William Wilson Hunter.

The imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 5) online

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The mineral products known to exist are — coal of fair quality and
under a large area, building stone, and lime. No metals have hitherto
been discovered.

History. — The Garo Hills were first constituted a separate admini-
stration in the year 1866. Previous to that date, the independence of
the tribes living in the remote hills had been tacitly recognised. From
the time when the British obtained possession of the diwd7ii of Bengal
in the last century, numerous Garo villages along the foot of the hills
were included within the Districts of Goalpara and Maimansingh. The
frontier, however, was always very ill-defined, being fixed neither by
geographical nor ethnical principles. The boundaries were finally
settled by the survey executed between 1870 and 1875. Towards the
east a line has been drawn along rivers and other natural boundaries, to
demarcate the Garo from the Khasi Hills. On the north and west, some
tracts previously included within Goalpara District have been definitely
attached to the Garo Hills ; and the dues and cesses formerly levied by
the lowland zaininddrs are now collected on their account by the direct
agency of Government. On the south side, towards Maimansingh, a
similar principle has been adopted; and a long-standing dispute has
been terminated, which dated back to the Permanent Settlement. The
Raja of Susang and other Maimansingh zam'mddrs had persistently
asserted their claim to a large portion of the hills, as having been
originally included within their permanently-settled estates ; and they
urged, accordingly, that such portion of the hills lay within the juris-
diction of the Collector of Maimansingh. These claims, however, were
never admitted by the Government. In 1866 the boundary was
roughly drawn at its present line, and the Maimansingh landholders'
claims were finally satisfied by money payments, and the land attached
to the Garo Hills.

But though a British ofiicer was appointed to the Garo Hills in 1866,
the mountainous interior still remained a terra incognita, and its inhabit-
ants continued to be known as the Independent Garos. In December
1867, the Deputy Commissioner took up his quarters at Tura, and by
the end of 187 1 nearly 100 villages had tendered their submission. In
that year, however, there occurred the unfortunate incident which led



GARO HILLS. 27

to the armed expedition of 1872-73. After the conclusion of the
survey of the adjoining Khasi Hills, the survey party was deputed to
explore the country of the Independent Garos. At first no active
opposition was encountered, though it was found that the hillmen
gradually ceased to offer ready assistance. Their suspicions evidently
were aroused. In March 187 1, two Bengali coolies of the survey party,
who had been detached to procure labour from the secluded villages of
Kangmagiri and Pharamgiri, were treacherously attacked, and one of
them was murdered. This outrage was followed by several raids on
the part of the Independent Garos against their countrymen who lived
under British protection. The Deputy Commissioner immediately
occupied the rebeUious villages with bodies of police, but he was not
strong enough to pursue the inhabitants into their retreat amid the
forests. Accordingly it was determined to take advantage of the cold
season of 1872-73, in order to enforce the authority of the British
Government throughout the whole country, and to receive the submis-
sion of about 60 villages that still held out. The expedition consisted
of three strong detachments of police, operating from separate points,
and three companies of the 43rd Assam Light Infantry. The military,
however, were never required to advance farther than the frontier of
the Khasi Hills. After one engagement, in which the Garos suffered
some loss, the three police parties effected their junction, having
marched through the country in all directions. Every one of the
independent villages now tendered their submission. They surrendered
the heads of the persons killed by them in their several raids, and
paid the fine that was inflicted on them. At the same time, permanent
measures were adopted for maintaining order in the future. Every
part of the lately independent country was thoroughly examined, the
number and size of the villages noted, and arrangements made for
the appointment of lashkars or heads of circles. Every village was
compelled to contribute to the revenue, according to an assessment
levied on each house. By the end of May 1873, a map of the entire
Garo Hills District had been prepared, on the scale of four miles to the
inch ; and the wild interior was thus robbed of its chief protection,
which our ignorance had conferred upon it. The results of this
expedition have been most beneficial, and the civil administration has
since been conducted with little or no trouble.

