The Khasis
P. R. T. Gurdon

Part 2 out of 5

and thrashed out on the spot, either by beating them against a stone
(_shoh kba_), or by men and women treading them out (_iuh kba_). Cattle
are not used for treading out the grain. The grain is then collected
and placed in large bamboo receptacles (_ki thiar_). The paddy-fields
are not manured. The Khasis, when cultivating high lands, select a
clayey soil if they can. In the early part of the winter the sods are
turned over with the hoe, and they are exposed to the action of the
atmosphere for a period of about two months. When the sods are dry,
they are placed in piles, which are generally in rows in the fields,
and by means of ignited bunches of dry grass within the piles a
slow fire is kept up, the piles of sods being gradually reduced to
ashes. This is the "paring and burning process" used in England. The
ashes so obtained are then carefully raked over the field. Sometimes
other manure is also applied, but not when paddy is cultivated. The
soil is now fit to receive the seed, either high-land paddy, millet,
Job's tears, or other crops, as the case may be. The homestead lands
are plentifully manured, and consequently, with attention, produce
good crops. They are cultivated with the hoe.

The cultivation of oranges in the southern portion of the district
ranks equally in importance with that of the potato in the
northern. The orange, which is known in Calcutta as the Chhatak or
Sylhet orange, comes from the warm southern slopes of the hills in
this district, where it is cultivated on an extensive scale. Although
oranges do best when there is considerable heat, they have been known
to do well as high as 3,000 ft.; but the usual limit of elevation
for the growth of oranges in this district is probably about 1,000 to
1,500 ft. The orange of the Khasi Hills has always been famous for its
excellence, and Sir George Birdwood, in his introduction to the "First
Letter Book of the East India Company," page 36, refers to the orange
and lemon of Garhwal, Sikkim, and Khasia as having been carried by Arab
traders into Syria, "whence the Crusaders helped to gradually propagate
them throughout Southern Europe." Therefore, whereas the potato was
imported, the orange would appear to be indigenous in these hills.

_Nurseries_.--The seeds are collected and dried by being exposed to the
sun. In the spring nurseries we prepared, the ground being thoroughly
hoed and the soil pulverized as far as possible. The nursery is walled
with stones. The seeds are then sown, a thin top layer of earth being
applied. The nurseries are regularly watered, and are covered up with
layers of leaves to ensure, as far as possible, the retention of the
necessary moisture. When the plants are 3 or 4 in. high, they are
transplanted to another and larger nursery, the soil of which has
been previously well prepared for the reception of the young plants.

An orangery is prepared in the following manner:--

The shrubs, weeds and small trees are cut down, leaving only the
big trees for the purpose of shade. The plants from the nurseries
are planted from 6 ft. to 9 ft. apart. When they have become young
trees, many of the branches of the sheltering trees mentioned above
are lopped off, so as to admit the necessary amount of sunlight
to the young orange trees. As the orange trees increase in size,
the sheltering trees are gradually felled. The orchard requires
clearing of jungle once in spring and once in autumn. The Khasis do
not manure their orange trees, nor do they dig about and expose the
roots. The price of orange plants is from 75 to 100 plants per rupee
for plants from 1 to 2 ft. in height, and from fifty to seventy-five
plants per rupee for plants from 2 to 5 ft. in height. Orange trees
bear fruit when from five to eight years old in ordinary soils. In
very fertile soils they sometimes bear after four years. A full-grown
tree yields annually as many as 1,000 oranges, but a larger number
is not unknown. The larger portion of the produce is exported from
the district to the plains, and to fruit markets at the foot of the
hills such as Theria, Mawdon, and Phali-Bazar, on the Shella river,
whence it finds its way to the Calcutta and Eastern Bengal markets.

