Ethnic Garos celebrated Wangala, a traditional animist festival, even though they converted to Christianity and now give thanks to Jesus Christ, who came “for our salvation”. For Catholic MP, the Garo must take care of their customs and traditions or “one day they will be gone.”
Mymensingh (AsiaNews) – Garo Catholics yesterday celebrated the harvest festival in the Diocese of Mymensingh along with the solemnity of Christ the King.
Although the Garo are Christian now, they have kept some of their tribal customs and traditions. Wangala is one of them, dedicated to Misi Saljong, the sun god, who can bless people with a rich harvest.
“In the past, when we were animists, we loved the sun god. Now we give thanks to Jesus Christ,” said Fr Fidelis Nengminja, pastor in Biroidakuni, speaking to AsiaNews.
Bangladesh is home to about 120,000 Garo, 99 per cent of them Christian, 80 per cent Catholic. The Diocese of Mymensingh has 17 parishes with many members from tribal communities.
Th Garo’s main trait is their matriarchal structure with women as head of the family, children taking the mother’s name, and only females inheriting family assets.
The priest, who is also a Garo, explains that the ethnic group "has abandoned the ancient religion, but not the culture. This is why we enlivened the celebrations by wearing traditional clothes.”
“In the Holy Mass, we preached the coming of Jesus Christ for our salvation,” Father Nengminja said. “He is the King of our Kingdom. We must follow his teachings.”
In all the churches, yesterday’s Mass was celebrated in A·chik, the Garo native. As a show of gratitude, the parishioners brought rice, vegetables and fruit.
Usually the Wangala is celebrated from October to early December. In the villages people slaughter pigs and cook them for a communal meal. They drink homemade Chu. in the cities merchants also pay tribute. At this time, marriages and various tributes also take place.
Jewel Areng, a Catholic Member of Parliament who hails from this parish, was the guest of honour at the Biroidakuni event.
"We must take care of our culture because if we do not value our language, traditional garments and customs, one day they will be gone,” he said.
For Liton Sangma, another ethnic Garo, his people “firmly believe in Jesus who blesses us through this festival of Wangala. We want to go back to our roots with it.”