Population. — No attempt at a regular enumeration of the inhabitants
has ever been effected in the Garo Hills. The Deputy Commissioner
in 1870 estimated the population at from 80,000 to 100,000. The
Census of 1881 was only carried out in certain tracts, and careful
estimates made from them for the remainder. The Census Report
returns the total population at 109,548, of whom 23,914 reside in the
plains, and 85,634 in the hills. In the hills proper, the only race to



28 GARO HILLS.

be found is the Garo itself, with the exception of one small isolated
village called Thapa, which is inhabited by Rabhas. But several
villages on the plains, which have recently been included within the
boundaries of the District, are peopled by Rabhas, Kochs, Rajbansis,
Dalus, Mechs, and a few Musalmans. All these tribes possess ethnical
features in common with the Garos, but the latter retain sufficient
national characteristics to be classed as a people by themselves. They
are thought to represent the primitive stock, of which the Rabha,
Mech, and Koch represent offshoots that have been modified by life
on the plains and contact wdth Hinduism. According to local tradition,
the Garo Hills w^ere once occupied by Kochs, who were gradually driven
northward by an invasion of Garos ; and it is a fact that the Kochs at
the present day claim land in the hills.

The Garos proper are a robust and active race, capable of enduring
a great amount of exertion. They are of about the middle height, and
of a dark-brown swarthy colour. Neither the men nor women have
any pretensions to good looks. Their cheekbones are prominent, noses
broad, lips thick, ears large, and eyes of a hazel colour. The men are
remarkable for deficiency of beard, w^hrtever hair grows on the face
being carefully plucked out. The hair of the head with both sexes is
never cut, but either tied up in a knot or kept off the face by means of
a piece of cloth. The dress of the men consists merely of a strip of
home-spun cotton cloth, about a yard and a half in length, w^hich is
passed round the waist and between the legs, and then tied at the back.
The dress of the women only differs in being slightly more extensive.
In addition, both sexes carry a small blanket, usually made from the
bark of a tree. This is manufactured by steeping the bark in water,
beating it out, and afterwards drying it well in the sun. In the
eastern hills, the Garos have adopted the short fringed jacket, which is
characteristic of the Khasias. Both men and women are inordinately
fond of personal ornaments. The males wear three or four brass ear-
rings, and as many bead necklaces as they can afford. Men of heredi-
tary rank wear an iron or brass armlet above the elbow, and a peculiar
ornament round the head, which consists of brass plates connected by a
string. It is said that this last may only be assumed by one who has
slain an enemy in battle. The women wear, besides necklaces of glass
and bell-metal beads, ear-rings of enormous size and weight. It is a
coveted mark of distinction to have the lobe of the ear altogether torn
away by the strain thus caused, in which case the ear-rings are suspended
from a string passed over the top of the head. The weapons of the
(jaros consist of spear, sword, and shield. The sword, which is peculiar
to these hills, is a two-edged instrument with an abrupt point, the blade
and handle forming one piece. Besides being a weapon, it is used for
every variety of domestic and agricultural purpose. The shield is com-



GARO HILLS.



29



posed of thin strips of bamboo ingeniously worked together, so as to be
ahnost proof against a spear-thrust. In the back of the shield is a
receptacle for bamboo spikes, which form an essential item in the
equipment of a Garo warrior. These spikes are intended to be planted
in the ground, so as to block the way against a shoeless enemy ; and
they have been found to answer their purpose very effectually. In
food, the Garos may be styled omnivorous ; they eat not only beef and
pork, but also tigers, dogs, snakes, and frogs. Their staple diet is rice,
and their drink rice beer. Milk they altogether eschew, as do all the
aboriginal races inhabiting the hills between the Surma and Brahma-
putra. They are great smokers of tobacco, but touch no intoxicating
drug. Their villages are usually placed on the side of a hill, some
distance from the crest, and within easy reach of water. The houses,
as is the case among many other tribes of the north-east frontier, are
built on piles, and are frequently of considerable size. The materials
are bamboo and thatch. The structure is usually divided into the
following compartments : — A large room where the family live, an
apartment for the women, a place where the cattle are kept, and
verandahs in front and behind. A rude fireplace, consisting merely of
smoothed clay, occupies the middle of the house ; and the smoke is
left to escape as best it can. During the agricultural season, the entire
body of villagers occupy temporary huts in the immediate neighbour-
hood of the common cultivation.

