Marngars

Moushumi Bharali
"Incredible North East " this is true for there are still many places and tribes waiting to be discovered or which have been abandoned or forgotten and are in need of retrieving. Among them is Marngar(pronouned Mar-ńgar)that have not yet been exposed well and still remains abandoned or amystery. Marngar is located in the Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya. It is located about 55 kms away from  Shillong and lies in the Northern part of Meghalaya. The people living there are also called “Marngars” after the name of the place.The strange thing to be noticed about the Marngars is that they are an Assamese speaking tribe in the state of Meghalaya. They also show a contrasting picture when looked closely- on one hand they speak Assamese, wear mekhela and use gamocha, while on the other hand they also use Khasi clan names. The Assamese spoken by the Marngar people also contain a few Tibeto- Burman words which cannot be associated with any of the neighboring languages, be it Karbi or Tiwa.  Marngar inhabits nearly 9 villages and at the heart of the habitation lies the Marngar Lake which has become a popular tourist spot in recent times, however, the tourists visiting the place hardly know about the presence of this Assamese speaking tribe in the region. The names of the Marngars villages (e.g.,Nalapara-Joigang, Borgang)are also different from those of the Khasi tribe. The villages have their own Syiems(chiefs) and also a Marngar Raja(king) who is said to be the head of the nine villages, also known as Raid Marngar. 
There is no clarity about the origin of the Marngars but according to some assumption, they are most likely the people who migrated from the plains of Morigaon and Kamrup, who moved to the Hills during the Burmese invasion and adopted Khasi clan names, but also preserved their identity and language. They have been divided into 13 clans, namely- Syiem, Lyngdoh, Sylliang, Marwet, Makdoh, Majhong, Sohkhwai, Damlong, Binong, Pator, Barkha, Umbah and Giri.
The Marngars follow a mixture of Hinduism and Animism(the belief that objects, places, creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence) though many of them have recently converted to Christianity. They worship “Lukhmi”, the word might have originated from Lu khiwhich means rice in their dialect in the Bhoi area, however, it more or less corresponds to Goddess Lakshmi worshipped by the Hindus. They celebrate a festival called “Domahi” which is similar to Bihu.
Traditionally, in the ealier times, the women wore a clothe known as ‘Mikhili’ which they wrapped around the body from the armpit to the ankle with another piece of clothe tied around the waist known as ‘Nara’also another clothe is tied below the shoulder; besides this, they wore a white cloth covering their shoulder. Earrings made of dry wood known as ‘Dhomoitsali Luti’ and bangles or Kharu were mostly worn only by the old women. The males used to wear a loin cloth locally known as ‘Langtih Gamsha and ‘Palong Gamsha’ along with a turban(Kharsola) and a shirt; sometimes, they even wore a dhoti(Jainboh). Occasionally, the males used to wear earrings too which were locally known as ‘Khuria’; all these shows the prevalence of Assamese culture in earlier times.The Marngars maintained their culture and the Assamese identity for nearly two centuries; the scenario however changed after Meghalaya became a separate state and Khasi became the official language so gradually the Marngar culture is fading away as the young generation are slowly shifting to the Khasi traditions for their own benefits. Although the Marngars introduce themselves as the Bhois, the Khasis do not consider them as such. The Khasi Students’ Union opposes the ST status that has been conferred upon them in 2011.
Although there has no clear evidence of  their migrational history and not much research has been done on the community, the Marngars are an interesting tribe as they show the interconnection between the different states of North-East and their further study may reveal the different events which occurred in the past leading to their formation or adoption of such culture.
Source- The Assam Tribune , Internet