Social change among the Garo : a study of a plains village in Bangladesh




Khaleque, Kibriaul

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In 1974, I went for a picnic in the forest of Madhupur Garh, an area mainly inhabited by a matrilineal people known as the Garo. On this occasion I had the opportunity to meet some Garo and also to visit their houses. Several features of Garo society associated with matrilineality attracted my attention. Following this encounter I became interested to know more about these people and their social organization, so I started reading available sources on them. All the published sources I found were concerned with the Hill Garo of Assam in India. However, the difference between the Hill Garo and the Plains Garo is noted by almost all early observers of the Garo but none of them had dealt with Garo living on the plains of Bangladesh, who are related to the Hill Garo of Assam. About the plain Garo in general Playfair remarked that they "...have lost many of their tribal characterstics” (1909:v). But Playfair did not mention in his book what exactly the plains Garo had lost. This, in fact, increased my eagerness to inquire into plains Garo society. In the writings of more recent observers of the Garo I discovered other important issues which made me even more inquisitive. For instance, there is the controversy between two anthropologists - Burling (1963) and Nakane (1967) - on the impact of wet cultivation among plain Garo. Both hill and plain Garo were agricultural people and they practised shifting cultivation, known as 'Jhum', which required the cutting and burning of forest. But plains Garo adopted wet cultivation alongside Jhum from the beginning of their settlement on the plains. Due to this adoption of wet cultivation certain social changes have taken place among plains Garo.






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