Karbi Anglong, meaning Hills of Karbi people is one of the two autonomous hills districts of Assam. It has a blend of thickly forested hills, dense tropical rainforests and flat plains with three-fourths of the area being covered by forests.
I got the opportunity to visit Karbi Anglong a few years back. I was lucky to go to some of the remotest places and meet and talk to the people. Here I share my observations of the enchanting land.
Karbis, belong to the Tibeto-Burmese group. While some Karbis are Hindus, some are Christians. Together they constitute more than 67% of the population of Karbi Anglong. Beside Karbis, other communities like Dimasas, Bodos, Khasis, Garos, Rengmas and Nepalis live in Karbi Anglong, making a colourful ethnic mosaic.
The Karbi society is patriarchal, yet after marriage, the wife continues to use the surname of her father while the children take the surname of their father.
Almost entirely a rural area, Karbi Anglong has around 2600 small villages scattered all over the district. A Karbi village is named after the village head known as ’Sarthe’ or Gaonbura. Karbis build their houses on stilts on the top of a hill with thatched roof and mud plastered bamboo walls. There are balconies on the front and the rear. A wooden bamboo ladder leads to the bamboo platform of the front balcony. The outer room is used as the hearth (Kum) and guest room. The inner room (Kut) is kept for the family. The cattle are kept under the bamboo platform.
Agriculture is the mainstay of Karbi life. In the plains, Karbis practise permanent cultivation. In the interiors, they go for ‘jhooming’ or shifting cultivation. They shift their village to a new place, sometimes 15 -20 kilometres. They also go for fishing in hill streams and hunting in deep forests.
Tradition and heritage play a very important part in the way Karbi men and women dress. Men wear a turban, don a dhoti and a sleeveless jacket of striking colours with long fringes (Choy –Aan). Modern Karbi youth now used to modern western dress love to sport their traditional jacket. Women wear ‘pini’ of striped silk around the waist, use silver jewellery, and necklaces of white and red beads and silver coins (Lek –Chiki). Their head remains uncovered.
They celebrate the commencement of cultivation with a festival called ‘Rongkher’ when the men only participate. The whole village cooperates at the time of ‘Hachakekan’ festival (Harvest Festival), which is followed by a community feast and festivity. Death Ceremony (Chomangkan) is elaborate and lasts for four days and four nights.
Karbis are great lovers of music and dance and fond of folklore. ’Chong-Kedam’ (Shield and Sword Dance) is a traditional Karbi Folk Dance.
Diphu (White Water in Dimasa language) the District Headquarters of Karbi Anglong is a small charming town on a beautiful hill. It is connected to NH 36 by PWD Road. Dimapur the nearest Airport is 55 kilometres from Diphu. Diphu residents, primarily Karbis are quite educated with as much as 90% literacy. The town has a Botanical Garden and Recreation Park with stately trees and beautiful orchids.
Hamren Sub-Division is the most beautiful area of Karbi Anglong in the lap of nature with enthralling natural green forests, picturesque hills blue streams and splendid waterfalls. Boithalangso, the first town as you enter Karbi Anglong from Naogaon District of Assam is a quaint and quiet place. The scenic beauty is breathtaking from Boithalangso to the interiors of Hamren.
Hamren the small Sub-Divisional Town on a beautiful forested hill is surrounded by green hills all around with the swirling Kapili River passing through the Town. A sweet and bracing breeze blows over Hamren Town all throughout. Amtreng in Hamren Sub-Division is on a hill surrounded by green woods and Amtreng River of blue and cool waters falling from a huge rock.
Meghalaya State borders Hamren to the south. At the border the panoramic view of the scenic Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya makes a person forget everything and wonder about the splendour of nature.
My visit to Karbi Anglong gave me an opportunity to see a beautiful place of striking natural beauty and know about the people with a great tradition and a rich culture.
This article is contributed by Bhudeb Chakrabarti, Dy IG (Retd) CRPF. He has commanded several Operational and Administrative functions in the force and has imparted training to gazetted officers of CRPF and other central & state police forces.
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