Marriage (jenkhin) can take place only after a year from this date. On the appointed day bridegroom party arrives at bride's house and then the ceremony begins with songs and dances. The bridegroom's party sings a song intending to take the girl and on refusal by the bride's party there ensues a mock fight between the two until at las the bride is captured and then to the bridegoorm's newly constructed house. At this stage, there is much weeping from the girl's side. Though all this is done mockingly, it reflects that at one stage marriage by capture was in vogue among Rengma Nagas. But these are relics of the past and gradually being done away with. Marriage are now solemnised according to the conventionalities of the christian marriage.
The Rengma Nagas burn their dead. The burial takes place as soon as all relatives of the deceased assemble. Edible articlees are offered to the dead. There is a great deal of mourning. Certain food like yam is prohibited among the family members of the dead. Before the lapse of one year, another death ceremony called Chankhewen is held. All the relatives of the deceased are invited to it.
The Rengma Nagas have their own traditional dresses but younger generation have almost disowned them. Like other tribal societies dance and music are an inseparable item of their day to day life. They organise a number of feasts and festivals. Nyada (held in December) Pi-Pe (held in January), Kennyu (held in November) and Khong-Kepang are the important ceremonies of Rengma Nagas.
A village in Rengma language is called Phen and a house Kale. The house in a village are constructed in two rows, one facing other but leaving a sufficient space in between. This space serves as a playground to the children. The house in a row are close to one another, in the back side, there are small vegetable gardens. The houses are built on a raised platform, the height of which are lower than the Karbi houses. The building materials are grass, bamboo and woods. The number of houses in a village varies from 10 to 50. The traditional house is usually divided into three or four rooms leaving the passage all through in one side from the front to the back side of the house . The front of the house is an open platform called Sa. The first room of the house as one enters is Kahu Swen. There is fire place in this room where people chat and gossip by the fire side. Next to this place is Pheken Swen where tools for husking paddy are stored. The third room is called Togwen Swen. There are two beds here and a fireplace in between the beds. This room is meant for the head of the house and his wife. Next to this room is called Kanyu Swen where unmarried daughters sleep. Here also there are beds and a fire place. In these last two rooms foods are also cooked.
Like other tribal communities there is a youngmen's club in each village. The house is called Rengshe. It is the centre of all village activities. Gradually this institution is losing its ground. The oldest man of the village is called Pethinyu and village administration in his responsibility. Village disputes are settled by village council presided over by Penthinyu.
The Zemi Nagas : The Zemi Nagas live in three different areas- the North Cachar Hills, Manipur and Nagaland. They are classified as one of the sub-tribe of Kecha naga. The Zemi Nagas living in Nagaland call themselves Zeliang. In the North Cachar Hills they have been living along with other tribes like Kachari, Kuki,Hmars etc. since the last eighteenth century. Originally they migrated from Nagaland Via manipur and settled down in the north- eastern part of the North Cachar Hills and its hills south of Maibong. They also went as far as the bank of the river Kopili. With the decline of Kachari power, they became the easy victims of Angami Nagas depredations. As a result some them migrated to the west and settled in the hills beyond the Diyung valley. They speak their own Zemi dialect. They are of Mongoloid race. They are well-built, strong and healthy and have thick black hair and a fair complextion.
They follow the patriarchal system of family and father is the sole authority of the household. After fater's death, the eldest son inherit the property and in return has to look after his younger brothers and sisters. They have six clans namely Napame, Nkuame, Heneume, Nriame, Sogame and Panme. Of them Napame and Nkuame, are considered as belonging to the same clan and marriage between these two clans is not encouraged. The clans are exogamous and no marriage can take place between the members of the same clan. Marriage is held by negotiation. There is a system of bride price which is paid in terms of Mithuns by bride-groom to bride's parents. Cross-cousin marriage is preferred.
The religion of Zemi Nagas may be termed as animism. They believe in the existence of one supreme God and eight other gods under Him who are associated with health, water etc. They believe in witch-craft and black magic. They also believe in the existence of a spiritual world. That is why when a man dies it is thought he is making a journey to a spiritual world and provisions of food etc., that may be required on the way are made. The relatives of the dead arranges a feast and offer the share to the deceased in a basket. The dead body is put in coffin and burried . A flat stone slab with some markings is placed on the grave as a symbol of identification.
The villages of the Zemi Nagas are on the breezy hill-tops. In the past when village raids were regular affairs, the hill-tops provided better advantages for defence. In each village , there are dormitories for young boys and girls. The boy's dormitory is called Hangseuki and girl's dormitory is Langseuki. All the young unmarried boys and girls of the villages stay in night in their respective dormitories. As soon as one is married he or she ceases to be the member of Hangseuki and Langseuki. These dormitories are the centres of learnings as well as the village recreational activities. The girls are taught weaving, spinning, singing, dancing etc., and boys are taught wrestling , hunting, making of handicrafts etc. These dormotories also serve as guest houses.
