The Khasis, Jaintias, Bhois, Wars are collectively known as the Hynniewtrep people. They inhabit the districts of East Meghalaya. They are also known as the earliest ethnic group of settlers in the Indian subcontinent. The Garo Hills is inhabited by the Garos belonging to the Tibeto-Burman race, who migrated from Tibet.
The Khasis the original inhabitants of Meghalaya number about 1 million. They follow the matrilineal tradition. According to the tradition, the Khasis follow a matrilineal system of inheritance. In the Khasi society, it is only the youngest daughter or “KaKhadduh” who is eligible to inherit the ancestral property and children take their mother’s surname. Men live in their mother-in-law’s home.
The Khasis who inhabit the eastern part of Meghalaya, in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills are known as Jaintias or Pnars. While those in the northern lowlands and foothills are generally called Bhois. Those who live in the southern tracts are termed Wars. In the Jaintia Hills, the tribes constitute, Labangs, Nangphylluts, Nangtungs in the north-eastern part and in the east.
The Khasi male dress is “Jymphong” which is a long sleeveless coat without a collar. It is fastened by thongs in front. Today the Khasis were the western dress. But on ceremonial occasions, they wear “Jymphong” and dhoti with an ornamental waistband. The traditional female dress is elaborate. It has several pieces of cloth, giving the body a cylindrical shape. On traditional festive days, they put on a crown of silver or gold.
Inheritance in Khasis
According to the inheritance laws of the Khasis, if ‘KaKhadduh’ dies without any daughter surviving her, her elder sister inherits the ancestral property. Later youngest daughter of that sister inherits the property. If there are no female issues the property goes back to the mother’s sister of other maternal females
If the khaddhuh wishes to sell the property she must obtain consent and approval of the uncles and brothers.
Marriage & Religion
The Khasis do not marry within a clan. They exchange rings or betel-nut bags between the bride and the bridegroom to complete the union. Christian families follow a civil contract. Earlier the Khasis believed in a Supreme Being but today they follow Christianity.
Music, Crafts and Costumes
Songs and Music
The Garos of Meghalaya compose and sing folk songs about birth, marriage, festivals, love and heroic deeds to the accompaniments of drums and flutes.
The Khasis and Jaintias sing songs related to nature like lakes, waterfalls, hills and land etc. And also they use drums, duitaras and instruments similar to guitars, flutes, pipes and cymbals.
The Khasis are excellent weavers of cane mat, stools and baskets. They weave a special kind of cane mat ‘Tieng’, which lasts around 20-30 years. The Garos weave the cloth for their costumes called the ‘Dakmanda’. Khasis and Jaintias also weave their own clothes. The Khasis also make knives and utensils by extracting iron ore.
Costumes and Jewellery
He tribes of Meghalaya have distinct costumes and jewellery. The ‘Jympien the traditional dress of Khasi women flows loosely to the ankles. They wear a blouse with it. And over these, they wear an apron of sorts. The Khasis tie both ends of a checkered cotton cloth on one shoulder, thus improvising on the apron. On formal occasions, they wear a long piece of Muga silk cloth over the ‘Jympien’ Dhara’.The Khasis wear a head shawl or ‘Tapmohkhlieh’.They wear it by knotting both ends behind the neck or in a stylish manner as done with a shawl.
Dresses of Jaintias
The Jaintia maidens dress similarly. They also wear a ‘Kyrshah’ which is a checked cloth which they tie around the head during harvesting. The Jaintia maidens wear a velvet blouse and a striped cloth called ‘ThohKhyrwang’ on festive days She also knots at her shoulder an Assam Muga piece hanging loose to her ankles.
The Khasis and the Jaintias wear ‘KynjriKsiar’, pendants made of 24-carat gold. They also wear a string of thick red coral beads around their neck called ‘Paila during festive occasions. The Garo ladies wear Rigitok or, thin fluted stems of glass strung by a fine thread.
Among the main festivals of the Khasis, the Nongkrem Dance is a thanksgiving to God Almighty for good harvest and prosperity of the community. They celebrate the festival annually at Smit, the capital of the KhyrimSyiemship near Shillong during October/ November,
Young virgins and men, both bachelors and married perform the dance. During the festival, the Khasis follow the practice of the ‘Pomblang’ or goat sacrifice. The subjects offer pomblang to the Syiem of Khyrim, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi State).
Shad Suk Mynsiem
Another popular festival of the Khasis is Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem or Dance of the joyful heart. It is also an annual Thanksgiving dance held in Shillong in April. During the festival men and women, dressed in traditional costumes dance to the accompaniment of drums and the flute.