Karbis Of Assam

Ethnology on the Karbis also Known as Mikirs

Archive for March, 2006


Posted by Administrator on March 23, 2006

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Social Structure

Posted by Administrator on March 23, 2006

Division of the society – rules of descent

The Karbi society is Patrilineal and segmented. Patrilineal descent is important in determining the social Identity of a person, inheritance, prohibitions and prescriptions pertaining to the choice of marriage Partners. The Society as a whole is divided into clans, subclans, and lineages, whose members reckon their presumed kinship and common ancestry through the paternal line only. Five primary Patrilineal sections or patriclans (Kur) are further subdivided into more than 80 sub-clans or Patrilinages ( Please refer Clans List). Karbi Language does not makes a real distinction between different levels of segmentation: subclans and patrilineages are only called kur-so (“Small Kur”). Individuals of both sexes use their clan name as patronyms in administrative documents, hence their number is very limited.”A gender suffix (-Pi) is added to clan names patronyms when applied to women ” (such as in Phangcho-pi applied to a girl/woman of the Phangcho clan). A very interesting feature prevalent among the Karbis is that daughters retain their clan’s name even after marriage : a married woman continues to bear her father’s patronym. However the agnatic line is not extended further as her children assume the title of their father only.

With the exception of the Ingti (Lijang) clan to which a few symbolic privileges are conceded as traditional holder of priestly offices, all clans are socially of equal order.


The Karbi clans (kur) have been strictly exogamous groups and still seem to be so. They are the effective divisions of the society, the sub clan and kindred being of secondary importance. Sexual or marital union between people belonging to the same clan is considered incestuous as they are considered as siblings, and any violation of this rule may lead to public banishment. Interestingly, a man and a woman will be regarded as brothers and sisters even if their mother’s clan is same, though they might belong to different clans. Hence they cannot marry each other. This rule, however, does not apply to partners whose paternal grandmothers (father’s mothers) are of the same clan.

Rules of inheritance

The basic rule of inheritance is that all immovable property (land and buildings) as well as family artefacts are to be distributed among a man’s sons, whereas all the jewelry is passed down from mother to daughters and shared equally among them. Cash is divided among both sons and daughters. Generally all sons get equal share of the parental property, except for ritual artefacts of the household which are inherited by the eldest son alone.

Article written by Mr. Bouchery Pascal, Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Poiters, France.

Posted in Social Structure | 2 Comments »

Marriage Rules In Karbis

Posted by Administrator on March 19, 2006

There is a close association of the kinship terminology with the Karbi matrilateral cross-cousin marriage consisting for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter (MBD). At every generation a man is encouraged to choose his wife from the same clan, his mother’s clan. Such a prescriptive rule of alliance unites a whole series of distinct clans or lineages on the basis of wife-taking and wife-giving relationship.

The classification of the kin and the marriage system are obviously linked. It can first be seen in the fact that parallel cousins (father’s brother’s children and mother’s sister’s children) are equated with siblings and therefore not marriageable, while cross cousins (father’s sister’s children and mother’s brother’s children) are clearly identified by several distinctive terms (Karbi terminology is remarkable by the profusion of such terms).

Besides, the following equations :

EBW (m. s.) = MBD+


MBS (m.s.) = WB (m. s.)



FZS = ZH (m. s.)

FZH = HF (f. s.)

S = BDH (f. s.)

D = ZSW (m. s.)

DH (m. s.) = ZS (m. s.)


FZH = HF ( f. s.)

FZD (f. sp.) = HZ (f. sp.)

For the abbr. meaning please refer to Karbi kinship Terminology.

are strongly suggestive of marriage preference with the mother’s brother’s daughter. It becomes apparent in the diagram below :


In black, kinship relations as considered from a male point of view. In red, kinship relations as considered from a female point of view. In blue, karbi kinship terms

Diagrammatic representation of preferential marriage arrangements among the Karbis, showing the reflection of the prescriptive rules of alliance in the terminology

In the case of a man marrying his mother‘s brother‘s daughter, his maternal uncle will become his father-in-law. The terminology applies the same term Onghai to denote both relationships. Similarly his mother’s brother’s son will be his brother-in-law, and the two again are equated (Ongsar). A man’s maternal uncle’s wife will become his mother-in-law, both being classified as Ni. The latter term is again used to denote two other linked relations, his maternal uncle’s daughter-in-law who is to become his wife’s brother’s wife. In such a marriage arrangement, a man’s daughter would become his sister’s daughter-in-law, and therefore the terminology classifies them into the same category Sopi. Reciprocally a woman’s son would become her brother’s son-in-law, again both fall into the same category, Sopo. The system being generalized to all clans, a man’s sister should be married to one of his father’s sister’s son, therefore not surprisingly a unique term (Meh) is applied to denote both paternal aunt’s son and brother-in-law.

