Rabha tribe

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Rabha, also, Rava, etc., are an indigenous Mongoloid community of Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, and the Indian states of Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal. The language/dialect spoken by the Rabha people is mostly Rabha, as well as Assamese. In Assam, the Rabhas live mostly in Goalpara, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Udalguri, and Baksa districts; and also in some places of Bongaigaon, Chirang, Sonitpur, and Karbi Anglong districts. In Meghalaya, Rabhas are mostly found in Garo Hills districts. In West Bengal, Rabha people mainly live in Jalpaiguri district, Alipurduar district and Cooch Behar district. The whole area of Eastern and Western Dooars may be termed as the cradle land of the Rabhas. The Rabhas refer to themselves as Koch, and assert a connection to the historical Koch Kingdom in part of West Bengal.

                                               “ Nak kocha machah 
                                                 Nak kochah chih cha 
                                                 Kwnchwkwn... ”

Ethnicity and language[edit]

The Rabhas belong to the Indo Mongoloid group of people and have similarities with other members of Koch group such as Garos, Kachari, Mech, Koch, Hajong and others.[1] Most of the Rabhas of Dooars refer to themselves as Rabha, but some of them often declare themselves as Kocha.[2][clarification needed]

The Rabha language is a member of the Tibeto-Burman (TB) language family which "encompasses a great deal of linguistic diversity and the geographical area over which the languages are spoken does not coincide with any conveniently designated geographical or political area". The two long-established and widely cited classification of TB are that of Shafer and that of Banedict besides that of Grierson, Egerod and Voegelin-Voegelin. With additional data available about several languages David Bradley proposes a revised scheme.A very general statement that can be made about the place given to Rabha is that at the lowest level all taxonomies place it along with Garos and it's dialects.[citation needed]

A traditional Rabha house


Rabha girls are dancing in their traditional costumes in a forest village in West Bengal
Religion among Rabha, 2001[3]
Religion Percent

Rabha people traditionally practice a few animistic rituals. However, today they more often follow a faith, which is a blend of some Hindu and a few animistic rituals. There are considerable differences in ritual practices among forest Rabhas who still live in the forest villages and the Rabhas that live in the villages as cultivators. The forest Rabhas follow traditional animistic practices tinged with some rituals of mainstream Hinduism. On the other hand, village Rabhas have merged with local Hindus as far as their religious practices are concerned.[4][clarification needed] There are Rabhas who follow Christianity.[citation needed]

Rabha people's religious world is pervaded with various spirits and natural objects. The main deity of the Rabhas is called Rishi. Rishi, for the forest Rabhas as well as village Rabhas, is a male deity. He is also known as Mahakal. Forest Rabhas worship him in all important social and religious ceremonies.[5][clarification needed]



The women of the Rabha Tribe are greatly attracted in ornaments. They used ornaments as a marker of social status, personal status, signifier of some form of affiliation for belong to ethnic, religious and social tribe, and also used in artistic display. The ornaments of them are often prepared with gemstones, coins, silvers or other precious materials and likewise they are typically set into precious metals.

1. Nambri: It is made of either gold or silver and one in weight, it is about one tola. It is inserted into a chink in the lobes of the both ears.

2. Bala-nambri: It is also prepared of gold or silver. In weight it is near about six ratis and inserted into nick in the upper parts of both the ears. It is also called as Kanbali.

Chandrahaar: It is a necklace prepared of silver only; and put on the neck.

3. Naka-pati: It is made of gold or silver. Its weight is between to one tola and inserted into a cavity in the left petal of the nose.

4. Chan: It is prepared either gold or silver or copper. It is a solid bracelet put on in the carpus of both hands.

5. Khuchmakrang: It is used in the knot of hair tied on the top of head. In length it is nine to ten feet and made of silver.

6. Chandra-bar: It is necklace prepared of silver only and put on the neck.

7. Bali: It is made of gold and inserted into a puncture in the lower part of nose.

8. Hancha or Hacha: It is made of solid silver only, and put on in the neck.

9. Siki-Suki: It is made as a garland stringed with four ana coins and put on the neck.

10. Mal-Kharu: It is prepared either gold or silver and is used in the wrist of the left hand.

11. Har-gulai: It is also made of gold or silver and is used in the wrist of the left hand.

12. Mayar-ching-chap: It is also made of gold or silver. It is put on in the wrist of both the hands.

13. Rubak or Rubuk: It is a girdle made of ivory with seven strings and is worn around the waist.

14. Banti: It is a kind of bangle made of copper. It is worn in the wrists of both hands.

15. Hat-baju or kanta-baju: It is used in the wrist of the left hand and prepared of silver. It is a kind of ring.

16. Chasi-tam: It is a kind of ring made of gold or silver and is worn in the ring finger of the left hand

Traditional Dresses[edit]

The Rabhas are called efficient weaver in making traditional dresses. They use various kinds of dress in day-to-day life. In the antique times, both male and female together worshipped different deities, festivals; in that occasion they must be worn their traditional dresses. Those are especially found among the Rangdani, Maitari, and Koch groups with full of floral designs. Nowadays, the other groups like (Dahari[disambiguation needed], Pati[disambiguation needed], Bitolia[disambiguation needed]) of Rabhas also wear in miscellaneous functions, ceremonies.

