Tiwa Tribe people

Tiwa Tribe Assam: A Glimpse Into Their Traditions and Customs (2024)

My enduring curiosity has consistently drawn me to explore diverse tribes across the globe. The unique lifestyles of tribal communities have always captivated my interest. Engaging in conversations and hearing their stories is a personal passion of mine. Recently, while visiting Bodoland and other regions of Assam, I seized the chance to meet and connect with the Hill Tiwa Tribe Assam in the picturesque Umswai Valley.

PIN for later reference – Tiwa Tribe Assam

PIN for later reference - Tiwa Tribe Assam
PIN for later reference – Tiwa Tribe Assam

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About Tiwa Tribe of Assam

The Tiwa Tribe, also called the Lalung tribe, represents the indigenous tribal community residing in Assam and Meghalaya. This tribe is categorized into two distinct sub-tribes based on their dwelling locations — the Hill Tiwas, dwelling in the hills, and the Plain Tiwas, residing in the plains.

Tiwa Tribe people

Legend has it that the Plain Tiwas disapproved of the matrilineal system and the practice of human sacrifice in their ancestral hills. Consequently, they chose to relocate to the plains, seeking a different way of life.

History of Tiwa Tribe Assam

Numerous theories abound regarding the origin of the Tiwa tribe.

One theory, proposed by the late Bishnu Prasad Rabha, posits that the Tiwas originally belonged to the Patorgoyan clan of Chutiyas/Sutiyas people, who are part of the Bodo-Kachari group. The Sutiya people are believed to have migrated to Assam from Southern China.

Another theory suggests a connection between the name “Tiwa” and the birthplace of King Sotonga. According to this narrative, King Sotonga was born, disappeared into a river, and was later discovered in a pond. He grew up to become the clan’s king, and his people became known as Tiwa. In this context, ‘Ti’ signifies water, and ‘Wa’ conveys superiority.

According to the Hill Tiwa individuals we engaged with, Bormarjong is regarded as the birthplace of the Tiwa King.

Explore “The Voice of the Departed: Examining a Tiwa Tribe Case Study Illustrating the Blended Realm of Sakta Tantra in Assam” for an in-depth analysis.

Culture of Tiwa Tribe Assam


The Hill Tiwas inhabit the Umswai region within the Amri block in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam. At the same time, the Plain Tiwas reside along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra valley.

Umswai Valley
Umswai Valley


The Hill Tiwas communicate in the Tibeto-Burman language, a blend of terms from Tibetan and Burmese languages, while the Plain Tiwas converse in the Assamese language.


Among the Hill Tiwas, there exists a division in religious practices. One group adheres to their traditional religion, worshipping local deities, while the other has embraced Christianity. The Hill Tiwas are overseen by a chief known as Loro.

On the other hand, the Plain Tiwas predominantly follow a religion that bears similarities to Assamese Hinduism.


Men among the Tiwa tribe attire themselves in cultural garments such as Phaguri for head wrapping, Thagla as a jacket, Thenash draped crisscross over the body, and Nara for the lower body.

As for women, the traditional attire diverges between the Hill Tiwas and the Plain Tiwas.

Women at Hill Tiwas

Tiwa women don a Phaskai for the upper body, a Nara around the waist resembling a belt, and a Kashong for the lower body.

Tiwa Tribe people
The traditional dress of the Hill Tiwa Tribe

Women at Plain Tiwas

Tiwa women attire themselves in Riha for the upper body and Mekhela for the lower body. These traditional garments are complemented with locally crafted ornaments.

Sing and Dance

Locals have two principal songs that find expression on various occasions.

  • ‘Lo Ho La Hai’ resonates during weddings, harvesting events, and name-giving ceremonies.
  • On the other hand, ‘Lali Lai Hilali’ takes centre stage during marriage ceremonies and various festive celebrations.

During our visit, a senior gentleman serenaded us with a song.


The Tiwa people’s staple diet includes rice, meat, fish, pork, and eggs. Cooking involves using abundant sesame, mustard, and chillies, often prepared in bamboo shoots.

Meet the people of the Tiwa tribe

The residents also craft and savour rice and beer as part of their daily routine.

Rice beer
Brewing the rice-beer

We were treated to delectable dishes prepared inside bamboo shoots and were given a demonstration of making and brewing rice beer.

Enjoying the local delicacies of Tiwa Tribe
Enjoying the delicacies that were offered to us.
P.C. Bhagwan

PIN for later reference – Tiwa Tribe Assam

Meet the people of the Tiwa tribe
PIN for later reference – Tiwa Tribe Assam

How Can You Visit Tiwa Tribe Assam?

One-Day Trip from Guwahati

Currently, Umswai Valley is feasible for a day trip from Guwahati. Due to the absence of widespread accommodations and restaurants for tourists, an extended stay is not recommended, except for one homestay at Bormarjong. The Root Bridge Foundation, a non-profit organization, is actively engaged in an ecotourism project in the Umswai Valley, emphasizing construction and promotion.

There are no public toilet facilities in the area, but the ongoing project aims to introduce basic amenities like public toilets and homestays for visitors.

For arrangements to visit Umswai Valley, it is advisable to contact the Root Bridge Foundation.

How to Reach Umswai Valley?

The Umswai Valley is approximately 100 kilometres from Guwahati and accessible by road. However, it’s important to note that the road conditions are not optimal. To ensure a smoother journey, hiring a car or a van with an experienced driver is recommended. Although the drive typically takes around 3 hours one way on favourable days, I would advise allowing for a buffer of 30 minutes to 1 hour due to potential uncertainties.

Best Time to Visit Umswai Valley

The optimal time to visit Umswai Valley is during the winter season. The months of December, January, and February offer relatively cooler temperatures, creating a pleasant and comfortable environment for exploration.

Tiwa Tribe people

Is Umswai Valley Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Due to the limited facilities and tourist attractions in Umswai Valley, I would not recommend travelling alone. It is advisable to go with an organization with local contacts who can make better arrangements. As mentioned earlier, the recommended approach is reaching out to the Root Bridge Foundation for more details and assistance.

Closing Notes

I was deeply touched by the warmth and hospitality extended to us by the Tiwa people during our visit to the Umswai Valley. They graciously invited us to immerse ourselves in their daily lives for a day. This experience highlighted that, despite leading a minimalistic and simple lifestyle, they possess more open arms and hearts than many individuals surrounded by luxuries.

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Tiwa Tribe Assam: A Glimpse Into Their Traditions and Customs (2024)
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    PIN for later reference – Tiwa Tribe Assam

    PIN for later reference - Tiwa Tribe Assam
    PIN for later reference – Tiwa Tribe Assam


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