Continuity and Survival of Prehistoric Traditions in Northeast India: A Garo Hills CaseĀ 

Nandalal Borgohain City College, India

The hunting, gathering, and marginal agricultural communities still exist in different parts of Northeast India. These people are mainly confined to the hilly and forested areas of the Garo Hills region and other parts of Northeast India. The topography of these regions is unsuitable for large-scale irrigation-based agriculture. Therefore, besides hunting and gathering, they still adhere to the ancient mode of agriculture known as Jhuming. Ecological setup also allows them to continue this way of life and maintain their cultural identity. People used to believe that Northeast India is an isolated landmass and considered to be a socio-technological cul-de-sac that seldom received any advanced cultural influences from the outside. However, there are several mountains passes through which transmigration likely occurred bringing peoples from Central China and parts of Southeast Asia to the region. Evidence for this is found in many classical literature and chronicles. This presentation discusses the cultural traditions of the Garo of Meghalaya with a focus on the dual reliance on hunting and gathering, and the main subsistence strategy, Jhuming. Interestingly, most Neolithic settlement sites have been discovered in and around Garo villages. The implements they use to undertake a range of tasks are very similar to the stone tools recovered from the Neolithic settlement sites. Therefore, their lifestyle, subsistence strategies, and settlement patterns suggest a remarkable closeness to prehistoric tradition. The author observed some clear examples of continuity in prehistoric traditions whilst studying the Garo. This study not only highlights the contemporary lifestyle of the Garo, but also provides useful insights into the survival of prehistoric traditions within their modern socio-cultural framework.