1. Riphan or Ruphan: It is especially for female, and is completely make with colorful floral designs. It has three feet in length and two feet in breadth. The size of the dress may have bigger or smaller, the wearer adjusted with their bodies. This cloth is tied from the waist and hangs down to the knee.

2. Patani/Lemphota: It is wider than the Ruphan. This cloth is tied around the chest and hangs down to the knees.

3. Kambung or Kambang: It is also a female dress, is adorned with a fabulous design and wrapped to cover the bosom, keeping the shoulder naked. Generally, it has three feet in length and one foot in breadth.

4. Khadabang or Khakha: It is used on the head of the women. It is three feet in length and breadth is one foot.

5. Pajar, Kalai or Gamsa: It is made by an attractive design, normally it is six to seven feet and one to one; and breadth is a half feet. It may be smaller or bigger in size according to the body and age of the wearer. It is tied from the loin and hangs down to the knees.

6. Khachne or Khapang: This cloth is used on the head of male like a turban. The entire cloth is figures of impressive flowers. This cloth consists in length three to four feet and breadth is one foot. The other name of this cloth is Fhak-chak.

7. Buk-chil or Bak-chali: It is a short sleeved shirt made indigenously.

8. Pachar or Pachra: This cloth is used in the winter season as a wrapper. Usually, it is made with threads of errandi silk. In length, it is six feet and breadth is four feet.

9. Chenka-nen or Phali: It is embellished with floral designs. It is tied around the waist. In length it consists four feet and one foot in breadth.


In the prehistoric times, the weapons are used as to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, self-defense, and warfare. The ancient weapons were evolutionary improvements in materials and crafting techniques of late neolithic implements. From the old swords and rhinoceros hide shields it would appear that they were at some erstwhile time a martial race and indulged in warfare. Such weapons are still preserved in Museum.

1. Khuchung-khapak or Dhal: It is a shield. It is made by some experts of Rabha Community with the hard skin of the rhinoceros. The diameter of this instrument is one to one and a half feet. It has a handle for holding.

2. Khapar: It is made by iron. It is a flat and poisonous instrument (lance), in length it is nine inches to eighteen. The handle is made by bamboo with twelve or thirteen feet and weight is about four or five kg.

3. Thungri or Taral: It is a sword. It has three to three, a half feet in length and two to three inches in breadth. Generally, this instrument used in duel, made of iron; and is very sharp.

4. Phik-Juari or Jong-shar: It is made of iron, having three ribs. It is from nine to eighteen inches in length, and is similar to the Khapar. But it is thinner and toxic. The handle is made of bamboo, it has twelve or thirteen feet. It is also used in hunting and battle.

5. Jong-hado or Jong-banduk: It has two and a half to three feet long, as a type of native gun. It is made of iron, the shape of this instrument is solid but is hollow inside with a small hole at a distance of one inch from the root. In this hole the gun-powder is placed, the bullets are kept in the outlet near the mouth of the gun. By the copper and lead the bullets are made.

6. Jora-rai-dumak: It is a bow made of iron. In weight it is 5 kg. Its arrows are also toxic. It is used in hunting, and in fighting against enemies with the poisonous arrows.

7. Jora-phiji-muk: It is also another type of bow made of iron. It is also used in hunting and war along with the venomous arrows.

8. Bol-bolap: It is made of iron. In weight, it is three kg. It was used in hunting and in war.

9. Changi: It is a missile made of iron. It was also used in hunting and in combat. In weight, it is four kg.

10. Handa: It is alike to the sword. This instrument's long is thirty four inches, in breadth two and a half feet or three feet. It is a sharp and heavy weapon. It is used in war only.

11. Deo-khar: It is made of iron and used in worship only. Through this instrument, goats, hogs, buffaloes are sacrificed in front of the principal deities. It is a very heavy and sharp weapon. In length, it is twenty six inches and in breadth three inches.

12. Tor-jap or mea-par: It is made by iron. Basically, it is one or two kg in weight, consist two types, big and small. Another name of this weapon is Rea-Par. It is used in war and hunting.

13. Shul: The weapon is a pointed weapon made of iron and had a toxicant tip. It is used during war only.

14. Shur-khang: It is a peculiar kind of weapon, found among the Koch group. The shape is like a trident but it has only two poisoned prongs. It is made of iron, six inches long and has a bamboo handle with six feet in length. It was basically used in ambushing and fighting.

