Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Garo live in the East and West Garo Hills District of the state of Meghalaya in India. The Garo are a major aboriginal group in the region and are divided into nine subtribes. The Garos practice a slash-and-burn cultivation. Land for shifting cultivation is owned by the clan. The household is the primary production and consumption unit. The Garos reckon their kinship through the mother and inherit property in the female line. The Garos follow either Christianity or a traditional faith known as Songsarek.


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Asia --South Asia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

There are 33 documents in the Garo file, covering the period from the end of the 18th Century up to 1990, although most of the historical references go only as far back as the beginning of British occupation in the 1870s. The major topics covered in the file are religion, literature, law, women's status, and the economy. The major works in the collection are Playfair's description of the Garo culture in the 1900s (Playfair 1908, no. 2), Burling's classic ethnography of a Garo village (Burling 1963, no. 1), Rongmuthu's collection of Garo folktales (Rongmuthu 1960, no. 9), Majumdar's two-village comparative study of economic and cultural change (Majumdar 1978, no. 10), Marak's study of Garo law (Marak, K. 1997, no. 11), and Sinha's psychoanalytic examination of Garo culture (Sinha 1966, no. 18). Shorter works on Garo literature include one on funeral songs (Sangma 1995, no. 22), a Garo folktale (Goswami 1995, no. 35), poetry (Marak, C. 1995, no. 36), and Garo literary movements and journals (Shira 1995, no. 37 ). Other studies on religion include Mukherjee's study of religious beliefs and medical practices (Mukherjee 1962, no. 7), Khaleque's general overview (Khaleque 1988, no. 14), and a brief summary by Thomas (1995, no. 39). Burman (1995, no. 40) provides a brief history of Christianity in the Garo Hills and George (1995, no. 38) relates the history of Catholic and Baptist mission schools. Other legal studies are J. Marak's study of the Garo system of justice under the British (Marak, J. 1995, no. 24) and Pathak's investigation of maintenance law (1995, no. 25). A related study examines Garo leadership and authority (Chakrabarti 1995, no. 26). The matrilineal clan organization of the Garo (for a general description see Goswami 1964, no. 20) has prompted several studies of women's status (Goswami and Majumdar 1965, no. 21; Kar 1995, no. 23) and fertility patterns (Harbison 1989, no. 12). Momin (1995, no. 27) provides a brief overview of the traditional Garo economy and Alam (1995, no. 29) looks at the history of markets and exchange. Sangma (1995, no. 30) describes Garo handicrafts and the role of the state in setting up training centers to spur economic growth. Linguistic studies include Burling's study of kinship terms, studies of the Garo language (Choudhury 1958, no. 5; Sangma, B. 1995, no. 32), and an investigation of the etymology of the word 'garo' (Sangma, M. 1995, no. 15). Miscellaneous studies include a description of Garo buildings (Marak, L. 1995, no. 31) and a demographic report (Pandey 1995, no. 13). Goswami and Majumdar (1968, no. 17) discuss a variety of topics including Garo sexuality, emotions, personality, dreams, and suicide. For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article, 'Garo,' by Sankar Kumar Roy, in the Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 3. 1992. Paul Hockings, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co.

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