Garo (tribe)

Garo (tribe)

The Garos are a tribe in Meghalaya, India, and greater Mymensingh, Bangladesh, who call themselves Achik-mande (literally "hill people," from "achik" "hill" + "mande" "people") or simply Achik or Mande. [ [ Official Homepage of Meghalaya State of India] ] They are the second-largest tribe in Meghalaya after the Khasi and comprise about a third of the local population.

The majority of Garos are Christians. There are a large number of Baptists (Garo Baptist Convention, GBC) and a small section is Roman Catholics. There is also a sprinkling of Seventh-day Adventists, Anglicans and others belonging to some new denominations. Much like the Mizos, there are now very few Garos who still follow their traditional Animist beliefs. Christiany has been a great blessing to the socio-economic develoment of Garos. The contribution American Baptist Missionaries have been great in transforming the Garo society and to their all round developlment in Garo Hills. The American Baptist Missionaries came in the mid of 19th century and started opening schools and hospitals in Garo Hills in India. Later Catholic missionaries also came and opened schools.

Geographical distribution

They are mainly distributed over the Kamrup, Goalpara and Karbi Anglong Districts of Assam, Garo Hills in Meghalaya, and substantial numbers, about 200,000 are found in greater Mymensingh (Tangail, Jamalpur, Sherpore, Netrakona) and Gazipur, Rangpur, Sunamgonj, Sylhet, Moulovibazar district of Bangladesh. It is estimated that total Garo population in India and Bangladesh together were about 2 million in 2001.

There are also Garo in the state of Tripura. They numbered around 6000 in 1971. [Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. "Tripura: The Land and its People". (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10]

Young Garos are more outward looking and adventurous have started living in developed countries like USA, UK, Austarlia, Franch, Germany and some Asian countries like Singapore, Hongkong, Japan etc. They excel in various modern skills and trade- sofware, hardware, medicine professions.


The Garo language belongs to the Bodo branch of the Bodo-Naga-Kachin family of the Sino-Tibetan phylum. As the Garo language is not traditionally written down, customs, traditions, and beliefs are handed down orally.

Garo language has different sub-languages, Viz- Abeng, Atong, Migam, Duwal, Kotchu, Chibok etc.In Bangladesh "Abeng" is the usual dialect, but "Achik" is used more in India.The Garo language has some simillarities with Boro-Kachari,Rava, Dimasa and Kok-Borok languages.

However, the modern official language in schools and government offices are English and the modern generation is more inclined towards English.

Historical accounts

According to one such oral tradition, the Garos first came to Meghalaya from Tibet about 400 years ago under the leadership of Jappa Jalampa, crossing the Brahmaputra River and tentatively settling in the river valley. It is said that they were later driven up into the hills by other groups in and around the Brahmaputra River. Various records of the tribe by invading Mughal armies and by British observers in what is now Bangladesh wrote of the brutality of the people.

The earliest written records about the Garo dates from around 1800. They "...were looked upon as bloodthirsty savages, who inhabited a tract of hills covered with almost impenetrable jungle, the climate of which was considered so deadly as to make it impossible for a white man to live there" (Playfair 1909: 76-77). The Garo had the reputation of being headhunters.

In December 1872, the British sent out battalions to Garo Hills to establish their control in the region. The attack was conducted from three sides – south, east and west. The Garo warriors confronted them at Rongrenggiri with their spears, swords and shields. The battle that ensured was unmatched, as the Garos did not have guns or mortars like the British Army.

Togan Sangma, a young man was in command of the valiant Garo warriors. He fell fighting with unmatched heroism and courage in December 1872.

Later a Garo patriot and statesman Sonaram Sangma also faught against British and tried to unify the contiguous Garo inhabited areas.


The Garos are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. The individuals take their clan titles from their mothers. The youngest daughter ("nokna") inherits the property from her mother. Sons leave the parents' house at puberty, and are trained in the village bachelor dormitory ("nokpante"). After getting married, the man lives in his wife's house. 'Garos' are only a matrilineal society, but NOT matriarchal. While property of Garos are owned by the women, the men folk govern the society & domestic affairs and manages the property. This gives a solid security to the 'Garo' women folk.Garo also have their traditional names. [ [ Academic study about personal names in Garo villages] ]

However, the culture of modern Garo community has been greatly influenced by Christianity. 'Nopante's are glory of the past and all chlidren are given equal care, rights and imporatance by the modern parents.


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

Greatest among Garo festivals is the ‘Wangala’, usually celebrated in October or November, is thank-giving after harvest in which Saljong, the god who provides mankind with Nature’s bounties and ensures their prosperity, is honored.

Other festivals: Galamakduwa, Agalmaka, etc.

Wangala of Asanag: There used to be a celebration of 100 drum festival in Asanang near Tura in West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India usually in the month of October or November. Thousands of people especially the young people gather at Asanang and celebrate Wangala with great joy.Beautiful Garo girls known as 'nomil' and handsome young men 'pante' take part in 'Wangala' festivals. The 'pante's beat a kind of long drum called 'dama' in groups and play bamboo flute.The 'nomil's with colorful costume dance to the tune of 'dama' and folk songs in a circle.Most of the folk songs depicts ordinary garo life, God's blessings, beauty of nature, day to day struggles,romance and human aspirations.

Christmas: Though Christmas is basically a religious celebration, in Garo Hills the month of December is a great season of celebration.In the first week of December the town of Tura and all other smaller towns are illuminated with lights and celbration goes till about 10th of January. The celebartion is featured by worship,dance,merry-making,grand feasts and social visits.People from all religion and sections take part in Christmas celebration.

Tallest Christmas Tree of the World: In December 2003 the tallest Christmas tree of the world was errected at Dobasipara, Tura by the Baptist boys of Dobasipara. Its height was 119.3 feet and BBC television had come to take a coverage and broadcasted. The tree was decorated with 16,319 clolor electric bulbs and it took about 14 days to complete the decoration.The Christmas tree had attarcted several tourits and journalist from outside of Meghalaya, India.

Music and Dance

Group songs may include Nango Ree, Seranjing, Pandodolong etc.Dance forms are Ajima roa, Mi Su'a, Chambil mpa, Do'kru-Sua, Kambe toa, Gaewang roa, Napsepgrika and many others.

The traditional Garo musical instruments can broadly be classified into four groups. [ [ Culture section in the official Garo Hills area] ] .
*Idiophones: Self-sounding and made of resonant materials – Kakwa, Nanggilsi, Guridomik, Kamaljakmora, all kinds of gongs, Rangkilding, Rangbong, Nogri etc.
*Aero phone: Wind instruments, whose sound come from air vibrating inside a pipe when is blown –Adil, Singga, Sanai, Kal, Bolbijak, Illep or Illip, Olongna, Tarabeng, Imbanggi, Akok or Dakok, Bangsi rosi, Tilara or Taragaku, Bangsi mande, Otekra, Wa’ppe or Wa’pek.
*Chordophone: Stringed instrument – Dotrong, Sarenda, Chigring, Dimchrang or Kimjim, Gongmima or Gonggna.
*Membranophone: Which have skins or membranes stretched over a frame – Ambengdama, Chisakdama, Atong dama, Garaganching dama, Ruga and Chibok dama, Dual-matchi dama, Nagra, Kram etc


External links

* [ Official site of Meghalaya State of India]
* [ East Garo Hills District official website]
* [ West Garo Hills District official website]
* [ South Garo Hills District official website]
* [ Ethnologue entry for Garo]
* [ Garo people]

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