Karbi tribes of Assam – An overview of the Religion, Family and Marriage System | Assam Journal

Karbi tribes of Assam – An overview of the Religion, Family and Marriage System

The Karbi tribes of Assam also known as the "Mikir" is one of the main tribes of the state as well as those of the hill areas of the region. These people are mainly found in North Cachar district, Kamrup, Nagaon and Sonitpur district of Assam. They are the primary habitants of the Karbi Anglong district and they mainly belong to the Mangoloid group having a population count of 2,41,000 which was recorded in the year 1987. The Karbis are divided into three groups i.e. Amri, Ronghang and Chinthong where they have five clans among them. These five different clans found among them can be listed as given below—
  • Terang
  • Teron
  • Enghee
  • Ingti
  • Timung
Among these clans of the Karbis, they also have some sub-clans. The Terang and Teron has 6 sub-clan each while the Enghee and Timung has 30 sub-clan. The Ingti is know to have only 4 sub-clans. The Marriage system among the same clan is believed to be very strictly prohibited in their community.

Image Credit: www.karbianglong.gov.in

Family system and Religions of Karbi People

The Karbi people follows the Patriarchal family system and accordingly the father is the head of the family and his authority as such is undisputed and at the death of the father his son inherits the property of the family. The head of the family, his wife, their children, unmarried brothers and sisters constitute the family and the brothers start living separately after getting married. The Joint family system is still prevalent to a very limited extent among the Karbis. Their settlement pattern is of a village and for every village the District Council selects a village headman called Gaonbura. The houses of the Karbi people is neither too small nor too big and is built by bamboo. It is made on a bamboo platform with timber posts for powerful structure. But now-a-days they also construct their houses on grounds like the non-tribal people and also have a tendency to live on a hill tops but they generally don't live in the compact areas.

The religion of the Karbis can be regarded as Animists. Hinduism in its crude form finds manifestation in their worships of God, Goddesses and the deities. The Karbis believed in the immortality of the soul and they believe that all the diseases are associated with a presiding deity. They are also known to follow two household Gods i.e. Hemphu and Mukrang. Some of the main or primary traditional institutions of Karbis can be listed as below:-
  • Me - The Village Council
  • Jirkedam (Farla) - Bachelors dormitory
  • Kerung Amei - The Grain Bank

The Marriage system of Karbi Tribes

The Karbi people is always known to strictly follow the clan exogamy and the monogamy is the prevailing practice among the Karbis where the widow-marriage is allowed among them. The Cross cousin marriage and marriage by negotiation is also allowed in their society. The marriage by negotiation is one of the very popular approach among them. The marriage by capture is also found in some of their villages within the state. In this marriage system, the marriage formalities are done after the birth of the first child. The provision of Divorce is also available among them but it is noticed to be a very rare practice which can be obtained only by the approval of the Village Council of the tribe.


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Mr.Prasanta - who is the well-wisher and correspondent of Assam Journal.

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