Potatoes are raised on all classes of land, except _hali_, or wet paddy
land. When the land has been properly levelled and hoed, drains are
dug about the field. A cultivator (generally a female), with a basket
of seed potatoes on her back and with a small hoe in her right hand,
digs holes and with the left hand drops two seed-potatoes into each
hole. The holes are about 6 in. in diameter, 6 in. deep, and from
6 to 9 in. apart from one another. Another woman, with a load of
manure in a basket on her back, throws a little manure over the seed
in the hole, and then covers both up with earth. After the plants
have attained the height of about 6 in., they are earthed up. When
the leaves turn yellow, it is a sign that the potatoes are ripe. The
different kinds of sweet potatoes grown and the yam and another kind
of esculent root--_u sohphlang_ (_femingia vestita Benth_.) will be
noticed under the head of "Crops."

The Khasis possess very few agricultural sayings and proverbs, but
the following may be quoted as examples:--

(1) _Wat ju ai thung jingthung ne bet symbai ha uba sniew kti_.

Do not allow plants to be planted or seeds to be sown by one who has
a bad hand.

As elsewhere, there is a belief amongst the Khasis that some people's
touch as regards agriculture is unlucky.

(2) _Thung dieng ne bet symbai haba ngen bnai, ym haba shai u bnai_.

Plant trees or sow seeds not when the moon is waxing, but when it is
on the wane.

(3) _Wei la saw bha ka bneng sepngi jan miet phin sa ioh jingrang

A red sky in the west in the evening is the sign of fine weather

Cf. our English proverb "a red sky in the morning is a shepherd's
warning, a red sky at night is a shepherd's delight."


The varieties of rice found in the Khasi Hills are divided into two
main classes, one grown as a dry crop on high lands, and the other
raised in valleys and hollows which are artificially irrigated from
hill streams. The lowland rice is more productive than that grown
on high lands, the average per acre of the former, according to
the agricultural bulletin, as ascertained from the results of 817
experimental crop cuttings carried out during the fifteen years
preceding the year 1898, being 11.7 maunds of paddy per acre,
as against an average of 9.4 maunds per acre (resulting from 667
cuttings made during the same period) for the latter. [16] The average
out-turn of both kinds is extremely poor, as compared with that of any
description of rice grown in the plains. The rice grown in the hills
is said by the Agricultural Department to be of inferior quality, the
grain when cleaned being of a red colour, and extremely coarse. The
cultivation of potatoes is practically confined to the Khasi Hills,
there being little or none in the Jaintia Hills. The normal out-turn of
the summer crop sown in February and harvested in June is reported by
the Agricultural Department to be five times the quantity of seed used,
and that of the winter crop, sown in August and September on the land
from which the summer crop has been taken, and harvested in December,
twice the quantity of seed. The winter crop is raised chiefly for
the purpose of obtaining seed for the spring sowings, as it is found
difficult to keep potatoes from the summer crop in good condition till
the following spring. The usual quantity of seed used to the acre at
each sowing is about 9 maunds, so that the gross out-turn of an acre
of land cultivated with potatoes during the year may be taken at 63
maunds, and the net out-turn, after deducting the quantity of seed
used, at 45 maunds. The above estimate of the Agricultural Department
rests chiefly on the statements of the cultivators, and has not been
adequately tested by experiment.

Since the appearance of the potato disease in 1885-86 there has been
a great decrease in the area under potato cultivation. In 1881-82
the exports of potatoes from the district were as high as 126,981
maunds. From 1886-87 the exports began annually to decrease until in
1895-96 the very low figure of 8,296 maunds was reached. The figures
of export for the last nine years are as follows:--

1896-97 16,726 maunds
1897-98 7,805 maunds
1898-99 9,272 maunds
1899-00 5,422 maunds
1900-01 29,142 maunds
1901-02 38,251 maunds
1902-03 36,047 maunds
1903-04 50,990 maunds

It will be seen that in the three years following the earthquake of
1897 the exports fell very low indeed. Since 1901 the trade has been
steadily recovering, and the exports of 1904 reached half a lakh
of maunds.

