Karbis Of Assam

Ethnology on the Karbis also Known as Mikirs


Posted by Administrator on October 17, 2009

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Hemtap—Karbi tree-house in the backdrop of a setting sun at Taralangso..Diphu Please click HERE to view the survey result and HERE to vote

Welcome to my world of Karbis! This blog was started with the sole aim to provide necessary information needed to know and understand the sociological structure of the Karbis. Karbis are an ethnic tribal group scattered in North East India with a concentration in Assam. Once they were believed to have lived on the banks of the rivers the Kalang and the Kopili and the entire Kajiranga area, the famous National Park situated in Assam.
In fact the word Kaziranga as it is known today has been derived from a Karbi word, ‘Kajir-a-rong’, which means “Kajir’s Village” or “Kajiror-gaon”. Kajir is a female name among the Karbis.

It is also said that the great Mayong kingdom originated from the days of Xunyta Singha, a Karbi Youth. There is a story which cites that this youth was very handsome and possessed all qualities of a king, which infact coincide with the claims of the Karbis to be the earliest settler of the area around Kolong Rivers.  Mayong could be from the Karbi word ma-e-ong-kerai-adim, meaning maternal uncle’s kingdom, which infact the whole of dumra area around the kolong was once known by the Karbis

General Information about the Karbis

Total Population of Karbis in Karbi Anglong District : 3,53,513 ( 2001 Census).However the actual population figure of the tribe for the whole of NE of India is projected to be more than 800, 000.

Sex Ratio :  180136 males to 173377 females i.e 96 females for every 100 males. ( 2001 Census)

Population Distribution ( Age wise) :

  • 20 % ( aged between 18 to 30)
  • 32 % ( aged from 31and beyond)
  • 48 % ( aged between 0 to 17)

Religion wise Break-up

Indigenous Religion = 70 %

Hindu = 14.64 %

Christian = 15 %

Others = 0.36 %

( Source: 2001 Census Report, Goverment of India)

NOTE: This is an open source information on the Karbis. Visitors are requested to give thier comments and enrich the articles appearing in the blog. They are also free to quote the articles provided they acknowledge the blogsite.

Kardom !!!
Karbi Weaver
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Inside a Karbi Kitchen- From Tradition to Modernity

Posted by Administrator on October 17, 2009

Inside a Karbi Kitchen –

From Tradition to Modernity

Dharamsing Teron

AbstractThis is a brief overview of the culinary tradition of the Karbis and this therefore does not claim to be a comprehensive study of the vast subject. Food is culture and culture is identity. With disappearing sources of traditional foods, the culinary tradition, taboos and rituals, herbs and health are now less important. Entry to the Karbi kitchen once regulated by kinship is now regulated by the harsh realities of market economy. From the KUT to the KFC, the Karbi kitchen has undergone a metamorphosis beyond recognition.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Kinship Terminology And Concept of Prescriptive Asymmetrical Cross-Cousin Marriage Among the Karbis

Posted by Administrator on September 2, 2009


By Morningkeey Phangcho

Alan D. Coult summed up the seemingly complex relationship between ‘cross-cousin marriage system’ and ‘kinship terminologies’ in a rather very simple manner. In his essay, “Kinship terminology and fallacy of preferential marriage”#, he wrote—“Once certain features of Kinship terminology are understood, one may analyze them completely in a few minutes time using exceedingly simple method: Technique which closely follows those employed by Tax (1937 a)#. With an understanding of the structures of the kinship terminologies, the issue of prescriptive versus preferential marriage is well understood.”