Prescribed matrilateral cross-cousin marriage (marrying the MBD) is also reflected in the fact that the category Ong includes not only the maternal uncle but also his sons and grandsons, the relative generation being identified only by using appropriate suffixes (-hai, -sar, -so). This indicates a permanent relationship of one’s own lineage with the maternal uncle’s lineage or clan, from which wives are received through generations.

Article written by Mr. Bouchery Pascal.

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Marriage Circle Rules.

Posted by Administrator on March 19, 2006

Marriage Circle Rules.


The above marriage circle is adhered by the karbis since time immemorial. The Karbis are custom bound to follow and observed it.

A terang and all its sub-clan should by custom marry an Ingti girl. A Teron should marry a terang girl. A timung should marry an Enghi Girl and An Ingti should marry a Timung Girl.

Any valid and legal marriage among the karbis is a marriage according to the marriage circle. This marriage circle is a must among the karbis till recently. Any violation of this circle was considered as a crime.

But by now, the violation of the marriage circle custom is very frequent. And it seems that the Karbi Society itself has under gone a remarkable change.

The only prohibition which is adhered to till today is the marriage within the same clan, and any violation of this awaits ex-communication and social boycott from the society.

Source: Mr. J.S. Terang, Former Deputy Adviser, Anti-Coruption Bureau, C.B.I( Central Bureau of Investigation), India.

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Posted by Administrator on March 18, 2006

Hemtap—Karbi tree-house in the backdrop of a setting sun at Taralangso..Diphu

A Karbi raised house in Western Karbi Anglong, Assam, NE India

Some of the pictures of the karbis. An impoverished Karbi family in inner KA    

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Jambili Athon- A symbol of the karbis , Five branch representing five clans of the Karbis.

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Youth Performing a Karbi Dance called Chong-Kedam, a warrior dance.

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A typical Karbi House ( side view)


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Instrument used by the Karbis for Chong-Kedam dance.    

Karbi Arts

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Name List of Clans (KURS) in Karbis

Posted by Administrator on March 15, 2006

The name of all the five clan and its respective sub clan of the Karbis is as given below.



A) Lijang ( Ingti):


1. Ingti Hansek 2.Ingti Kather Bura 3. Kather Riso 4. Ingleng 5. Taro 6. Ingti Killing.



B) Hanjang ( Terang) :

1.Terang 2.Terang Engnar 3. Terang Ingjai 4. Terang Dilli 5. Terang Rongcheicho 6.Bey Ke-ik 7. Bey ke-et (Ronghang) 8. Bey Chingthong 9. Bey Dum 10. Bey Lindok 11. Bey Miji 12. Kro 13. Kro Nilip 14. Kro Nihang 15. Kro Khamu



C) Ejang ( Enghi / Inghi) :

1.Enghi 2. Rongpi 3. Rongpi Ronghang 4. Rongpi Amri 5. Rongpi Chingthong 6. Rongpi Lindok 7. Rongpi Meji 8. Rongpi Rongchehon 9. Ronghi 10. Ke-ap 11. Rengoi 12. Renglum 13. Rente 14.Lekthe 15. Bongrung 16. Kramsa 17. Hanse Lindok 18. Hanse Chingthong 19. Hanse Durong 20. Hanse Nongphili 21. Hanse Nongloda 22. Hanse Ka’I (Kalongtam) 23.Ronghang 24. Ronghang Lindok 25. Tisso Rongphu 26. Tisso Rongchitim 27. Tisso Rongling
28. Tisso Motho 29. Tisso Rongcheicho 30.Tisso


E) Kronjang (Teron) :

1.Millik 2. Kongkat 3. Langne 4. Sirang 5. Dengja 6. Ai 7. Torap 8. Sir-ik 9. Miji.


D) Tungjang ( Timung):

1.Timung 2. Timung Rongpi 3. Timung Killing 4. Timung Phura 5.Phangcho 6. Phangcho Juiti 7. Phangcho Langteroi 8. Phangcho Ingnar 9. Phangcho Vojaru 10. Pator 11. Killing Miji 12. Killing Nokbare 13. Senar 14. Senar Muchiki 15. Senar Meji 16. Tokbi Ronghang
17. Tokbi Totiki 18. Tokbi Chingthong 19. Tokbi Dera 20.Rongphar Senot 21. Rongphar Phura 22. Nokbare (Longthulu) 23. Nongdu 24. Nonglada 25. Dera 26. Senar Pator 27. Senot 28. Chalut Senot 29. Mu Chophi 30. Tokbi Killing.





