Khasi Society follows
the matrilineal system, they are one of a few known people who have an entirely different system of kinship which is the opposite
to that followed by other people in the world. A Khasi takes his clan name from the mother who conceived, beget, and nurtured
This kinship is known
as 'Kur' consisting of those descended from the ancentral mother, and 'Kha' consisting of those members of other 'Kur'. Marrying
within the same 'Kur' is regarded as incest, termed 'shong sang', a taboo inevitably followed by misfortune or calamity. Khasi
Society is very strict in kinship or clanship relations and subject to the prevailing restrictions. A Khasi can only marry from other 'Kurs' (Clans). This concept is a very strong foundation of a Khasi Society.
It is in this essence
that the Khasi philosophy is also known as 'Ka Niam tipkur tipkha -, roughly meaning
a philosophy of acknowledgement of ones' own clan and of the father's clan.
(1) A Cultural life
His food habits
A Khasi consumes different
kinds of food, but rice forms the staple diet. He eats millet,
maize, potatoes, yam
and tapioca. Among the fruits, jackfruits, pine-apples, pears, fig, oranges and many other local fruits. He also eats cabbage,
cauliflower, carrots, turnips, mustard leaves and a variety of wild vegetables, Beef, pork,
and chicken is regularly enjoyed. Khasis are fond of fishing and hunting. They bake varieties of kpu (rice cakes) and
consume rice beer and distilled liquor (kiad um, kiad hiar kiad shet). In all religious ceremonies, they use rice beer and
this is an important item for rituals and in the offering of libitions. Eating of kwai (betelnut along with betel leaf and
small portion of lime) is an age old traditional habit.
(2) Of Sports and Games
:- Archery, fishing, tied malaishito (a game of hitting a piece of stick) wrestling are some of the traditional games that
(3) Attire :- A Khasi man wears a sleeveless coat (jymphong) and sometimes dons a (dull) pointed cap and a cloth worn
around the waist that reaches up to the thigh (shympiar), a turban (jainspong), a dhoti (jainboh) and when he goes out of
the house he throw across his houlder a shawl (jainryndia tlem). Normally a woman wears a garment close to the body (jympein
or jainpein) tied around the waist and hanging below the knee. Other clothing worn consists of large square of matterial knotted
on one shoulder to keep in position (jainsem). This cloth is worn in and around the house. Another garment worn over the head
is the tapmoh khlieh and to top it, the other garment which is worn across the shoulder with the two ends tied infront. This
is a 'Jainkup'.
Well-to-do women wear
on top of the head a type of oval shaped leafy umbrella (knup sohra). The Khasis, especially the women, are very fond of gold
and silver ornaments which they wear on festive ocassions. The dancing costumes worn by men and women, especially those consisting
of dhara (silk) muka (Assam silk) are worn together with massive gold and silver
ornaments. The British when they came remarked that a Khasi woman's dress is the most modest dress in the world.
Khasi democracy has been in existence from time immemorial and the system is still followed. A group
of small localities are called 'Shnong' where there is a Rangbah Shnong (village elder) - The groups of Shnongs, constitute
a 'Hima' or 'raij' headed either by a Lyngdoh or Syiem (chiefs of Hima). The Syiem or Lyngdoh are titular heads and they have
no authority to exercise powers at their levels but only through the Dorbar (General council) and this Dorbar is the supreme
authority. The Hima deals with land ownership, land revenue, markets and settlement of disputes etc.
In the Hima Mawphlang,
the Chief is the Lyngdoh who is elected/ nominated from the Lyngdoh clan. There are four myntries (Ministers) nominated from
each of the following clans. (1) Iangblah clan, (2) Kharshiing clan (3) Sohliya clan (4) Kharhunai clan. The Executive Dorbar
consists of the Lyngdoh, the four myntris and the village elders. The Lyngdoh may summon the Dorbar when he thinks it fit
and necessary to settle issues by the Dorbar Shnong, or Executive Dorbar. The Dorbar has the power to remove the Lyngdoh or
Myntri if such incumbents do not conform to its will, traditional customs and usages of the Dorbar. In absence of the Lyngdoh
due to death, removal or absence from the Hima, the usual procedure is to allow the Myntri from the Iangblah clan to perform
his duties as Acting Chief.
The Shnong (village)
elects their own Rangbah Shnong (village elder) from amongst the prominent men of their choice and his name is sent to the
Lyngdoh for approval and a sanad issued. He is responsible for maintenance of law and order, settlement of petty cases, sees
to the matters of sanitation, civil and other allied matters. The Rangbah Shnong has a council of other members of the shnong
where from time to time a Dorbar shnong is summoned to settle major issues. The Dorbar by its inherent power may remove any
Rangbah Shnong if the Dorbar finds that such a Rangbah Shnong has not confirmed to this duties as such, and has violated traditional
rule of law.