The main pivot of the khasi society is the
matriarchals system and the prime matriarch (lawbei)is the
vice-regent of the patron goddess of the clan who is a custodian of
their culture and religion. An insight into their lifestyle.
They are a people so
intriguing, yet so simple. So ancient, yet in tune with the changing
times. They still guard their heritage against the ravages of time, a
heritage that ahs braved the storm, dared the snows and successfully
challenged the rugged wild of the formidable north India for
They are youve
guessed it right, the incredible khasis who occupy the central area
of the state of Meghalaya, bordered by Bangladeshi on the south and
west and Assam on the north and east.
The origin of the tribe
is shrouded in myths. The general belief is that the khasis were the
first of the Mongolians to have migrated to India.
The main pivot on which
the entire structure and superstructure of the khasi society rests is
the matriarchal system. This feature ahs its roots in the belief that
every clan has its origin in a particular prime matriarch(lawbei).
From a theological point of view the lawbei is the immediate
vice-regent of the patron-goddess of the clan. Hence, the entire
lineage becomes her responsibility, ipso facto.
A more practical
explanation of the development of the matriarchal systems stems from
the fact that the Khasi were constantly engaged in the battlefield in
the years gone by. That necessitated a more constant factor at home
in order to ensure continuity of the line.
The Khasi religion is a
very simple one, devoid of complex doctrines of any kind. At the helm
of the structure is Ka Blei, the parton-goddess who has as her
vice-regent the lawbei, the prime matriarch. Next in the line is
Thawalng, the Originator, who is lawbeis spouse and per se the
ancient patriarch. At the bottom of the hierarchy is Duidnia, the
prime maternal uncle, who originally instituted the rites pertaining
to the clan.
The khasi theology
propounds that religion is basically the relationship between god and
man the relationship being determined by two factors, Ka Nia(reason)
and Jutang(covenant). Ka Nia seeks to explain mans existence on
earth and Jutang binds the Khasi people to certain principles. Since
the two factors are inter-related the khasis believe that any
transgression would disturb the system. Whenever a break of system
occurs, the khasis try to get at the root cause of the problem. They
converse with god through hens or eggs. Should any valid cause be
perceived or detected, the mediator then speaks to god asking
forgiveness on the violators behalf.
Occultism seems to play a
dominant role in the lives of the kahsis. They feel that the souls of
people who are utterly corrupt and beyond redemption become evil
spirits and haunt nature and the members of their clan. However there
are quite a few good spirits whom the kahsis call gods leikhuri is
one such spirit which is worshipped by thieves in order to keep their
wealth growing. It is believer that one who troubles the keepers of
Leikhuri would invite the wrath of this spirit which expresses itself
through various diseases of the stomach. Shwar is another spirit
which punishes those who offend its rearers. Its attacks are usually
gruesome and ruthless.
The most dreaded spirit
is then which manifests itself in various forms. It is considered
extremely fatal. However, the pogrom queen Tyrut reigns supreme in
the fearsome world of spirits. She is believed to be the head of the
entire spirit kingdom, haunting and cursing the families which are
struck by accidental deaths.
One pleasant aspect in
the lives of the occult-struck Khasis is their love for music. Using
the various traditional instruments they have created soothing
melodies. The pop music boom doesnt bother them because their
traditional instruments can churn out pop tunes as well.
The common wind
instruments used by the Khasis are the Sharati, besli, tangmuri,
mieng, dingload, tauroi, rongsing and the song. Traditional Khasi
percussion pieces include the nakra (used for making public
announcements), ksingrit (for sober occasions) singnalai,
padiah and the shakuriaw.
What the Iyer was to the
west, the duitara is to the Khasis. Sarong is another instrument very
similar to the duitara which is used on happy occasions.
Traditional Khasi dances
include a wide range of movements and expressions that speak out the
moods of the dancers. In the Shad Kynthei, all girls are free to
participate, chastity being the only condition. For, men shad Khalek
is the dance. Another dance, is the war dance of Shad Mastieh in
which only men can participate.
Just as their religion
does not involve many complexities, marriage and divorce among the
Khasis are a simple affair. To marry a particular girl, a Khasi male
has simply to choose one and then select a mediator to carry the
message to the girls family. A few negotiations follow between
the families of the bride and the groom. The marriage is thereafter
formalized through the exchange of engagement rings a day before the
wedding. On the wedding day, the groom leaves his house with his
friends and the mediator. He carries with him a bottle of liquor just
as the bride keeps a bottle at hand. After a final session of
interrogation and cross-questioning between the two mediators the
liquor from the two bootles is mixed together signifying the
unification of the couple.
In case of a divorce, the
mediators are supposed to be present. According to the bead divorce
system, the woman gives five beads to the man. The woman and the man
then hold five beads each. The man gives his five beads to the woman
and the woman in turn returns the ten beads to the man. The man
finally flings the beads to the ground signifying parting of ways.