Identification. The Garos living in the East and West Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya in northeastern India speak the Garo dialect.
They are one of the best-known matrilineal groups in India. Here the Garos are not just another aboriginal tribe—they are the major aboriginal tribe. Others are the Hajong, the Koch, the Rabha, the Dalau, and the Banais who reside on the adjacent plains of the neighboring district. There remains an obscurity about the origin of the word “Garo.”
They are known as “Garos” to outsiders; but the Garos always designate themselves as “Achik” (hill men). The Garos are divided into nine subtribes: the Awe, Chisak, Matchi-Dual, Matabeng, Ambeng, Ruga-Chibox, Gara-Ganching, Atong, and he Megam. These are geographic subtribes, but they are also dialectal and subcultural groups. According to their beliefs and religion, the Garos are divided into the “Songsarek” (those who follow indigenous beliefs and practices) and the Christians.
Location: Garo Hill is situated Between 25°9′ and 26°1′N and 89°49′ and 91°2′E, covering an area of 8,000 square kilometers. The districts border Bangladesh on the south and west and Assam on the north.
Hills cover most of the district, with some adjacent fringes of plains bordering the monsoon area, producing thick vegetation on the hills. There are a number of hilly streams and rivers; Except for the Simsang River, which forms a wide floodplain, none is navigable.
Demography: According to the census of India for 1971, Garos numbered 342,474. Christian Garos were 54.3 percent of the total Garo population; now they may be more than 60 percent of the total Garo population.
Linguistic Affiliation: According to Sir George Grierson’s classification in The Linguistic Survey of India, Garo belongs to the Bodo Subsection of the Bodo-Naga Section, under the Assam-Burma Group of the Sino-Tibetan or Tibeto-Burman Language Family.