CULTURE & FESTIVALS
The common and regular festivals are those connected with agricultural operations. Greatest among Garo festivals is the ‘Wangala’, which is no more a celebration of thank-giving after harvest in which Saljong, the god who provides mankind with Nature’s bounties and ensures their prosperity, is honoured. There is no fixed date for the celebration, this varies from village to village, but usually, the Wangala is celebrated in October/ November. The Nokma (the owner of A'kingland or Clan-land) of the village takes the responsibility to see that all arrangements are in order. A large quantity of food and rice-beer must be prepared well ahead. The climax of the celebrations is the colourful Wangala dance in which men and women take part in their best clothes. Lines are formed by males and females separately and to the rhythmic beat of drums and gongs and blowing of horns by the males, both groups shuffle forward in parallel lines.
Other dance forms are 'Ajima roa', 'Mi Su'a', ‘Chambil mpa', ‘Do'kru-Sua’, 'Kambe toa', 'Gaewang roa', 'Napsepgrika' and many others.
The music of the Garos is traditional except Garo modern musical instruments and songs. The traditional Garo musical instruments can broadly be classified into four groups.
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.
Generally one finds the similar type of arts and architecture in the whole of Garo Hills. They normally use locally available building materials like timbers, bamboo, cane and thatch. Garo architecture can be classified into following categories:
Nokmong: The house where every A'chik household can stay together. This house is built in such a way that inside the house, there are provisions for sleeping, hearth, sanitary arrangements, kitchen, water storage, place for fermenting wine, place for use as cattle-shed or for stall-feeding the cow and the space between earthen floor and raised platform for use as pigsty and in the back of the house, the raised platform serves as hencoop for keeping fowl and for storing firewood, thus every need being fully provisioned for in one house.
Nokpante: In the Garo habitation, the house where unmarried male youth or bachelors live is called Nokpante. The word Nokpante means the house of bachelors. Nokpantes are generally constructed in the front courtyard of the Nokma, the chief. The art of cultivation, various arts and cultures, and different games are also taught in the Nokpante to the young boys by the senior boys and elders.
Jamsreng: In certain areas, in the rice field or orchards, small huts are constructed. They are called Jamsreng or Jamap. Either the season’s fruits or grains are collected and stored in the Jamsreng or it can be used for sleeping.
Jamatal: The small house, a type of miniature house, built in the jhum fields is called Jamatal or ‘field house’. In certain places, where there is danger from wild animals, a small house with ladder is constructed on the treetop. This is called Borang or ‘house on the treetop’.
Bandasal: This is like a rest house. Usually built in front of the Nokma’s house.
Jam nok: To store harvested grains like millet and paddy, the Garos used to built a granary or a store house at a distance of about 30-40 metres form the house. The distance is to protect them from the spread of fire.
A Garo village is a well-knit unit, the population consisting of one domiciled Ma’chong or lineage of a Chatchi or clan, which has proprietary rights over the entire land of the village or A’king, as it is called. In the matrilineal society of the Garos, of course, we must assume matrimonial relations with other clans with which marriage ties are permissible. In the case of principal family, the husband of the heiress becomes the Nokma (headman). The Nokma manages his wife’s property and allots plots to different families for cultivation, besides carrying out other duties. Girls generally stay in their own village. Their husbands if not cross-cousin, may be from other villages. Some degree of relationship may, therefore, be said to exist between most households in the village and the principal clan.
The people are industrious and both men and women participate in the normal duties in the fields and in the home. Some tasks, naturally belong to the males, like jungle-cleaning, house building and all other work demanding greater physical labour. Planting of most crops, ginning of cotton as well as weaving, cooking etc. are usually done by the women.
Change in Society
There is a distinction between life in the rural areas and in the urban areas. The acceleration of development work in recent years, particularly after 1950, has contributed greatly to the material progress of the people everywhere, though the impact has naturally been greater in the town areas. The rapid spread of education has inevitably brought about a change in the vocational pattern, with many young people turning away from agriculture and taking up other types of work, either with Government or in business undertakings. The trend is bound to have an effect on village cohesion in the foreseeable future.
In short, the Garos today face the same challenges that tribal communities elsewhere have to face, but in spite of the rapid shift of influence to the urban elite, the backbone of the tribe is still the rural population and many of the rural folk are shrewd enough to appreciate what is best for them. This fact may help to balance the swing from one extreme to another – from a generally conservative form of society to an ultra-modern one.