The most remarkable domestic custom of the Garos is one which
they share with the Khasias. The wife is regarded as the head of
the family, and through her the descent of property is traced. This
custom is apparently a survival of the system of polyandry. That
system still exists intact among Himalayan tribes ; for example, among
the tribes between Simla and Tibet. It is also practised among
the Nairs and the aboriginal Todas of Southern India. x\ccording to
this system when in full force, a woman is the lawful wufe of a family
of brethren, and a man's property descends, not to his own, but to
his sister's children. Among tribes who have advanced so far as to
give up the practice of polyandry, but who still preserve its tradi-
tions, it leaves behind curious customs of inheritance, such as that just
described among the Garos and Khasias. Property still descends through
the females, and the sons receive nothing, but have to look to the
family into which they marry for their advancement in life. As among
the Khdsias, the women enjoy a position of the highest consideration
in all domestic matters, and it is said that their voice has great weight
also in public councils. Marriages are arranged by the parents, and
concluded when the parties are of fit age. No dower is demanded on
either side. The husband immediately migrates to the house of his
wife's family, and becomes one of her clan. Intermarriages between



30 GARO HILLS.

members of the same clan are not permitted, but otherwise no regard
is paid to the ties of consanguinity. A second wife cannot be taken
without the consent of the first Adultery is punished by a fine.

The funeral ceremonies of the Garos imply the belief in a future state.
The body is burned, and the ashes finally buried near the hut-door. At
the time of cremation, dogs are sacrificed, in order that they may direct
the spirit on his way. Up to a very recent period, human victims were
offered on the occasion of the death of a chief. If no slaves were
available, a foray was made into the plains to bring back heads. The
Garos believe in a supreme being called Saljang, who is impersonated
in the sun. But the real objects of their religion are numerous malig-
nant demons, to whom is attributed every physical and moral evil, and
whose wrath requires to be appeased by bloody sacrifices. It is the
duty of the priest or kaf?idl to determine by certain omens which
particular evil spirit is at work, to arrange the ceremonies, and repeat
the necessary incantations. Like the aborigines of Central India, the
Czdros are excessively superstitious, and believe in the existence of
witches and imps of all kinds. They have a curious idea that certain
persons are capable of leaving their human frames, and taking up their
abode in the body of a tiger or other animal.

The Garo villages vary greatly in size. Some may have as many
as 2000, others no more than 30 inhabitants. Tura Station, with
only 744 inhabitants, is the only place possessing any special charac-
teristics. It is situated on a spur of the Tura range, about 2000 feet
above sea-level, and the same distance from the summit. It contains
houses for the Deputy Commissioner, Police and Medical Officers,
barracks and huts for 200 constables, and the school-house of the
American Mission. The stockade by which it was originally protected,
and a small outpost station, have now been suffered to fall into decay.
Water is plentiful in the immediate neighbourhood, and an aqueduct
has recently been cut, running right through the station.

Agriculture^ etc. — The Garos cultivate their land on the system
known as Jum, A spot of land is selected on the hill-side, and the
jungle cut down during the cold season. Towards the end of March,
the trees and brushwood are burned as they lie ; and the rice crop is
planted in April, at the commencement of the rains. Shortly after-
wards, the seeds of vegetables, cotton, pepper, and pulses are sown in
the same clearing ; and each crop is reaped in rotation, as it comes to
maturity. In the second year, rice only is grown ; and after two years'
cultivation, the clearing is abandoned and suffered to lie fallow for
about ten years. The sole implement of agriculture is the large knife
or sword, called ate by the Garos. Neither plough nor spade is used,
except in the few Hinduized villages bordering on the plains. The
rice crop generally raised corresponds to the dus of Bengal ; the out-



GARO HILLS. 31

turn is estimated at about 4^- cwts. per acre, valued at 15s. The cotton
is short in staple and poor in quality, but has been found suited for
mixing with woollen fabrics. Several experiments have been made with
seed from Hinganghat, but hitherto without any success. The attempted
introduction of the Khasia potato has also resulted in failure. Among
miscellaneous crops may be mentioned — arhar (Cajanus indicus), reared
as food for the lac insect, indigo, ginger, turmeric, and pan or betel-
leaf. Domestic animals are not used for agriculture. Cattle are
purchased from the plains for sacrifice ; pigs, goats, and fowls are reared
for food. Every village contains several watch-dogs, and numbers of
dogs are imported from the plains for food.

There are but few regular day-labourers in the District. A fair
remuneration for the Garo casually engaged to carry baggage, would be
from 4d. to 6d. a day. The work at the station is mainly carried on by
coolies imported from the plains, but Garos now visit Tura in small
numbers in search of work. The Garos have no weights nor measures
of quantity, but they are extremely acute in guessing the amount of
the commodities they barter with Bengali traders. In 1881, the price
of the best cleaned rice at Tura was 13s. 8d. per cwt. \ of common rice,
5 s. 6d. per cwt.

