How often does one get a chance to witness something so crude and raw as these folks from the Hill Tiwa Tribe of the newly formed West Karbi Anglong district of Assam? On our trip to the Bodoland as Ambassadors Of Bodoland during Dwijing Fest of 2019-20, we got to spend a day amidst the Tiwa hospitality and culture in Umswai Valley. Here is a collection of photos that we could bring by.
As the name suggests, this place is a part of the Karbi Meghalaya Plateau which is famous for receiving the highest amount of rainfall in the entire world! While the district is dominantly inhabited by the Karbi Tribe, Umswai valley on the state border with Meghalaya is home to another tribe who call themselves Hill Tiwa. Hill Tiwa Tribe is native to ancient Lalung – Tiwa hills, which is currently known as Umswai Valley, in the westernmost areas of Assam on Meghalaya border. Tiwas speak the Tibeto-Burman language of Bodo-Garo group.
The descent system is mostly matriarchal which means men go to live with women’s family after marriage and the children take up the name of their matriarchal family. Recently, under the influence of neighbouring communities, women of Tiwa tribe have started to live with men’s family and children of these marriages take up the name of their patriarchal family.
Like most of the places in the North East of India, Bamboo is an integral part of the Tiwa household. It is used in almost all aspects of daily life, from cooking to construction of houses.
Until recently, Tiwas have been weaving their own clothes and the traditional attire of Tiwa tribe is pattern based. These patterns usually depict ancient folklores and traditions.
As usual, like everywhere in the north east of India, rice takes up the centre stage in Tiwa food. Due to the abundance of fish and animals, the majority of Tiwas are meat eaters.
About half of Hill Tiwas follow their traditional religion that is based on the worship of local deities. The other half has been converted to Christianity. The Hill Tiwas society is organized around seven old villages which constitute its political as well as ritual center. Each of them harbors a chief (loro) who performs judicial and religious duties for a network of settlements. We also went to the ancient sacred tree of Tiwa tribe which was used for human sacrifices. Right before that sacred ancient tree we passed by about 2000 monoliths, one for each year since this valley has been inhabited by Tiwas.
Old villages are also characterized by their bachelor dormitory (shamadi) which is used by the bachelor’s of the village to hangout and for learning traditions of the tribe.
It is so enriching to get to see and experience the lives and cultures of folks so close to nature. Their ways and means of living can inspire an entire generation of fellow humans who have lived in the negligence of climate change and global warming!
Further read – Kalamati : An Unknown Frontier At The Indo Bhutan Border