Karbi Traditional Dress – A Symbol of Social and Cultural Identity


The traditional dress of Karbi people is a complex weave of cloth and embroidery that represents their social and cultural identities among others.

Like women in other communities, Karbi women wear ear ornaments called Rois. Additionally, they often wear necklaces.


The Karbi tribe in Assam is famed for their vibrant textiles and elaborate costumes. Utilizing the traditional back strap loom, their costumes feature intricate patterns woven onto complex fabric. Worn by both men and women alike, their dresses come complete with conventional ornaments to adorn them further. Furthermore, many members of this community practice herbal dyeing.

Karbi’s designs, and colors are imbued with sacred symbolism, making it hard to modernize their designs. But some fashion designers are trying to break free. Prashant Ghosh, for instance, has managed to combine traditional Karbi fabrics and patterns with contemporary styles to produce stylish clothes that combine comfort with chic design elements.

The Karbi people also possess an oral tradition that is distinct and different from other tribal societies; their tales center around their ancestors and land history, making theirs one of the more unique stories told around. Additionally, various musical instruments are even used to perform the songs they sing!

The Karbis celebrate a wide range of festivals every year. Some of their more notable celebrations are Hacha-Kekan, Chojun, Rongker, and Botor Kekur; these festivals serve to pray for rain and good weather for crops, as well as thank God. Furthermore, these festivities also commemorate birth and mourning periods when their Kings or Queens die while also hosting feasts to mark wedding anniversaries and celebrate an eventful life lived together with others.


Karbi women typically don a pekoe, a square piece of cloth draped across their bodies and tied above the right shoulder. Additionally, during performances of Cham-a-KanaaEUR(tm), they use a colorful and striped scarf known as DokhersoaEUR(tm). Furthermore, they utilize pinicamflakaEUR(tm), similar to an Assamese mekhla but slightly shorter in length, and wamkokaEUR(tm), a waist belt.

Karbi traditional dress motifs are filled with sacred symbolism and have specific colors, occasions, and gender designations assigned. Even small changes, such as adding new hues or altering motif shapes, may alter its structure dramatically.

Karbi women weavers continue producing traditional dresses while simultaneously experimenting with modern trends and designs, but at the same time, their fine handloom texture is becoming less distinct due to intricately designed pekoes that machines cannot replicate to the same degree.


Karbi people are known for being highly energetic and positive. Their abundant life force gives them a youthful appearance even in old age, which allows them to quickly adapt to changing situations and alter their opinions based on new facts; like chameleons, they can quickly adjust themselves to any situation and make it better.

The Karbi tribe possesses distinct traditional dress, ornaments, music, and folk songs. For their lower garment (similar to Assamese Mekhla), a Pinicamflak is worn along with Wankok and Khongjari waistbands in winter months, and an Endi scarf called Dokherso is donned during performances of Chomangkan – their death ceremony.

Pekok, or square pieces of cloth tied at the right shoulder, is another traditional dress of Southeast Asia. Initially, their colors depended upon an individual’s age and gender – for instance, older women wore pe seleng while younger ladies would sport pe duphirso or pe jangphong, depending on their status in society.

The Karbi tribe still produces their yarn and weaves their clothing on traditional handlooms, using hand spindles called takiris to spin yarn made from natural dyes made from shrubs, herbs, barks, roots, flowers, plants, seeds, seeds, insect secretions as dyestuffs. Kerip, an embroidery and weaving combination technique used by the Karbi people, creates patterns utilizing this process, while modern power looms are becoming increasingly popular for producing textiles locally instead of having them themselves via the takiri.


Karbis are one of the significant hill tribes of Northeast India. They practice shifting cultivation by clearing away forests from hillsides and cultivating mixed crops on land they own. Karbis are widely recognized for their unique clothing and jewelry – brass earrings, in particular, being prized pieces among older Karbis, who often also wear an “heirloom bracelet called Narik.”

Older Karbis men wear an artistically designed shirt called Choy-mango, while young men wear Rikong loincloths with waistbands known as Pekoks for the summer and colored end scarves known as Khongjaris in winter months.

Dance and music play an integral role in Karbi society. Their oral tradition features narrative songs about their ancestors and history; additionally, they possess instruments such as traditional back strap looms, Karbi flutes, drums, and horns that resemble other indigenous tribal musical instruments prevalent throughout Southeast Asia.

Karbis are widely known for their Chomangkan festival, an emotional ceremony conducted after the death of an immediate family member to ensure their soul has an easy transition into its next life. It may take place immediately or years after death has taken place.


Karbi people possess an exceptional tradition in dance and music. Their dancers perform distinct types of dance during Chomangkan ceremonies, death rituals, and socio-religious festivals. Expert singers perform traditional songs that provide deep understanding while possessing sweet voices at the same time. Furthermore, their musical instruments resemble other indigenous tribal music instruments in appearance and sound quality.

Karbis have an abiding belief in reincarnation and pay their ancestors tribute, as well as believing in household and territorial deities. While traditionally, they practiced animism with some variations; many have adopted Hinduism with its many variations today – though most continue their traditional practice of worshipping deceased family members and paying respect to ancestors worshipping.

Karbi villages or hamlets prize the position of Village Headman with great regard. He or she is responsible for performing socio-religious ceremonies and festivals that occur within his/her village or hamlet, and his or her name will always be mentioned first during these activities; his surname also serves as the name for all village or hamlet residents as a whole; due to exogamous clan system within Karbi communities marriage between members from two clans is strictly forbidden.

Karbis cultivate mixed crops on plains while in hills, they practice shifting cultivation or Jhuming – often moving their villages between Jhum sites within months or even days! Before, Karbis had the custom of blackening their teeth with wooden sticks known as phar-ik sticks for visual aesthetic reasons.


The Karbis have an intricate cultural legacy passed down from generation to generation. They have their version of Ramayana called Sabin Alun and an abundance of folk songs and tales passed along from generation to generation. Additionally, this tribe is well known for its eye-catching costumes, which reflect both its Afro-Indian roots and modern trends despite intense competition with traditionalism.

Women and girls wear Pinicamflak as their lower garment, with Pe-kok used as an upper body covering. Furthermore, an artistic waistband called Wankok and Khongjari and scarves are frequently seen during wintertime. Again, young girls use Piba cloth sacks to transport their babies on their backs as part of performing Chomangkan rituals.

Nothenpi are large silver earring ornaments and were once used to blacken teeth using juice from phar-ik trees.

Karbi monarchs are known as LINGDOKPO and contiguous villages form an “LONGRI”. Village headmen are generally called “RONG SARTHE”, while in times of crisis or war the Longri will select one among its members as its leader.