THE GAROS

The Garos/A·chìks are an ethnic group spread throughout the entire North-East region of India, but are mainly concentrated in Meghalaya and in the adjoining districts of Kamrup, Goalpara and Karbi Anglong in Assam. A substantial number of them are also found in Tangail, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Netrakona, Gazipur, Rangpur, Sunamgonj, Sylhet, Moulovibazar districts of Bangladesh. Rev. Sidney Endle in his book The Kacharis placed the Garos in Southern Kachari group along with the Hojais, the Lalungs, the Dimasas, the Twipras and the Hajongs.

The Garo language (A·chìkku) belong to the Bodo-Garo (Baric) division of the Sino-Tibetan family. It has several different dialects like A·beng, Atong, Me·gam, Dual, Ruga, A·we, Chisak, Matchi, Matabeng, Gara Ganching and Chibok.

Oral tradition holds that the Garos first came to present day Garo Hills from Tibet about 400 BC. But according to some anthropologists, Garos descended from the north-east bank of Qinghai Lake about 3-5 thousand years ago.

The Garos established their first kingdom at Sambol A·ding (Erong Pahar or Sri Surya Pahar), nearby Dakaidal (also recorded as Dakaidol/Dakaitdol) in present-day Goalpara district, with Abrasen as its first king. The kingdom was said to have lasted till the end of the eighteenth century. Abrasen belonged to the Bangbong ma·chong ('sub-clan') and his queen belonged to the Gabil ma·chong ("Bangbonggreni de, Gabilni se"). The pargana of Habraghat was named after him.

GARO TRADITIONAL WEAR

Kotip. A kotip is a cotton cloth, usually of dark blue or white colour, worn round the head. This is called a pagri in Playfair's book The Garos (1909). Sir William Wilson Hunter in his earlier work A Statistical Account of Assam, Volume 2 (1879) mentioned that kotip is the Garo name for pagri. These days, this head gear is ornamented with beads on its fringe and is worn by both men and women.

Pandra. A single piece of cloth worn criss-crossed across the body. It is traditionally worn during a dance to celebrate a successful raid.

Gando. The principal waist cloth worn by men, its width is about 6 inches and its length measures between 6 to 7 feet. Playfair in his book The Garos (1909) recorded that a gando is "a strip of blue cotton cloth interwoven with lines of red."

Kotip. A traditional cloth head gear, usually in red, ornamented with white beads on its fringe. It is worn both by men and women.

Dakmanda. The dakmanda is the main decorated garment worn by Garo women drapped around the waist, reaching from waist to ankle. It has flowery designs on it and is of varied colours.

Gana. Less decorated than the dakmanda, the gana is a plain cloth with simple stripes usually worn at home.

Re·king. It is a scanty cloth worn by women wrapped around the waist, usually about 16 to 18 inches long and 14 inches wide.

Garo Girl

Pilne. Also known as salchak-maldong, it is basically a bamboo comb, decorated with multi-coloured beads dorned on top with binded sickles and saddle feathers of a rooster, known as do·me.

Nadirong/Nabibal. Worn in the helix of the ear, in earlier times it was recorded that it was made of brass. Playfair in his famous book, The Garos (1909), noted that a nadirong was worn by both men and women. Possibly, a decorated variant emerged out of it later, which is worn exclusively by women, and is known as nabibal, or nabal. And though there is no mention of nabibal either in Playfair's book nor in Milton Sangma's book History And Culture of the Garos (1981), it did have a mention in Fridina K. Marak's book Sisobrao Jumang (2011).

Natapsi. This earring is worn just below the nadirong in the helix part of the ear. It is about 4 inches long.

Rikgitok. A beaded necklace of 10 lines, it has circular bridges and hooks made of light metal.

Seng·ki. A white multi-tiered waistband, traditionally made of conch shells. It acts as a girdle to hold the re·king.

[Nota Bene: This is not a complete list of all the traditional ornaments used by the Garos. There will be a separate page dedicated to them later.]

Garo Girl