Karbis Of Assam

Ethnology on the Karbis also Known as Mikirs

The Dumrali Karbis

Posted by Administrator on October 4, 2007


The Dumrali Karbis 

-Morningkeey Phangcho

Those Karbis residing in the plains of Kamrup and Morigaon district of Assam, and the Ri-Bhoi districts of Meghalaya identify themselves as the Dumrali or plains Karbis. With their social head at Dimoria, culturally and customarily they have different sets of social behavior and functions to their counterpart at Karbi Anglong. Linguistically they are a sub group of Mikir groups of the greater Tibeto-Burman family and class as Amri (the other being Karbi) in the latest grouping of the T-B family. The field work was undertaken at Mermain (aka. Marmé) (26º E and 90° N); a village at the border of Meghalaya and Assam. The village is divided between these two states as half the village is in the other side of the political boundary.

40 % of the population in Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya consists of Karbis, amongst whom about 60 % profess their religion to be Christianity, and the rest are of traditional religion. You will come across some unfamiliar clans among the populaces like Klien, which is claimed to be the  another version of Killing, a sub clan of Tungjang (Timung), and  Rongson or Rongchon, which is not different from Ronchehon , a sub clan of Ejang  (Ronghang) as claimed by the local population besides Longthulu, Tron and Tumung.

The priest is usually the head of the house; he is assigned the name Penpo which is similar to Pinpo of the Hills Karbis.  Amongst The Plains Karbis there are basically three main social festivals:

 1)      DOMAHI

It is celebrated in the months of March-April. It is a festival of thanks giving to the almighty Hemphu, the traditional god head of the Karbi Household. Each member of the social setup of the village is known as MEKAR, which might be the origin of the word MIKIR as the tribes were known till very recently and in fact still do in some of the official documents. However this is just a hypothesis I would like to go more deeply into. During the festival all the ancestors of the village are remembered and worshipped, which is indeed very similar to the practice of their hills cousin. This practice is known as SAR-KACHERDUNG. “lit. ANCESTOR REMEMBER” the same as SAR ANTHOK among the Hill Karbis.

 2)      MONO KE-EN

Literally Mono means Paddy or Rice and Ke-en means to take. It is generally an affair of 2 days, once in five years. All unmarried males and females of the village are to take part in the occasions. In the house of Riso Bangthe (an authority concern with the affairs of the youth of the village) the traditional folklore about the origin of rice and the route of migration taken by the Karbis from the place of their origin are retold. It is very much the same story which is told amongst the Hills Karbis (Mosera-Kihir) but with the name ‘Karbi Kevang’ “ lit. Karbi Coming” with some addition like the reason for the Karbis to start moving out from their ancestral village somewhere near Inglong Kelok “ lit. Mountain White” , which is unmistakably the Himalaya mountain range. There is a mentioned of Lhasa also on the way. The mentioning of KLENG MEKAR, on whose head a flame of fire always glow to lead the Karbis  during darkness is intriguingly interesting and to be noted. He is not mention anywhere in Mosera-Kihir, the hill version. Terang were supposed to be the porter who carried all the essential items needed for the whole village. The reason mentioned for the Karbis to move out of the ancestral village is also very interesting. It is said that the Karbis being very poetic and romantic once tried to touch the moon and play with it, seeing it stationed beautifully on the top of the INGLONG KELOK. But when they climbed up to the top of the mountain and found the moon to be still afar and unreachable, then only did they realized their mistake. Since they felt ashamed to return to their ancestral village they decided to move forward towards the east and settled down somewhere else, which is not found in MOSERA-KIHIR.  The mention of the river TERON LONGSO, where the TERON with divine power helped the others to cross a river with huge width by stretching himself like a bridge is also very interesting, which has again no mention in Mosera-Kihir with the exception of the river TERON LONGSO, where the paddy was supposed to be discovered by the Karbis which coincide very much with the version of the hills Karbis.