They have their own traditional and colourful dress and ornaments. Dancing and singing are the routine of daily life. They celebrate six important festivals during the year. Modern civilization has not made any significant impact upon them. Only a small section of Zemi Nagas is converted to christianity.
The Kukis : Their original settlement was Central Asia. From there they migrated to eastern India through Shan States of Burma where they are called as Chin. In India they are called Kukis though both are the same people. They are of Mongoloid stock and strong and stouty.
The Kukis are divided into 37 groups and each group has a number of clans and sub-clans. Family system is patriarchal and sons inherit the property. Marriage among the Kukis are monogamous. Cross cousin marriage are preferred, Monogamy is the rule. Divorce and widow marriage are allowed. They have been described as animists by religion, and sacrifice animal to propitiate different spirits at the time of sickness. Now a great majority of them have accepted christianity.
They prefer to live in hilly place and their villages are cluster of houses closely constructed on hill-tops. Each family has one house without any inside partition. Village headman wields considerable power. There is court called Dewan where cases are tried by the headman assisted by some wise man called Siemang and Pachong. Like other tribes, they have their own traditional dress, ornaments, dance and music. No doubt christianity has brought considerablechanges in their socio-economic life yet the usual customs, laws and habits which their forefathers adopted from time immemorial are still observed and adhered to.
The Hmars : They also came from Burma and Manipur and settled in North Cachar Hills. They are of Mongoloid stock. The tribe is divided into exogamous clans but the exogamy is not very strictly adhered to. Monogamy is strictly followed. Cross cousin marriage is preferred. Divorce is permissible. There is a system of bride price which used to be in kinds but now-a-days and varies from Rs. 200/- to Rs. 500/-. The youngest daughter usually gets a higher bride price.
Almost whole of the tribe in North Cachar Hills is now converted to christianity. Prior to it their religion was animism and their God was Pathien. Sacrifices were offered for his appeasement. Now they have churches in their villages and religions rites are performed according to the tenets of the christianity.
Like other tribes, villages of the Hmars are also on the hill-tops. Their houses are built on wooden planks. Each family has a single house divided into several compartments. They used to have their traditional dances and music, dress and ornaments etc. But these appear to have been forgotten. Only woman folk are found to put on their traditional dress and ornaments.24
The Garos and the Khasis : The Garos and the Khasis also inhabit the district in small numbers. Both follow the matriarchal system of family and lineage is traced through mother. The children takes the tile of mother and daughters inherit the property. The Garo villages are mainly concentrated in Neparpatty area under Bokajan Tribal Development Block. They belong to Tibeto- Burman group of the family . The Khasis mainly inhabit the Amreng and Socheng Tribal Development Blocks of Karbi Anglong and in the areas of North cachar Hills bordering to Meghalaya. Both the tribes are followers of the christianity.
The Shyams : The Shyams or Aitunias also inhabit in small number in the plains area of Barpathar and Balipathar in Karbi Anglong. They are said to have migrated to Assam along with the Ahoms from Thailand, a neighbouring country of Burma. They are Buddhists by religion and have Pagoda like monasteries in the villages. Their chief priest is called Chamun.
They follow the patriarchal system of family and sons inherit the property after father's death. They have no exogamous group among themselves but marriage within close relation is not allowed though there is no bar against cousin marriage. They practise monogamy. Divorce and widow marriage is permitted. The dead bodies of the aged persons arecremated and those of younger ones are buried. The death ceremony is completed within seven days. The Shyam women are adept weaves.
In addition to the above, there is a sizeable population of non-tribals like, Assamese, Bengalies, ex-tea garden labourers etc. They are mostly found in the different plain areas of the district Nepalis also inhabit the district in sizeable strength. They are mostly graziers and Khutiwallas. They have penetrated into interior places of the district.
12. C.J. Lyall : The Mikirs, reprint, p.4.
13. Ibid, p.18.
14.For details see The Mikirs by C.J. Lyall, pp.37-42.
15. The account of the Karbis is based on the book The Mikirs by C.J.Lyall.
16. E.A. Gait : A History of Assam ; Reprint : Calcutta, 1967, p.299.
17. S.K. Chatterjee : Kirata-janakrti, The Indo- Mongoloids, Their Contributions to the History and culture of India, 1951, p.13.
18. M. Harmannas : The Indo-Tibetans, Bombay, 1954, p.38.
19. E.A. Gait : : A history of Assam, Reprint Calcutta, 1967, p.299.
20. B.K. Barua : A cultural History of Assam, Gauhati , 1969, p.7.
21.B.N. Bardoloi : The Dimasa Kacharis of the North Cachar Hills District of Assam, Gauhati, 1976, p.8.
22. Census of India, 1961 Vol.111,Assam, Part-V-A, Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, p.14.
23. N.K. Shyam Choudhury and M.M. Das : The Lalung Society, a monograph, Pub. by the Director of Anthropological Survey of India.
24.B.N.Bordoloi : District Hand Book, United Mikir & North Cachar Hills District, Gauhati 1972 pp.28-29.