West Garo Hills
Area – 3,714 Sq.km
Population – 5,18,390
District Head Quarters – Tura
Language – Garo
The early history of the Garos is shrouded in mystery. The forefathers of the Garos allied to Koches, Chutiyas, Kacharis and Meches came from the north-west. Another tradition ascribing some support to this theory, maintains that the Garos are descended from their forefathers in Asong Tibetgori. The Garos in the Kamrup plain, recount a tradition that their forefathers came eastward from the Himalayas and reached Gondulghat where they made a brief halt, and on leaving that place, traversed to Sadiya, from where they trekked on into the north bank of Brahmaputra. After a long westward trail, they reached Amingaon. There in the north bank their life was not secure, they crossed the Bahmaputra river and came to occupy Kamakhya. They occupied it for some generations until the Koches came to invade the Garo Kingdom. From Gauhati, wave after wave of westward migration poured to the Garo outer hills, and later on penetrated the interior hills of their present abode. Probably who those crossed the hills and advanced further south to Mymensing in Bangladesh were the earliest immigrants whereas those who came later on, now confined into their present settlement at Goalpara and Kamrup, belonged to the later immigrants.
If critically examined, the ancient history of Garos would seem to have been a period marked by persistent and tenacious internal warfare and many blood-feuds seem to seem to have occurred between families or villages and between neighbouring Chiefs or Nokmas.
With the passage of time in the medieval period, while the Garos in the hills were still divided into a number of petty Nokmaships, the plain tracts along the fringes at the foot of the hills came to be included in the many Zamindari Estates, which eventually developed into fewer but larger complexes. During the mediaeval era and the Mughal period, the more important estates bordering the Garo Hills were Karaibari, Kalimalupara, Mechpara and Habraghat in Rongpur district, Susang and Sherput in Mymensing district of Bengal and Bijini in the Eastern Duars.Early records describe the Garos as being in a state of intermittent conflict with Zamindars of these large estates.
The contact between the British and the Garos started towards the close of the 18th Century after the British East India Company had secured the Diwani of Bengal from the Mughal Emperor. Consequently, all the estates bordering upon Garo Hills, which for all practical purposes had been semi-independent were brought under the control of the British.
Though political control had passed from the Mughals to the British, the latter, like Mughals, had no desire to control the Estates or their tributaries directly. The Zamindars were not disturbed in the internal management of their estates. In fact, they were entrusted, as they had been by the Mughals, with the responsibility of keeping the hill Garos in check with help of their retainers. Thus in the beginning, the intermittent conflict between the Zamindars and the Garos went on unabated until the situation deteriorated to the extent that the British were forced to take notice. This development led ultimately to the annexation of the Garo Hills in 1873. Captain Williamson was the first Deputy Commissioner of the unified district. The district was bifurcated into two districts viz. East Garo Hills and West Garo Hills districts in October 1979.
The Garos – their Culture
A’Chik is the general title used for the various groups of people after the division of the race. The title is used to denote different groups such as the Ambeng, Atong, Akawe (or Awe), Matchi, Chibok, Chisak Megam or Lyngngam, Ruga, Gara-Ganching who inhabit the greater portion of the present Garo Hills District. But the name applies also to the groups of Garos scattered at the neighbouring places in Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Mymensing in Bangladesh.
Though the main feature of their traditional political setup, social institutions, marriage systems, inheritance of properties, religion and beliefs are common, it is observed that as these units were isolated from one another, they have developed their own separate patterns. They also speak different dialects. Also their traditional songs, dances, music differ from each other. The song, dances and music are mostly associated with traditional religious functions and ceremonies.
The Family: Garos have a matrilineal society where children adopt their mother clan. The simplest pattern of Garo family consists of the husband, wife and children. The family increases with the marriage of the heiress, generally the youngest daughter. She is called Nokna and her husband Nokrom. The bulk of family property is bequeathed upon the heiress and other sisters receive fragments but are entitled to use plots of land for cultivation and other purposes. The other daughters go away with their husbands after their marriage to form a new and independent family. This aspect of family structure remains the same even in urban areas.