In the following short discussion, I will try to analyze the ‘marriage system’ of the Karbis and the corresponding kinship terminologies. Among others, anthropologists have identified two basic types of cross-cousin marriages. Again, cross-cousin marriages are either —1) Asymmetrical (only maternal or paternal cross cousin) and 2) Symmetrical (both maternal and paternal cross cousin).  Karbis follow asymmetrical cross-cousin marriage from the mother’s lineage only. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Brief History of Karbi Grammar

Posted by Administrator on July 5, 2009

BY :  Dharamsing Teron

Rev. Dr. Nathan Brown’s ‘Grammatical notes of the Assamese Language’ first published in 1848 originally was not intended to ‘be regarded as a Grammar of the Assamese Language’ but ‘they were commenced with the intention of printing only a few sheets, for private use of the most common grammatical forms’[1]. These ‘notes’ however did not remain ‘private’ and in fact provided the foundation of the grammar in Assamese that clinched two very crucial issues of the day—firstly, Assamese gained recognition as ‘much superior in beauty and softness’ and not ‘a merely corrupt form of Bengali,’ and secondly, the language emerged as a ‘system of imparting formal or institutional education’[2] in Assam. It was not to say that what Dr. Brown and the missionaries had devised more than a century ago was free from shortcomings. In his introductory remarks to Dr. Brown’s seminal work, Dr. Nagen Saikia during whose tenure as the General Secretary the third and the last edition was reprinted in 1982 by the ‘Assam Sahitya Sabha’, had these observation to make: the missionaries had ‘followed the model of the English grammar’ as they had ‘no other model before them’[3] and since Dr. Brown’s grammar was basically an effort to ‘make the learners acquaint themselves with the important characteristics’ of the language, he ‘very naturally left out sandhis and samasas, besides krit and taddhit suffixes from his discussion’. Dr. Brown also ‘did not discuss about syntax of the language.’[4] What the grammar achieved in its aim was to ‘teach the grammatical rules of Assamese as the target language’[5] and the emergence of Assamese linguistic nationalism in the later years. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Tribute to Semsonsing Ingti : Father of Karbi Nationalism

Posted by Administrator on March 13, 2009

Father of Karbi Nationalism

Father of Karbi Nationalism

Dharamsing Teron


Semsonsing Ingti is undoubtedly the most towering and iconic figure of Karbi nationalism whose intense commitment towards his own people helped shape its destiny at a turbulent time when everything only seemed a distant dream—a dream that was shaped by a fierce imagination of a people who were only faint outlines in the periphery of the emerging India. But the man, to the majority of lesser mortals, has continued to remain an enigma whose life and contributions have never been evaluated in the truest sense. The general amnesia of the Karbi intelligentsia, both of the past and the present, has almost rendered him into a shadowy figure, coming ‘alive’ only during ritual official commemorations. The mass amnesia has manifested through the confusing and often contradictory information about even this man’s birth and death. To confound the confusion further, a tombstone at his grave at the Nowgaon Baptist Church cemetery ‘recorded’ his date of birth as 8 February 1904! This ‘record’ has contradicted and in a way invalidated all the existing literature, though rather sparse, on the man. There even exists the controversy around the date of his death and as regards the place where he was born. Did he breathe his last on 29 February, 1948? Was he born at Tika or Golaghat? These and many more such confusing questions on the life and works of the man have only helped to build an increasingly dense aura of myths around him. Sadly, this reflects upon our own criminal indifference to our history.

Imagining a Political Community:

