Department of Arts and Culture

Government of Meghalaya

Festivals and Ceremonies of the "Garos"


In the early days, the areas inhabited by the Garos comprised of a number of independent clusters of villages, under "A King" headed by a clan chief known as Nokma. There are 12 sub-tribes amongst the Garos. They are Atongs, Ganchings, Chibok, Rugas, Duals, Matchiduals, Matchis, Am'bengs, Matabengs, A'wes, Me'gam and Chisak. They occupy the entire area presently known as Garo Hills district.

Though socially and politically independent, these sub-dialectical tribes share a common language, culture, beliefs and religious patterns. The popular traditional Garo religion is "animistic" in nature, but the Garos believe in a "Supreme God" known as "Tatara Rabuga"or "Dakgipa Rugipa"or "Stura Pantura".

According to experts, Garo religion is monotheistic with a highly ritualistic polytheistic form of worship. The Garos believe in creation of heaven and earth. God is believed to have created all living beings on earth and completed his work within eight days and on the ninth day He rested.

The Garos believe that man continues to exist in "Spirit" even after death and dwells in an appointed place till he is re-incarnated.

The main festivlas of Garos are DenBilsia, Wangala, Rongchu gala, Mi Amua, Mangona, Grengdik BaA, Jamang Sia, Ja Megapa, Sa Sat Ra Chaka, AjeaorAhaoea, Dore Rata Dance , Chambil Mesara, Do'KruSua, Saram Cha'A, A Se Mania or Tata

Mangona or Chugana

Mangona is a post-funeral ceremony of the Garos. A small hut with a bamboo structure is erected on the courtyard of the house that is known as 'Delang'. The calcined bones are kept in an earthen pot (to be later buried near the doorstep of the house of the deceased after the ceremony).

After the burial of the calcined bones, the guests are served with beef and pork. During the performance of the last rites for the "Spirit" of the dead, dancing and singing continue throughout the night with the chanting of funeral dirge known as "Mangtata (Grapme chia) or Kalee". The ritual dance is accompanied with concave brass cymbals, and the ringing sounds of reeds (Kimjim), the peals of "horn-trumpets" called "adils", and the soft sound of a "chigring" (a bamboo stringed musical instrument)

Grengdik Ba'A

It is a ritual dance with rhythmic musical accompaniment. Unburnt pieces of bone are put in an earthen pot or a hollow human form of wood carving on the back of a person. A dark red silken cloth (BA'RA MARANG) is stretched over the heads of the dancers like a canopy. Soon as this is over, the group moves singing and dancing to the house to drink rice-beer and return to the original home-symbolizing the roaming of the spirit which is known as "Grengdik Rodila".

Games and sports are also conducted during the ceremony. During this game, a display of physical strength a freestyle wrestling bout is enacted known as Gando Makal Pala.

Finally, the "bull" is ritually sacrificed for the spirit of the dead, so that the spirit of the bull can accompany the deceased. People continue singing, dancing and merrymaking throughout the nightFestivals that Accompany "jhum-ming" (clearing the jungle for cultivation).

A'A - O' Pata or Jamang Sia

A person breaks an egg ceremonially over a small plot cleared for jhumming asking for permission to cultivate the land. A length of bamboo, with tree-leaves stuck in a "split" on the top, is kept as an identification mark that the plot of land is under occupation.

Den'Bilsia or Git chip ong Roka or A' Siroka

An invocation to the Mother Goddess of crops - Mini Rokime - is made to get her blessing by sacrificing a fowl. All participate in sweeping clean the village footpaths and prayers are offered at the boundary of the field before setting the new jhum field on fire.

Mi Amua or Mejak Sim'a

A ceremony is performed to drive away all crop-diseases through prayers to the Supreme God. Fences of half-burnt stems and branches are ritually erected along the boundaries of the jhum field. House-holders move around carrying baskets reciting rituals to drive away evil-spirits and diseases from the jhum field.

Rongchu gala:

It is a ritualistic offering of flattened rice known as "Rongchu" from the first harvested paddy of a Jhum field to a deity by sacrificing a fowl.

Ja Megapa or Medong Ra'ona :

Calling Mini Rokime back to the house signifies after harvesting is over from the Jhum field. A bunch of hill-paddy with half-burnt firewood is ritually tied to the doorpost. Rice-beer is ooered to the guests as a mark of respect and honour on arrival at the village in the evening.

