The Galo are descendants of Abotani and speak the Tani Galo language. They are also known as Duba, Doba, Dobah Abors, Galloing Abors, and Galong. The Galo population is estimated to be more than 79,000 (2011 census).
The Galos believe that they have descended from the Jimi, the creator, better known as Jimi Ane (mother Jimi). According to Galo myth of origin, Jimi created Medo (the sky) and Sichi or Sisi (the Earth), and from their union, the human race started. The first child was Sibuk succeeded by Buksin. Buksin was succeeded by Sintu; Sintu was succeeded by Turi, and Turi was succeeded by Rini or Tani (Abo Tani), the father of human race.
There are also other versions of the origin of the Galo. Earlier, they were one of the major sub-tribes of Adi tribe like many of its other sub-tribes such as Minyong, Padam, Pasi, Karko, Shimong, Bori, Bokar, Milang, Ashing, Pailibo, Panggi and Ramo. During the course of contact between these hill tribes and the people of Assam, mainly the Ahom called them “Abor” in general. In the pre-independent era, the Galo was also called Doba-Abor, Gallong Abor etc. by the British. These terms Abor, Doba-Abor and Gallong Abor were considered as derogatory by the Adis in general and the Galo in particular. So, after India’s independence, the term Abor, Doba-Abor and Gallong Abor were changed to Adi which simply means “Hillman” (Nyori 1993). As such, all sub-tribes of the Adi tribe were called Adi-Gallong, Adi-Minyong, Adi-Padam, Adi-Bori etc.
But, in recent years the Galo leaders and elites have separated themselves from the parent Adi tribe because the Galo was constitutionally recognised and enlisted as a separate tribe in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 (Part XVIII – Rules and Orders under the Constitution) in Sl. 2 (b) entry 5 as “Galong” out of only 12 major tribes recognized in the then North-East Frontier Tract (NEFT), now Arunachal Pradesh. But the term “Galong” was an exonym or a distorted version of the original word “Galo“. Subsequently, the term ‘Galong’ was replaced with ‘Galo’ in The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Act, 2011, (No. 2 of 2012) dated 8th January, 2012.
The Galo language is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Tani group, spoken by the Galo people. Its precise position within Tani is not yet certain, primarily because of its central location in the Tani area and the strong effects of intra-Tani contacts on the development of Tani languages. It is an endangered language according to the general definitions, but prospects for its survival are better than many similarly-placed languages in the world. In 2008, the State Assembly of Arunachal Pradesh approved recognition of Galo as an Official Language of areas of Arunachal Pradesh in which Galo speakers predominate, with a distinct grammar and script. In early 2009, the International Standards Organization (ISO 639-3) also recognized the existence of Galo language, and recorded the official name of the language as “Galo”.
The Galo language is written in Galoo Ennam (Galo Script). It is based on a variety of Modified Roman Script (MRS) and was developed in recent years.
Galo is a single language. By this, it is meant that all Galo people can understand each other when speaking Galo without great difficulty. However, Galo has several dialects. This means that from region to region, village to village, and clan to clan, Galo people speak slightly differently. Sometimes differences are in pronunciation, sometimes in the actual words used, sometimes in the meaning of those words, and sometimes in the way they are used (i.e., the grammar).
The major Galo dialects are :
- Puugoo, spoken around Aalo area in West Siang district;
- Laree, spoken around Basar area in Leparada district;
- A dialect that can be called Kargu kardi, pertaining to the dialect spoken in the northwest near the Tagin area.
There may be additional Galo dialects further north, which remains largely un-researched. There are numerous sub-dialects that often correspond to regional or clan groupings.
Like Miji and Aka, long hair is kept by some members of both sexes. While both sexes adorn themselves with silver ornaments, the men wear a very long white garment and a very high hat, resembling a Turkish Fez. The women wear a skull cap, sometimes decorated with beautiful patterns. White and checkered jackets are worn as well, usually accompanied by another singlet
The Galos have a highly democratic social setup. Their society is patriarchal and primogeniture with strong clan organizational system. Family is the lowest unit of social organization. Traditionally Galo family is a joint family system where the grandparents and all the brothers are incorporated in the same family and the elder members of the family are looked after by the younger members of the family. With time the concept of family underwent change but in tribal societies the parents and the grandparents are still the core members of a family. The presence of more than one hearth in and Galo house explains that they still practice joint family concept or it was discontinued in the recent past.