 3)      RONG KEHUM

Literally Rong Kehum means Village Curfew. It is generally a three days affair once in five years. Just like the name suggested a kind of curfew is imposed in the village with all the roads leading to the village being blocked with thorn and bushes. No outsider is welcome to the village during these three days affair. However they can come and witness the ritual by taking non traditional route. This festival is generally celebrated during the winter. It is very much similar to the Rongker of the hills Karbis. This is all male affairs and no female is allowed during the rituals. The fences are broken and lots of hue and cry is created during the rituals as a symbol to chase away evils from the village during the night using a long stick. If any person comes out of the house during the ritual then he might be killed assuming to be an evil spirits and no blame is to be confer upon the evil spirits chasers.

 ADNISTRATIVE SET-UP

Administratively the Plain Karbis are divided into 9 political areas. With its social head at Dimoria it is divided into 5 Richo (kingships) and 4 Bangthe (a kind of President ship). The Five Richo are Borkuchi, Tentala, Tikra, Bura and Nortap where as the 4 Bangthe are Marme or Mermain,  Somra or Silimor, Honai-Raika and Killing ( Killing Nongkret is the area where the legendry Tiger men existed) .

 TRADITIONAL ADMINISTRATION For the smooth administration of the village, There is a traditional set-up of various official known as AKLENG APHANG “lit. branches of elders” 

RONGCHON

Rongchon: He is the supreme head of the administrative, acting something like a president who has a say but cannot take any decision all alone by himself. But he is the authority to implement what ever decision is taken by the others member. Without his consent no customary law is applicable. This post is basically held by the Rongchon clan i.e Ronghang. It is hereditary in nature. i.e only a son of Rongchon can become a new rongchon

Huria: He is an assistant Judge. Enghi Clans is associated with this post.

Karkun: A Clan of Ramde, a sub clan of Ejang again is entrusted with this job. Karkun is a fine collector and a butcher for the social event where animal sacrifice is to be made.

Rhah-hre: He is in charge of the welfare of the warriors of the village. Ingty Clans is entrusted with this job

Bisar: He is the supreme Judge for any kind of conflicts and issues. Ingty Clans is entrusted with this job.

Klengsar : He is the decision maker among them all. It is he who is to convey the decision taken to Rongchon. He acts something like the prime minister.

Riso-Bangthe : He is to look into the welfare of the youth of the village, and the affairs related to the education of traditional knowledge to the young. He is from the Rongchon Clans.

Kathar: He is the Head priest of the village. All kind of sanctification and purification is to be undertaken under his keen eyes. He is in-charge of the religious affair of the village. Ingty clans are entrusted with this job.

Barika : He is the main Messenger and announcer in the village. He is from Enghi Clans.

  

Special thanks to Mr. Philipe Ramirez for organizing the field trips and guidance. Also to Mr. Dharam Sing Teron, Ex MLA, KAAC ( Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council) for his ample guidance and support . A gratitude to Mr. Owen Terang, President, AMKA ( All Meghalaya Karbi Association) for hosting us and providing us with all the information and for organizing a meeting with the elders of the village during our visit to Merme.

  

For More Information Please write to me at mphangcho@yahoo.com

   

4 Responses to “The Dumrali Karbis”

  1. Thank you Morningkeey for this very detailled account of our short field trip. It is very useful as a complement to my own notes.

  2. One question : do Mermain Karbis consider themselves as Dumrali? How do their language differ from Kamrupi Karbis?

  3. Morningkeey said

    Yes from the response we got … they consider themselves to be part fo the the dumrali.. infact they call themselves AMRI which all the other karbis of the plains prefer to be called. there is not much different in language with the Kamrupi but Khasi influence can be seen amongs the mermain Karbis.. if u can remember well I told you there itself that when we asked for the direction to the mermain village on the way.. we were told “Phli Kilometre” meaning Four Kilometer but the kamrupi would say it as “Kilometer Phli” .. and also some of the noun amongs the Mermain is found to have some affinity with the Khasis

  4. Biren Keleng said

    Thank you for your short description about The Domurali Karbis.

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