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Karbis :

Racially the Karbis belong to the Mongoloid group and linguistically they belong to the Tibeto-Burman group. The original home ofthe various people speaking Tibeto-Burman languages was in western China near the Yang-Tee-Kiang and the Howang-ho rivers and from these places they went down the courses of the Brahmaputra, the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy and entered India and Burma. The Kabis, alongwith others entered Assam from Central Asia in one of the waves of migration.

The folk-lores of the Karbis, however, indicate that during the long past, once they used to live on the banks of the rivers the Kalang and the Kapili and the entire Kajiranga area, the famous National Park situated in Assam, was within their habitation. During the reigns of the Kachari kings, they were driven to the hills and some of them entered into Jaintia hills, the erstwhile Jaintia kingdom and lived under the Jaintia suzerainty.

While a section of the Karbis remained in the Jaintia kingdom, others moved towards north-east by crossing the river Barapani, a tributory of the Kapili and entered into the Rongkhang Ranges. There they established their capital at a place called SOCHENG. The Karbis who migrated to the Ahom kingdom had to face the Burmese invasion.

The Burmese who invaded Assam perpetrated inhumane oppression on the people. The Karbis took refuge in the deep jungles and high hills leaving their hearth and home in the submountane regions. In order to save themselves from the greedy eyes of the Burmese invaders, the young Karbi girls started to use a black line from the forehead to the chin which is known a "DUK" with a view to making them ugly looking. While some of the Karbis migrated to lower Assam, some had crossed the Brahmaputra and settled in the north bank.

The name of all the five clan and its respective sub clan of the Karbis is as given below.
A) Lijang ( Ingti):
1. Ingti Hansek 2.Ingti Kather Bura 3. Kather Riso 4. Ingleng 5. Taro 6. Ingti Killing.
B) Hanjang ( Terang) :
1.Terang 2. Terang Engnar 3. Terang Ingjai 4. Terang Dilli 5. Terang Rongcheicho 6. Bey Ke-ik 7. Bey ke-et (Ronghang) 8. Bey Chingthong 9. Bey Dum 10. Bey Lindok 11. Bey Miji 12. Kro 13. Kro Nilip 14. Kro Nihang 15. Kro Khamu
C) Ejang ( Enghi) :
1.Enghi 2. Rongpi 3. Rongpi Ronghang 4. Rongpi Amri 5. Rongpi Chingthong 6. Rongpi Lindok 7. Rongpi Meji 8. Rongpi Rongchehon 9. Ronghi 10. Ke-ap 11. Rengoi 12. Renglum 13. Rente 14. Lekthe 15. Bongrung 16. Kramsa 17. Hanse Lindok 18. Hanse Chingthong 19. Hanse Durong 20. Hanse Nongphili 21. Hanse Nongloda 22. Hanse Ka'I (Kalongtam) 23.Ronghang 24. Ronghang Lindok 25. Tisso Rongphu 26. Tisso Rongchitim 27. Tisso Rongling 28. Tisso Motho 29. Tisso Rongcheicho 30 . Tisso
E) Kronjang (Teron) :
1.Millik 2. Kongkat 3. Langne 4. Sirang 5. Dengja 6. Ai 7. Torap 8. Sir-ik 9. Miji.
D) Tungjang ( Timung):

1.Timung    2.Timung Rongpi  3. Timung Killing    4. Timung Phura     5.Phangcho    6. Phangcho Juiti  7. Phangcho Langteroi  8. Phangcho Ingnar   9. Phangcho Vojaru 10. Pator     11. Killing Miji     12. Lilling Nokbare    13. Senar    14. Senar Muchiki      15. Senar Meji     16. Tokbi Ronghang  17. Tokbi Totiki       18. Tokbi Chingthong     19. Tokbi Dera    20. Rongphar Senot     21. Rongphar Phura    22. Nokbare (Longthulu)    23. Nongdu    24. Nonglada    25. Dera    26. Senar Pator   27. Senot 28. Chalut Senot 29. Mu Chophi    30. Tokbi Killing.


The Karbis have 5(five) clans called "KUR". These are Terang, Teron, Enghee. Ingti and Timung. Each of the five clans has a number of Sub-clans. While Enghee and Timung have 30(thirty) sub-clans each, Terang have 15(fifteen) sub clans, Teron have 9(Nine) sub-clans , and the remaining clan Ingti has only 6(Six) sub-clans. These clans are completely exagamous and marriage between a boy and a girl belonging to the same clan can never take place since the children of the same clan are considered as brothers and sisters. Violation of this customary law obviously leads to ex-communication of the couple involved. Even in the cremation ground called Tipit or Thiri, area is kept demarcated for each clan. Although all the five clans are socially on an equality, Ingti being a priestly clan was supposed to have a higher status in former times.