The Garos by ascription recognize an heiress to family property from any of the daughters in which case, she is married to one of her father’s nephews, usually the girl loved most, obedient and well behaved succeeds to that title. There are cases also in which as heiress is married to a man outside her father’s clan.
Household Utensils: The Garo household utensils are simple and limited. They consists mainly of cooking pots, large earthen vessels for brewing liquor, the pestle and the mortal with which paddy is husked. They also use bamboo baskets of different shapes and sizes.
Furniture: They use very limited furniture at home. The bamboo floor is generally enough for all their requirements. They also use a wooden stool hewn by themselves. In some houses, chairs made out of cane or bamboo, are used which are offered to the guest.
Weapons: Garos have their own weapons. One of the principal weapons is two-edges sword called Milam made of one piece of iron form hilt to point. There is a cross-bar between the hilt and the blade where attached a bunch of cow’s tail-hair. Other types of weapons are shields, Spear, Bows and Arrows, Axes, Daggers etc.
Food & Drink: The staple cereal food is rice. They also eat millet, maize, tapioca etc. Garos are very liberal in their food habits. They rear goats, pigs, fowls, ducks etc. and relish their meat. They also eat other wild animal like deer, bison, wild pigs etc. Fish, prawns, crabs, eels and dry fish also are a part of their food. Their jhum fields and the forests provide them with a number of vegetables and root for their curry but bamboo shoots are esteemed as a delicacy. They use a kind of potash in curries, which they obtained by burning dry pieces of plaintain stems or young bamboos locally known as Kalchi or Katchi. After they are burnt, the ashes are collected and are dipped in water and are strained in conical shaped in bamboo strainer. These days most of the town people use soda from the market in place of this ash water. Apart from other drinks country liquor plays an important role in the life of the Garos.
Dress: The people in the past were barely dressed. Due to different climatic conditions the dress pattern varies from place to place like those who are from Assam or Bangladesh prefer light textures while people in the hills need heavy clothing. Garos have cotton ginning, as cotton is the principal cash crop of the district.
The principal garment of the men is a strip of woven cloth about six inches wide and about six feet long. In the past they wove these clothes, some of which were ornamented with rows of white beads made of conch-shells along the end of the flap. They also used vests of black colour with lining at its ends. Garo women use an indigenous skirt known as Dakmanda and a body cloth. The men were a turban on the head but the women use head-bands.
Ornaments: Both men and women enjoy adorning themselves with varieties of ornaments. These ornaments are:
Nadongbi nr sisha – made of a brass ring worn in the lobe of the ear.
Nadirong – brass ring worn in the upper part of the ear
Natapsi – string of beads worn in the upper part of the ear
Jaksan – Bangles of different materials and sizes
Ripok – Necklaces made of long barrel shaped beads of cornelian or red glass while some are made out of brass or silver and are worn in special occasions.
Jaksil – elbow ring worn by rich men on Gana Ceremonies
Penta – small piece of ivory struck into the upper part of the ear projecting upwards parallel to the side of the head
Seng’ki – Waistband consisting of several rows of conch-shells worn by women
Pilne – head ornament worn during the dances only by the women
Marriage ceremonies are diverse from place to place. In Garo customs it is the girls who propose a match to boys. The Garo marriage is regulated by two important laws, viz., Exogamy and A’kim according to the belonging to the same clan. Marriages are not allowed within the same clan. According to the law of A’Kim, a man or a woman who has once contracted marriage will never be free to remarry person of another clan, even after the death of his/ her spouse. They have a custom of supplying another wife/ husband from the same clan, in case their consort is dead. Usually when a wife dies, one of the sisters of the deceased is given in marriage. Similarly, when a husband dies, one of the nephews of the deceased husband is given to her. It is only when no substitute can be arranged that the marriage bond is broken and the man/woman is free to marry any one of their own choices.
