The almost absence of written records prior to the coming of the British leaves the past history of the Garos very far from certain. For the past, we have to depend entirely on their legends and oral traditions, their folklore and folk songs, and other circumstantial evidences.
Early Migrations and Settlements
We cannot be certain about the length of time the Garos have been in the hills that bear their name. “According to their own traditions, the Garos came originally from Tibet and settled in Cooch Bihar. From where, they were driven to the neighbourhood of Jogighapha, where they remained 400 years but were again compelled to fly towards the south by the king of that country and his ally the ruler of Cooch Bihar. Their next wanderigs were to Gauhati where they were enslaved by the Assamese, but released by a Khasi prince who settled them in the neighbourhood of Boko.
The place was, however, infested with tigers and the Garos then moved into the hills”. (as recorded in Gazetteer of Bengal and North-East India by B.C. Allen, W.E.A.. gait, C.H.G. Allen & H.P. Howard). Another tradition ascribing some support to this theory, maintains that the Garos are descended from their forefathers in Asong Tibetgori. The Garos in the Kamrup plain, recount a tradition that their forefathers came eastward from the Himalayas and reached Gondulghat where they made a brief halt, and on leaving that place, traversed to Sadiya, from where they trekked on into the north bank of Brahmaputra. After a long westward trail, they reached Amingaon. There in the north bank their life was not secure, they crossed the Bahmaputra river and came to occupy Kamakhya. They occupied it for some generations until the Koches came to invade the Garo Kingdom. From Gauhati, wave after wave of westward migration poured to the Garo outer hills, and later on penetrated the interior hills of their present abode. If critically examined, the ancient history of Garos would seem to have been a period marked by persistent and tenacious internal warfare and many blood-feuds seem to have occurred between families or villages and between neighbouring Chiefs or Nokmas.
During the Mediaeval period and the Mughal era, the more important estates bordering the Garo Hills were Karaibari, Kalimalupara, Mechpara and Habraghat in Rongpur district, Susang and Sherput in Mymensing district of Bengal and Bijini in the Eastern Duars.Early records describe the Garos as being in a state of intermittent conflict with Zamindars of these large estates.
With the passage of time in the medieval period, while the Garos in the hills were still divided into a number of petty Nokmaships, the plain tracts along the fringes at the foot of the hills came to be included in the many Zamindari Estates, which eventually developed into fewer but larger complexes.
The contact between the British and the Garos started towards the close of the 18th Century after the British East India Company had secured the Diwani of Bengal from the Mughal Emperor. Consequently, all the estates bordering upon Garo Hills, which for all practical purposes had been semi-independent were brought under the control of the British. Though political control had passed from the Mughals to the British, the latter, like Mughals, had no desire to control the Estates or their tributaries directly. The Zamindars were not disturbed in the internal management of their estates. In fact, they were entrusted, as they had been by the Mughals, with the responsibility of keeping the hill Garos in check with help of their retainers. Thus in the beginning, the intermittent conflict between the Zamindars and the Garos went on unabated until the situation deteriorated to the extent that the British were forced to take notice. This development led ultimately to the annexation of the Garo Hills in 1873. Captain Williamson was the first Deputy Commissioner of the unified district. The district was bifurcated into two districts viz. East Garo Hills and West Garo Hills districts in October 1979.The West Garo Hills district was further divided into two administrative districts of West and South Garo Hills on June 1992. The district headquarters of South Garo Hills is Baghmara.