The eldest male member of the house is considered as the head of the family and all the important decisions are taken by him on behalf of the whole family. The right for the distribution of family property lies at the disposal of the head of the family. Descent is always agnatic and sons inherit the family property (Srivastava 1988).
Customarily, the eldest son of the family gets the largest share of the family property whether land or the wealth. Rest of the brothers gets the equal share. In case of dispute over property among the brothers, the father’s decision is final but if the settlement is not accepted by all the brothers then the case goes to the Kybaa, the village council which takes the final and ultimate decision. The daughters of the family do not have any right over the landed property but they inherit ornaments in the form of ancestral beads.
The social life of the Galos is democratic. In all the community activities of the village, the whole village takes part whole-heartedly irrespective of age and status. The major community activities of a village are construction of deery / dere (community hall), celebration of village festivals, rituals and community fishing and hunting. Even in individual endeavour like in the construction of house, marriage and activities related to agriculture, the villagers help each other. In a Galo community, a rich man has much more responsibilities than the others as he has more economic possessions at his disposal. He is looked upon as the provider who is expected to be kind and generous towards his village fellowmen.
Galo society is casteless though traces of slavery system can still be seen. The slaves were those people who were taken in captivity during inter-tribal feuds and those who could not pay their debt were taken as slave or Pagbo. The slaves worked in the agricultural fields of the masters and conduct other household chores. The slaves could not move around as freeman but they were looked after well by their masters. With the help and efforts of administration, slavery had been abolished from the Galo society but still matrimonial alliances with Pagbos are not encouraged. Being the descendents of slave family is still considered as a social stigma.
The Galos do not follow the kingship tradition or the institution of chieftainship unlike the Nocte and Wancho tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. They are highly democratic by nature and have a highly ordered and organized system of functioning in their village. All matters related to the community as a whole are decided at the village level. Village is the lowest administrative unit having its own traditional administrative system in the form of village council called Kybaa (keba).
It is a judicio-administrative body consisting of experienced, mature and influential village elders who look after the administration of justice in the society by settling all matters of dispute. The Kybaa is a highly ordered, organized and a powerful self-governing body. These village councils are time-honoured socio-political institutions deriving their authority from tradition. The members constituting this council are selected by the villagers for their experiences, ability and capacity to present and decide cases according to the time old traditional customs and conventions of the tribe. Apart from that they are skilled in the art of oratory so that they can exercise this skill whenever the occasion arises.
The functions of the Kybaa are mainly judicial, administrative and developmental. The main function of Kybaa is to maintain law and order, decide disputes within the village and take up all activities for the development and welfare of the people residing in the village. Every small dispute at the village level is addressed and resolved by the Kybaa.
The council is traditional political organization on which the internal administration of the village is based and which maintains peace and order in the society. This traditional system of governance still command respect from indigenous communities and play an active role in resolving disputes and settling matters related to land use management and access to communally held water, forests, and land resources.
The landscape that the Galo occupy is abundant in rich fauna and flora. They practice an array of subsistence methods however, agriculture has remained their main mode of subsistence. They practice both jhum or swidden cultivation and wet or terrace cultivation for agriculture methods.
Animal breeding is another important subsistence activity among the Galo. Pigs, cows, chickens, and Mithun (Bos frontalis) are the most preferred livestock. These animals and fowls, not only supplement their need for protein, they also play an important role as offerings in
their traditional rituals. Pigs, cows and chickens are raised within the boundary of the house whereas Mithun, which is a semi-domesticated animal, are left in the forest as a roaming herd.
The Galos follow the indigenous faith, Donyi-Polo. In Donyi Poloism, the Sun (Donyi) is considered as the female deity and the Moon (Polo) as the male counterpart.
