Origin of the Garo’s Clan System
Ruel C. Sangma
The origin of the garo’s clan system have mysterious folktales for each clan-Sangma, Marak, Momin, Shira, and Areng clan. There about 250 other sub-clans in the garo matrilineal society.
Long, long ago a man named Behera had come to settle in a country known as Sirit, in modem Asiatic Russia. There two mighty sons, known as Japan and Achik, were born to him. His wife was called Ehera. She was an extraordinarily strong and exceptionally virtuous woman.
Achik, the great younger brother of Japan, was accustomed to sleep at night, standing on his legs. His people asked him as to why he used to sleep standing. Achik replied: “My elder brother has gone towards the East, following the guide of Saka Misi Saljong, the Life-Giving Sun-God. I remain here to build up a kingdom. I desire to keep my head ever alert and free from dirt or dust of the ground. Build me a house with raised platform or floor.” A shang or chang house was built for him by his followers. Achik used to dwell on the shang house with his family and revered mother who was accounted as the real owner of the shang house. Thus Achik was the first man in the world to erect a house with raised floor. Because the revered mother of Achik was first went to dwell in a shang house, she was first known as Shangma, that is, the mother of one who used to dwell in a shang house. Afterwards, her descendant came to be known as was as Achik Shangma.
In course of time, it once happened that during the titanic struggle between the children of Misi Saljong and the children of Ahning Chining there was a great drought all over the world. The existence of mankind was in jeopardy due to lack of drinking water. To quench their painful thirst some people actually drank deer’s urine in those days. At that time, the mother of Achik Shangma, while young, strong and beautiful, was, accustomed to go to Misi Saljong’s dwelling place to fetch water for her children. She was so beautiful that Misi Saljong himself on one occasion committed adultery with her which resulted in her becoming pregnant. There was no one upon whom Misi Saljong could place the blame of this shameful deed and, as he feared disgrace and shame which accompanied it, he earnestly implored the mother of Achik Shangma to help him out of his dilemma, saying: “Tell your people that, on account of your having drunk deer’s urine for want of water, you are conceiving a Shangma Khudambok.” The Mother of Shangma heeded the advice of her celestial paramour. Therefore, the members of the Shangma matriphratry are commonly said to be the descendants of the stag; although in actual fact, they are the progeny of Saka Misi Saljong, the Celestial Sun-God, and belong to the Solar race (Rongmuthu, Dewan sing 1960).
One of the descendants of Shangma was called Bohol. Bohol was overwhelmed with passionate love for the daughter of his mother’s younger sister. At last Bohol openly wanted to marry her and went on wooing her for seven years. But the chaste younger matrilineal sister did not yield. She would never dream of committing the sin of incest, which was the most abominable sin among her people. Because of her firmness of will, she was given the name of Marak, which means the mother who is firm and rigidly chaste. (Ma means mother and rak means firm or strong). Long afterwards, the descendants of Marak formed themselves into a distinct clan, the members of which could be married to the members of the Shangma clan. The members of the Shangma and Marak clan alone formed a distinct Garo tribe, the component units of which are generally known as Shangma ma Ranjama and Marak ma Makalma (Rongmuthu, Dewan sing 1960).
The descendants of Achik afterwards settled in Mojib Valley. There was born among them a mighty warrior known as Kimpol. In course of time they move thence and settled in Jin Hills. Another mighty warrior, named Waib, was born among them while they settled there. After many years they came and settled in the Chemang Hills in Ahsong Tibotgiri, the modern Tibet. While they were settling there, a renowned warrior, known by the name of Bangkaulah, and the two famous matriarchs, respectively called Nosime and Balsime, were born among them.
In course of time a large batch of the Achik race left their settlements in Ahsong Tibotgiri, as the land became drier and drier and the soil thereof became deteriorated, and came down and settled in Ahsong Nengabad Chiga Nengchibad, whence they removed to Ahsang Saora Chiga Timbora. In course of time, they left the place and settled in Rongmikseram Tangka Datram and in Absong Benagong Chiga Budalong. While they settled there, a beautiful Achik princess, named Meje Rani, daughter of Hirasingh, married one mighty warrior named Rappa Radopa. Meje Rani belonged to the Gabil sub-clan, which was originally of Shangma clan. Meje Rani’s daughters were known as Aje, Gilje, Dawe and Changshe.
Rongmikseram Tangka Datram and Aseng Benagong Chiga Budalong then comprised the whole southern bank of the Brahmaputra in modern Goalpara and Kamrup Districts in modern Assam, India. During Mir Jumla’s invasion into this area in 1661 A.D. both Aje and Gilje, the daughters of Meje Rani, married Mahommedan officers from Bihar, who bore the surname Momin. As the Muslim husbands of Aje and Gilje belonged to the Momin community of Bihar, the progenies of Aie and Gilje for the first time among the Achik race took up the surname of Momin. This was how Momin became the clannish surname of the descendants of Aje and Gilje. (Momin, in Arabic language, means Musalman.) Ever since, Momin, as a separate clan, came to exist among the Achik race (Rongmuthu, Dewan sing 1960).
Sri Singgan D. Shira of Dambuk A’pal village was the first who took the title of SHIRA. He passed Upper Primary School at Baghmara and joined the Tura MissionSchool at about the year 1895. Then he served as a teacher in Bangshi A’pal and then at Bakrapur L. P. School and later joined Sonaram Sangma in his suit against the British government. Singgan belonged to DALBOT sub-clan of Sangma clan. For reasons not known to anybody, he took the title of D. SHIRA at the beginning of the present century. Now all those who belong to DALBOT sub-clan write D. SHIRA instead of D. Sangma. (Sangma, Milton 1975)
Areng was originally a sub-clan of Sangma. lt is only at the beginning of the present century that the members belonging to ARENG began to form a separate clan independent of others. (Ibid.)
Above all stories are legend and folktale on the origin of the garo’s clan system. Read more