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Customery Practices

Rice-beer – its relation WITH ETHOS of Garo's

Saidul Khan

The North East of India is a land of myriad culture and traditions. The colourful people here make their form of local brew of beer. Some makes it out of rice and other from fruits. BeerBut one thing which is similar – it is used as a refreshing drink during times of festivity.

In Garo Hills of Meghalaya – the local form of the brew is known as Dika or Bitchi. It is made out of rice. The other varieties are made from locally available fruits especially the Starfruits.

This refreshing drink of the Garo's culturally holds of much significance. As in the time of festivity this is used not just for merrymaking but also as an offering to their form of deity "Salgra" – or the sun God.

The Garo's by nature has been nomadic in their lifestyle. As such they have engaged themselves in jhum or shifting cultivation since time immemorial. Their festivity also surrounds around this. They celebrate "Wangala" after harvesting in the month of October every year. It is a dance form of the Garo's.

They dance basically for enjoyment after their hard labour of toiling. However, this is not just about Wangala. At this point of the year, they thank God for good harvesting. The beer is used in a particular ritual during the festivity.

 

Similarly, the Atong speaking dialect of the Garo's used rice beer, during a ritual called Chugan. It is performed to send the deceased sprit to the land of the death. According to a legendary believe " Chu" – meaning rice beer, symbolizes moment of grief and enjoyment.

Though today, it is very difficult to find rice beer, as most of the Garo's have converted to Christianity, abandoning its use. There are a few Songsarek (the unconverted Garo's) villages, where anybody interested to relish the beer can taste it.