It will be observed that there has been some improvement, but the
exports are still not half what they were in 1881-82. There are
two kinds of sweet potatoes grown in the district, the Garo potato
(_u phan Karo_), which appears to have been introduced from the Garo
Hills, and _u phan sawlia_, the latter being distinguished from the
Garo potato by its having a red skin, the Garo potato possessing a
white skin. These kinds of potato are planted on all classes of land
except _hali_, they do best on jhumed and homestead lands. The yam
proper (_u phan shynreh_) is also largely grown. The small plant
with an edible root called by the Khasis _u sohphang_ (_flemingia
vestita Benth_.), is also largely grown. The roots of the plant after
being peeled are eaten raw by the Khasis. As far as we know, this
esculent is not cultivated in the adjoining hill districts. Job's
tears (_coix lachryma-Jobi_) [17] are extensively grown, and are
planted frequently with the _sohphlang_ mentioned above. This cereal
forms a substitute for rice amongst the poorer cultivators. Maize or
Indian corn (_u riew hadem_) is grown frequently, thriving best on
homestead land, and requires heavy manuring; it is grown in rotation
with potatoes. Next in importance to rice comes the millet (_u krai_),
as a staple of food amongst the Khasis. There are three varieties
of millets generally to be seen in the Khasi Hills:--_u 'rai-soh_
(_setaria Italica_), _u 'rai-shan_ (_Paspalum sanguinale_), and
_u 'rai-truh_ (_Eleusine coracana_). _U 'rai-shan_ is cultivated
in rotation with the potato, _u 'rai-soh_ and _u 'rai-truh_ are
generally cultivated on jhumed land, where they thrive well. Millet
is sometimes used instead of rice in the manufacture of spirit by the
Khasis; _u rymbai-ja_ (_phaseolus calcaratus_), and _u rymbai ktung_
(_glycine soja_) are beans which are cultivated occasionally: Khasis
highly prize the fruit of the plantain, which they give to infants
mashed up. The following are the best known varieties:--_Ka kait khun,
ka kait siem, ka kait kulbuit, ka kait bamon, ka kait shyieng_.

The most important crop on the southern side of the hills is the
orange, which has already been referred to in the paragraph dealing
with agriculture.

The oranges are sold by the _spah_ or 100, which is not a 100
literally, but somewhat over 3,000 oranges. Different places have
different _spahs_. At Phali Hat, on the Bogapani River, the _spah_
is computed as follows:--

1 Hali = 4 oranges.
8 Halis = 1 Bhar.
100 Bhars = shi spah (one hundred) = 3200 oranges.

At Shella the computation is slightly different, being as follows:--

1 Gai = 6 oranges.
5 Gais + 2 oranges = 32 oranges.
4 Bhars = 1 hola = 128 oranges
27 holas + 2 bhars = shi spah (100) = 3,520 oranges.

By another method of calculation the _spah_ consists of 3,240 oranges.

The price per _spah_ varies from about 10 rupees in good years to
Rs. 40, when the orange harvest has been a poor one.

The lime is also cultivated, not separately, but along with the
orange. The lime can be grown with success at a higher altitude than
the orange. There is extensive betel-nut and _pan_ cultivation on the
southern slopes of the hills. The betel-nut tree is cultivated in the
same manner as in the plains, except that the trees are planted nearer
to one another. The trees bear when eight to ten years old. A portion
of the crop is sold just after it has been plucked; this is called _u
'wai khaw_, and is for winter consumption. The remainder of the crop
is kept in large baskets, which are placed in tanks containing water,
the baskets being completely immersed. This kind of betel-nut is
called _u 'wai um_. The Khasis, like the Assamese; prefer the fresh
betel-nut. They do not relish the dry _supari_ so much.

The principal _pan_ gardens are on the south side of the hills, _pan_
not being grown on the northern slopes, except in the neighbourhood
of Jirang. The _pan_ creepers are raised from cuttings, the latter
being planted close to the trees up which they are to be trained. The
creeper is manured with leaf mould. The plant is watered by means of
small bamboo aqueducts which are constructed along the hill-sides,
the water being conducted along them often considerable distances. As
in the plains, the leaves of the _pan_ creeper are collected throughout
the year.

