“Is not the commission of our Lord still binding upon us? Can we not do more than now we are doing?”
— William Carey
The state of Meghalaya is rich in culture and tradition. The state has many art and craft forms. Different tribes of the state celebrate different festivals with much joy and valour. The people of the region are very much fond of dance and music.Meghalaya is a land of diverse tribes and races of people living in harmony.
Art and Craft of Meghalaya
Meghalaya is a land of unique culture and traditions. Meghalaya is one of the seven north eastern states known for its exquisite bamboo and cane products, weaving and wood carving. The people of Meghalaya consisting of three ancient hill communities – the Garos, Khasis and the Jaintias have a special skill of crafting and making traditional bamboo and cane products. Most of the tribes are engaged in different types of handicraft making including bamboo and cane products.
Tribes of Meghalaya
A tribe is a social group which possesses certain qualities and characteristics that make it a unique cultural, social, and political entity. A single tribe has common languages, customs, rituals, social organizations, and religious beliefs. They were often composed of generally autonomous and independent bands and villages. Meghalaya has some notable tribes and races which have their own characteristics.
Khasi is a tribe living in Meghalaya. A small population of Khasi people also lives in Bangladesh. According to the Khasi mythology, the tribe’s original abode to Hynniewtrep, means ‘seven huts’ in Khasi. They speak the Khasi language, which is the nethermost Austro-Asiatic language. According to 2001 India census, over 1.1 million Khasi people lived in Meghalaya. The Khasi people produce betel leaf, areca nut and oranges and they built the living root bridges. In several states of India, Khasis have been granted the status of Scheduled Tribes. Jymphong is the traditional Khasi male dress and Jainsem or Dhara is the traditional Khasi female dress.
Garo is a tribe of Meghalaya and neighboring areas of Bangladesh. It is the second largest tribe in Meghalaya. They call themselves A-Chick Mande, which means ‘hill people’. They are mainly Christians. They pray their numerous deities and sacrifice animals to ensure welfare of the tribe. The Garos are mainly distributed over Kamrup, Goalpara and Karbi Anglong districts. They also form a minority in Kooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Dinajpur as well as in Nagaland. According to 2001 India census, about 2 million Garos lives in India and Bangladesh together. The Garo language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. The Garos are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. Wangla, Gal-mak Doa, Agalmaka and Christmas are the festivals celebrated by the Garos.
Hajong is a tribal ethnic group and the fourth majority tribe in Meghalaya. They are also spread across northeast India and Bangladesh. About 130,000 people live in India and Bangladesh both. The Hajong language is an Eastern Indo-Aryan language. ‘Pathin’ and ‘Phula Agon’ is the traditional female dress of the Hajong. They celebrate Durga Puja and some other festival like Nongtang, Chormaga and some others. Some animistic worship and beliefs are still seen among the tribe.
Pnar or Jaintia People
The Pnar, also known as Jaintia or Synteng are a tribe in Meghalaya. The name Jaintia derived from the Jaintia kingdom, whose rulers were Syntengs. The Pnar people also claim descent from Ki Hynniew Trep, which means seven mothers or seven families. In 1835, the Jaintia kingdom was annexed by the British East India Company. In 1972, the Jaintia Hills District was established. The original tribal religion of the Jaintias is known as Niamtre.
The Tiwa also known as the Lalung is another tribe living in the states of Assam and Meghalaya. They are recognized as a scheduled tribe within the state of Assam. They are divided in two groups- Hill Tiwa and Plain Tiwas. Hill Tiwas live in the western areas of Karbi-Anglong as well as in the northern corner of Ri-Bhoi district in Meghalaya. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language of the Bodo-Garo group. Their descent system is matrilineal. Plain Tiwas live on the flat lands of the southern bank of the Brahmaputra valley and the vast majority speaks Assamese. According to 2001 India census, about 171000 Tiwas lives in the plain region.