Meghalaya is dominated by three principal groups of
people. The Garo in the east and west Garo hills, the Khasi-Pnar in the east and
west Khasi hills and the Jaintia hills. They follow primarily a matrilineal
system. The Khasi group belongs to the Mon-Khemar sub-family of the Austro
group of people. The Garo group is a part of the greater Bodo Kacheri family
both by ethnic group and language. Their present location enabled them to
maintain many of their traits and characteristics.
The Khasi-Pnar group indicated two prominent sub-groups of the
Khasi and the Pnar. The former occupied the central highlands or the Khasi hills
and the latter towards east, the Jaintia hills. The groups living in the
northern and southern part of the main central highland, section were known by
the terms of 'The Bhoi and War'. They are divided into number of clans and are
essentially differentiated from each other by their location and function they
Within the four districts of the combined Khasi and Jaintia
hills there are number of dialects. Based on the dialects, the community is
generally divided into five groups namely the Khasis of the central plateau, the
Pnars or Jaintia in the east, the Wars in the south, the Lyngams in the west and
the Bhois in the north.
The Meghalaya plateau is inhabited by three dominant tribes.
The Garos in the western section of the plateau
The Khasis in the central section of the plateau
The Jaintia in the eastern section of the plateau
The Garos call themselves
Achiks. 'Garo' is believed to
have been derived from the name of one section of the tribe who are found in a
compact area in the middle of the districts southern belt. The Garo tradition
speaks of their migration from Tibet.
In course of time, the Garos society was divided into three major
exogamous, 'Kin-groups' or Katchis, namely Marak, Sangma and Momin. These are
further sub-divided into such groups as Areng, Shirra and Ebang.
Marriage between members of the same Katchi is totally
prohibited by tribal law. Each of these Kin-groups is further sub-divided into a
number of lineages called Machong. The Machong with its component households is
the basic unit in the Garo social organization. A Garo belong to his particular
Machong from his birth. In each village, the dominant Machong selects the
headman who is Nok-ma literally means house-mother. Usually Nok-ma would be a
Inheritance among the Garos is restricted to the female line.
Each family selects an heiress (nok-ma). A couple with no children may adopt the
daughter of the wife's sister as heiress. The heiress is usually linked in
marriage with the son of the father's sister.
The institution of the 'Bachelors Dormitory'
found only among the Garos. All unmarried young men and growing boys must live
in the dormitory. These young people carry out allotted tasks entrusted to them
by the village elders.
The Garo tribal groups consists of sub-tribes . They are
(a) Ambeng (in the western part including
(b) Atong (in the lower Simsang valley)
(c) Akawa (north-eastern parts and extend upto Goalpara and
Kamrup in Assam)
(d) Matchi (upper reaches of Simsang valley)
(e) Chibok (upper Bhugi valley)
(f) Ruga (lower Bhugi valley)
(g) Dual (upper Simsang valley)
(h) Chisak (north of Matchi and Dual in central highlands)
(j) Kotchu (eastern parts)
(k) Koch (south-western parts)
Besides these, there are others like Megamo in the
mid-western parts and the Dikos.