In the opinion of many people, the scholars and researchers, the Garos are animists in their religion and its underlying principle is one of belief in fear and dread of the supernatural powers. This is but a hasty generalisation and does not stand the scrutiny of logic.
The traditional religion of the Garos is not animistic but they believed and presided over by the “Supreme God” as locally known as “Dakgipa Rugipa Stugipa Pantugipa or Tatora Rabuga Stura Pantura”, or the Creator. It is in clear observation, the religion of the Garos is monotheistic with polytheistic stage, it lapsed into gross ritualism, in its highest consummate form, it is purely monotheistic in its origin.
The Garos believed in creation of Earth, all living beings on earth and the sea, heavenly bodies, rain and the wind including lesser gods and thereby completed different objects within eight days, as they believed. This is the background of the religion, various festivals and the ceremonies of the Garos.
Almost all the Garos are now Christians. Before that the religion of the Garos was a mixture of Pantheism and Hinduism. Like the Hindus and the Buddhists, the Garos believed in incamation of the Spirit in Man. The form of incarnation depends on Sin. The Garos believed in many Gods and Deities. Besides the Tatara-Robunga, who created this earth, there are the deities of Choradubi (Protector of Crops), Saljong (God of Fertility), Goers (God of Strength), Susince (Goddess of Riches) etc.
In all religious ceremonies, sacrifices were essential for the propitiation of the spirits. They had to be invoked for births, marriages, deaths, illness, besides for the good crops and welfare of the community and for protection from destructions and dangers.
Like the Hindus, the Garos used to show reverence to the ancestors by offering food to the departed souls and by erection of memorial stones.
The common and regular festivals are those connected with agricultural operations. Greatest among Garo festivals is the ‘Wangala’, which is no more a celebration of thank-giving after harvest in which Saljong, the god who provides mankind with Nature’s bounties and ensures their prosperity, is honoured. There is no fixed date for the celebration, this varies from village to village, but usually, the Wangala is celebrated in October/ November. The Nokma (the owner of A’kingland or Clan-land) of the village takes the responsibility to see that all arrangements are in order. A large quantity of food and rice-beer must be prepared well ahead. The climax of the celebrations is the colourful Wangala dance in which men and women take part in their best clothes. Lines are formed by males and females separately and to the rhythmic beat of drums and gongs and blowing of horns by the males, both groups shuffle forward in parallel lines.
Other dance forms are ‘Ajima roa’, ‘Mi Su’a’, ‘Chambil mpa’, ‘Do’kru-Sua’, ‘Kambe toa’, ‘Gaewang roa’, ‘Napsepgrika’ and many others.
The music of the Garos is traditional except Garo modern musical instruments and songs. The traditional Garo musical instruments can broadly be classified into four groups.
Idiophones: Self-sounding and made of resonant materials – Kakwa, Nanggilsi, Guridomik, Kamaljakmora, all kinds of gongs, Rangkilding, Rangbong, Nogri etc.
Aero phone: Wind instruments, whose sound come from air vibrating inside a pipe when is blown – Adil, Singga, Sanai, Kal, Bolbijak, Illep or Illip, Olongna, Tarabeng, Imbanggi, Akok or Dakok, Bangsi rosi, Tilara or Taragaku, Bangsi mande, Otekra, Wa’ppe or Wa’pek.
Chordophone: Stringed instrument – Dotrong, Sarenda, Chigring, Dimchrang or Kimjim, Gongmima or Gonggna.
Membranophone: Which have skins or membranes stretched over a frame – Ambengdama, Chisakdama, Atong dama, Garaganching dama, Ruga and Chibok dama, Dual-matchi dama, Nagra, Kram etc.