No such calamity as blight, flood, or drought sufficient to cause
famine has been known to occur in the Garo Hills, although distress
has occasionally occurred, as in 1879, when the remoter villages on the
north-eastern boundary suffered to some extent The country is well
watered both by streams and rainfall, but the average harvest of rice is
barely sufficient for the local consumption. In the improbable con-
tingency of distress from a failure of the dus crop, the inhabitants could
be best relieved by the establishment of food depots at the hill passes,
which would prevent a turbulent population from crowding into the
plains. A bridle-path joins Tura with Dhubri in the Assam valley, and
there is also a cart-road to Dalu in Maimansingh District. Along
the former route the telegraph line will be laid. The latter is the line
by which Tura draws its supply of food. In 1882, means of communi-
cation were afforded by 156 miles of navigable rivers, 37 miles of first-
class, and 31 miles of second-class roads.

Ma?iufactures, etc. — There are no special local manufactures in the
hills. The Garo women weave a coarse cotton cloth for the scanty
garments of themselves and the men, using a loom which has evidently
been borrowed from Bengal. The cloth is dyed blue with indigo, and
generally ornamented with red stripes. A rude pottery is made in
certain villages, but all metal utensils are imported. The District
trade is entirely conducted at the small markets situated at the passes
leading into the plains. The principal articles of export are — cotton,
timber, boats, bamboos, firewood, rubber, and lac ; the imports received



32 CAROL— GAROTHA.

in exchange consist of— rice, dried fish, cattle, goats, fowls, pigs, cloth,
and ornaments. The raw cotton grown on the jums is brought up by
Marwari merchants, to be shipped to Sirajganj. In 1881, about
30,000 cwts. of uncleaned cotton were exported, valued at iis. per cwt.
The exports of lac are estimated at about 1600 cwts., worth about jQt,
per cwt.

Administration.— \xi the year 1869-70, the total revenue derived
from the Garo Hills was ^798, while the expenditure on administra-
tion amounted to ^6476. By 1881 the revenue had risen to ;£"504i,
of which ;£"6io was collected on account of certain zaviinddrs in Goal-
para District ; and the expenditure to ^13,271.

Medical Aspects. — The rainy season generally lasts from about the
middle of June to the end of October, but occasional showers set in as
early as May. The cold weather lasts from November to February ;
and the months of March and April are usually dry and warm. During
the ten years ending 188 1, the average annual rainfall registered
at Tura station was 126-25 inches. The chief diseases affecting
strangers to the hills are fevers of a malarious type, sometimes com-
plicated with enlargement of the spleen or liver, diarrhoea, dysentery,
rheumatism, chest affections, and ulcers. The Garos, in addition,
suffer from bronchocele and elephantiasis. In 187 1, a severe epidemic
of cholera broke out at the station of Tura. Out of 80 persons
attacked, as many as 32 died. [For a further account of the Garo
Hills, see Hunter's Statistical Account of Assam (London : Triibner &
Co., 1879).]

Garol. — Petty State in Rewa Kantha, Bombay Presidency. It has
been lately transferred to the Panch Mahals District ; but the tribute of
;^3 is still paid to the Gaekw^r of Baroda through the Rewa Kantha
Agency.

Garola. — Rent - free estate in Sagar (Saugor) District, Central
Provinces ; consisting of one village, with an area of 5479 acres, and
yielding a yearly revenue of ;^ 1 64. Population (188 1) loi 7 ; number
of houses, 235. The village became the head-quarters of a tract
bestowed by the Emperor of Delhi on Rao Kam Chandra, the
greater part of which w^as resumed by the Peshwa in 1746. Garola
contains a small fort, and is surrounded by a stone wall. To the east is
a fine lake, covering 76 acres; the soil around is fertile. Government
school for boys.

Garotha. — The north-eastern /^//^//of Jhansi District, North- Western
Provinces ; consisting of a hilly country, gradually sloping down to
the plains along the Betwa and the Dhasan rivers, and much inter-
sected by native territory. Area, 501 square miles, of which 232 are
cultivated. Population (1881) 87,897, namely, males 45,591, and
females 42,306; number of villages, 176. Land revenue, ^£"13,965;






GARRAULl—GARWA, 33

total Government revenue, jQ^S-.Z^^'y rental paid by cultivators,
^29,231.

