Above: A typical Karbi Hut
typical Karbi hut is neither too small nor too big. It is built on a bamboo platform using
timber posts for super structure. The platform is several feet high above the ground. For
roofing purpose, thatch is used. The walls made of split bamboos are mud-plastered. The
house has two varandas - one at the front and the other at the rear. The house is divided
into two parts lengthwise. The front part or room with a hearth at the centre is called
'KAM' or guest room while the inner chamber called 'KUT' is used as the living room for
the family members. A wooden or bamboo ladder is used as an approach to the front varanda.
Cattle are generally kept under the bamboo platform.
Above: A Front View of Karbi House
course, the traditional housing pattern has more or less been abandoned by the Karbis.
Instead of having raised bamboo platforms, the houses are constructed on grounds. Building
materials required for construction of the houses, whether traditional or modern, are
procured from the nearby forests, markets.
the festivals observed by the Karbis, mention may be made of the "Chojun
Puja" or "Swarak Puja" ;"Rongker"; "Chokk-eroi";
"Hacha-Kekan", "Chomangkan" , etc. While the former four
festivals are socio-religious in nasture and the letter is a social one.
The spot for
Puja" or "Swarak Puja" is generally selected near the
house of the family which wishes to perform the puja. The deities in this festival are
Barithe, Shar Arnam, Arni and the Devil Hii-i and other smaller Gods. Hemphu, the greatest
God of the Karbis is also propriated.The puja is peformed for the welfare of the family.
is performed at the beginning of the new year by propitiating the different gods and
goddesses for the well being of the entire village. The deities are worshipped by all the
elderly male people of the village so that with their blessings the people of the village
could be free from diseases, natural calamities during the year and the families could
have a good harvest. The women are not allowed to enter into the worship arena.
is an another kind of Rongker performed in a greater scale. This type of Rongker which is
performed at the beginning of every 5 years is called Wofong Rongker. This Wofong
Rongker is performed for the well-being of all the people of the villages that fall
within the jurisdiction of a Mauza (a revenue administrative region consisting of a number
of revenue villages). Each revenue village is represented by the village headman and a
number of village elders (males only) in the performance of the Wofong Rongker. While the
Rongker performed for a village is only of one day's duration, the Wofong Rongker
continues for two days.
festival is observe when the paddy field is ripened to the fullest extent. The ripened
paddy is cut and taken to a place specially cleared in the field. Then the paddy is
dehusked on the floor and the paddy is collected. A large number of youngmen go and
collect paddy in bags and carry it to home. There starts a great rejoicing and the young
ones dance to their hearts' context. Sok-erroi means the carrying of the paddy from the
field. In the festival, one person is selected as the leader who provides the leadership
in dancing and singing. He is called 'LUNSE". He is the director of singing and
Hacha-Kekan is not exactly based on the folk-tales.Hacha-Kekan festival is
associated with the after harvest rejoicings. There is no fear element in it and there is
no need to propitiate any god. Hence it is to be assumed that the Hacha-Kekan is secular
in its activities and differs substantially from another festival - RONGKER. Because, the
latter needs the propitiation of god.
the Karbis perform the funeral ceremony at the time of the cremation of the deceased, they
also perform the death ceremony called "Chomangkan" at a later date
for the eternal peace of the deceased. It is the most elaborate and expensive
socio-religious ceremony of the Karbis which containues for four days and four nights
non-stop.The ceremony does not require any formal invitation and all are welcome to it. In
spite of the sad undertone, it is the proud day for the family and they welcome all with
great warmth. They come in batches and everyone carries a symbolical rod with 5(five)
branches and at the end of each branch, there is a wooden bird, which is called in Karbi
"Vo-rali". The whole rod is called "Jambili Athan". This is the
symbolical representation of the tribe and it is also the symbol of clan unity.
Jambili is a very interesting phenomenon. The tribe has five Kurs or clans and the Jambili
has five branches. Under the cover of it, the Karbis listen the story of their origin. It
is called "Muchera Kehir".
- Photo Above: CHOI-ANG
- (Traditional Red Shirt of the Male
Karbis have their traditional dresses which are artistically designed. These dresses are
woven at their family looms.There are separate dresses for men and women. The aged men use
an artistically designed shirt called Choy-nangpo and the shirt used by the
young men is called Choy-hongthor. The men use a loin cloth called Rikong.