Semson has been hailed variously as the ‘Architect’, ‘Founder’ and ‘Father’ of Karbi Anglong. There is no denying that all these epithets fittingly describe the one man who dared all odds imagining a political community for the Karbis who remained ‘scattered over a wide area, from Golaghat to Kamrup and the Khasi Hills beyond Guwahati, and from the Cachar plains near Silchar to the forests north of Bishanath in Darang’…..speaking a language that is ‘practically one and the same throughout’ (Walker/1925). The Karbis were undoubtedly ‘one of the most numerous and homogeneous of the many Tibeto-Burman races inhabiting the Province of Assam’ (Stack and Lyall/1909). From Sibsagar to Sylhet in the present Bangladesh, the Karbis inhabited this long track (Stack and Lyall/1909). Beside this cultural homogeneity, when Semson traveled through this wide, wild and weird country of the Karbis who were ‘among the more numerous of the Assam frontier races’ (Walker), there possibly existed no imagination of a community within the community itself. It was the fierce sense of imagination that Semson had that guided him to realize that it was possible to unite the Karbis into a single political community. Because Semson, born at the turn of the 20th Century and who very briefly lived through the series of rapid and rather tumultuous upheavals that also gave birth to ‘modern democracies’ across the globe. Our own India, one of the biggest ‘democracies’ today, was just an emerging idea. Semson dared to merge his little idea of a Karbi homeland with the big idea of an India that was itself struggling to free from colonial subjugation. And it was a pledge that Semson, the first modern, educated and fiercely nationalist of the Karbis, along with a handful of his fellow nationalists such as Sarsing Teron Habai (Habe) of Hongkram, Harsing Ingti of Longre, Biren Teron-Mouzadar of Duar-amla, Borgaon and Langtukso Ingti Borgaonbura of Silimkhowa, Moniram Langne of Deithor, Barelong Terang of Diphu, Rev. Hondrovel Milik of Putsari, Dhoniram Rongpi (ex-Assam Minister) of Hongkram, Joysing Doloi (ex-CEM/KAAC of Diphu and Khorsing Terang-ex-MLA, John Kathar of Borthol, Khoiyasing Ronghang-Mouzadar of Borneuria, Bonglong Terang of Dillai, Thengklong Rongpi-Mouzadar of Deithor and Song Be of Golaghat (Song Be/Monjir-1980), committed to himself. From within the narrow confines of a colonial service under the watchful and at times possibly wrathful eyes of the colonial masters, Semson carefully and painstakingly continued in his mission disregarding his own career, future and even health. ‘Karbi Adorbar’ came into being as a weapon to draw the first political, cultural and geographical map of a Karbi homeland at the threshold of the birth of a new independent India. He diplomatically overcame the stiffest and at times the most communal opposition from the then Assamese leaders, prominent or rather most infamous among them —one Motiram Bora who tried everything under his command as the Revenue Minister of the British Provincial government of Assam. Semson never lived to see the fruition of his idea of a Karbi homeland but he saw to it during his brief but intense lifetime that the worst of adversaries cannot prevent a community of people staking its rightful claim.

The Price of Sacrifice:

The most tragic disappointment for all the present and future Karbis is not only the premature death of Semson at the most crucial juncture of the tribe’s history, but also is the fact that the rich legacy of sacrifice and selflessness that the architect, father and founder of Karbi identity did not live to preside over the political destiny of the community. Towards the untimely end of his life when Semson chose to contest the lone assembly seat against Khorsing Terang, he was hailed by the most furious communal hate campaign simply because he was a Christian. And this tragic communal divide did not desert us during the creation of Meghalaya when Karbi Anglong and NC Hills were given the option either to continue remaining with Assam, have an Autonomous State of their own or merge with the new state. This divide continues to haunt and imperil us at the present juncture when the Karbis as a people are facing the most dangerous situation—politically, economically, geographically and demographically. The one man who stood so fiercely for Karbi pride, Karbi unity and Karbi nationalism, his legacy is today condemned to a ritualistic vanity. In fact, Semson’s legacy is more endangered now than ever before if we look around at the prevalent mess in the Karbi political and cultural atmosphere that only embodies decay and defeat. The message therefore should be clear before each one of us that the legacy of Karbi nationalism inherited from Semson must be imbibed in its truest spirit so that his idea of a Karbi homeland does not remain trapped in our imaginations alone. ‘Thurnon…Thurnon’, the theme song of the Karbi awakening that fired the imagination of every Karbi heart when Semson led the identity struggle, is even more relevant today than ever.

(Author’s Note: This small write-up was read out in the Seminar held on 26 Feb 09 at Diphu Club, organized by a People’s Initiative to Commemorate the 61st Death Anniversary of Late Semsonsing Ingti. Mrs. Rani Ingtipi, the eldest daughter of the late leader, inaugurated the Seminar where she clarified many important issues such as the date of birth and death of her late father. The information furnished by her was later corroborated by her brother, Mr Pabansingh Ingti, a retired IAS officer, now based in Kolkata, who also attended as the Chief Guest in the 3-Day Commemoration from 26 Feb to 28 Feb 09 at Diphu. The date of birth of the late Semsonsing Ingti as confirmed by the family members is now 8 February 1910 and the date of his demise is 28 Feb 1948.)

