Galo tribe

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The Galos
Galo diorama.JPG
Diorama of Galo people in Jawaharlal Nehru Museum, Itanagar.
Total population
80,597(2001 census)
Regions with significant populations
Mostly in Siang belt of Arunachal Pradesh
Donyi Polo & Christianity

The Galo are a central Eastern Himalayan tribe, who speak a language of the tani group and are descendant of Abo Tani. The Galo primarily inhabit the West Siang district of modern-day Arunachal Pradesh state in North Eastern India, but are also found in the southwestern side of East Siang district, the southeastern side of Upper Subansiri district, as well as in some small pockets in Itanagar, Lower Dibang Valley, and Changlang districts. Other names which have been used to reference the Galo in the past include Duba, Doba, Dobah Abor, Gallong Abor, Galong, Gallong Adi, etc. The Galo have been listed as a scheduled tribe under the name Gallong since 1950.[1] Recently, the Galo have successfully lobbied to change this term to Galo, reflecting the actual Galo pronunciation of this name.


A Galo couple in traditional attire

The Galo population is estimated at 80,597 (2001 census), which, if accurate, would make them one of the most populous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Galo are normally monogamous, but polygamy is also practiced by affluent people as a sign of their prosperity and prestige. Traditionally, Galo practice shifting cultivation. However, after the 1960s and 1970s, we t rice and terraced cultivation has been introduced by Government officials under the auspices of IRDP (Integrated Rice Development Programme). Wet rice cultivation now accounts for the majority of production in the Galo area, however shifting cultivation is also still practiced, especially in remote villages away from urban townships. Galo are socio-economically dominant in their area. Around 90% of Galo children learn Galo as their first language, although almost all are also bilingual and borrow frequently from Assamese, Hindi and English. A significant and increasing number of Galo children, however, do not learn Galo as a native language, instead speaking a semi-creolized form of Hindi as their mother tongue. This phenomenon is especially prominent in urban areas, and among wealthy families. Indigenous religious traditions persist in most Galo areas. In some areas, an institutionalized form of 'Donyi-Poloism' has been developed, within which indigenous religious traditions are re-interpreted in terms of certain Hindu concepts and practices, and novel practices such as hymn-singing and incense-burning are practiced. Christianity is also rapidly on the rise, especially in foothill areas. Galos are often referred to by non-Galo(especially the Minyong-Padam group) as Gallong – an archaic pronunciation reflecting an earlier stage of the Galo language prior to its loss of the velar nasal in codas – and also as Adi – a generic term for a loose grouping of several central and eastern Tani tribes speaking several distinct languages. In most Tani languages, Adi (Galo adìi) means simply ‘hill (people)’.

Naming of children[edit]

Among the various tribes inhabiting the hills of Arunachal Pradesh, the Galo follow a patrilineal method to name their children. The last syllable of the father's name (the 'patrisyllable') is used as the first syllable of the child's name (the 'autosyllable'). For instance, if the father's name is Tanii, then the children may be named as Niito, Niiya and Niishi. Now this may continue as Tani---Nito---Topo---Polo---Loshi---Hiko---Kopak---Paktu---Tuni---Nigo---Goaa---Aalo for the Pugo people of the Aalo area and Abo (Tani)---Nito---Topo---Pone---Neur---Urchi---Chikar---Karko---(Korr-Riba, Rike, Rihar (Basar), Riram, Rina) (Kokar-Karbi, Karbak), (Koge-Geyie, Gerum), (Koie-Ering) etc. for the Lare people of Basar area and so on. In fact this is how the name Aalo (Along) - headquarters of West Siang district - has come about. Since the Galo people had no written language of their own, this method of naming helped them in remembering their origins. Within Galo spiritual traditions, it is believed that there were at one time two kinds of Tani; one who did not have human qualities but rather emerged as a formless mass. After many centuries of evolution only did Tani the human being come to this earth.


Main article: Gallong language

Galo is a Tibeto-Burman language of the Western Tani branch. It is genetically closest to Nyishi/Nishi, Tagin, Bokar or Lhoba of Tibet, China, Pailibo/Libo, Ramo, Hills Miri and Na (Bangni) and is to some degree mutually intelligible with them (depending on the dialects in question). However, due to a very long period of close contacts with and frequent bilingualism in the Eastern Tani language Adi whose villages directly abut the Galo in several areas - Galo and Adi languages have to some degree structurally converged. A mistaken belief has thus come about to the effect that Galo is a dialect of Adi language. In fact, although certain Adi and Galo tribespeople are in practice able to converse without great difficulty, this has mostly to do with the specific language experiences of the individuals involved. In their pure forms, Adi and Galo languages are mutually unintelligible and descend from distinct ancestors within opposite branches of the Tani subgroup.


  1. ^ Amendment to the Constitution (ST), Order, 1950, Part-XVIII


  • Nyori, Tai (1993). History and Culture of the Adis, Omsons Publications, New Delhi-110 027.
  • Post, Mark W. (2007). A Grammar of Galo. PhD Dissertation. Melbourne, La Trobe University Research Centre for Linguistic Typology.
  • Riba, Bomchak. (2009). Relevance of Indigenous Knowledge System of the Galo of Arunachal Pradesh in Sustainable Development of Forest Resources. Ph.D. Thesis, Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh, India.