‘A-Chik A-Song’ A Garo play by Pabitra Rabha

The National Theatre Festival in Kerala witnessed a tribute to the first national hero and the martyr of the Garo tribe of Meghalaya, Toggan Nigminza. The Garo play, ‘A-Chik, A-Song’, ought to cross all language barriers, for, it is telling the story of the glorious first and last arms struggle against the British by the Garoes.  ‘A-Chik A-Song’ (the indigenous Garoes introduce themselves as ‘A-Chik’, ‘A’ in Garo means soil or land and ‘song’ means village or inhabitance. So, ‘A-Chik A-Song’ means the ‘Land of the Garoes’) is based on the socio-political history of Garo Hills, Meghalaya, during 1870-1872, and it tells how Toggan Nigminza organised and trained a group of Garo youth and attacked the British camp. The play starts with a grandmother narrating the heroic incidents of the Garo mythology and refers to the period of the play. The Garo villagers were independent and happy until British entered the interior Garo villages under Captain Williamson (locally known as Walma Sahib, who first introduced fire arms in Garo hills. ‘Wal’ in Garo means fire). About 50 independent Garo villages revolted against the British policy of invasion. Though the British Army easily overpowered the ill-equipped Garo freedom fighters, Toggan Ningminza gave up his life for the cause of freedom and became the hero of the land.


Scripted by Rajeeb Kr Phukan, the play is presented by Dapon-The Mirror, a theatre group which lies in North-Eastern India bordering Bhutan in Odalguri district of Assam. It is directed by Pabitra Rabha, an alumnus of the National School of Drama, who is also an expert with settings, lighting, property, mask-making and make-up. He has acted in plays and Hindi feature films like ‘Tango Charlie’, ‘Mukhbir’, ‘Kayataran’ etc. 

The play is based on the socio-political history of Garo Hills during 1870-1872 with special reference to the glorious first and the last arms struggle of the Garoes against the British. The play starts with a grandmother narrating the heroic incidents of a lost war in Garo mythology.

Pabitra Rabha:

An alumnus of National School of Drama. Worked extensively in the hilly regions of Tangla in Assam. Has conducted several workshops for children and youth. Directed an designed more than seven plays. Participated in the Physical Theatre Festival in Tokyo.

THEATRE Dapon, Odalguri, Assam,  DAPON The Mirror is an amateur theatre group. They are from the B.T.A.D. area of North Eastern India in Odalguri District of Assam, bordering Bhutan. The main objective of the group is to articulate talents both physically and mentally, so that the youth and children can pay attention on cultural activities even in an unstable social condition. Khil-Khilai is another wing where children are engaged in acting. Many children have joined this wing to flourish their inborn talent other than the school education.

Director’s Note:
When I was going to direct for the first time first Garo play in a village Purakhashia in West Garo Hills in Meghalaya. But yet, in course of time, I would cope with the thoughts, language, traditions and customs of the Garos during my short in that remote Garo village. The Garos have rich language, traditions, customs and culture of their own. Through the characters of the play and through various situations attempts were made to focus on the culture of the Garos.

The Garos are a hilly tribe and magic, evil belief etc. have been prevalent among the Garos since long past. Surprising it is that in these days of 21st century, when science and technology have made inwards everywhere in the world, there are areas in Garo Hills where medical science has yet to step in, where, as a result, doctors, hospitals, medicines are facts but fictions. There are villages in Garo Hills where modern communication system is yet tread in. Deserted of all such modern facilities though the west Garo Hills villages are, yet these Garo people are adorned with their real age – old traditions and cultures. To sum up, the unstinted original culture of the Garos exists in such simple, truth loving and cordial Garo societies.

In the drama in question, ‘Thogan’ – the Hero of the Garo community is the principal character which represents the heroism and bravery of the Garos. In fact, and ‘Thogan’ the Hero in the history of the Garos was the leader of the Garos to fight against the mighty Britishers. In the drama the love and love torn speeches of Garo youths have been depicted through the characters of Dolchi, Gilchang etc. through them the social consciousness and responsibility of Garo youths have also been focused. On the other hand, the characters in the drama like Khamal, Nokma, Jalimson etc. reveal the evil beliefs, proverbs, religious scriptures and incantations (tantra-masntras), fun making and social customs and consideration that are prevalent in the Garo society.

Thogan is a hero-worshipped and therefore, Garo children today like to disturb their grandmothers urging them to tell tales of heroism of Thogan. The drama proceeds on with ‘flashback’ showing how the Garo children of today find themselves lost in self amazement listing to the heroism of the ancestors.

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