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A Brief view on the ethnology of the Karbis

Posted by Administrator on March 10, 2009

Karbis of North East India- Custom, Law and Cultural Variation
(a review of the first impression on the Karbis on the field)
– Morningkeey Phangcho

On my ethnological studies on the Karbis of North East India, field works on different location with Dr. Philippe has given various result so far, which is of course not the final and more rigorous and intense studies has to be done on that.  Looking at the various pattern of result has far surprised Philippe, even more to me. Being a Karbi by practiced and birth myself, I was quite surprise to see various result for perception  and escalation , a Karbi man can have about oneself depending on the surrounding which make me force to think that Karbi could be one of the most adaptable tribe in the world. To the Ri-bhoi district of Meghalaya, the south of Brahmaputra Karbis are sandwiches between the culture of the plain ( Aryanise) and the culture of the blue mountain ( more Khmer) . The evidence is very much visible in their day to day practices and social behaviour. At first glance Christianity has created a layer over the tribal culture as most refuse to talk about the customary practices and claim to be a true christian by rejecting to even have the mention of the ethnic festival and custom ,  forget practicing it.

After keen observation only we could have some glimpse of the customary practices in their day to day life, of course them being unaware about it most of the time. It  has become very difficult to draw a line between a Karbi and a Bhoi Khasis in Ri-bhoi district of Meghalaya. Most of the bhois are having typically Karbi Clan names like Rongchon, Tron, Bey etc.,  follows matrilineal and considers ones to be a Khasis. Where as we have come across a village, the people have typical Khasi Names, Speaks a dialect of Karbi, most follows patrilineality , considers oneself to be a Khasis but trace their originity to some Karbi man and have a common clan with those of the neighboring Karbis having exogamous practices.

Moving down the hills, we enters into the plains of the Kamrup district where we find some more variation in social practices with it having some admixture with the Aryan culture of the general Assamese. Here Karbis are considered as on of the sub-caste of general assumes society. We find the people around these areas to celebrate Domahi during the season of Bihu of the general Assamese, which very much resemble the Domahi festival of the Kacharis and the Bihu of the general Assamese. Unlike the Karbis on the hills, the Karbis of the plains are much influence by their neighbours. Most prominent being the women taking the clans name of the husband after marriage in some location. Here the women can take reincarnation in the lineage of the husband , which is impossible amongs the hill Karbis as the women will forever retain the name of her father even after marriage. The development of  Kathar  into a Brahmin like status within the Karbi tribes is amongs the most prominent. The only qualification being however is to be a priest of the village and to be active and knowledgeable in social customs. So we find Kathars amongs the non-Ingti clansmen also in the plains, which is again impossible in the hills.

The adaptability of the Karbis according to the environment of the place of living can be again proven by the fact that the Karbis in North Cachar Hills considers the leopard as equivalent to that of tigers. Since Tigers seems to plays quite an important part in Karbi Social life, as Tiger is consider as the ultimate judge of the sinner and due to its rarity or unavailability in the jungle of North Cachar Hills, the Karbis there takes Leopard as one their guardian in place of Tiger in those areas.

The hub of Karbi culture, West Karbi Anglong Hamren is also very interesting as the basic of the Karbi Kingship I.e the Lindok Habe system resembles the Lyngdoh system of the Jaintias in many ways. More Cultural variation amongs the Karbis can be ascertain from the fact that the Karbis from Hamren Sub-Division are not very accountable with “Sabin alun”, the Karbi version of Ramayana as those in Diphu Sub-division, which is considered as one of the Karbi epic in those areas. The depleting population of older generation and influences of modern society including Christianity , which has forced them not  to talk about their old age custom, forget practicing it and the ever increasing Hindu movements like Lakhimon, Sankari etc has forced the present generation to be misled in various ways equalizing their pantheon and practices with those of the overpowering stronger faiths.  The result of course could be consider as one of the new development of  new social behaviour of the Karbis in general.

