Traditional Beliefs About Weretigers Among the Garos of Meghalaya (India)


  • Francesco Brighenti Independent Researcher, Venice



Garo ethnic group, weretigers, legendary tigermen, magical shape-shifters, anthropological study of dreams, non-human animals’ cosubjectivity with human animals


The Garos, a tribal group who live in India (western highlands of Meghalaya and the southern foothills of Assam) and northern Bangladesh, are noted for their diverse beliefs on weretigers – that is, human beings with the ability of turning themselves, in various ways, into ferocious tigers and subsequently back to human form. The present paper provides a first attempt at classifying the different motifs in Garo weretiger-lore which include traditional beliefs of: (1) a legendary ‘race’ of monstrous tigermen ruled over by a Tiger Mother; (2) individuals endowed with a ‘dual’ vital principle inhabiting a human body during daytime and a tiger one at nighttime; and (3) shape-shifters who can physically metamorphose into tigers through magical arts. This classification highlights the rich variety of beliefs held by the Garos on these  quintessential liminal beings, and provides a critical analysis of the most frequently occurring class of werebeasts in the folktales, legends, and epics of tropical Asia.

Author Biography

Francesco Brighenti, Independent Researcher, Venice

Dr Francesco Brighenti is an independent Italian scholar of Indology and the tribal cultures of South and Southeast Asia. He holds a PhD from the Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, India. He started his research work as a student of Hindu goddess-cults, and then gradually moved to the study of the mutual interactions between Hindu and tribal cults in the Indian subcontinent through history. His current research focuses on tribal beliefs and oral narratives of tigermen, weretigers, and ‘tiger-shamans’ throughout Monsoon Asia. He is currently planning to write and publish a comprehensive book on this broad subject.


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How to Cite

Brighenti, F. (2017). Traditional Beliefs About Weretigers Among the Garos of Meghalaya (India). ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 16(1).