The Khasi Tribe-Where women are the rulers…

khasi

Residing in the Meghalaya state of the north east India, and a small number living in Assam and Bangladesh, the Khasi tribe people are thought to be related to the Mon-Khmer. Their alternative name is Ki Hyniew trep (which means “seven huts” in the Khasi language). According to the Khasi mythology, they are a part of the seven families, out of sixteen, which remained stuck on Earth. They speak an Austro-Asiatic language known as the Khasi language. They have traditional dresses but most of them have adapted to the new western form of apparels. They follow a number of religions, including tribal religion, and even Islam.

The General Life of Khasi Tribe

Khasi tribe
Pic: Copyright Timothy Allen http://www.humanplanet.com

Known as the Ki Hyniew trep, which means “seven huts” in the Khasi language, the Khasi tribe has been living in the north eastern parts of India with a majority living in Meghalaya. They speak a language which is Asiatic with a hint of the southern parts of Asia in it mainly. This was a language used only orally till Thomas Jones had it transcribed it in Roman script. They are related to ancient groups of Khmers, Mon-Knmers, Palaungs and Nicobarese. They have been genetically related to their neighboring group, Garo. They have a large population living in India with many sub tribes such as Khynriam, Pnar, Bhoi and War. These different sub tribes inhabit different areas of the Jaintia hills and Khasi hills. In some parts of India they are regarded as Scheduled Tribe.

Their society, though very old, but has very modern concepts regarding marriage. Most of the marriages are monogamous and though deviations from this rule might occur but they are very rare. Both the sides, of the bride and the groom, are given full freedom to select their life partners. The boy chooses a girl and informs his parents about it. His parents then seek the consent of the girl’s family who in turn ask about the girl’s opinion on the subject. The marriage is agreed upon only when the girl has given her consent for it.

Divorce is a general occurrence in their society and is easily attainable too. During the old times their system of divorce was rather very simple. The husband had to give his wife 5 cowries which were to be returned by her with another 5 cowries of her own. Then the man had to give to an elderly man of the village who would throw it away or he himself would throw it away. In the current days the divorce occurs under the rules of the Legislation of India.

The Gods of Khasi’s

tribes of India
Traditional art of Khasi Tribe

The Khasi tribe has a religion of its own known as the “Ka Niam Khasi” or “Ka Niam Tre”. Acoording to their mythology the place of origin of the Khasi people was Hynniewtrep. Their mythology considers Beli to be the creator who created sixteen families altogether. Out of these families around nine remained back at heaven while the other seven were to reside on the planet earth. Myth has it that there was a ladder connecting the heaven and earth, using which the people on earth could go to heaven to worship the Gods. However, the people of Khasi made very frequent visits to heaven wchich eventually angered the Gods. This resulted in the ladder, which was thought to be placed at present day Ri-Bhoi district, being removed.

They have some very amusing believes one of them involves the sacrifice of roosters. They believe the rooster to be an alternative to man. Hence, if they killed a rooster in the name of man all his sins would be forgiven.

Other religions which they are known to follow are Presbyterian, Anglican, Unitarian, Roman Catholic and a few of them even follow Islam.

Dress culture of Khasi tribe

dress of khasi tribe
Dress of Khasi tribe

The Khasi men have now adapted to western dressing though they do wear their traditional dresses during occasions. This dress is known as Jymphong and is long though is deprived of sleeves and collars. It is fastened at the front. An ornamental waist band, called sarong isan, is paired with it. They might even wear a turban at times.

The traditional female dress is called Jainsem or Dhara. The Jainsem has two pieces of clothes which are fastened at the shoulder while Dhara has one piece of cloth which is also fastened at the front. They might even wear a few ornaments with a gold or silver crown forming a part of the ornaments. The crown may also be decorated by feathers.

What does the house look like?

Although the Khasi people have changed a lot with changing times but the conventional house of the Khasi seems to be just as fascinating. Their house which looks like a shell covering on the outside comprises of three rooms mainly on the inside. These three rooms have three different names known as the shynghup, nengpei and rumpei. The shynghup is used for storage, the nenegpei is the kitchen and the drawing room whereas the rumpei is the innermost room and is used as a bedroom. These types of housing conditions can be seen even today especially at the houses of those Khasi members who cannot afford to change the conditions of their houses. However, the wealthy Khasi tribe members, on the other hand have houses made of concrete with roofs of iron and doors and windows. They might even have rich furniture.

Eatables for the Khasi

khasi food
Traditional Khasi Food

Rice forms the stable diet of the people of the Khasi tribe. Together with rice they also consume fish and meat and vegetables. They also ferment beer alongside the other tribes of the region. They might make beer by distillation of the water which is left after rice or millet is cooked. The beverages form a very important part of the society where they are used during every occasion.

The men of the society are mainly involved in agriculture.

Lifestyle of Khasi tribe

The Khasi lifestyle is very interesting and may find a special place in the heart of those fighting for women’s rights. The system of society is matrilineal, which means that the women of this society are much more powerful than the men. The property rights are given to women instead of men and all the decisions in a family occurs under the senior-most female member. The men in the society cannot have a house of their own; they have to either live in the house of their mother, sister, wife or daughter. Even the most efficient male members of the clan cannot do anything on his own and is considered second only after the women of the tribe. Simply, this is a tribe where women empowerment is seen in its most effective form.