Generally one finds the similar type of arts and architecture in the whole of Garo Hills. They normally use locally available building materials like timbers, bamboo, cane and thatch. Garo architecture can be classified into following categories:
Nokmong: The house where every A’chik household can stay together. This house is built in such a way that inside the house, there are provisions for sleeping, hearth, sanitary arrangements, kitchen, water storage, place for fermenting wine, place for use as cattle-shed or for stall-feeding the cow and the space between earthen floor and raised platform for use as pigsty and in the back of the house, the raised platform serves as hencoop for keeping fowl and for storing firewood, thus every need being fully provisioned for in one house.
Nokpante: In the Garo habitation, the house where unmarried male youth or bachelors live is called Nokpante. The word Nokpante means the house of bachelors. Nokpantes are generally constructed in the front courtyard of the Nokma, the chief. The art of cultivation, various arts and cultures, and different games are also taught in the Nokpante to the young boys by the senior boys and elders.
Jamsreng: In certain areas, in the rice field or orchards, small huts are constructed. They are called Jamsreng or Jamap. Either the season’s fruits or grains are collected and stored in the Jamsreng or it can be used for sleeping.
Jamatal: The small house, a type of miniature house, built in the jhum fields is called Jamatal or ‘field house’. In certain places, where there is danger from wild animals, a small house with ladder is constructed on the treetop. This is called Borang or ‘house on the treetop’.
Bandasal: This is like a rest house. Usually built in front of the Nokma’s house.
Jam nok: To store harvested grains like millet and paddy, the Garos used to built a granary or a store house at a distance of about 30-40 metres form the house. The distance is to protect them from the spread of fire.
A Garo village is a well-knit unit, the population consisting of one domiciled Ma’chong or lineage of a Chatchi or clan, which has proprietary rights over the entire land of the village or A’king, as it is called. In the matrilineal society of the Garos, of course, we must assume matrimonial relations with other clans with which marriage ties are permissible. In the case of principal family, the husband of the heiress becomes the Nokma (headman). The Nokma manages his wife’s property and allots plots to different families for cultivation, besides carrying out other duties. Girls generally stay in their own village. Their husbands if not cross-cousin, may be from other villages. Some degree of relationship may, therefore, be said to exist between most households in the village and the principal clan.
The people are industrious and both men and women participate in the normal duties in the fields and in the home. Some tasks, naturally belong to the males, like jungle-cleaning, house building and all other work demanding greater physical labour. Planting of most crops, ginning of cotton as well as weaving, cooking etc. are usually done by the women.
Change in Society
There is a distinction between life in the rural areas and in the urban areas. The acceleration of development work in recent years, particularly after 1950, has contributed greatly to the material progress of the people everywhere, though the impact has naturally been greater in the town areas. The rapid spread of education has inevitably brought about a change in the vocational pattern, with many young people turning away from agriculture and taking up other types of work, either with Government or in business undertakings. The trend is bound to have an effect on village cohesion in the foreseeable future.
In short, the Garos today face the same challenges that tribal communities elsewhere have to face, but in spite of the rapid shift of influence to the urban elite, the backbone of the tribe is still the rural population and many of the rural folk are shrewd enough to appreciate what is best for them. This fact may help to balance the swing from one extreme to another – from a generally conservative form of society to an ultra-modern one.
The progress of education in earlier times was very slow, as the administration was mainly concerned with the maintenance of law and order. The main agency for propagation of education was therefore the American Baptist Mission, which however, concentrated its activities only in a few areas where it had established its Mission Stations. Until 1911, when only 23 people per thousand were returned as literate, progress was very slow.
Between 1911 and 1951, education in this district made slight though still insufficient progress. According to the 1951 Census, the percentage of literacy in this district was only 7.3% compared to the All-India average of 16%. An upward trend was apparent after independence, the most remarkable progress achieved being in the field of Primary Education. As a result, literacy spread at a faster rate than in the plains, during the 1951-1961 decade.
The increase in literacy has been due to the rapid increase in the number of educational institutions.
No. and Percentage of Literacy (1991) (38.67 % of age group 7 yrs.)
