Tribes of South Garo Hills District
They then branched out into a number of sub-tribes, and the main body under the legendary leader, Along Noga, occupied Nokrek, the highest peak in Garo Hills. A'Chik is the general title used for the various groups of people after the division of the race. The title is used to denote different groups such as the Ambeng, Atong, Akawe (or Awe), Matchi, Chibok, Chisak Megam or Lyngngam, Ruga, Gara-Ganching who inhabit the greater portion of the present Garo Hills. But the name applies also to the groups of Garos scattered at the neighbouring places in Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Mymensing in Bangladesh.
Though the main feature of their traditional political setup, social institutions, and marriage systems, inheritance of properties, religion and beliefs are common, it is observed that as these units were isolated from one another; they have developed their own separate patterns. They also speak different dialects. Also their traditional songs, dances, music differ from each other. The song, dances and music are mostly associated with traditional religious functions and ceremonies.
Society of South Garo Hills District
The Garos have a matrilineal society where children adopt their mother clan. The simplest pattern of Garo family consists of the husband, wife and children. The family increases with the marriage of the heiress, generally the youngest daughter. She is called Nokna and her husband Nokrom. The bulk of family property is bequeathed upon the heiress and other sisters receive fragments but are entitled to use plots of land for cultivation and other purposes. The other daughters go away with their husbands after their marriage to form a new and independent family. This aspect of family structure remains the same even in urban areas. The Garo household utensils are simple and limited. They consist mainly of cooking pots, large earthen vessels for brewing liquor, the pestle and the mortal with which paddy is husked. They also use bamboo baskets of different shapes and sizes. The Garos have their own weapons. One of the principal weapons is two-edge sword called Milam made of one piece of iron form hilt to point. There is a cross-bar between the hilt and the blade where attached a bunch of cow's tail-hair. Other types of weapons are shields, Spear, Bows and Arrows, Axes, Daggers etc.
The important ones are the Chatchis named Marak, Momin and Sangma. Of these again, the Marak and the Sangma Chatchis have a wider membership; it has been estimated that more than half of all the Garos belong to one or the other. The earlier practice of Chatchi exogamy is to a large extent still strictly observed. The majority of Garos still hold that a member of a particular "Chatchi" should not marry a member of the same Chatchi. For example, most Sangmas would shrink from marrying older Sangmas. The practice may be crumbling to some extent in urban society. Marriage within a Chatchi subdivision, or ma'chong as it is called, is on the other hand, scrupulously avoided, such a marriage being tantamount to incest. This, to a Garo, is a serious breach of moral laws which will draw upon the guilty person's divine punishment, like being killed by wild animals or struck by lightning. Although a modernized Manda Sangma may not shrink from marrying an A'gitok Sangma, he will not think of marrying another Manda Sangma. The several Chatchis are subdivided into a large number of ma 'chongs. As far as is known, no one has attempted to list the names of all the ma'chongs.
In the matrilineal society of the Garos, property passes from mother to daughter. Although the sons belong to the mother's Ma'chong, they cannot inherit any portion of the maternal property. Indeed, males cannot in theory hold any property other than that acquired through their own exertions. Even this will pass on to their children through their children's mother after they marry. Among the Garos any of the daughters, even the eldest, if there are many, may be chosen as the nokna, or heiress, having proved her fitness to occupy this privileged position by her dutifulness to her parents. In case there are no daughters, the family can adopt any other girl, usually one having the closest blood relationship to the adoptive mother, first preference being given to one of the "non-heir" daughters (a'gate) of the woman's sisters, who are, of course, among the closest female relations a woman can have.
Inheritance of property among the Garos is generally linked with matrimonial relations, and although men may have no property to pass on, they have an important say in deciding to whom it should pass. As has been stated earlier, the broad divisions of Garo society, the chatchis, are traditionally exogamous. Although the restrictions are probably weakening, particularly among urban Garos or those living in cosmopolitan settings, one can say that the overwhelming majority of Garos still observe them. Even in sophisticated society, however, the harsher restrictions in regard to marriage within the same ma'chong are still scrupulously observed. Broadly speaking, one can say that a man who belongs to the Sangma Chatchi will look for a bride among the other chatchis like the Marak or the Momin and vice-versa.
Matrimonial System in South Garo Hills District
The initiative in any move towards marriage is usually taken by the bride's family, perhaps even by the girl herself. When the girl is the heiress, the father, with an eye to the property she will inherit may as staled earlier, get his own sister's son, that is, his own nephew, as her prospective bridegroom. Among the Songsareks or non- Christians , the practice of' bridegroom capture, particularly in rural areas, still goes on. A girl may express her interest in a young man and ask her male kinsmen to get him for her. This may involve an arduous chase, especially if the boy is not interested because, perhaps, he still cherishes the freedom of bachelor life, and the matter may not end with his capture and his being brought to her house. In the circumstances, the captured bridegroom will try to escape but generally after a few such attempts, he becomes reconciled to the idea of settling down.
In spite of the comparative freedom enjoyed by young people in Garo society, the standard of morality is generally high and evens those who may have been guilty of youthful indiscretions settle down to a stable married life. In the urban areas, the types of buildings are generally what are called the "Assam type", with plank floors, plastered walls, ceilings of cloth or matting and corrugated iron sheet roofs. Buildings of this type are of particular advantage in earthquake-prone regions like the Garo Hills, being able to stand up to a high degree of stress.
(Last Updated on : 10-03-2014)
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