Introduction gateway to the North East Region of




Karbis are one of the major tribal community inhabiting the hills and plains of
the north-eastern state of Assam. It is regarded that the Karbis are racially
Indo-Mongoloid and linguistically Tibeto Burman1. They are the
principal tribal community of the Karbi Anglong district of Assam. Besides
Karbi-Anglong district the Karbi inhabited areas include North Cachar hills,
Kamrup, Marigaon district, Nagaon, Golaghat, Karimganj and Sonitpur districts
of Assam. Though in the constitution orders of the government of India, this
tribe is mentioned as the Mikir, but they prefer to call themselves Karbi and
sometimes Arleng2
meaning man.

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            The Karbis are divided in to five
main clans-Engle, Ingti, Timung, Terang and Teron. They are again subdivided
into several sub clans. The Karbis believe that the members of a particulars
clan and its sub clans are descendants of a common ancestor.  

is the major city in the North Eastern India. It is considered as the gateway
to the North East Region of the country. It is the largest city within the
region. The Karbis are scattered in various parts of Guwahati. They are found
especially in Hengrabari, Borbari, Mainakhorong, Pamohi, Bhollukachuk (Narikal
Bosti), Japorigog of the Guwahati city. In Guwahati there are still some
villages with heterogeneous populations which were formally purely tribal
villages. It is seen that people from different parts of the state have now
settled in these areas permanently.

            Rapid expansion of the Guwahati city
began from 19603 and living in Guwahati become complex and
expensive. Impact of this fell on the Karbi people also. So they began to sell
their land to Non-Karbi people with high prices. They went to outside areas in
searching of farm land in some remote interior places where life was easy and
simple for their people. This is a result of the expansion of the Guwahati

            The Karbis have rich cultural
heritage. They have their own language and culture. But it is seen that most of
the Karbis living in Guwahati do not know Karbi language, except the old and
aged people. They use the Assamese language both at home and outside with some
difference in pronunciation.

            The people have a very simple way of
life. They are mainly agriculturists. In religious beliefs they are very rigid.
The Karbis perform several festivals such as Chojun or Swarak Puja,
Chomkan or Chomangkan, Rongher, Botor kekup, Hacha Kekan etc. The karbi village
is looked after by the Rong akesar or gaonbura. They have a tendency to shift
the villages from one place to another. The families are closely interlinked
with one another by a strong social and economic bond. They have their own
traditional way of judgment.

            Christian missionaries came and
worked in India prior to the arrival of the East India Company. There
activities were mostly confined to the propagation of Christianity in India,
although they opened some educational institution for the realization of their
objectives. But their educational activities were of very minor nature and
contributed little to the building of the modern system of education in India.
East India Company was also involved in the education of the people of India,
but it did not want to take any official responsibility for the education of
the people of India as a whole. When the charter Act of East India Company was
renewed in 1813, the educational clause of the Act compelled the company to
accept responsibility for the education of the Indian people since the
educational clause of the charter Act made it obligatory on the part of the
East India Company to spread education in India. It laid the foundation of a
state system of education in India (Saikia, 1998:).

came under the East India Company in 1826 according to the treaty of Yandabo.
Some indigenous educational institution like the pathsala for the Hindus and
the maktabs for the muslims and the tols for the higher caste Hindus was exist
at that time. Besides these, Assam had another type of institution namely, the
satras for the vaishnavs.

            David Scott, the agent of the East
India Company, tried to improve the traditional school after his arrival in
1826 by taking various measures. In 1938, the collector of Guwahati prepared a
scheme of village education by remodelling and increasing the indigenous school
started by David Scott and by establishing an anglo-vernacular school at
Kamrup. Thus modern education was introduced in Guwahati. The first secondary
school in Assam was established in Guwahati on the 15th June, 1835
((Das 1990: ). It was then known as the Guwahati Seminary, which is at present
the Cotton Collegiate School. In May 1866, the intermediate section was opened
in the Guwahati Seminary, but as a result of the poor performance in the
intermediate examination of the Calcutta University, the college classes were
abolished after ten years. In 1874, Assam was separated from the Bengal
Presidency. Then a separate Department of Education was created and an
Inspector of schools was placed in charge of the department till the
appointment of a Director of public Instruction in 1909, college education in
Assam had its beginning in 1866. The first year arts classes were instituted in
the Guwahati Seminary. Cotton College was established in Guwahati in 1901. The
first University, the Guwahati University was established in Guwahati on 26th
January, 1948 and shifted to Jalukbari in 1954. After the various educational
institute was established in Guwahati at different level of education.

            Prior to independence almost all the
people of Karbis were illiterate. The parents had not very much interested to
send to send their children to school. After independence also most of the boys
of the school going age did not go to school. But by 1960 due to the impact of
the urbanization some people felt the need of education among their children. However,
even now most of the people are illiterate.

            The Karbi people have now realized
the value of education and all of them are sending their children to primary
schools. Now it is seen that almost all the children have completed their
primary education. Most of them have completed their secondary education. Very
few of the students have entered in collage level and have completed their
education. It also observes that modern technologies have entered in the life
of the Karbis.