The statistics below shows the no. of Educational Institution exists in the district
|Upper Primary Schools||231||231||231|
|High Secondary Schools||149||149||149|
|Higher Secondary Schools||3||3||3|
|Basic/ Non-Basic Training Schools||1||1||1|
Now there are altogether 7 degree colleges in the district. In Tura, the district headquarters, there was only one college– the Tura Government College up till 1981. Now there are three colleges, Tura Government College, Don Bosco College and Durama College, one P.G.T. College, one Law College, a Normal Training School and a Basic Training Centre for teachers training at Tura. Other four colleges in the district are An’cheng Rangmanpa College at Mahendraganj, Ampati College at Ampati, Kazi & Zaman College at Bhaitbari, and Tikrikilla College at Tikrikilla.
There are 8 higher secondary schools, around 110 secondary schools, and upper primary and primary schools in almost all the villages. There also exits a Public School and Kendriya Vidyalaya at Tura. Other than that there are vocational institutes at Tura like Regional Vocational Training Institute (RVTI) and ITI. Monford Centre for Education also providing education to the physically handicapped persons, which also provides training to the teachers to properly equip them to educate the physically handicapped students.
There also exists a Campus of North Eastern Hill University in Tura, where currently the Post Graduate Courses in English and Garo are being conducted. Proposal is there to start courses on more subjects.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) also has a study centre at Tura, which imparts distant education in different courses including computers.
There are two Theological Colleges – one St. Peter’s Seminary for Roman Catholics and Achick Theological College for Baptists at Baptist Mission Compound.
Industrial Training Institute: The Institute was started in May 1964 and meets a vital need of students who are desirous of enrolling for technical courses and qualifying themselves as Electricians, Motor Mechanics, Fitters, Welders, Carpenters etc. by providing them with the training they need. Training is also provided in non-technical skills as Stenography and Typing.
This centre located in Tura, was established on 1st march 1976, as a unit of the department of Social Welfare. It imparts training mainly to the unemployed women of the districts in such skills as Knitting, Embroidery, Tailoring and Weaving.
2 Civil Subdivisions (Ampari & Dadenggiri). The district comprise of six Community & Rural development Blocks namely,
Rongram C&RD Block
Dadenggiri C&RD Block
Selsella C&RD Block
Tikrikilla C&RD Block
Gambegre C&RD Block
Dalu C&RD Block
Deputy Commissioner is the head of the District administration. The Deputy Commissioner is the executive head as well as judicial head of the district. The DC is aided by a number of officers like Additional Deputy Commissioner, Sub-Divisional Officers of Civil Sub-Divisions and Extra Assistant Commissioners to assist him in different type of activities.
As executive head the DC plays an important role in coordinating with all developmental heads of the district for all round developmental activities under various programmes such as M.P. scheme (MPLAD), MLA’s scheme, Border areas development funds, Employment assurance schemes and so on. The District Planning Officer is assigned to see, formulate and release of fund for development scheme. There also exists the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) and the DC is the chairman of the said agency. The Project Director is the functional head of the agency. All schemes of rural development are implemented by Block Development Officers and the necessary funds are routed through this agency.
Law and Order
Maintenance of law and order is another important aspect of district administration to give proper security and to safeguard the lives and properties of the citizen. In this regard the DC act as the District Magistrate for maintenance of law and order in the district. The District Magistrate is assisted by Additional Deputy Commissioner, Sub-Division Magistrates and other Executive Magistrates and keeps close link with police department for necessity. The Superintendent of Police is the head of the Police Administration.
In revenue matter the DC is assisted by ADC i/c of Revenue and other Revenue and Enforcement staff. There is constitutionally recognized Garo Hills Autonomous District Council in West Garo Hills District. Hence all types of revenue collection like settlement of Hats (Bazar), Ghats, Ponds, Ferries, Professional tax are directly dealt by Dist. Council, except matters like acquisition of Govt. land, encroachment of Govt. land, allotment of land to central department, payment of compensation money etc.
