Origin of the Karbi tribes


21st Apr 2011




The Karbis are one of the major ethnic groups in North-east India and especially in the hill areas of Assam. In constitution, Karbis are mentioned as Mikirs. They prefer to call themselves Karbi, and sometimes Arleng literally which means "man" in the Karbi language. Mikir is the name given by the other groups of plain people to the residents of the hill areas in between the Naga Hills and Jayantia Hills from Dhansiri river to Kiling river.


There is no historical record, archaeological finding, literary sources etc. to locate the origin of Karbi tribes. According to some scholar, Karbis trace their origin and existence in China and South-east Asia. The Karbis belong to greater Mongoloid racial stock. Linguistically they belong to the Tibeto-Burman group. They entered Assam from Central Asia through migration. They were among the first group of people who migrated to this land in the hoary past. The migration took place at the beginning of the seventeenth century A.D. According to some scholar, the original home of the Karbis was the eastern part of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills bordering river Kopili. Various scholars variously define the racial and linguistic identity of the Karbi tribes. According to some, they were of mixed origin in between Nagas and Khasis.



Some scholars mentioned Karbis as Columbus of ancient Assam. Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, a noted cultural personality and freedom fighter from Assam has called them the Discoverer of Assam. Most of the scholars mentioned that Karbis are the oldest among the Mongoloid people coming to this area. One another scholar mentioned that they were originally in a place named Hongpilar, from that place they descended to the present area of Lambejung, in between Diphu and Dimapur. One another variation relates them to the present hill area near Kaziranga. According to some other scholars, Karbis were originally residing in the eastern part of Khasi hills and that from the adobe they came to the plains and the lower hills.