But now-a-days most of the male persons have abandoned its use. Only in the remote
interior place, Rikong is found to be used specially by married and aged persons. Karbi
male wears a Choy-Aan (Jacket) with a Rekong-ke-Er (Loin cloth of red cloth of silk) with
a Gamocha on his shoulders and a Poho of endi silk in his shoulders.The use of turban
wears on the head by Karbi men called Poho which is also fast
Karbi women and girls generally use Pinicamflak, a piece of cloth tied around the waist
like a Mekhela. A piece of artistic cloth is used by them to cover the upper part of their
body and it is called Pe-kok. A very highly artistic waist band called Wankok is also used
by every woman and girl. The ladies use coloured and striped Endi scarf called Khongjari
during winter. During the performance of Chomangkon (death ceremony) young girls use a
special Endi scarf called Dokherso. The Karbi women and girls are very fond of their
traditional dresses and they have been using them even in the face of a strong competition
of modern trends.
DANCE AND MUSIC :
SHIELD & DRUM ( Indispensable For CHOMANGKAN DANCE)
and Music play an important role in the life of the Karbi Society. Various types of dances
are performed by the youths during the performances of Chomangkan, the death ceremony and
other socio-religious festivals. Hacha Kekan, the dance performed at the harvesting
festival is very lively and eye-catching. Their traditional songs whether folk or
religious, are generally sung by experts only who are not only well conversant with their
meaning but are also endowed with sweet voices. During the performance of the cremation
rites and the performance of the death ceremony, only a professional weeper called UCHEPI
is allowed the sing a melancholy song called Sarhe. They have a Karbi version of the
Ramayana called Sabin Alun, but the most interesting part of this epic is that it is
unwritten and it has been handed down from one generation to another orally.
Above: A View of CHOMANGKAN Dance
Karbis have very limited number of musical instruments. A big drum called Cheng is their
main musical instrument. It is generally played by a master drummer called Duihudi. They
also use small drums called Chengbruk. They have two kinds of flutes, the wooden flute is
called Muri and bamboo flute is called Pangche. In some of their dances they use war
shield made of rhinocer's skin called Chong and prototype war sword called
bygone days, a Karbi man used to put on a brass made ear-ring called Narik, silver
bracelet called Prinsoroi and heavy silver necklaces called Lekrooa and Lek-Enji. But now
a days, no male person of this community is found to have used them.
most beautiful ornaments put on by aged Karbi woman is Nothenpi, a pair of very big
ear-ring made of silver. It is about two and a half inch in length having a diameter of
about half inch. This ear-ring is detachable into two parts. The women and girls use
silver bracelets called Rup-Aroir. Besides, the necklace made of white beads called
Lech-lo-so, the women are also found to have used a kind of necklace made of silver
coins and red beads called Lek-Chike.
the point of view of folk-lores and folk songs, the Karbis are very rich. It has been
mentioned earlier that they have their own version of the Ramayana called Sabin Alun which
has been handed down from one generation to another orally. However, during the recent
years, the Karbi society has undergone transformation and changes. The grip of inertia in
which this society was found in the past, has now been slackened. In this connection, the
pioneering leadership was given by Late Khorsing Terang who was not only the first Chief
Executive Member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council but also the first member
of the Assam Legislative Assembly from the Karbi community. Among the other leaders,
mention may be made of Late Nihang Rongpher, Late Chandra Sing Teron , Late Chatra
Sing Teron, Late Dhaniram Rongpi, who were not only the Chief Executive Member of
the KAAC, but were the members of the Assam cabinet also, Late Joysing Doloi, Ex.CEM ;
Late Sai Sai Terang, Ex. Chairman ; Late Samsing Hanse,
was a member of Assam cabinet ; Mr. Biren Singh Engti, Ex.M.P. and Ex.Central Deputy
Minister ; Mr. Bidya Sing Engleng, Ex. CEM and sitting M.L.A. ; Dr. Jayanta Rongpi, Ex.CEM
and sitting M.P.(Lok Sabha) ; Mr. Holiram Terang, Ex. M.L.A.; Mr, Jagat Sing Engti,
sitting M.L.A.; Mr. Dharam Sing Teron, Ex. Chairman and sitting M.L.A. and many others.
literary field, Padmashree (Prof.) Rongbong Terang, Mr. Longkam Teron, Dr. Phukan Chandra
Phangcho, Mr. Lunse Timung, Late Samsing Hanse, Mr. Jeet Rongpi, Song Bey and many
others have made significant contribution for the development of Karbi literature.In this
connection, reference of "Karbi Lamet Amei" (Karbi Sahitya Sabha) may also be
Karbis have now come forward to accept the developmental schemes of different sectors with
a view to changing their own destiny. But at The same time, they are maintaining their
culture which distinguishes them as a separate ethnic group.