Garrauli. — One of the petty States of Bundelkhand in the Central
India Agency, under the Government of India. Gopal Singh, the first
Jdgirdd?', and the father of the present chief, was one of the most active
and daring of the military adventurers who opposed the occupation of
Bundelkhand by the British in 1803. He had been in the service
of Darjan Singh and Hari Singh, the grandsons of Chhatarsal
Singh, in Jaso; and on the invasion of Ali Bahadur, he seized the
pargand of Kotra for himself. For years he resisted all efforts of per-
suasion or force to reduce him to submission ; but being at last con-
vinced of the hopelessness of the unequal contest, he submitted on
condition of obtaining a full pardon and a provision in land.
Accordingly, in 181 2, he received the grant of the Garrauli yi^7V.
He was succeeded by his son, Diwan Bahadur Parichit, a Hindu
of the Bundela caste, who is the present chief or jdgirddr. He
has received a sa7iad of adoption. The State contains an area of
25 square miles, with 16 villages and 913 houses. Total population
(1881) 4976, namely, Hindus, 4779; Muhammadans, 195; and abori-
gines, 2. Estimated revenue of the chief, ^1600. The military force
consists of 75 men.

Gariida-giri (or Gardan-giri). — Hill peak in Kadiir District,
Mysore State; 3680 feet above sea -level. Latitude 13° 29' x.,
longitude 76° 17' e.

Ganidanadi (or Gaddilam\ — River in South Arcot District, Madras
Presidency. It rises in the Yegal Tank, in Kallakurchi tdluk^ and is
fed by the Mallatar, which connects it with the Ponniar. Its bed is
sandy, and its banks for the most part low. After a course of 59 miles,
passing on its way Fort St. David and Cuddalore, it falls into the Bay
of Bengal.

Garumari. — Forest reserve in Darrang District, Assam ; containing
valuable jtzV timber (Shorea robusta). Area, 205-18 acres.

Garvi. — Petty Bhil (Bheel) State in Khandesh District, Bombay
Presidency. — See Dang States.

Garwa. — Town and municipality on the Dauro river, Lohardaga
District, Bengal. Lat. 24° 9' 45" n., long. ^t,° 51' 10" e. The chief
distributing centre for the surplus produce of Palamau Sub-division,
and of a great part of Sarguja and the tributary States of Chutia
Nagpur. Population (1881) 6043, namely, Hindus, 4977; Muham-
madans, 1063; 'others,' 3. Area of town site, 2412 acres. The
Garwa market is held in the dry season, on the sands of the Dauro
river ; and here sticklac, resin, catechu, cocoons of iasa?- silk, hides,
oil-seeds, ghi^ cotton, and iron are collected for exportation ; the imports
are food-grains, brass vessels, piece-goods, blankets, silk, salt, tobacco,

VOL. V. C



34 GATHAR—GAUHATI.

spices, drugs, etc. Municipal revenue (1882-83) ^225, or 8|d. per
head of population.

Gathar.— Town in Shikarpur District, Sind, Bombay Presidency.
Population (1881) under 2000. Lies on the Kambar-Nasirabad road.
Well known for its rice.

Gauhali.— il/^?cw State, Khandesh District, Bombay Presidency.
Area unknown; population (1881) 1946; supposed gross revenue,
^2200. The country is extremely mountainous, covered with dense
forests, and only partially cultivated. Principal produce, timber and
bamboos, for the most part sold in the Taloda market. Climate
unhealthy. The chief is a Bhil Hindu of the Giras family, and holds
no patent allowing adoption. He resides at Raisinghpur. He is one
of the superior chiefs of Khandesh ; and being a minor, the State is for
the present under the direct management of the Political Agent.

Gauhati {Gowhatty). — Chief town of Kamriip District, Assam;
situated on both sides of the Brahmaputra, but principally on the left
or south bank, in lat. 26° 11' n., and long. 91° 48' e. Population (1881)
11,695, namely, Hindus, 9220; Muhammadans, 2333; and Christians,
142. Area of town site, 2172 acres. Municipal taxation (1882-83),
;£"i347 ; average rate of taxation, 2s. 2jd. per head. Gauhati was the
ancient capital of the Hindu kingdom of Assam previous to the conquest
of the western portion of the valley by the Ahams. It then became the
seat of the Bar Phukan, or Viceroy of the Aham kings, whose capital was
in Sibsagar District. When Assam was conquered from the Burmese in
1825, Gauhati was selected as the head-quarters of the administration
of the Province. On the constitution of the Chief-Commissionership
of Assam in 1874, the administrative head-quarters were removed to



Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 5) → online text (page 4 of 61)