The Garo Culture
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 District. 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, 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.
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 Garos by ascription recognize an heiress to family property from any of the daughters in which case, she is married to one of her father's nephews, usually the girl loved most, obedient and well behaved succeeds to that title. There are cases also in which as heiress is married to a man outside her father's clan.
Food & Drink
The staple cereal food is rice. They also eat millet, maize, tapioca, etc. Garos are very liberal in their food habits. They rear Goats, Pigs, Fowls, Ducks etc. and relish their meat. They also eat other wild animal like Deer, Bison, Wild Pigs, etc. Fish, Prawns, Crabs, Eels and dry fish also are a part of their food. Their "Jhum" fields and the forests provide them with a number of vegetables and root for their curry but bamboo shoots are esteemed as a delicacy.
They use a kind of potash in curries, which they obtained by burning dry pieces of plaintain stems or young bamboos locally known as "Kalchi" or "Katchi". After they are burnt, the ashes are collected and are dipped in water and are strained in conical shaped in bamboo strainer. These days most of the town people use Soda from the market in place of this Ash Water. Apart from other drinks country liquor plays an important role in the life of the Garos.
The people in the past were barely dressed. Due to different climatic conditions the dress pattern varies from place to place like those who are from Assam or Bangladesh prefer light textures while people in the hills need heavy clothing. Garos have cotton ginning, as cotton is the principal cash crop of the district.
The principal garment of the men is a strip of woven cloth about six inches wide and about six feet long. In the past they wove these clothes, some of which were ornamented with rows of white beads made of conch-shells along the end of the flap. They also used vests of black colour with lining at its ends. Garo women use an indigenous skirt known as "Dakmanda" and a body cloth. The men were a turban on the head but the women use head-bands.
Both men and women enjoy adorning themselves with varieties of ornaments. These ornaments are:
Nadongbi Nr Sisha - made of a brass ring worn in the lobe of the ear.
Nadirong - brass ring worn in the upper part of the ear
Natapsi - string of beads worn in the upper part of the ear.
Jaksan - Bangles of different materials and sizes.
Ripok - Necklaces made of long barrel shaped beads of cornelian or red glass while some are made out of brass or silver and are worn in special occasions.
Jaksil - Elbow ring worn by rich men on Gana Ceremonies.
Penta - Small piece of ivory struck into the upper part of the ear projecting upwards parallel to the side of the head.
Seng'ki - Waistband consisting of several rows of conch-shells worn by women.
Pilne - Head ornament worn during the dances only by the women.
In the opinion of many people, the scholars and researchers, the Garos are animists in their religion and its underlying principle is one of belief in fear and dread of the supernatural powers. This is but a hasty generalisation and does not stand the scrutiny of logic.
The traditional religion of the Garos is not animistic but they believed and presided over by the "Supreme God" as locally known as "Dakgipa Rugipa Stugipa Pantugipa" or Tatora Rabuga Stura Pantura", or the Creator. It is in clear observation, the religion of the Garos is monotheistic with polytheistic stage, it lapsed into gross ritualism, in its highest consummate form, it is purely monotheistic in its origin.
The Garos believed in creation of Earth, all living beings on earth and the sea, heavenly bodies, rain and the wind including lesser gods and thereby completed different objects within eight days, as they believed. This is the background of the religion, various festivals and the ceremonies of the Garos. Almost all the Garos are now Christians. Before that the religion of the Garos was a mixture of Pantheism and Hinduism. Like the Hindus and the Buddhists, the Garos believed in incamation of the Spirit in Man.