Hotels in India » The Lifestyle of India » The Khasi Matriarchs Custodians of a Culture

The Khasi Matriarchs Custodians of a Culture

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 centuries.

They are you’ve 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 lawbei’s 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 man’s 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 violator’s 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 doesn’t 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 girl’s 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.