            Due the expansion of Guwahati city
and impact of modern education the Karbi people of Guwahati has lost many
features of their traditional knowledge. Many of them have switched over to
government service and business for their livelihood. Moreover, the new
generation has been lacking a interest in their traditional life and lore.
Further the electronic devices have attracted this generation to the modern
world. In the study an attempt will be made to assess the impact of modern
education on the life and lore of the Karbis of Greater Guwahati area.





0.1 Objectives

            The are the objectives of the study

To study the traditional life of the
Karbis in Greater Guwahati area.

To study the traditional knowledge of
the Karbis still exist to certain extent.

To study the influence of modern
education on the life of the Karbis in greater


To study the changing life style of
Karbis in the modern days.


0.2  Area and
Scope of the study

            The present investigation studied
the impact of modern education in the traditional life of the Karbi people. The
study concentrated in the various parts of greater Guwahati area where Karbi
people inhabit such as Hengrabari, Borbari, Mainakhorong, Pamohi, Bhollukachuk
(Narikal Basti), Japorigog, etc. The investigation covered the various aspect
of the traditional life of the Karbis. Education plays an important role in
preservation and transmission of cultural heritage from one generation to next
generation. Education also regarded as an instrument of social progress. The study
discussed about various aspect of education and their impact on the life style
of Karbi people. It studied the various levels of education and its impact on Plains
Karbi people.


Significance of the study

            Education plays a significant role
in the progress of a society, community and a nation. The study revealed the
relationship between education and development of a community. This study aimed
to focus the rich cultural heritage of the Karbi community. It highlighted the
influence of modern education in the various aspects of Karbi’s primitive life.
In recent years, there had been some social changes as a result of the spread
of education in Karbi community. The changes are highlighted through this



0.4 Statement of the Problem

              The study under consideration reads as



0.5  Review of

number of works has been done on the Karbis in general Lyall’s monograph The Mikirs is the pioneer in thus field.
After Lyall’s work many other scholar and writer have written and researched on
the community. But no methodological work so far has been done of the impact of
modern education on the Karbi people inhabited in the greater Guwahati area.

Deb (1979)4
conducted a study on the physical measurements of hill and plains Karbis based
on the physical traits. There is no significant variation on somatometric
measurements between the two tribes. A sample of 39 somatometric measurements
was examined from which thirteen indices were derived. Out of the thirty nine
metric characters, only in respect of 10, significant differences could be
observed. Similarly, out of the thirteen indices, only in respect of 5, the
differences were found significant. From this he concluded that somatometric
measurements do not show any significant variation. He observed that, between
both hill and plains Karbis, ‘B’ blood group is more frequent than ‘A’. In the
frequency distribution of ABO blood group, the two sets of populations are
similar. But in respect of some somatoscopic characters, such as, skin colour,
eye fold, nasal depression, prognathism and chin form, both the sections differ
significantly. Deb has not specifically explained as to what could be the
reasons for such variations although he raised the issue of habitat and
environment as the reasons. Deb’s study, on the whole remained indeterminate in
saying whether the samples he used belong to same stock of population or not.

(2008) Hi:ì and Arnam — roughly translated to
mean ‘demon’ and ‘deity’ — enjoy equal status in Karbi folk rituals. The
presence of dozens of deities and their ‘negative counterparts’ in Karbi
rituals reveal the inherent duality and unity in the folk religion of the
tribe. The expression ‘Hi:ì-Arnam’ is a phrase coined by the Karbi ancestors
and it is never juxtaposed or uttered in reverse. Hi:ì therefore is not 
the parallel of the ‘demon’ of the established religions. The unity and duality
of the ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ forces and the ‘balance’ between them are what
constitute the philosophical basis of the Karbi folk religion. Ancestors are
worshipped and Karbi souls travel through predestined paths back to the
‘village of the ancestors’, which neither is neither hell nor heaven. Karbi
funerary ritual is a celebration of death as much as it is a celebration of

(2013) The Karbi tribe, formerly known as Mikirs, represents one of the major
tribe of North-East India, and possesses rich traditions and culture unique
from other tribes of the region. In the present paper, a sincere attempt has
been made to analyze the ‘Marriage System’ of the Karbis and the corresponding
kinship terminologies. The Karbi society, as a whole, is divided into clans,
sub-clans, and lineages, whose members reckon their presumed kinship and common
ancestry through the paternal line only. The Karbis have five primary
patrilineal sections or patri-clans called “Kur” viz. Lijang (Ingti),
Hanjang (Terang), Ejang (Enghi/Inghi), Kronjang (Teron), and Tungjang (Timung).
Each of the five clans has a number of patrilinages or sub-clans. Since time
immemorial, the Karbis follow marriage circle rule: Terang —> Ingti —>
Timung —> Enghi —> Teron —> Terang. They are custom bound to follow
and observed it. A Terang and all its sub-clan should, by custom, marry an
Ingti girl. A Teron should marry a Terang girl. A Timung should marry an Enghi
girl and an Ingti should marry a Timung girl. Any valid and legal marriage
among the Karbis is a marriage according to the marriage circle. This marriage
circle is a must among the Karbis till recently. Any violation of this circle
was considered as a crime. But by now, the violation of

the marriage circle custom is very
frequent. And it seems that the Karbi society itself has under gone a
remarkable change. The only prohibition which is adhered to till today is the
marriage within the same clan. Violation of this customary law obviously leads
to excommunication and social boycott of the couple involved.