All this observation has given me a new insight into the Karbi Society, bringing more complexity and analysis which till very recent was within me seems to be far away at this present juncture. The ever self anointing behaviour of the present bunch of Karbi intellectual forced us to have different views at different places complicate the ethnology more as we tends to get different information from different informant. At this present juncture the only thing which is common amongs all the Karbis, be it plains or hills is the believe in rebirth, the procedure of naming a child, the language and the consideration of oneself to be a Karbi. As it has been observed with those in Ri-bhoi District of Meghalaya, just having a Karbi names does not prove one to be a Karbi. You must accept to be one besides following some of the orders believe to be typical to Karbis.#

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Condemn the ‘Columbus Legacy’

Posted by Administrator on November 5, 2008

Bishnuprashad Rabha, the great revolutionary and visionary, hailed the Karbis as the ‘discoverer of Assam’[1] and lovingly conferred the ‘Columbus’ title on the tribe in an obvious analogy to the ‘discovery’ of America by the 15th century ‘explorer’. Whether or not the Karbis did indeed discover Assam as the revered Rabha had boldly asserted and that the opposite view is yet to emerge to disprove him, what has remained an irritating source of moral discomfiture for all of us Karbis is the ‘Columbus’ epithet on the tribe. But Comrade Rabha, as a fellow tribal, must have had better reasons to credit the Karbis as indeed the ‘discoverer’, because he knew the history of the tribal peoples of the then unified Assam as probably no one did. The only ‘collected essays’ of the great Rabha is now nearly 30 years old since the publication of ‘Bishnu Rabha Rachanavali’ in 1982. The rare ‘publication’ indeed gives an insight into the intimate knowledge of the culture and history of the northeast tribals that the great Rabha possessed. But what really is a painful reality for us fellow tribals of the present day Assam is that the huge unpublished materials of Rabha’s are now probably lost; partly maybe due to the our common amnesia to what is history and partly due to a few established historiographers’ calculated unconcern towards tribal history. Considering the bitter dispute over the renaming of ‘Assam’ to ‘Asom’ in recent times, no one would probably want to revert to ‘Bullung-Butthur’ for Brahmaputra, Ti-lao for Luhit or Luit, or Kamoru for Kamrup.[2] The efforts of the revered Rabha could well have provided the tribal people of Assam a stepping-stone to compile their histories.

            Now, coming to the second and main point—how did the great Rabha see in the Karbis the Columbus analogy ? It is simple as the man himself was. But the history of Columbus has never been so simple for the indigenous population of the Americas ever since this ‘harbinger’ of the ‘Age of Discovery’ is credited to have ‘discovered’ the new world on October 12, 1942. And since 1937, with the then American president Roosevelt’s proclamation of October 12 as ‘Columbus Day’, the indigenous people in the US had been provoked to rise up in protests. There are disputes as to what nationality Christopher Columbus really belonged to, but many believe he was of Italian descent. Nevertheless, nothing deterred president Nixon to give his stamp of authority by declaring every second Monday of October as a national holiday.

            If the great Rabha missed the historical fact that the advent of Columbus in the Americas resulted only in the devastation of indigenous population and their histories, the analogy that indigenous people had everywhere the same fate at the hands of the rulers is a point we must all agree upon. For, like Columbus, we Karbis did not ‘colonize’ but instead, they now are colonized, suppressed and cornered into the precarious edge. And, since the Columbus Day celebration started in the US, indigenous people had formed various associations to protest the ‘savage injustice’ committed by Europeans against them. To quote from an internet publicity, ‘Columbus was enormously successful in marketing his mix of “God, Glory & Gold” to Europe. His failure to find significant gold on Hispaniola made him the first transatlantic slave trader in order to pay dividends to his investors.’[3] 