The DC plays a key role during natural disaster period like flood, earthquake, landslide, cyclone/storm damage or fire incidence. The DC generally takes prompt action whenever situation arises in any part of the district, and provides assistance either in cash or kind to the victims according to the nature of damage.
Besides all these the DC being the head of the district also holds the post of Chairman of various committee, colleges, schools, Banks etc.
Agricultural Scenario: Majority of the people depends on agriculture for their livelihood. The main crop being paddy, the other crops cultivated in the district are mustard, sugarcane, jute, potato, tapioca, cotton etc. The sizeable crops with commercial potential are chilies, ginger, pineapple, turmeric and also banana in the areas adjoining Assam. Tezpata leaf (Bay leaf) and leaf for Bidi making could have bright commercial prospects.
Wet rice cultivation is practiced in the plains areas while in the hills, the population practice jhumor shifting cultivation. With the passing of time, and the increasing pressure of population, the jhum cycle has been considerably reduced, averaging three years instead of the norm of seven. The practice has led to extensive denudation of forests and progressive destruction of the ecology. Government has taken several steps to wean the people away from this primitive practices, either by taking up schemes of resettling the people of selected villages in new settlement, providing them with amenities like good roads and running water, or by encouraging them to adopt terrace cultivation.
Most of the existing cultivation are found around villages. Normally, allocation of plots is based on precedents and a family cultivates the same plot for about two years. After cleaning of the jungle and burning of the litter some time between March and April, cereals like maize and millets are sown. Besides food crops, cash crops like cotton are grown in many parts of Garo Hills.
Due to widespread practice of shifting cultivation and deforestation, the Agriculture Department has taken up Horticulture in the district as the topmost priority. West Garo Hills with a wide variety of Agro-climatic conditions, soil and rainfall provide opportunities for growing varied range of Horticultural and plantation crops. The important fruit crops of the district are oranges, pineapple, litchi, banana, jackfruit and other citrus fruits. Important plantation crops are arecanut, cashewnut, coconut, tea, black pepper, bayleaf, betel leaf and rubber. Spices like ginger; turmeric, chilies, large cardamom and cinnamon are also grown. Both Kharif and Rabi vegetables are grown. The district has a Tea Nursery at Rongram, Damalgiri and Zikzak. The Rubber Board has a Regional office in Tura and has been promoting cultivation of rubber in the region.
Measures to conserve soil and water
The West Garo Hills District with its undulating topography and high intensity of rainfall, suffers acute erosion problem and ecosystem degradation. The problem is further compounded by unscientific agricultural practices such as jhumming/shifting cultivation on steep slopes, rampant deforestation, burning etc., which has resulted in degradation of land and water resources. With a view to reduce the process, the Government of Meghalaya, through the Soil Conservation Directorate, has taken and is taking up variety of measures that would conserve and protect and which would also make the people aware of the fact that their age-old practices are responsible for the abrupt changes in the ecosystem in this pocket of our globe.
To combat the harmful effects of jhumming, the Soil Conservation Directorate has taken up a major Scheme called the “Jhummia Rehabilitation Scheme”, which is designed to offer an alternative method of food production, which would also improve the socio-economic condition of the people of this District.
Apart from the aforesaid major Scheme, the Directorate of Soil Conservation has other Schemes as the former is effectively implemented in the worst jhum affected areas and are briefed as follows.
1. Watershed Management Scheme – in different catchments areas.
2. Cash/Horticulture Crops Development.
3. General Schemes.
The component of works under each scheme are identical; Land Development Programme – terracing, contour bunding, stream bank erosion control, land reclamation, water harvesting, conservation & distribution, irrigation & check dams, gully plugging, afforestation etc., and are being implemented by the Territorial Division.
And in regard of Cash/Horticultural Crops Development Schemes, a separate Division called the “Cash Crop Division” under the same Directorate is carrying out the implementation of works.
