Aowe, The

Aowe, The a shrinking tribe inhabiting in the Brahmaputra valley. Once a good number of Aowes lived in Sylset, Tripura and chittagong hill tracts. According to the census of 1931, the Aowe population was 32,775. Their present number and distribution is uncertain.

The tribe has three major clans – Chonglee, Mongsen and Chongkee, and each of these branches are divided into a few smaller social groups. The Aowes are relatively tall, look yellowish and have curling hair. They have flat noses and wide faces, and hair bristled on the body.

There are more women than men in the Aowe population. They wear minimal clothes. The common dress of the Awoe men is a tiny piece of cloth passed between the thighs and tied on the loins. Women wear a similar strip of clothing, about a meter long and half a meter wide. The unmarried girls cover the upper part with a strip knotted from behind. They put on colourful dresses at times of festivity. Both men and women wear ornaments made of stones, leather, feathers and flowered leaves.

The Awoes are averse to conflicts in their social life. But taking advantage of their peaceable disposition, other people have forced them out to remote hilly areas from the fertile land where they lived traditionally. The Awoes are fond of innocuous quarrelling, which is considered as a form of social entertainment.

Agriculture is the main occupation of the Awoes. In the hills, they practice jhum cultivation. The stock of paddy and rice is a symbol of status. The Awoes also cultivate cotton, which they use for weaving and making clothes. Hunting is not a fulltime occupation, but for amusement and food they hunt dear and other animals by making trap holes in the jungle. Sometimes they organise group hunting for catching elephants and tigers. Their staple food is rice, though they eat almost anything, from the insects to even rotten meats.

The Awoes worship gods and goddesses and sacrifice animals to satisfy them. They have very simplistic ideas about soul, birth and death, and the life after death. To them, morality is not an important aspect of religion.

In marriage, the Awoes do not couple within the same kinship. Before marriage, an Awoe man and Awoe woman live together for some time and after the pair finds it agreeable suitable to go for marriage, they communicate the choice to the respective parents, who arrange the marriage through a appropriate rites, rituals and festivities.

The community life of the Awoes is organised on the basis of village groups formed with people of more or less the same age. Each such group is assigned with some specific responsibilities such as cultivation, hunting, organisation of festivals, feasts, construction of houses, and defense. [Shahida Akhter]