The bay leaf (_'la tyrpad_, or _tezpat_) is classified in the
_Agricultural Bulletin_ as _Cinnamomum tamala_, and there is a note
in the column of remarks that "this tree, as well as one or two
others of the same genus, yields two distinct products, _tezpat_
(bay leaf) and cinnamon bark." The bay leaf is gathered for export
from the extensive gardens in Maharam, Malaisohmat, Mawsynram, and
other Khasi States. The plants are raised from seed, although there
are no regular nurseries, the young seedlings being transplanted from
the jungle, where they have germinated, to regular gardens. Bay leaf
gardens are cleared of jungle and weeds periodically; otherwise no
care is taken of them. The leaf-gathering season is from November to
March. The leaves are allowed to dry for a day or two in the sun,
and then packed in large baskets for export. The gathering of bay
leaf begins when the trees are about four years old.

The following are the other minor crops which are grown in the Khasi
and Jaintia Hills:--

Pineapples, turmeric, ginger, pumpkins and gourds, the egg plant,
chillies, sesamum, and a little sugar-cane. The arum [18] (_ka shiriw_)
is also extensively grown in the hills, and forms one of the principal
articles of food amongst the poorer classes; it is generally raised in
rotation with potatoes, or is planted along with Job's tears. The stem
of the arum is sometimes used as a vegetable, also for feeding pigs.

In the Jowai Sub-Division, notably at Nartiang, there are fairly good
mangoes, which are more free from worms than those grown in the plains
of Assam.

The Bhois and Lynngams cultivate lac. They plant _arhar dal, u landoo_,
in their fields, and rear the lac insect on this plant. Last year the
price of lac at Gauhati and Palasbari markets rose as high as Rs. 50
per maund of 82 lbs., it is said, but the price at the outlying
markets of Singra and Boko was about Rs. 30. The price of lac has
risen a good deal of late years. Formerly the price was about Rs. 15 to
Rs. 20 a maund. The lac trade in the Jaintia Hills and in the southern
portion of the Khyrim State is a valuable one. The profits, however,
go largely to middle-men, who in the Jaintia Hills are Syntengs from
Jowai, who give out advances to the Bhoi cultivators on the condition
that they will be repaid in lac. The Marwari merchants from the plains
attend all the plains markets which are frequented by the hill-men,
and buy up the lac and export it to Calcutta. The whole of the lac
is of the kind known as stick lac.


The weapons used by the Khasis for hunting are bows and arrows,
the latter with barbed iron heads, and spears which are used both
for casting and thrusting. Before proceeding on a hunting expedition
the hunters break eggs, in order to ascertain whether they will be
successful or not, and to which jungle they should proceed. Offerings
are also made to certain village deities, e.g. _U. Ryngkew, u Basa_,
and _u Basa ki mrad_. A lucky day having been selected and the deities
propitiated, the hunters start with a number of dogs trained to the
chase, the latter being held on leashes by a party of men called _ki
nongai-ksew_. When the dogs have picked up the scent some hunters
are placed as "stops" (_ki ktem_), at points of vantage in the
jungle, and the drive commences with loud shouts from the hunters,
the same being continued until the object of the chase breaks into
the open. The man who draws the first blood is called u _nongsiat_,
and the second man who scores a hit _u nongban_. These two men get
larger shares of the flesh than the others. The _nongsiat_ obtains
the lower half of the body of the animal, thighs and feet excepted,
called _ka tdong_, and the _nongban_ one of the forequarters called
_ka tabla_. The other hunters obtain a string of flesh each, and each
hound gets a string of flesh to itself. These hunting parties pursue
deer sometimes for many miles, and are indefatigable in the chase, the
latter lasting occasionally more than one day. In the Jaintia Hills,
at the end of the chase, the quarry is carried to the house of the
_nongsiat_, where a _puja_ is performed to some local deity, before
the flesh is distributed. At Shangpung, when a tiger or a mithan is
killed, the head is cut off, and is carried in triumph to a hill in
the neighbourhood where there is a _duwan_, or altar, at the foot
of an oak tree (_dieng sning_). The head is displayed on the altar,
and worship offered to _u 'lei lyngdoh_, the God of the doloiship.

The Khasis make use of an ingenious species of spring gun for killing
game, the spring gun being laid alongside a deer path in the jungle. A
string stretched across the path, when touched, releases a bolt and
spring, which latter impels a bamboo arrow with great force across
the path. This spring gun is called _ka riam siat_. A pit-fall, with
bamboo spikes at the bottom, is called _u 'liw lep_, and a trap of the
pattern of the ordinary leopard trap is called _ka riam slung_. A noose
attached to a long rope laid in a deer run is named _riam syrwiah_.