The Galos also believe in the existence of a numerous natural spirits or sylvan deities who are associated with forests, big trees, rivers, streams, agricultural fields, high mountains etc. Among the numerous pantheons of spirits, the Sun (Donyi) and the Moon (Polo) are seen as the supreme deities.
The spirits are divided into malevolent and benevolent deities who are considered as responsible for bringing prosperity as well as causing misery. A dondai (Shaman) is consulted to read the omens and perform the appropriate ritual which usually involves animal sacrifice. The animals are ritually sacrificed in exchange for the soul of the sick person.
Taboos are generally observed on food, movement and activities after the rituals.With the advent of time the isolated tribes are brought under the influence of modern ways of life which has considerably moulded their tribal way of life and their belief system.
Due to proselytisation by Christian missionaries, a large percentage of the Galos has converted to Christianity.
Mopin — 5 April
Mopin is the most popular and significant festival of the Galo tribe. It is celebrated annually during the 1st week of April. It is a fertility festival in which Ane Mopin (Mother Mopin) and eternal sisters Pinku and Pinte are invoked to shower their blessings to the people for a rich agricultural harvest and good health. The Ane (mother) Mopin is offered with animal sacrifice (preferably Mithun or pig) for appeasement. It is believed that after such invocation, the Goddess Mopin employs her daughters Pinku and Pinte to take the rich harvest to the land of human beings that would ensure peace, prosperity, and happiness. During the celebration, the people put on pure white dresses, which are symbols of peace and purity.
Popir, a type of dance, to the tune of the Popir song specifically meant for the Mopin festival is beautifully and enthusiastically performed by all. The people drink poka (brewed rice beer) supplemented by a variety of tipak (food items) comprised of meat, fish, iti (pulverized rice cake), amin (mixture of boiled meat, ground rice, and dried bamboo shoot), etc. and make merriment for more than a week.
In fact, Mopin has certain established sacred or religious rituals which are usually accompanied by hymns and incantations. These are chanted by the nyibo and the bo from their memory while performing the rituals. These different rituals are discussed hereupon:
Pip chikanam means ‘divination using eggs’, basically performed by the priest and villagers to find out a suitable date for the celebration, to select the right priest for the celebration, to determine the Pingi-leri/neri(head of the whole Mopin celebration), and to determine the type and number of yidum of Mopin festival. Nyibo invokes the deities by chanting hymns using eggs which are then boiled and examined. If no result is shown, then it’s repeated with another egg till a proper and final result is found. Thus, sometimes more than a day or two is required to perform this ritual. In the olden days, it was mandatorily carried out before the celebration of Mopin but nowadays, it is hardly performed by the people in urban areas. Moreover, it has become a yearly event particularly after fixing 5th April as Mopin holiday. But in most of the celebrations in villages, all these traditional practices are still maintained properly.
Roksin or Reksin Kokkanam Roksin or reksin kokkanam or hepatoscopy is generally performed after the failure of pip chikanam in giving an accurate result. It can also be performed directly without the pip chikanam. As such, this examination has the same purpose as that of pip chikanam. Galo performs hepatoscopy either on a pig or chick only. So it is from Porok (Chick) – Roksin (chicken liver) and Erek (pig) – Reksin (pig liver). Unlike in urban areas, this examination is still continued in most of the villages of Galo areas.
Hikanam or oblation is one of the important events that take place on the third and the main day of celebration known as yidum alo which is dedicated to the sacrifice of animals and fowls. During hikanam, the elderly ladies come to the altar with kamtu-kamlam containing poka, iti, and dopak-tipak packed in oko/ekkam carried in their doyi ginsi. Each woman representing her house deposits 25 numbers of boiled iti packed in oko/ekkam. These packed oko/ekkams are used in the images of the altar and iti is distributed and consumed by the people. The poka and dopak-tipak are separately arranged for distribution to the nyibo, bo, and all other participants and above all, for the images at the Mopin altar. Women pour poka into the komar, a bamboo tube, which is placed in between the images of Pinku-Pinte which flows down on a circular enclosure. Here the flowing poka represents rain and the enclosure represents earth, thus, enacting the act of love between Nyido Jore (the Rain God) and Teri-Jimi (Mother Earth, the ultimate cause). Oma garnam hymns are chanted to cure a barren woman to conceive. The same hymns are pronounced by the nyibo beckoning mother earth to conceive and give a good harvest.
