(Last Updated on : 28/01/2011)
Tribes of Meghalaya represent the inhabitants of Meghalaya who reside in the foothills as well as within the mountain ranges of Garo, Khasi and Jaintias. The origin of these tribes can be traced from the Tibeto- Burman race and Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race. While the Garos can be traced as the descendents of Tibeto- Burman race, the Khasis and the Jaintiyas are claimed to have belonged to the Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race. Along with this there are a number of tribes like the Bhois, Khynriams and the Wars who reside in the northern, southern and central parts of Meghalaya
Social Structure of tribes of Meghalaya
Tribes of Meghalaya are distinctly marked for their social structure. The society is exceptionally maternal in which the women carry their parental lineage. The society is matrilineal where the inheritance to parent`s property goes along with the women and the men are responsible for mental and material life of the family. Largely the tribal groups follow Christianity though the state follows all the three religions namely Hinduism
as well as Christianity.
Tribes of Meghalaya which include a number of large as well as small tribal groups represent the colours of Meghalaya. Their cultural trends are largely visible in the number of festivals which they follow. In every occasion both men and women wear their traditional dresses which are most attractive for the colours they represent. The traditional dress of Meghalaya is known as `Jymphong` which is often worn during the festivals and ceremonies. Regarding food the tribes of Meghalaya are large fond of fish while they also take mutton and rice which are their hot favourites accompanied with rice beer. At times of festivals rice beer is a must. Among the various traditions of the land Tribes of Meghalaya follow have only one restriction in case of marriage. The tribe claims that one cannot marry in the same clan while the marriages must get parent`s approval without which the marriage shall be treated as illegal. The tribal society of Meghalaya primarily depends on subsistence agriculture with sufficient amount of rainfall as the area lies within the monsoon belt and receives the maxmimum level of annual rainfall. Overall the tribal society of Meghalaya is agro based which bear almost common trends except few which vary from tribe to tribe.
Tribes of Meghalaya largely include the tribes of Garo, Khasi and Jaintiyas which are accompanied by many more tribal communities. Tribes of Meghalaya include Garo, Khasio, Jyantiya, Bhoi, War, Hynniewtrep, Achiks, Labangs, Nagphylluts and Nagtungs. Garos are the tribe which are mainly found in the southern part of Garo hills which gives it the name. They originally belong to the Bodo family from the Tibetan- Burmese race; also reside in the plains of Assam
and Bangladesh. Like other tribes in Meghalaya these tribes too follow maternal lineage in case of inheritance of property and enjoy all kind of vegetarian well as non vegetarian food in case of regional delicacies. The most popular food of the Garo tribes is rice with capsicum, onion and salt. The second type of tribe which is largely seen is Khasis. They are the largest tribal group of North eastern region. Khasis are known with a number of names in different parts of Meghalaya. Those living in the foothills of Jaintiya hills are known as Jaintiyas while those living in northern plains and foot hills are known as Bhois, those living in southern hills are known as Wars. All these tribes are coupled together under Hynniewtrep which is regarded as the descendents of Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race. Their staple food is rice, fish and meat and they love to drink rice beer which they prepared by fermenting rice. They too follow maternal lineage and is largely matriarchical society. Jaintias too reside in the foot hills of Jaintia hills from where they collect their name. These are a type of Khasi tribe which further includes Bhoi in the northern Meghalaya; Khynriam in the central Meghalaya; Pnar of the Jaintia hills; War in the southern Meghalaya. Achiks are another group of Garo tribes who comprise one third of Meghalaya`s tribal community.
Thus the tribal groups in Meghalaya are scattered all over the region and known by separate names. Overall they belong to the same anthropological entities which demarcate them as one soul group. These groups may have some minute differences but overall they belong to one group of tribe.