Chonzik & Killingpi 
(2014)  in their paper highlights
that through the ages, there had been inroads
into the sociocultural aspects of the Karbi society by way of modernization and
westernization. A comparative educational attainment and inroads of modernity
are observable after Indias independence in Karbi society. The present paper
traced the changes that had pervaded into Karbi society and identify the
factors leading to such changes and the persistence of certain cultural traits
in the face of forces of change. While many changes have happened within the
Karbi society due to the coming of various new religions and adapting to modern
ways of life, the Karbis were able to continue to persist some of their
cultural practices. Continuity in Karbi traditional practices can be largely
attributed to their political awakening, which necessitated preservation of
identity and hence cultural markers of identity. The Karbis could not cling to
their age old traditional beliefs and practices altogether and the society has
undergone transformation and changes. Modernization has detribalized many
Karbis, especially those living in the towns by making use of civic amenities
and the infrastructural facilities brought about by modernization which
includes education, transport and communication, dress, diet, etc.

Thaparia (2016) cited
that growth of population among the Karbis according to the earlier Census of
1891-1901 was slow. The negative variation shown in 1901 Census was chiefly due
to the effect of natural calamities such as the outbreak of black fever and
other epidemic which had done ravages to the most Karbi inhabited areas. The
negative variation in 1951-1961was due to the government notification on the
constitution of the autonomous district Council under the provision of the
sixth schedule to the constitution the excluded all Karbi population living
outside the autonomous district of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills. By
1971, the Karbi population showed a considerable upward schedule to the
constitution the excluded all Karbi population living outside the autonomous
district of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills. By 1971, the Karbi population
showed a considerable upward trend. This has happened due to migration of the
Karbi from plains districts to the autonomous district of Karbi Anglong.
However, it is observed that in all Censuses, the growth male population more
than that of the females.



            The present investigation is
descriptive based. The study depends upon both the primary and the secondary
sources. The secondary source includes written materials in the form of books,
published, unpublished works, etc. For collection of data and other information
observation and interview methods are applied. Further questionnaire method is
also adopted to collect primary data from the field.

To fulfill the objectives, primary data have been collected
from households belonging to the selected places of greater Guwahati area in
the form of random sample technique. The data obtained from primary sources
have been processed and analyzed meaningfully. Statistical techniques are used
wherever essential.

To begin with, a small
pilot survey was conducted on greater Guwahati area to get an idea about the
present settlement of the plain Karbis in the area. The survey was carried out
in selected 13 numbers of different places.

0.6.1  Research Design:

The study is descriptive in nature.

0.6.2  Population of the study

Plain Karbis are scattered in various
localities in the greater Guwahati area. The population of the present study
comprised of all the households of Plain Karbi people inhabited in different
localities of greater Guwahati area.

0.6.3  Sample of the study

In the present study simple random
sampling technique is applied for identifying the sample. The study is
conducted by collection of information from 444 numbers of households   as shown in table 1.

1  Distribution of households according
to places


No. of Households




























0.6.4  Tool

The tool comprised of a
Schedule (Appendix – I) consisting of 66 numbers of items. The items included
were drawn from the readings of review of literature and from different
secondary sources. The Schedule is put on pre-try out in three selected
locations. A peculiarity exists with this place is that though there are three
different localities, for all these three there is only one Gaonburah/Bangthe and for this reason it
is considered as one area (table 2).


Table 2 No. of sample






















This Schedule is
further subjected to content validity as such this was offered to two numbers
of experts for their comments. As such the Schedule items are distributed
according to the content of chapters as depicted in table 3.


Table 3     Distribution of items



No. of Items


ii, iii, v, vi, x (a, f, g), xi
2, 17, 18, 19, 20, 33, 34, 35, 42, 43,
44, 45, 46



vii, viii, ix
16, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 49, 50,
51, 52, 53, 54



1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 21, 22, 23,
24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32,  48



 x (b, c, d, e), 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 47, 55,




0.7   Procedure of Data Collection

In this study
required information is collected by the investigator in the form of door to
door visit. All the identified households are visited and necessary information
is collected by approaching the head/senior member of the households.

0.8   Analyses of the Data

wise analysis is carried out as per the distribution of items vide Table


1Chapter 2 The Karbis and their Folk life p 15
(accessed on June 02, 2016) 6.10 p.m.

(then referred to as ‘Mikir’) was included in the Linguistic Survey of India

    by Grierson and Konow in the early 20th
century (Grierson 1903)

Debjani The impact of Urbanisation on the traditional life and culture of the
tribal population in and around Guwahati. Unpublished PhD thesis submitted to
Gauhati University, 1992

 4Deb (1979) referred in Chapter III Plain Karbis of Assam : An Account
on August 22, 2016), p 99.