Yidum nam means the sacrifice of animals and fowls at the altar after performing the necessary sacred rituals by the nyibo and bo through chanting hymns. Such sacrifices are made for Ane Mopin, Anyi Pinku-Pinte, and other spirits, both malevolent and benevolent. Galos believe that spirits must be appeased with sacrifices for their favour in return.
Riga nam is a farewell ritual performed on Riga-Alo of the Mopin celebration. It is carried out to bid farewell to Ane Mopin and Anyi Pinku-Pinte. Nyibo and bo carry their anchi (branches of tree) and march towards a nearby river or stream. They are followed by the popir parties dancing popir and other village folks. On the bank of the stream, they build a small boat which is sprinkled with iti (rice paste), and then it is let to sail in the water carrying Mopin and Pinku-Pinte back to their world. Having performed this, small community cultivation is performed in the field of Pingi-leri/neri or near the Mopin altar. This ritual is still performed in rural areas but rarely performed in urban areas.
After carrying out Riga Nam, everyone gathers at the residence of pingi-leri/neri for Tadok Neenam (immersion of beads in Poka). It is performed to ascertain the longevity and good health of the owner of the beads. Nyibo chants hymns and immerses the beads into the bati (brass bowl) containing poka.
Layap Nam (Purification ritual) is the last and concluding ritual of the Mopin festival. Nyibo performs this ritual for the purity, well-being, and security of all in the village. Nyibo chants hymns and sacrifics a fowl, which is then consumed by all. With the performance of layap nam ritual, the Mopin celebration comes to an end.
Litup tubnam (first community cultivation) is a ritual performed by the pingi-leri/neri of the Mopin celebration. In fact, it is performed even after several months because it is the first actual community cultivation done in the field of pingi-leri/neri, so suitable sowing time is awaited. This symbolizes the beginning of the seed-sowing for the community. Litup tubnam is hardly performed nowadays in urban areas but some villages in rural areas do perform this till today.
Nyirmen Alo — 15 Oct
The Nyirmen festival marks the beginning of Galo New Year and traditionally initiated by the women folk of Galo society and can be coined as Women Day in their tradition. This festival has its legacy from ancient time when women folk congregated to rejoice and indulge in merry making after harvest to overcome the drudgery of manual labour in the off month of October. On the day the women used to wrest the entire initiatives by serving food and drinks managed by them and even attires of men folk and dances are performed by women to make mockery of men folk to give them the back seats.
The comics that led to paroxysm of laughter, the presentation of Erap and Tanu Nunam usually associated and performed by male members, are presented by women to spell bind all genre of audiences. The songs, drama and dances performed on the day gives deep insight into the tribal music world.
Galo Day — 10th January
Kargu Gamgi Day — 5th December
The Galo attire is varied and multi-coloured based on occasion, region, villages, etc. However, the bright parrot green is the authentic attire colour of the Galo women.
Traditional Bugun longhouses were built on platforms with walls of wood and bamboo and with thatched roofs. They had a long row of fireplaces, one for every family, quite similar in looks with Nyishi longhouses. Now they have given way to small, wooden one-family houses with several rooms, also on a platform but with a metal roof.
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- “The Bugun Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh | Celebrating Indigenous Peoples” – GreenerPastures
- NE Tribe
- “Galo-English Dictionary” – Galo Welfare Society
- “UNDERSTANDING NAMING PATTERNS AND KIN TERMS OF THE GALO TRIBE OF ARUNACHAL PRADESH, INDIA” – Eli Doye
- “INDIGENOUS FOODWAYS OF THE GALO” – Dr. Bina Deori
- “Mopin and its sacred Ritualistic Aspects” – Eli Doye – DN College research journal