There is also _ka riam pap_, the principle of which is that an animal
is attracted by a bait to walk on to a platform; the platform sinks
under the weight of the animal, and a bolt is released which brings
down a heavy roof from above weighted with stones, which crush the
animal to death.

There are several means employed in snaring birds; one of the most
common is to smear pieces of bamboo with the gum of the jack-tree,
the former being tied to the branches of some wild fruit tree, upon
which, when the fruit is ripe, the birds light and are caught by the
bird lime. This is called _ka riam thit_. Another is a kind of spring
bow made of bamboo which is laid on the ground in marshy places,
such as are frequented by snipe and woodcock. This form of snare
is unfortunately most common. A third is a cage into which birds
are lured by means of a bait, the cage being hidden in the grass,
and the entrance being so contrived that the birds can hop in but
not out again. This is called _ka riam sim_.


Although there are some Khasis who fish with rod and line, it
may be said that the national method of fishing is to poison the
streams. Khasis, except the Wars and the people of Shella, unlike
the Assamese and Bengalis, do not fish with nets, nor do they use the
bamboo-work device known by the Assamese as _pala_ (pala) and _jakai_
(jakaaii). The method of fish-poisoning of the Khasis is the same
as that described by Soppitt in his account of the tribes inhabiting
North Cachar. The following is a description of how Khasis poison fish
in the western portion of the district; it may be taken as a sample
of the whole. A large quantity of the bark of the tree _ka mynta_ and
the creeper _u khariew_ is first brought to the river-side to a place
on the stream a little above the pool which it is proposed to poison,
where it is thoroughly beaten with sticks till the juice exudes and
flows into the water, the juice being of a milky white colour. In a
few minutes the fish begin to rise and splash about, and, becoming
stupefied, allow themselves to be caught in the shallows. If the
beating of the bark has been well carried out, many of the fish soon
die and after a time float on the surface of the water. A large number
of Khasis stand on the banks armed with bamboo scoops shaped like
small landing nets, to catch the fish, and fish traps (_ki khowar_)
Assamese _khoka_ (khookaa) are laid between the stones in the rapids
to secure any fish that may escape the fishing party. Another fish
poison is the berry _u soh lew_, the juice of which is beaten out in
the same manner as described above.

Soppitt says, certain fish do not appear to be susceptible to the
poison, and not nearly the destruction takes place that is popularly
supposed. The mahseer and the carp family generally do not suffer
much, whereas, on the other hand, the river shark, the _bagh mas_ of
the Bengalis, is killed in large numbers. It is impossible, however,
in the opinion of the writer, that the mahseer fry, which abound in
these hill rivers in the spring and early summer months, can escape
being destroyed in great numbers when the streams are frequently
poisoned. In the neighbourhood of lime quarries and other large works
where dynamite is used for blasting, this explosive is sometimes
employed for killing fish. The practice, however, has been strictly
prohibited, and there have been some cases in which the offenders
have been punished in the courts. Fish-poisoning is bad enough, but
dynamiting is still worse, as with an effective cartridge all the
fish within a certain area are killed, none escape. When poisons are
used, however, some fish are not affected by them, and others are
only stupefied for the time being and afterwards recover.


