Understanding Karbi Folk religion
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.