            ‘Transform Columbus Day Alliance’ (TDA) publicity leaflet[4], widely circulated in the internet reads like this— ‘We’ve all been lied to about Columbus. Before Columbus sailed the Atlantic, he was a slave trader for the Portuguese, transporting West African people to Portugal to be sold as slaves. Columbus initiated the first Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Columbus, his brother, and his son all continued slave trading of indigenous peoples from the Americas to Europe and from Africa to the Caribbean. Under his administration as viceroy and governor of the Caribbean Islands, 8 million people were killed, making his “contribution” to history the first mass genocide of indigenous peoples. The Columbus legacy is steeped in blood, violence, and death. Public holidays celebrating Columbus not only teach children to honor a cruel and brutal man, they encourage people in this society to ignore, look away, and even support racist practices embedded in today’s economic, political and judicial systems.’ And how did Columbus’ actions lead to the drastic depopulation of the indigenous people ? “……with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against [the Indians]. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged, nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughterhouse. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword could split a man in two or could cut off his head…They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags***They made some low, wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims, in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive.”
 – Bartolome’ de Las Casas, The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account (originally published in 1547) reprinted by Johns Hopkins Press, 1992. pp. 42-45. Las Casas was a Dominican priest, the first European historian in the Americas.”

            The cruelty surpassed the Nazi Holocaust. The impact did not end there. “Columbus’ actions set the foundation for legal and social policies — still used today in United States, Mexico, Canada, South America and in many countries around the world. These policies justify the theft and destruction of indigenous peoples’ lands and knowledge by corporate and government interests. Media, films, judicial systems, educational systems, and other political and social institutions support this continued assault on the natural resources of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples today remain at the margins of technological society — struggling to overcome the destruction of land, culture and language. In many ways all peoples on this planet are impacted. These attacks on indigenous peoples and their land and their knowledge contribute to the destruction of ecosystems and the erosion of human rights for all people.”

            The ‘blood-steeped legacy’ of the ‘colonial pirate’ Columbus is endless. In his famous book, ‘Year 501’, Noam Chomsky commenting on the ‘first genocide’ and its political, economic, historical and cultural impacts on today’s world, says — “October 11, 1992 brings to an end the 500th year of the Old World order, sometimes called the Columbian era or the Vasco da Gama era depending upon which conquerors bent on plunder got there first. Or “the 500-year Reich”……. While modalities have changed the fundamental themes of the conquest retain their vitality and resilience and will continue to do so until the reality and causes of the “savage injustice” are honestly addressed.” Therefore, the ‘Columbus legacy’ in any manner or any remote reference to this ‘butcher’ of humanity must not be tolerated. And we Karbis must, as should all indigenous and right thinking people, declare our total rejection of the Columbus legacy.



[1] ‘Bishnu Rabha Rachanavali’ (p.59), Published by Suren Baishya on behalf of Bishnu Rabha Sunwarani Gobeshona Samity, Nalbari, 1982.

[2] ‘Bishnu Rabha Rachanavali’ —(P. 16-17), Tilao (‘Ti’ or ‘Di’ galao=long big river). ‘Kintu tetiya Kalika Puran, Jugini-Tantra rosito hol, tetiya ei puran and tantra proneta hokole nana golpore hojai Kamoru-k Kamrup korile, kom-lokhi ba Kam-khi-(khyi)-k ba kam-khya-k Kamakhya korile, Bhullung-Butthur-ok Brahmaputra korile, Tilao’k Laoti, Luiti, Luhit, Luhitya korile.’



[3] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) 
All rights reserved

[4] (01/20/2005 




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Forbidden Sex in Karbis

Posted by Administrator on April 15, 2008


Every society in the world has some kind of fixed rules through which one person can copulate with another person. The rule which defines the allowed and tabooed sex explains lots about the kinship and nature of that particular society. Although cross-cousin marriage or copulation is allowed amongst the Karbis, however it may be a taboo for some other community considering it to be incestuous. Some rules pertaining to marriage or intercourse like marriage amongst the same clan is a taboo in Karbi Society, which is very much allowed and infact is the preferred one in some cases in some other community in the world.

The beauty of the concept of tabooed sex amongst the Karbis is its complexity due to its Bi-lineal characteristics of the society. The Karbis Society is Bi-lineal in nature where the lineage from both the mother as well as the father is to be taken into account.