Source: Mr. Chesong Bikram Sing Terang,
Ex-General Secretary, GGKSA & Editor of Aturkimi, A Souvenir of the G.G.K.S.A

( Greater Guwahati Karbi Students’ Association), 1st Issue:2002-03.

Posted in Clans in Karbis | 8 Comments »

Karbi Kinship Terminology

Posted by Administrator on March 15, 2006

I’m really thankful to Mr. Bouchery Pascal, Lecturer of Anthropology, University of Poiters, France for his keen interest in studying about the karbis and allowing me to publish his works in my blog. He has been working on the karbis for the last one month with the information I have been providing and he is really showing his expertise by completing the following list of terminology at a very unexpected span of time.He has visited India several times, and conducts research on Tibeto-Burman speaking societies of North Eastern States, including Karbis . It really gives me satisfaction to provide all the information he wants which are within my reach. I wish him all the very best and foreseen that the day will not be far when he will be a known man among the karbis for his contribution towards them at par with Charles lyall, who was the first man to study the society of the Karbis.


1. Phu’ : FF, MF

2. Phi : FM, MM

3. Po’ : F

4. Pai/pei : M

5. Pesar : FeB, FeBW, MeZ, MZH+, HMeB

6. Punu : FyB, MZH-, HMyB

7. Pinu/Penu : FyBW, MyZ, WFZ (pinu)

8. Ni : FeZ (m. sp. eventually with suffix -sarpi), FeZ (f. sp., eventually with suffix -hai denoting respect), FyZ, (m. sp., along with bai), MBW (m. sp., with suffix -hai), MBW (f. sp.), MBSW (m. sp), FZSW (m. sp.), WBW (m. sp.), WM (with suffix -hai), WMZ (with suffix -hai), HM (with suffix -hai), HMZ

9. Lok : FZH, HF (f. sp., with suffix -hai denoting respect)

10. Ong : MB (m. s., with suffix -hai denoting respect), WF (with suffix -hai), WFB (with suffix -hai), MB (f. sp.), MBS (m. sp., with suffix -sar), MBS (f. sp.), MBSS (m. sp. with suffix -so) MBSS (f. sp.), WB (m. sp., with suffix -sar)

11. Ik : eB, yB (f. sp.), FBS+, MZS+

12. Muh’ : yB (m. sp.), FBS-, MZS-

13. Ni/bai : eZ (m. sp.), FBD+, MZD+,

14. Bong’ : yZ, FBD-, MZD-

15. Teh/Bai : eZ (f. sp.), eBW (f. sp.), FZSW (f. sp.)

16. Meh : FZS (m. sp., eventually with suffix -hai denoting respect), ZH (m. sp., eventually with suffix -hai)

17. Neng : MBD (f. sp., with suffix -hai denoting respect), FZD (f. sp., with suffix -so), BD (f. sp.), yBW (f. sp.), yZH (f. sp.), MBSW (f. sp.), BSW (f. sp.), HZ, HFZ (with suffix -hai),

18. Tepi/ Tipi : eBW (m. sp.), MBD+ (m. sp.), WZ+ (m. sp.)

19. Korpi : yBW (m. sp.), MBD- (m. sp.), WZ- (m. sp.)

20. Tepo : eZH (f. sp.), FZS+ (f. sp.), HB+

21. Korpo : FZS- (f. sp.), HB-

22. Philipi : FZD (m. sp.), ZD

23. Sopo : S, BS (m. sp.), ZS (f. sp.), BDH (f. sp.)

24. Sopi : D, BD (m. sp.), ZD (f. sp.), BDH (m. sp.), ZDH (f. sp.)

25. Ikso : BS (f. sp.)

26. Munhai : SW, BSW (m. s.), ZSW (f. s.)

27. Usha : DH (m. sp., with suffix -hai denoting respect), ZS (m. sp., with suffix -hai), BDH (m. sp., with suffix -hai), HZS, ZDH (f. sp., with suffix -hai)

28. Phu : ZDH (m. sp.)

29. Su’po : SS

30. Su’pi : SD

31. Piso/ Peso : W

32. Penan/ Pengnan : H

33. Phuso : WMB

To read the above table :

F = father; M = mother, eB = elder brother; yB = younger brother; Z = sister; S = son; D = daughter; W = wife; H = husband; + = older than speaker; – = younger than speaker; m. sp. = male speaking; f. sp. = female speaking.

So FeZS should be read as father’s elder sister’s son.

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Posted in Karbi Kinship Terminology | 2 Comments »