Head of the Department in the District –
1. The Joint Director of Soil Conservation, Tura.
Functional Divisions in the District –
1. Soil & Water Conservation Division (Territorial), Tura.
2. Soil & Water Conservation Division (Cash Crop), Tura.
The areas covered by each Soil Conservation Range & Beat Offices –
|Sl No.||Block Name||Soil Conservation Range (T)||Soil Conservation Range (C.C.)|
|1||Dadenggre||Thebronggre Soil Conservation Range.||Dadenggre Cash Crop Beat.|
|2||Selsella||Damjonggre Soil Conservation Range.||Danakgre Cash Crop Range.|
|3||Rongram||Thebronggre Soil Conservation Range.||Danakgre Cash Crop Range.|
|4||Betasing||Damjonggre Soil Conservation Range.||Ampati Cash Crop Beat.|
|5||Zikzak||Damjonggre Soil Conservation Range.||Ampati Cash Crop Beat.|
|6||Dalu||Machangpani Soil Conservation Range.||Danakgre Cash Crop Beat.|
|7||Tikrikilla||Jongchipara Soil Conservation Range.||Dadenggre Cash Crop Beat.|
A majestic hill stands on the eastern flank of Tura, the largest town in the Garo Hills region of the State. It peaks eight hundred and seventy two metres above sea level over looking Tura. Local legend has it that the peak provides a sacred abode for the ‘Gods’ and claims that it was traditionally known as Dura but the British mistook it for Tura, before it came to be known as such. Since the Tura hill and its peak constitute the water catchments area of Tura town, the whole Tura-range has been declared as a reserve-forest.
A Tourist Bungalow, an Observatory and a Cinchona plantation are located at Tura Peak and its environs. A magnificent view of the lower Brahmaputra Valley as well as the golden yellow plains of Bangladesh is available all year round to viewers on Tura Peak.
During the British regime, the Deputy Commissioner of Garo Hills, used to reside during summer, in a cottage located at the peak and commute down to Tura each day on elephant-back. A decent foot track developed for the Deputy Commissioner’s use is still in existence. It facilitates tourists and adventurers reaching Tura peak with ease and comfort.
Located on the century old Mankachar-Phulbari-Goalpara road, on the western frontier of the State, adjoining Goalpara district of Assam, Bhaitbari is a small village of West Garo Hills district. Standing on the banks of river Jinjiram, the village spreads out across the narrow stretch of plain lands of the State, bordering the central hilly plateau.
A few years ago, Bhaitbari shot into prominence as a result of archaeological finds having been uncovered after protracted excavations at Bhaitbari area. The archaeological finds, which have yet to be adequately unravelled, and carbondated are reported to be of considerable antiquity. The finds are of artefacts, which reveal the existence of planned places of worship with exquisitely designed masonry oil lamps.
Excavations which are continuing are likely to reveal further remains of an earlier habitation, besides unravelling the historical antiquity of the plains-belt of the State of which very little is known from recorded history.
The Bhaitbari excavations are certainly of immense historical and anthropological interest and importance.
Located near Nogorpara village in West Garo Hills district, the beel is about seventy kilometres off Tura on the Tura-Garobadha-Ampatigiri-Mahendraganj road. Tradition has it that this pond was dug and constructed under the instructions of Lengta Raja of the Garos. The beautiful, soothing waters of Kata Beel covers about one hectare of area. The beel is surrounded by a planned plantation of palms.
Kata Beel is a major fishing ground of Garo Hills and well known to anglers and fishermen. A convenient picnic spot which is frequented by young and old alike, particularly during the hot and sultry local summer months.
Darga of Hazrat Shah Kamal Baba
Located at a stone’s throw off the Indo-Bangla frontier, alongside the Dalu-Mahendraganj-Mankachar border road, stands The Darga Sharif of Hazrat Shah Kamal Baba, popularly known as Pirsthan, which has been venerated since centuries. Continuing tradition coming down from the pre-partition East-Bengal times, an annual prayer-mela is held at the Pristhan which is close to Mahendraganj. Devotees from far and near come to the Pristhan for annual prayer and offering with faith and hope as the place is known to be one where prayers find favourable response.