Baikho Festival[edit]

The Baikho is the principal deity of the Rabhas which is associated with the crops; worshipped only once in a year with great ceremony during the month of April and May. The literacy meaning of Baikho is, “bai” means deity and “kho” means great. Hence, the name indicates a great deity. It is celebrated to propitiate the deity of wealth adored for her “ability to bring forth rains, abundant crops and health for the community.” It takes place annually to ward off “evil spirits” through puja ahead of the spring harvest; during which time the community people offer animal sacrifices, play traditional music. In the festival, four goddess worshipped such as- Susari, Nakati, Tamai and Daduri. The Rabha people considered the “Baikho” goddess were the national heroines and; worshiped in a fixed date in a scared place of jungle. In the ancient times, the festival continued for seven days and nights. But, now the festival is celebrated only three days or three nights. A significant song is sung during the puja, called Haimaru. This song is a memorial song of the past heroes and heroines who were the warriors of the Rabhas. There is a connectable thing is that when the song is singing; no one can sleep at night. This auspicious occasion is celebrated with full of feasting and drinking of rice beer. It's ritual are; the first day of the festival is called Nak-khitarkay, which may rightly be termed as the purifacation rite. The Mare-gan (a form of Ojapali associated with the worship of snake goddess Bisahari) performers are appointed for this festival, rice-powder are sprinkled on the rooftops of the houses of each family, which act is called Nak-junkay. The performers sing songs while they are sprinkling rice powder,

                                               “ Phai phai hachi chani kuri chaoratango
                                                 Kuri chani cingra tabalati,
                                                 Kuri khere chano lagiya
                                                 Cing ba tokha gonda che pui khereche,
                                                 Chai rengea lagiya ”

English Translation: O kids, come, come, we work and eat gaily like the partridges. Come, we live by playing and working like the crows.

Both the ojha(priest) and Palis proceed to the house of the chief priest at the end of Nak-jumkay. They sing Haimaru songs there for the whole night without any break. At the place of the worship also act of the singing of this song is carried on for the whole night;

                                               “ hai maru hai maru a-ha
                                                 bichai dimca maibadi aya tamai
                                                 Changda conga hadami dumacaiba
                                                 bichai tak chamai badi
                                                 chata canga hadami
                                                 rata khurang hadami
                                                 bichai chanang dadami taimyung
                                                 bihaoyo manimyung aya tamai
                                                 khuchan tini habang yo manimyung aya tamai
                                                 khuman tini manimyung aya tamai ”

English Translation: O mother Tamai, why are you not sprouted in the paddy field? Kindly grow in the deep and fertile soil.

        “Here, Tamai appears to be the com-deity Lakshmi. She is worshiped by chanting these songs for getting her blessings so that the Rabhas may have abundant crops. These songs may also be called incantations from the functional point of view.”

Another rite is called Killa-Dibikay (fort construction). In the context of the festival young unmarried girls and boys sing Sathar songs along with dances to the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments. The instruments are as Drum (Khaam), flute (Bangshi), horn (Singaa), piper (pepaa) and the main objective of the song and dance is for open expression of love and affection.

The Rangdani and Maitori Rabhas observe the worship of the Fire-god collectively in the context of the Khokchi worship. A seven stacked pyre symbolizes the Fire-god is worshiped with the following incantaions.

                                               “ agarani chana de-e-aya  
                                                 brahmani chana de-e-aya
                                                 nangi puthani acar bani bicar bani ray
                                                 nangi khorp thani khareyan torek the-e
                                                 cingi pali praharitang nangi calam cingi-bay ”

English Translation: O Mother Agani Devi, you are our mother- like. We are followers of our traditional rites and rituals. We have come here after taking bath in pure water. We all regard you as goddess. We the devotees offer worship to have your grace.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mitra 1953, p. cxxxviii
  2. ^ Karlsson 2000, pp. 55–8
  3. ^ Census of India - Socio-cultural aspects, Table ST-14, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2001
  4. ^ Das & Raha 1967, p. 130
  5. ^ Karlsson 2000, p. 162


  • Mitra, A. (1953), West Bengal: District Handbooks: Jalpaiguri, Govt. of West Bengal

Further reading[edit]

  • Saha, Rebatimohon (1987) "Jalpaiguri Jelar Koch-Rabha Samaj" (in Bengali) published in Ananda Gopal Ghosh edited Madhuparni, Special issue on Jalpaiguri District.
  • Raha, M.K. (1974) "The Rabhas of Western Duars: Structural Analysis of a Changing Matrilineal Society", Bulletin of the Cultural Research Institute, Vol. 10 (1 & 2).
  • Ghosh, Saumitra (1990) "Vanbasi Rabhara" (in Bengali) Desh, Vol 57 (12), January 20.
  • Roy Choudhury, B. (1970) "Social Mobility Movement among the Rabhas of North Bengal", Man in India, Vol 50 (1).
  • Gupta, Pabitra Kumar (1977) "Uttarbanger Rahba Samaj O Dharmasanskar Aandolon", (in Bengali) in Madhuparni: Special North Bengal Issue, 1977.
  • Sarma, Dr. Nabin Ch (2006) "Oral Songs of Tribal Communities of Assam" a project of Assam Sahitya Sabha, Assam Institute of Research for Tribals and Scheduled Castes