Origin of the Tiwa community



20th Apr 2011




Tiwa or Lalung community has a mythological and historical origin and migration. Indigenous narratives give various accounts on the migration of the Tiwas to their present habitat. Some of them claim that Tiwa people are a group of Tibbeto Burmese tribe. They came down through the course of Brahmaputra and settled in some parts of Assam, from this first adobe they were pushed to the present area of habitation by other tribes probably in Kamata period. Some others tell that the Tiwas had to flee the oppression of the Dimasa king. The Buranjis recount the meeting of Assamese soldiers with "people of the margins"(datiyaliya) and the settlement of 12 families of Lalung and Mikir, i.e. Tiwas and Karbis, in the plains in the 17th century. Tiwa people are closely associated with the principality of Gobha. Gobha raja belongs to a Tiwa clan and his territory covers more or less the Tiwa cultural realm.


Lalung belong to Karbi word. It literally can be divided into two words where "Lang" means water and "Lung" means to sink in it. The words compounded together became Lalung. Both the words Lalung and Tiwa have close relationship with the water. Ti means river or water and Wa suggests superior. It is however believed that the name Lalung is given to this group of people by the non-lalungs. They prefer the name Tiwa.

According to some legend the Lalungs fell into river Kolong in Nagaon district while they were trying to cross the river during the invasion of Assam by the Myanmarese. The Karbis rescued them and from then the Karbis called them Lang-lung which with the time passing by, became Lalung. According to another legend, the Lalungs left their original homeland to settle on the banks of river Nailalung, a tributary of Daiyang River, which is in the Karbi Anglong district during the reign of the Kamata kings. Therefore, the Lalungs derived their name from the river Nailalung. There are beliefs that king Bali a devotee of lord Vishnu was the original ruler of the Lalungs. Once he proclaimed that all his subjects should follow the same religion.

Myths relate the tribes to God Shiva and created a naked God known to be Lungta Mahadeo. Lung means a stream of juice out of God Shiva and La means a formation




of a human beings from the juice. From union of the God Lungla and Jayanti Devi three daughters were born. From the eldest came the Karbis, from the second the Bodos and from the youngest The Tiwas.


There are two sub-groups of Tiwa tribes- Hill Tiwa and Plains Tiwas. The Hill Tiwas live in the westernmost areas of Karbi-Anglong (Assam) as well as in the Northeastern corner of Ri-Bhoi district (Meghalaya). They speak a Tibeto-Burman language of the Bodo-Garo group.


Plains Tiwas live on the flat lands of the Southern bank of the Brahmaputra valley, mostly in Morigaon and Nagaon districts. The vast majority speaks Assamese as their mother tongue, Tiwa language being still spoken on the foothills and in rare villages of the plains. Their descent system is definitely matrilineal. Their patronymic does not consist in their clan's names but in common Assamese names instead.