The highest point of the Garo Hills region of the State, Nokrek Peak stands fourteen hundred and twelve metres above sea level. A virgin canopy of thick, tall and lush green forests cover Nokrek and its environs. The mother germo plasm of Citrus-indica have been discovered by science researchers within Nokrek Range. This discovery led to the establishment of the National Citrus Gene Sanctuary-cum-Biosphere Reserve at Nokrek covering an area of forty-seven square kilometres.
All important rivers and streams of the Garo Hills region rise from the Nokrek Range, of which the river Simsang, known as Someshwari when it emerges into Bangladesh at Baghmara, is the most prominent.
Nokrek can be reached from the Tura-Asanang-Daribokgre Road. A comfortable three-and-a-half kilometre trek from Daribokgre village leads a visitor to Nokrek Peak. Abundant wildlife including herds of wild elephants, rare varieties of birds and pheasants, besides rare orchids abound in the sanctuary.
Mir Jumla’s Tomb
Mir Jumla, one of the most capable of Mughal Generals, was appointed Governor of Bengal around 1659 by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Shortly thereafter, Mir Jumla invaded Assam at the head of a vast army, as an act of attrition against the local ruler who captured some remote areas of Mughal territory on the Bengal frontier. Mir Jumla had considerable initial success and over ran parts of Assam, but the difficult overland routes and the hostile malaria-infested climate took a heavy toll on the Mughal army. This forced Mir Jumla to retreat during 1663 without having fully accomplished the subjugation of Assam. Alas, before the able General could set foot on Bengal again, he was himself run down with the dreaded malaria, to which he succumbed later the same year, near Mankachar in Garo Hills. He was interred at the same place. His simple tomb located on a small hillock has been maintained over the centuries. The tomb reflects a remarkably long grave and bears testimony to the legendary height of Mir Jumla-a true giant among men.
A lofty blue hill with an elevation of nine hundred and ninety nine metres above sea level stands on the north-eastern flank of Tura. The hilly range on which it is located is known as Arbella Range and the peak as Arbella Peak. The drive-up to the peak passes through deeply forested glades, full of shrubs and orchids of unparalleled beauty. Wildfowl and pheasants of exciting plumage and colour abound, besides birds of all sizes and variety making the place an idyllic resort of natural joy. A small rest house built by the British Colonialist, a century ago, on the Arbella peak continues to provide visitors with the shelter from the elements.
If one believes that small is beautiful, then the tiny waterfall near Chinabat village to the right of the Tura-Asanangre-Williamnagar State highway is one to be taken into reckoning. This sprightly fall, though perennial, is at its best during the monsoon months. Clustered on either side by vast evergreen hills of bamboos, which sway rhythmically in the wind, the fall itself appears to be on the sway, leaving the viewer with memories of ecstatic joy.
Located on the hilly crescent –like saddle, at the foot of the Nokrek peak, in the West Garo Hills district, Sasatgre village is accessible by a jeepable road from Oragitok village which lies on the Tura-Asanangre-Williamnagar State highway. The distinguishing feature of this village is that although all the houses are built in the typical Garo Pattern and design, they are spacious, airy, well-built and firm. The winds of development, change and prosperity have not changed the way of life of the Sasatgre villagers and they continue to be the repository of undiluted Garo custom, culture and convention.
Sasatgre has been blessed by nature in so far as orange plantations are concerned and the village is surrounded by healthy, dark green orange bushes, which are highly productive. The village now falls on the periphery of the Nokrek Gene Sanctuary-cum-Biosphere Reserve.
Located at the junction of the Williamnagar-Tura State highway, Asanangre is a fairly large Garo village where the headquarters of the Rongram Community & Rural development block is located. It is also the venue of the annual Hundred drum Wangala Dance festival which has become a popular tourist attraction.
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