Garo performers with traditional musical instruments at a Wanna celebration.Photo: STAR
The Garos, a large indigenous community from Mymensingh region, are fast losing their age-old tradition and culture for a variety of reasons. The Mymensingh region, once well-known for its ethnic diversity, and harmony among the people of different faiths and cultures has lost its rich legacy over the years. Among the indigenous groups living in this region - Garo, Dhalu, Cooch, Khatriya and Hajong form the majority. The Garos are the leading community in these ranks and have their homes in Haluaghat and Dhubaura, frontier upzilas of Mymensingh and Madhupur of Tangail, each with varied traditions. Currently there are some 40,000 Garos living in the Haluaghat and Dhubaura area but this number is on the wane.
There was a time when the Garos used to arrange a variety of traditional festivals: among them 'Wangala' or 'Wanna', a festival celebrating the harvesting in Agrahayan; 'Rangshugala' on the occasion of sowing grains in Falgun and Chaitra; a festival on the occasion of 'Jhum' in Chaitra and 'Habaghrita' at Baishakh.
Why is indigenous culture on the decline? Observers ascribe a variety of reasons: the major factor being the Garo's mass conversion to Christianity. Moreover, the younger generation is lukewarm to the traditional Garo culture, putting its future in jeopardy.
The Adibashi Shangskritik Kendra, the only cultural organisation for the Garos in Rangrapara, Haluaghat, is about to down shutters, sources say. Likewise they add, other cultural centres at Biroidhakuni, Bhakua Para, Ranikhang in Mymensingh and Nalchapra in Netrokona are not functional.
Talking to this correspondent, Adolf Marak, an NGO official, also a former member of Birishiri Cultural Academy in Netrokona the Garos have turned indifferent to their ancestral culture. As a result, young Garos are more inclined towards contemporary western and Bengali cultures. “ Since advocate Promod Mankin, MP from Haluaghat, a representative of the indigenous people has been appointed as the State Minister for Cultural Affairs, we hope that necessary steps will be taken to revive this traditional culture that is in danger of being lost forever,” adds Adolf.
Sulekha Mrong, vice-president of Achik Mechik Society (A society for hill women) at Pirgachha in Madhupur of Tangail told this correspondent that pressing financial difficulties have compelled the poorer Garo people to migrate to different places and such migration has torn them away from their immensely rich culture. “We need to revive our culture to identify us as Garos and for the betterment of future generations,” Sulekha concludes.