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Garo Tribes-Origin, Population, History, Education and Employment

The Garos are the inhabitants of North East India, particularly concentrating in the Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya, and have a rich cultural heritage and a unique way of life. With a matrilineal social structure and a deep connection to nature, the Garo people have thrived for centuries. However, they face numerous challenges in the modern world, including issues of preservation, development, and recognition.

Garo Tribes Relevance for UPSC

The Garo tribes have relevance for both the UPSC Prelims and Mains examinations, particularly in the context of Indian society, culture, and tribal communities.

Garo Tribes Context

Uttar Panialguri village, located in the Buxa Tiger Reserve of the Alipurduar II block, is home to the predominantly tribal Garo community. Nestled in the Dooars, the foothills of the Himalayas, this village of 3,896 residents is surrounded by lush forests teeming with diverse flora. However, the Garo tribes residing here have been grappling with numerous challenges and unfulfilled promises for decades. This article sheds light on the difficulties faced by the Garo Para community and their pursuit of a better future.


The Garo tribes, primarily residing in the Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya, Northeast India, have unique social organizations and cultural practices. Here are some important points about the Garo tribes:

  • Origins and Population: The Garo tribes migrated from Tibet through different routes and settled in various regions of Northeast India. They also have a significant presence in neighboring states like Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, West Bengal, Tripura, and Bangladesh. According to the 2001 census, the Garo population was approximately 725,502.
  • Matrilineal Social Structure: The Garo society follows a matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through the mother’s line. Women hold significant authority and play a central role in family and community affairs.
  • Livelihood: Agriculture, including both permanent and shifting hill cultivation (jhum), is the primary occupation of the Garo tribes. They cultivate crops like paddy, maize, potato, and vegetables. They also engage in animal husbandry, fishing, hunting, and gathering forest products.
  • Religion and Beliefs: The Garo tribes practice a form of animism, where they believe in the existence of spirits in natural objects and phenomena. They have a deep connection with nature and consider souls as the “elixir of life.”
  • Cultural Traditions: The Garo tribes have a rich cultural heritage expressed through traditional music, dance, and festivals. The Wangala festival is a significant celebration held to express gratitude for the harvest. They have distinct musical instruments and traditional attire adorned with beads.
  • Kinship and Clan System: The Garo tribes are organized into clans known as “Chatchi,” which are further divided into sub-clans or “Machong.” They have a classificatory kinship terminology and observe strict exogamy, prohibiting marriage within the same clan.
  • Changes and Challenges: The Garo society has undergone transformations due to influences such as Christianity, formal education, and modernization. The institution of Nokpante (bachelor dormitory) has declined, and some traditional practices have been abandoned.

Lack of Infrastructure and Basic Amenities

The roads leading to Garo Para are nothing more than muddy pathways strewn with pebbles. Despite being part of a major block in the district with a population of 70 lahks, this village has seen minimal development over the years. The only notable addition has been the Anganwadi Centre, established 16 years ago. However, even this modest facility lacks basic amenities such as a veranda and electricity. With a leaky tin roof, the children and caretakers brave the elements during the rainy season.

Education and Employment Challenges

Access to education is a major hurdle for the children of Garo Para. With a lack of public transport, the students must walk 6 km each way to reach the nearest high school. Pursuing higher education often entails arduous journeys, like Gagan Sangma’s son, who had to walk 10 km daily to catch a bus to Alipurduar town. Many young individuals, unable to overcome these obstacles, are forced to seek livelihoods elsewhere, depriving the community of their talents and potential.

Broken Promises and Unfinished Projects:

The residents of Garo Para have grown disillusioned with the recurring promises made during election campaigns. Despite assurances, their pleas for a properly built community center and improved infrastructure have fallen on deaf ears. The construction of a bridge across the Cheko River, which holds immense importance for the village, remains unfinished, leaving the embankment vulnerable to erosion. The consequences of these broken promises are dire, as families lose their land to annual floods, resulting in loss of livelihoods.

The Matrilineal Garo Tribe

The Garos, one of the few matrilineal tribes in the world, have a unique social structure. In this community, grooms move in with the bride’s family after marriage, and inheritance follows the maternal line. This system aims to protect and empower women, reducing the likelihood of social injustice and violence. However, bureaucratic obstacles arise when it comes to obtaining tribal certificates, which acknowledge their identity and rights. The non-recognition of the mother’s surname on government documents poses a significant hindrance, depriving the Garo families of various opportunities and benefits.

The Struggle for Recognition and Assistance

Despite participating in government initiatives such as the Duare Sarkar camps, where services are delivered at people’s doorsteps, the people of Garo Para continue to face difficulties. They have diligently submitted all necessary documents and attended various programs but have yet to receive their tribal certificates. This prolonged battle for recognition has left them uncertain about whom to approach for assistance.

Way forward

The Garo tribes in Uttar Panialguri village have endured numerous challenges, including inadequate infrastructure, limited access to education and employment, broken promises, and the struggle for recognition. The government’s support and intervention are crucial to uplift this marginalized community and address its long-standing issues. It is imperative to bridge the gaps in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and administrative processes, empowering the Garo Para community to lead a dignified and prosperous life. Only through sustained efforts and inclusive policies can we create a more equitable society where every citizen, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to thrive.

Important Questions

  1. Which of the following statements about the Garo tribes is correct?
  • The Garo tribes are primarily concentrated in the state of Mizoram.
  • They belong to the Indo-Aryan linguistic family.
  • The Garo tribes follow a patrilineal social structure.
  • Their traditional occupation is predominantly fishing.

Answer: (c) The Garo tribes follow a patrilineal social structure.

Explanation: The Garo tribes are primarily concentrated in the Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya, not Mizoram (option a is incorrect).

Linguistically, they belong to the Tibeto-Burman family, not the Indo-Aryan family (option b is incorrect).

The Garo tribes have a matrilineal social structure, where descent is traced through the mother’s line, making option c the correct statement.

Their traditional occupation revolves around agriculture, including shifting hill cultivation (jhum), rather than fishing (option d is incorrect).


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Who are the Garo tribes?

The Garo tribes are inhabitants of North East India, particularly concentrated in the Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya. They have a unique cultural heritage and follow a matrilineal social structure.

What are some key characteristics of the Garo tribes?

The Garo tribes have a matrilineal social structure where lineage and inheritance are traced through the mother's line. They primarily rely on agriculture and practice shifting hill cultivation (jhum). They have a deep connection to nature and follow animistic beliefs. The Garo tribes have rich cultural traditions expressed through music, dance, and festivals.

What are the challenges faced by the Garo tribes in the modern world?

The Garo tribes face challenges related to preservation of their cultural heritage, development, and recognition. They struggle with issues such as lack of infrastructure and basic amenities, limited access to education and employment opportunities, broken promises and unfinished projects, and bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining tribal certificates.

About the Author

Hey there! I'm Nikesh, a content writer at Adda247. I specialize in creating informative content focused on UPSC and State PSC exams. Join me as we unravel the complexities of these exams and turn aspirations into achievements together!

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