Wangala or Drua Wanbola or Wanma Rongchua:

WangalaThe last, but not the least, of the ceremonies of the agricultural year is a thanksgiving ceremony offered to the gods and goddesses. Drums beat, rice beer flows, singing and dancing go on endlessly for days together.

On the first day of the Rugala ceremony, the Nokma displays his valuable gongs covered with long banana leaves. All agricultural implements are placed beside the centrepost of the house. Rice beer is poured over the gongs, newly harvested crops are arranged in ritualistic patterns. Sacrifice is made to "Misi Saljong" the Goddess to bless, mankind with plentiful foodgrains . It is followed by social merry making-singing and dancing all night long by young and old to the rhythmic beating of drums.

Probably the most important festival of the Garos is the Wangala known as "the post-harvest festival of the Garos".
It marks the end of a period of toil in the fields and harvesting of bumper crops. The hills and valleys echo and re-echo with the sound of drums and general revelry.

The dancers make a queue of two parallel lines - one of men and the other of women, both turning out in festive regalia. The men beat their drums and move forward in tune with the sound of music flowing out of gongs, buffalo-horn, flutes and the drums. The dancers show energetic, vigorous movements, aided by the sumptuous feasts of meat and rice-beer.

Sa' Sat Ra' Chaka or So' Chaka

The "second" ceremony is-the burning of incense to revive the monsoon clouds. People throw cooked rice on the floor to symbolise hailstones.

AjeaorAhaoea

Story-telling by bards and minstrels and, singing competitions are performed. It is a time for romancing for the young and choosing of life partners.

Dore Rata Dance

This type of dance is exciting to watch. The women dancers try and butt the turbans off the heads of the male dancers. Each knock off of the turban from the head is accompanied by great cheering and laughter from spectators.

Chambil Mesara or Pomelo Dance

This one demands exquisite skills. In this solo dance a performer dangles a pomelo or some other "fruit" from a cord around his waist. He then spins the pomelo round his waist, faster and faster, using minimum movement of his waist and hip. Some experts can swing two to four pomelos.

o'KruSua

This dance symbolizes the "pecking of doves" enacted by two lady dancers. Two mimick doves, peck each other much to the enjoyment of all. It is another expression of how closely the Garos relate to nature as well as the simplicity of life.

Festivals and Ceremonies of the Attongs

This important division of the Garo tribes live in the Simsang valley and the hills that surround it. Their habitat extends beyond the borders of East and West Garo Hills. They share same traditional laws, customs, religious practice, social patterns, festivals and ceremonies, culture, song and oral literature.

Saram Cha'A

It is a post-harvest festival of the Attongs, celebrated around the sametime as the Wangala. It, however, is a toned-down version, lacking the dancing, singing and merry-making of Wangala. But it is still a festival of thanksgiving.
The festival is usually held after the harvesting in the month of September or October. Neighbours of nearby villages, friends and relatives are informed and expected to visit during this festival. Each family builds a "Sambasia" or split-bamboo altar in the yard for a sacrifice. A length of handsome bamboo with leaves is set up next to it.
The 'Kamal' or priest chants rituals and a chicken, an egg, boiled rice and curry packed in banana - leaf and rice- beer are offered to the Deity. Rice, curry and rice-beer poured out of a "bek" or small wild gourd are ritually served to guests. Domestic animals are killed on the occasion for feasting.

A Se Mania or Tata

First ceremony of the Attong is associated with Jhum cultivation. Each family selects a suitable place within their designated plot and sets up an altar of a 2-metre length of Bamboo with leaves and a structure of split bamboo whose surface has been scratched into attractive designs. Leaves of the "araru' or "beraru" palms are planted alongside. The priest makes a ritual sacrifice of a chicken and invokes the Gods for blessings by chanting rituals and making offerings to the Deity. Ceremonial planting of paddy, maize, millet, other grains and seeds takes place. Feasting and drinking in the open field follow . Rice-beer is poured from a large earthen jar called "Gura" or "Dikka" and the sacrificial chicken meat is cooked and eaten with rice and curry.

Calender of Festivals

Festivals Local Months Gregorian Months Vedic Months
Solar Lunar
Den'bilsia Polgin February Tapasya Phalgun
A'siroka Chuet March Madhu Chaitra
A' galmaka Pasak April Madhave Vaisakha
Miamua Asal June Sue hi Asharha
Rongchugala Bado August Nabhasya Bhadra
Ahaia Asin September Is ha Ashwina
Wangala Gate October Urje Kartika
Christmas Posi December Sahasya Pausha