TRIBAL CULTURES IN ASSAM
Assam is the land of many cultures, tribes, and religions. Therefore, when we speak of the culture of Assam, we generally refer to a composite and complex phenomenon that includes the cultures of the various tribes that make Assam their home.
The Bodo Kachari Tribes
The Bodo Kacharies of Assam is a branch of great Bodo Group of Indo-Mongoloid family. It is believed that the origin of the Kachari was Tibet and China.
The Bodos are basically an agrarian people; still using traditional means to irrigate their land. Their chief produce is classified into the ‘Ahu’ and the ‘Sali’ crops. Bodo villages are situated in the plains of the valleys of Assam, and hence they are categorized into what is known as the ‘Plains tribe’. The Bodo people are expert in bamboo and cane craft.
The Mishing Tribe
The Miris, also known as Mishings, are the second largest schedule tribe of Assam. Mostly they are based on riverine areas like Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat and Sonitpur. The Mishing family is generally a joint family. The eldest member of the family is highly respected. Inheritance in the family is a patrilineal one, and the social structure – patriarchal. After the father’s death, the property is equally divided among the sons. Daughters have no right over the property. Basically, they are peace loving and fun loving. There is no caste system or ideas of slavery in the Mishing society.
The Deori Tribes
The Deoris are one of the four divisions of Chutiyas and they represent the ‘priestly’ section of the whole Chutiya community. They have a unique cultural and traditional heritage that is nowadays recognized to be something of a hidden treasure for sociologists. The Deoris are nowadays settled mostly in Sivsagar and Jorhat districts.
Deoris are riverine tribes and they are the pile of dwellers. All houses are made in a similar pattern which is constructed facing the river. One such house can accommodate more than 40 people.
The Rabha Tribes
One of the nine Scheduled Tribes in the plains districts of Assam. The Rabhas are widely scattered but mostly concentrated on Goalpara, Kamrup, and Darrang. The Rabhas are like to live in compact blocks having 50-100 families.
The Tiwa or Lalung Tribes
Tibet region is considered to be the origin of Lalungs who prefer to call themselves as Tiwa. They landed on the plains following the course of river Brahmaputra. The word Lalung means ‘La’ means water and ‘Lung’ rescued ie the mighty river the Brahmaputra gave shelter to the Bohemians. It is believed the Lalungs had migrated to Assam somewhere in the middle of the 17th century AD. Mainly they are found in the district of Nogoan. Tiwa people are known to be a group of Tibeto-Burmese tribe.
The Sonowal Kachari Tribes
The Sonowal Kachari is an endogamous group of Kachari tribe. They mainly live in Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Jorhat, and Golaghat districts. Their main occupation is gold-washing and agriculture. Rice is their staple food. The clan system is present and exogamy is the general rule in marriage. The Sonowals usually live in a joint family. The Sonowals are believed to have very rich traditional knowledge of indigenous medicine. They have their own methods of treating different kinds of diseases, using locally available herbs and plants for treatment; following the knowledge inherited from their ancestors.
The Dimasa Kachari Tribes
The Kacharis are the most widely spread tribe in northeast India and are said to be the earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra Valley. The Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid (Kirata) group which includes the Bodos and their allied tribes. They have prominent Mongoloid features with high cheekbones; slit eyes, a slight growth of hair in the body and a scant beard. They call themselves Bodo or Bodo-fisa in the Brahmaputra valley and Dimasa or Dima-fisa or ‘sons of the great river’ in the North Cachar Hills & Karbi- Anglong district.
The Karbi Tribes
Racially the Karbis belong to the Mongoloid group and linguistically to the Tibeto-Burman group. The original home of the various people speaking Tibeto-Burman languages was in western China near the Yangtse-Kiang and the Hwang-ho rivers and of these places, they went down the courses of the Brahmaputra, the Chindwin, and the Irrawaddy and entered into India and Burma. The Karbis along with others entered Assam from Central Asia in one of the first waves of migration.
The Hajong Tribe
The Hajong are a small community which originally belonged to the Bodo tribe. They have great physical similarities with the Garos and Bodo Kacharis. They are scheduled as a tribe in two autonomous hill districts Karbi Anglong and North Cachar hills.The Hajongs are mostly Hindus.
The Garo Tribe
The Garos are the earliest human group that migrated into North East India from the Tibetan plateau during the pre-historic period; the evidence of this being the Garo villages found across the Brahmaputra Valley, including many in and around the Guwahati metropolitan area. It is often put forward that the famous Kamakhya was a Garo shrine before it was stolen by the patriarchal Aryans during the reign of the Koch kings.
The Khasi Tribe
The Khasis are a numerically very small Scheduled tribe. Mainly they are found in Meghalaya. In Assam, the Khasi tribe is found Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills bordering Meghalaya. It is believed that the origin of the Khasi and the Jaintia is same. According to E Gait, the Khasis belongs to the MonKhmer family and entered to North-East India.