|Title:||Frederick W. Harding Collection relating to the Garo People|
|Quantity:||1 linear ft.|
|Abstract:||Correspondence, printed material, manuscript material, and hand-written notes relating to the Garo tribe of Assam and Meghalaya, India.|
|Language:||English and Garo|
|Repository:||Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
The Garo people call themselves A'chik Mande with a'chik meaning "hill people" and mande meaning "people." The name "Garo" was given to people of the Assam and Meghalaya states of India who lived south of the Brahamputra river by outsiders. Today Garo means the hill tribes who call themselves A'chik or Mande. The Garo people settled in the hills of Assam and Meghalaya states of India. This section of India is situated between Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Arunachal Pradesh. Until the 18th century, this matrilineal society passed down their histories, customs, and beliefs through the oral tradition.
Born in Leeds, England in 1878, Rev. Frederick W. Harding (1878-1975) graduated from Hamilton Theological seminary in 1907 becoming an ordained Baptist minister. Shortly after being ordained, he traveled to Tura, Meghalaya, India to begin ministering. By 1919 he set up the A'chik Theological College, which became the Harding Theological College, then (as it is known today) the American Baptist Missionary. Harding, other Christian missionaries, and British officials came to the Assam and Meghalaya region in late 19th and early 20th century to govern the people of this region and convert the polytheistic people to monotheistic Christianity.
Major A. Playfair (b. 1868) was the Deputy Commissioner of Eastern Bengal and Assam during the early 20th century. In 1909 he wrote a book entitled The Garos which was published under the orders of the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam. His monograph on the Garo people in pre-independent India is still considered one of the most comprehensive work on them.
The Frederick W. Harding Collection relating to the Garo People has been largely left in its original order. Some attempt had evidently been made to organize the material; based on handwriting and folder age, this was probably not done by Harding. However, given the uncertainty, this organization has been preserved with the exception of placing scholarly evaluations of the collection at the beginning. Thus, the organization is as follows: Evaluations, I. Introduction, II. Domestic life, III. Laws and customs, IV. Religion, V. Folklore, VI. Language, VII. Miscellaneous, and VIII. Education, Literature, Mission, The Reforms.
At the beginning of each series, the original organizer listed what should be found in that section, but this information is not always consistent or accurate. Reserachers are encouraged to thoroughly investigate the collection.
Throughout the collection, Harding's and Playfair's names are written on pages, suggesting they used the material for research; there are also notes glued to some pages that were written and signed by Harding.
Evaluations consist of two evaluations of the collection, one completed by Ernest Becker in 1959 and the other by University of Pennsylvania's Robbins Burling in 1961. In their opinions, the collection will be invaluable to individuals researching the Garo language since there are many items completely in Garo with no translation.
The original organizer's list for I. Introduction includes habitat, appearance, physical and general characteristics, origin, divisions, affinities, dress, tattooing, jewelry, and weapons. Instead, the series includes origin stories and history by the Garo people, a history of the Garo people by the British, information on the Hazangs and Koaches, a migration story in Garo, relationships between Garo people and between the Garo tribe and other tribes, and so on.
The original organizer's list for II. Domestic life includes occupation, agriculture, houses, villages, furniture and household utensils, musical instruments, crops, hunting, fishing, food, drink, games, dancing, and manufactures. This series is small and contains suicide statistics for 1903-1905, names of dances, instructions on making cloths, and botanical identification.
For III. Laws and customs, the content is close to the original organizer's list. The organizer intended the series to contain information on tribal organization, marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, tenure of land, decision of disputes, and head hunting, which the series does. Other subjects are property rights, religious beliefs, ceremonies, mythology, the Garo's custom of Dai, and so on.
Within IV. Religion, the original list included the general character of popular beliefs, ancestor worship, worship of natural forces, worship of deities, sacrificial stones, memorial posts (Kimas), divination, priesthood, ceremonies and custom attending birth and naming of children, ceremonies attending marriage, beliefs concerning death, disposal of dead, genna, and dreams and superstitions. The series does include information on priests and ceremonies, but it also contains a case of trial by ordeal, “Kosis,” reincarnation, and other information.
V. Folklore had no list of intended contents, possibly because this series contains the most Garo throughout the entire collection. Proverbs, song, and stories are transcribed by Garo individuals in the Garo language with few stories written in English.
VI. Language series contains one item, Linguistic 1898 Survey, which was completed by G.A. Grierson, Esq. for the Deputy Commissioner of the Garo Hills.
VII. Miscellaneous was listed as containing teknonymy, miscell and general, Kala-azar, calendar: days of the week, names of months, and criticisms of Playfair's The Garos. The series is close to their original intention. There is information on "Kala-azar" and the agricultural season, but also annual reports, a long-typed copy of a text, and other information.
The last series, VIII. Education, Literature, Mission, The Reforms, matches the original organizer's list. Harding created a school at Tura, information on which is in the first folder. There are also reports, information on the Reforms, and so on.
As the researcher explores the collection, they will find that there are inconsistencies in the original organizer's intended filing. As such, when using this collection, the researcher is encouraged to investigate the collection in its entiraty so as to not over look important items.
The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advance notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.
Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Frederick W. Harding Collection relating to the Garo People,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
Gift of Frederick W. Harding, 1970.
Created by: MRC
Date: 4 Jan 2010
Revision history: 27 Jul 2021 - collection processed (RMH)
|Box 1||Collection evaluations 1959, 1961 - 2 items|
|Box 1||[Division of Garo people; history of Garo by Garo people and British] 1788-1789, 1884-1887, 1904-1905, 1928|
|Box 1||[Origin stories written in Garo] 1905, 1931, 1937, 1942|
|Box 1||[Questionnaire answers; Hazangs and Koaches; "Historical Research in Assam"] 1885, 1894|
|Box 1||[Relationship between individuals in tribe and between tribe and other tribes]|
|Map-Case||[Story of the migration from Thibet]|
|II. Domestic Life|
|Box 1||[Suicide statistics; dances; clothing; botanical identification] 1903-1905, 1932|
|III. Laws and Customs|
|Box 1||[Ceremonies; cenus; religous belief; mythology-memorial, ect.] 1891, 1903, 1940|
|Box 1||[Garo caste; property rights] 1902|
|Box 1||[Inheritance laws] 1939-1941|
|Box 1||[Land tenure; history; head hunting; wedding chart] 1889, 1902-1903, 1906|
|Box 1||[Marriage; divorce; Christian Garos, etc.] 1940|
|Box 1||[Marriage laws; ancient punishments; adoption; naming children, etc.] 1928, 1937|
|Box 1||[Questionaire on Garo tribal law on inherited and acquired property] 1939|
|Box 1||[Tribal laws; Garo custom of Dai, etc.] 1932, 1937|
|Box 1||[Reincarnation; priests; "Kosis"; ceremonies; trial by ordeal; beliefs, etc.] 1877|
|Box 1||[Songs in Garo; publications; stories in Garo, etc.] 1942-1943|
|Box 1||[Stories in Garo; songs in Garo, etc.]|
|Box 2||[Stories in Garo and English; songs in Garo; proverbs in Garo, etc.] 1930|
|Box 2||[Various stories in Garo and English, etc.]|
|Box 2||[Various stories in Garo, etc.] (2 folders)|
|Box 2||Linguistic Survey 1898|
|Box 2||[Agricultural season; "Kala-azar"; annual report, etc.] 1872-1873, 1929|
|VIII. Education, Literature, Mission, The Reforms|
|Box 2||[Mission schools] 1932-1933|
|Box 2||[Reports, etc.] 1915, 1935-1939|