A Grammar of Atong by Seino van Breugel
By Seino van Breugel
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Extra info for A Grammar of Atong
The village of Siju has the tradition to organise the yearly waribula festival on the Symsang river and its banks at Dabatwari, the place on the Symsang river where the river from the Bat Cave (Tawpakkhal [tawpakhal]) comes out into the Symsang, and where Siju has its origins as a village. During the festival people try to catch as many big fish as possible while others compete in wrestling. The festival takes place in January or February on a day that the weather is favourable. Unfortunately, due to pollution of the Symsang river, the catch gets smaller and more disappointing every year.
I was not able to find any source that relates to the spiritual life of the Atong speaking population in pre-Christian times. To get an idea of what pre-Christian spiritual life in a Garo village must have been, I refer the reader to Burling (1963: 54 ff), who describes it in much detail. The wedding and funeral ceremonies I witnessed were conducted much like in Western countries, and were presided over by members of the Christian church. Funeral ceremonies retain a very pleasant aspect of the old days: after the death of the person, a wake is held at the house of the family of the deceased which lasts two days and one night, during which people come and go.
First of all, the Atong do not speak their language to strangers. If a stranger visits the village, they will first speak Garo until another suitable language of communication is found. The Atong also do not speak their language when they are in the company of Garo speakers. In market places like Jadi and Nangwalbibra (see Map 3), when an Atong speaker addresses an unknown sales person, they will always speak Garo, even if the sales person reveals herself or himself to be Atong. The Atongs have a rather negative image of their own language and are not comfortable speaking it in front of strangers and non-Atong speakers, especially Garos and especially in Tura, since Atong speakers there are often ridiculed by some Garo speakers who say that the Atong are backward savages.