Although, monogamy is the prevailing practice, there is no bar to polygamy and the cases of polygamy are very rare. Cross-cousin marriage is a preferential one. Like other tribal societies, the Karbis do not have the system of bride price. After marriage, the wife continues to use the surname of her father. But the children assume the title of their father. Thus, the Karbis follow the patriarchal system of family structure.

The settlement pattern of the Karbis is in the form of a village. Each village has a headman called Gaonbura or Sarthe who is appointed by the authority of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council. But each revenue village has a number of hamlets situated kilometers apart. Each of the such hamlets has also a Gaonbura. Each Karbi village is named after the Gaonbura. The Karbis, like the other hill tribes, have a tendency to live on the hill tops. The Karbis who practice jhuming or shifting cultivation very often shift their villages to new jhum sites which might be 10 to 20 kms away from the present site.


Among the festivals observed by the Karbis, mention may be made of the "Chojun Puja" or "Swarak Puja" ;"Rongker"; "Sok-keroi"; "Hacha-Kekan", "Chomangkan" , etc.
While the former four festivals are socio-religious in nasture and the letter is a social one.

The spot for "Chojun 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.

The 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.

The 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


The Karbi tribes are scattered over the Golaghat subdivision of the Sibsagar district, Nowgong, Kamrup, Khasi Hills and North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong dist of Assam . The complexion of the tribes is generally yellowish brown but some are quite fair. The men are comparatively tall. The Karbi dress is elegant. The men put on a long striped coat (choi) without sleeves and with fringes covering the lower part  of the body up to the knees. They wear a short dhoti called Rikong, sometimes of silk. On the head they wear a pagri (pohu). In cold weather they cover themselves like the Assamese  with a wrapper or bor-kapor of eri-silk which is warm. The woman wear a petticoat (pini) fastened round the waist with the ornamental  belt (vankok ) exactly like the Lakhers of the Lushai Hills. The upper part  of the body is covered with a wrapper (jiso) passing under the arms and drawn tight over the breasts. Both men and women draw their hair back which is tied in a knot above the nape.

The women insert a silver tube in the ear lobes. Ear rings of gold and silver are suspended  from the upper part of the ears. Necklaces, rings, bracelets of gold  and silver are worn in Khasi-fashion. Feathers of the horn bill adorn the head of both men and women on festive occasions. The Karbis build their houses on  the floor several feet above the ground. House are built of spilt, flattened out of bamboo, the roof being thatched with sun grass. The house is divided into separate compartments. The furniture of the house generally consist of a raised platform of spilt bamboo which serves as a bed, a block of wood corresponds to the Assamese pira or low stool, Baskets of bamboo serve the purpose of wardrobes, in which Paddy, house hold goods and clothes are kept. Joints of bamboo are used  as containers for water as well as ornaments and other valuables of the family.
Clans in KarbisName List of Clans (KURS) in Karbis

Source of Information: Mr. Chesong Bikram Sing Terang, Ex-General Secretary, GGKSA & Editor of Aturkimi, A Souvenir of the G.G.K.S.A ( Greater Guwahati Karbi Students' Association), 1st Issue:2002-03.

Archaeological Evidence

Hemmed in the south region of Assam lies the verdant hill district, Karbi Anglong, formerly known as the Mikir Hills. The Archaeological Survey of India has not included Karbi Anglong in its fold, in spite of its rich archaeological evidence. This is obviously due to lack of proper exploration and excavation.

It is known that a piece of stone or sculpture may help to unfold a lost history of culture. In Karbi Anglong also, there are many such sites, which are not properly explored. Studies pertaining to these ancient relics may help to reconstruct the history of the land and its culture.

The total area of the district is 10332 sq.km. It has three sub-divisions, namely Hamren, Diphu and Bokajan. Most of the findings are concentrated in the Diphu and Bokajan Sub-Divisions.

A rich treasure of image of Ganesh,Kartik and Hara-Gaauri were found in the Devasthan of Howraght. Along with it, tombs with small gate panels images and engraved gate panels were found. A number of door lintels were scattered over the area. The locality shows evidence of ten temples and three Shiva lingas. This region is situated on the boundary dividing Nagaon and Karbi Anglong districts. About 15 km from Howraghat, in Jaljurigaon, remnants of a stone inscription or Sila Lipi, have been reported. According to available information, there is an inscribed copper plate or Tamor Pholi in the neibouring Eradighalpani village.

A rich treasure of image of Ganesh,Kartik and Hara-Gaauri were found in the Devasthan of Howraght. Along with it, tombs with small gate panels images and engraved gate panels were found. A number of door lintels were scattered over the area. The locality shows evidence of ten temples and three Shiva lingas.This region is situated on the boundary dividing Nagaon and Karbi Anglong districts. About 15 km from Howraghat, in Jaljurigaon, remnants of a stone inscription or Sila Lipi, have been reported.According to available information, there is an inscribed copper plate or Tamor Pholi in the neibouring Eradighalpani village.

