Garo: The Garo Ethnic Community
In this article, published in Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Religions of the Indigenous People of South Asia Online, Erik de Maaker posed three questions. How can the persistence of the community religion, albeit marginalized, be explained? What role is left for the practices, objects, and beliefs associated with the community religion in the near future? And: What are the implications of following or practicing a religion in a pluralistic context, and how does that involve notions such as belief, knowledge, and truth?
- Erik de Maaker
- 01 December 2019
- Full Article Garo: The Garo Ethnic Community
Traditionally, upland Garo have practiced shifting cultivation, and in many ways “Garoness” continues to be associated with that mode of agriculture. Shifting cultivation is closely tied up with the traditional Garo community religion since it requires the negotiation of relationships with innumerable deities (mitdes) who are considered a primordial presence. Songsareks, as the followers of this community religion are known, have come to be perceived as archetypical Garo. In recent decades Garo agricultural practices have changed. Garo farmers who live in the plains have become wet rice cultivators. In the hills, people have been planting more and more orchards and have come to depend significantly on cash crops such as areca nuts and cashew nuts. Disparities in terms of income and education have increased, and many Garo who gained higher education have taken on jobs as educators or civil servants. These social transformations have been enabled by, but at the same time induced, the replacement of the Garo community religion by Christianity.