The state of Meghalaya is a pristine gem in the northeastern part of India. With mesmerising misty hills and untouched natural spots, Meghalaya holds special importance in the Indian geography. What’s more interesting is to know about the tribes of Meghalaya, whose origin can be traced back to that of the state itself. There are three major tribes of Meghalaya, namely, the Garo people, the Khasi People, and the Jaintia tribe.
The names of these tribes are based on which part of Meghalaya they stay in. The Garo reside in the Garo Hills, the Khasi people reside in the East and West Khasi Hills, and the Jaintia people reside in the Jaintia Hills of the state. There are other tribes in Meghalaya which are the minority, namely, Koch, Hajong, Rabha, Mann, and Boro.
How Many Tribes are there in India? Important Tribes in India
There are more than 600 tribes in India, as recognized by the constitution of India. Out of these, some are important tribes in India based on the statewise majority. There are also some states and Union Territories in India which do not have any tribal communities like Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Pondicherry. The tribes of Meghalaya account for the fourth largest population count in terms of tribal communities.
Madhya Pradesh holds the maximum number of tribes in India, followed by the state of Orissa. The tribes in India are an important part of the traditional and cultural legacy of the country. Each tribe has distinct unique features and practices based on how old the tribe is, and what is the geographical location of that tribe.
Folk Dance and Festivals of Meghalaya
The folk dance and festivities mark an important characteristic of the tribes of Meghalaya. The folk dance is performed on festivals and occasions like birth or marriage. Some common folk dances are Shad Suk Mynseim, Nongkrem, Lahoo dance, and Behdienkhlam. The folk dances and festivals of Meghalaya are different for each tribe and are held in the open ground like areas.
The Nongkrem dance form marks the religious thanksgiving for harvest, prosperity and peace in the tribal community. The Shad Suk Mynseim festival is celebrated in the region of east and west Khasi hills at the time of Spring season. The Khasis are dressed in colourful dresses and dance with drums and traditional pipes called tangmuri. The Lahoo dance is performed for a frolic by both males and females by holding arms together.
The Culture and Dress of Meghalaya
The unique feature of the culture of Meghalaya is that the society is matrilineal, i.e. the kingship or hierarchy is of female origin. The dresses differ for the Garos, the Khasis, and the Jaintias. The attires are also different for males and females. The women wear the traditional costume known as Jainsen, which is made of mulberry silk. Another important piece of clothing is the Endi Shawl, which is also made of locally cultivated silk.
The women of the Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia tribe combine these dresses with cotton robes, and blouses based on their locations. For men, the Garo people wear a lioncloth whereas the Khasi people wear a long unstitched cloth around the waist. The cloth can be worn along with a jacket, caps, or shawls. The men wear silk turbans with ornaments at the time of festivities. The Khasi and Jaintia dresses are almost similar.
Features of the Tribes of Meghalaya
The Khasi Tribe
The Khasi people account for the largest population in Meghalaya. The sub-tribes under the Khasis include Pnar, War, Bhoi, and Lyngngam. The religious practices of the Khasis have inclined towards Christianity over time, other than the traditional religion known as Ka Niam Tre or Ka Niam Khasi. Since the culture is matrilineal, women hold more significance over men and are rewarded with the inheritance of property. The language spoken in the Khasi tribe is called Mon Khmer.
The Garo Tribe
The Garo people form the second largest tribal community in the state of Meghalaya. The origin of the Garo people in Tibet (the migrators), and are termed as Achik Mande or the people of hills. The traditional religion of the Garo people is called Songsarek, but the religion of Christianity is equally prevalent. The language is called the Garo language itself but has certain modifications based on different areas. The culture here too is matrilineal
The Jaintia Tribe
The Jaintia tribe people comprise of other sub-tribes which reside in the Jaintia hills, namely, the Pnars, Wars, and Bhois. They share similar characteristics to that of the Khasi people in many ways. A large number of Jaintia people follow their traditional religion called Niamtre. The culture here too is based on matriarchy, and women get the property inheritance. The Jaintia people are mostly involved in celebrating agriculture-based festivals.
Important Tribes in India- Provisions by The Constitution of India
The tribal community in India is classified under the 5th Schedule and are thus known as Scheduled Tribes. There is also a reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha for Scheduled Tribes by the Constitution of India. The reservation is based on the proportion of the tribal population to that of the state population. In all, the total number of seats reserved in the Lok Sabha is 47.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has also been running in the country since 1999 for the development and upliftment of tribal people in India. The Constitution of India also provides the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the Tribal Sub Plan Strategy (TSP) for the social and economic prosperity of the Scheduled tribes.
This blog navigated you through the unique culture, dresses, folk dances and festivals of the tribes of Meghalaya. These are one of the recognized and important tribes of India and it is important to learn and know about these special people. There are several other provisions which are made by the Constitution of India for protecting and developing the culture of these tribes. With modernization, these tribes have lost their significance and the more people learn about them, the better are they understood and preserved.