In the Baraganga area of Dokmoka, there is a site, which contains rock inscription belonging to the 6th century AD. It states that Avaguna a minister of the state of Maharajadhiraj Bhuti Barman of Bhouma-Naraka dynasty of Kamrupa, had established an Ashram for the long life of the King. Of the findings of this Barganga area, mention may be made of the image of Ganesh in door lintel, image of two lions with a commonhead over two elephants image of Nagini or Manasha Devi, etc. There are several broken images of women. Near the rock inscription, a male figure bearing tribal affinity in a Dimasa Kachari attire has been found. In the Mahamaya temple of Dokmoka, there are some gorgeous archaelogical findings. The temple is situated at a vaey high altitude of more than 1000 feet. The site contains of stone temple of circa 11th century AD. It was a Durga temple. Historical evidences show that this area was included in the kingdom of the Kachari king Krishna Chandra (AD 1790-1813). During this time, the Mahamaya temple was known as Ma-Chandi and greater Dokmoka region as Krishna Nagar. A royal charter of AD 1812, reveals Krishna Chandra entrusted the management of Orang to Laskar of Buri Ganga region. Here a good collection of images of Shiva, Chandi (Durga) with Lakshmi, Kartik, Saraswati and Ganesh are found.

The remnants of Phuloni Borpukhuri are no less gorgeous. The image of Bishnu engraved in limestone in a sitting posture, with apsaras fanning, highlights the sophistication and artistic nature of the sculpture, the craftsmanship of these sculptures are far superior than any other findings in Karbi Anglong. Images of dancing apsaras, broken images of Shiva, large stone pitchers, images of Ganesh etc. form the bulk of the collection of that area. Relics of the ancient door lintels and large floral ceiling pieces are found scattered. Among some findings of this place, a door jamb with eighteen images of Bishnu avatar, octagonal stone with floral apsaras, a stone image of a woman in a welcoming pose have been collected by the District Museum, Diphu. An image of Narashimha of the 13th century was also collected from Phuloni.

About 15-15 Km from Dokmoka there is another locality called Langlokso of Rongpi village, where many archaeological specimens were discovered. From this area, decorative architecture, stone pillars with geometric designs etc. were collected by the District Museum, Diphu.

A few angraved stone objects have been found in the Rani Pukhuri and Padum Phukhuri of Phuloni. Of them, a block of stone measuring approximately 14// x 14// bears the engraved images of delities and inscription in ancient Assamese. A large numbers of coins were also reportedly found in an iron pot, while earth-cutting was in progress in the same area. The inhabitants of Padumpukhuri locality near Tarabasa believed that there are some valuable archaeological objects beneath the tank. About 2 Km. west of Bokolia Ghat, there is a sort of temple with ancient stone images of Bishnu, Ganesh, etc. Several door jambs, bricks, etc. were found together with the images. Besides, the earlier discussed archaeologically important region of Diphu subdivision, there are places like Borbil of Howraghat, Udali near Bokolia, Teteliguri Rajpathar, Singason hill, etc. which merit a mention here.

In the Moi Ingti hill of Hidpi area, lies a good collection of broken stone images. There is evidence of an ancient temple of Shiva & Parvati. A large stone ox and a gigantic stone pitcher are the significant findings of the area. A broken Nandi or ox has been collected by the District Museum, Diphu from this area. One of the important findings in Deopani near Sarupathar are the remnants of an ancient Durga temple. It is reported that there is an image of Durga riding on a lion.A Hari-Hara stone image from Deopani and the inscribed Vishnu image from the same place are good sculptures.

The physiognomy of both the figure bears tribal affinity. These images belong to the 8th century. this is referred in the Cultural Heritage of Assam published by the Directorate of information and Public Relations. A peculiar type of monuments of Karbi Anglong, which also exist in Meghalaya and Garo Hills are the megaliths. They are group of huge sandstone cists. These monolithic stones are abundantly found in Ulukunchi and Methalong-e village of Dongkamokam. Both are in the Hamren subdivision.

About 3 Km. from Khanduli ( Hamren meghalaya border) are unidentified stone image inscribed in a huge stone has been eroded by nature. The local inhabitants, the Karbis, believed it to be the image of their legendary hero " Thong Nokbe". So far, proper identification has been made of the image.

Recently, a sword of unknown period has been found in the vicinity of Diphu town. It was found by some labourers while cutting earth. Numerous broken pieces of potteries with designed, pointed knobs were found abudantly with the sword, thus indicating the flourishing of some kind of civilization in the past. The sword has been preserved in the District Museum, Diphu. A few months back, several elongated stones with faints incised lines had been found in Diphu town. Further exploration of the area has been done yet. The elongated stones are worshipped by the public as Shiva Lingas in a temple.

The state in which the archaeological objects are found scattered makes it quite obvious that the objects had to withstand the revages of nature and time. It is high time that proper exploration and systematic study of these areas are undertaken so that it may lead to unloading of an unknown culture.


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