Tabooed Sex in Karbi is term as “AKER ANGNO”. When a couple commits the tabooed sex it is termed as “SENEM” i.e . Incest. If Sex is committed between a couple of same Clan then it is termed as “KUR-SENEM”. i.e. Clan Incest. To purify such couple, at first some animal ( Fowl or Pig) has to be sacrificed and the remains has to be left in the rivers then only can the process of judgment to such couple can start. Only the Habe (Judge of the Longri i.e a state in Customary Karbi Laws) has the authority to officiate in such cases. But before presenting the involved couple to the Habe, they must be purified by the Khakre (a traditional priest of the village)

If the mother and the father of the couple involved is same then they are termed as “CHUBONG ISI” and they will come under the purview of KUR-SENEM and also those “ASU-ASOPI ARON”, i.e. like daughter or grand daughter in relations. If the proximity in kinship of the couple involved is of the same family then the term referring to them would be “NOKHUM-ISI”. And if it is of some 7 generation gap then it will be “NOKSONG-ISI”.

That is in general the tabooed sex committed between those from the patrilineal kinship (PHUTUNG OR POTUNG) will be termed as “KUR SENEM”

Amongst the Karbis even if the clan of the mother, even though two persons might belong to different clans, they will be considered as brother and sister. The kinship from the matrilineal kinship (PHITUNG OR PITUNG) also plays a big role in marriage as it will be a taboo to have intercourse with the girl whose mother may have the same clan as that of the boy, even though they may be of completely two different clans.

This kind of tabooed sex between a couple who has some kind of affinity from the mother side i.e. matrilineal kinship is termed as “LAI-SENEM”.

The Child acquired from such kind of tabooed sex is known as “SO-RONGRO”. In some cases such kind of illicit child is killed but in some cases it is adopted after identifying the biological father by the clan of the illicit father of the illicit child after purifying it taking into consideration humanitarian ground, if the ‘sin’ is “LAI-SENEM”. However if it is the case of “KUR-SENEM” then the child must be adopted by some other clan other then the couple involved.

If illicit affair happens between a couple of the same sex, that is, if it involbes Gays, then it is termed as “SENEM ALO”. The couple involved, if caught, must be fined, punished and purified under social customary law.

There is restriction to copulate with the widows of those who were eaten by tiger. The widow is termed as “ME-ANG” and they are considered to be unpure. If copulation happened with a “ME-ANG” then purification must be done before they are can marry each other.

At the conclusion it can be added that basically there are three kinds of Tabooed Sex amongst the Karbis.

1) KUR-SENEM ( Sex between the same Clan)

2) LAI-SENEM ( Sex between those who are related from the Matrilineal kinship to become brother or sister but not the daughter of Maternal uncle)

3) SENEM-ALO ( Sex Between couple of same sex)

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Posted by Administrator on February 26, 2008




Understanding Karbi Folk religion

Dharamsing Teron

Diphu, Karbi Anglong


Hi:ì and Arnam — roughly translated to mean ‘demon’ and ‘deity’ — enjoy equal status in Karbi folk rituals. The presence of dozens of deities and their ‘negative counterparts’ in Karbi rituals reveal the inherent duality and unity in the folk religion of the tribe. The expression ‘Hi:ì-Arnam’ is a phrase coined by the Karbi ancestors and it is never juxtaposed or uttered in reverse. Hi:ì therefore is not  the parallel of the ‘demon’ of the established religions. The unity and duality of the ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ forces and the ‘balance’ between them are what constitute the philosophical basis of the Karbi folk religion. Ancestors are worshipped and Karbi souls travel through predestined paths back to the ‘village of the ancestors’, which neither is hell nor heaven. Karbi funerary ritual is a celebration of death as much as it is a celebration of life.

Object of the Paper:

This paper is an attempt to give a brief insight into Karbi religious beliefs, which are basically animist in nature, fused with elements of shamanist ‘mysticism’, ancestor worship and a good many sacrifices to the unseen and territorial deities. The basic argument is derived from the varied and fascinating world of Karbi folklore, cosmologic tales and ritual practices that still continue to dominate the Karbi ‘religious’ traditions under the shadows of the mighty world religions.

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