The Khasi and Syntengs ordinarily take two meals a day, one in
the early morning and the other in the evening, but labourers and
others who have to work hard in the open take a midday meal as well,
consisting of cold boiled rice wrapped in a leaf (_ka ja-song_),
cakes (_ki kpu_) and a tuberous root (_u sohphlang_) which is eaten
raw. They are fond of all kinds of meat, especially pork and beef,
although some of the Syntengs, owing to Hindu influence, abstain from
eating the latter. Unlike the neighbouring Naga, Garo and Kuki tribes,
the Khasis abstain from the flesh of the dog. Both Bivar and Shadwell
say the reason why the Khasis do not eat the flesh of the dog is
because he is in a certain sense a sacred animal amongst them. There
is a Khasi folk-tale relating how the dog came to be regarded as
the friend of man. It is, however, quite possible that the Khasis
may never have eaten the flesh of the dog from remote times, and it
is nothing extraordinary that the Khasis should differ in a detail
of diet from the neighbouring Thibeto-Burman tribes which are so
dissimilar to them in many respects. The Khasis, except some of the
Christian community and some of the people of the Mawkhar, do not use
milk, butter, or ghee as articles of food. In this respect they do
not differ from the Kacharis and Rabhas of the plains or the Garos
of the hills. The Mongolian race in its millions as a rule does not
use milk for food, although the Tibetans and some of the Turcoman
tribes are exceptions. Before fowls or animals are killed for food,
prayers must be said, and rice sprinkled on the body of the animal. The
staple food of the Khasis is rice and dried fish. When rice cannot
be obtained or is scarce, millet or Job's tears are used instead. The
latter are boiled, and a sort of porridge is obtained, which is eaten
either hot or cold according to fancy. Khasis eat the flesh of nearly
all wild animals, they also eat field rats and one kind of monkey
(_u shrih_). The Syntengs and Lynngams are fond of tadpoles, and the
Khasis consider a curry made from a kind of green frog, called _ka
japieh_, a _bonne bouche_. They, however, do not eat ordinary frogs
(_jakoid_). The Khasis of Mariao, Maharam, Nongstoin and some other
Siemships eat the hairy caterpillar, _u'niang phlang_.

A staple food which must not be forgotten is the inner portion of
the bark of the sago palm tree, _ka tlai_, which grows wild in the
forest and attains a large size. The tree is felled and the outer bark
removed, the soft inner part is cut into slices, dried in the sun,
pounded in a mortar and then passed through a fine bamboo sieve. A
reddish flour is obtained, of sweet taste, which is boiled with
rice. This flour is said to make good cakes and puddings.

Although the Khasis are such varied feeders, there are some clans
amongst them which are prohibited by the ordinance of _sang_, or taboo,
from eating certain articles. The following are some instances:--

The Cherra Siem family cannot eat dried fish (_'kha-piah_); the
Siem of Mylliem must not eat the gourd (_u pathaw_); a fish called
_ka'kha-lani_ is taboo to some of the _Siem-lih_ class. Some of the
War people must not eat _ka ktung_ (preserved fish), and the clan
_'khar-um-nuid_ in Khyrim is debarred from the pleasure of partaking
of pork. The flesh of the sow is _sang_ to the _'dkhar_ clan, although
that of the male pig may be eaten.


The Khasis are in the habit of regularly drinking considerable
quantities either of a spirit distilled from rice or millet (_ka'iad
pudka_), or of rice-beer, which is of two kinds (1) _ka'iad hiar_,
(2) _ka'iad um_. Both of these are made from rice and, in some places,
from millet, and the root of a plant called _u khawiang_. _Ka'iad hiar_
is made by boiling the rice or millet. It is then taken out and spread
over a mat, and, when it cools, fragments of the yeast (_u khawiang_)
are sprinkled over it. After this it is placed in a basket, which
is put in a wooden bowl. The basket is covered tightly with a cloth
so as to be air-tight, and it is allowed to remain in this condition
for a couple of days, during which time the liquor has oozed out into
the bowl. To make _ka'iad um_ the material, the rice or millet from
which the _ka'iad hiar_ was brewed, is made use of. It is placed in
a large earthen pot and allowed to remain there for about five days
to ferment, after which the liquor is strained off. _Ka'iad hiar_ is
said to be stronger than _ka'iad um_. The former is used frequently by
distillers of country spirit for mixing with the wort so as to set up
fermentation. The people of the high plateaux generally prefer rice
spirit, and the Wars of the southern slopes of the Khasi and Jaintia
Hills customarily partake of it also. The Khasis of the western hills,
e.g. of the Nongstoin Siemship, and the Lynngams, Bhois, Lalungs,
and Hadems almost invariably drink rice-beer, but the Syntengs, like
the Khasi uplanders, drink rice-spirit. Rice-beer (_ka'iad um_) is
a necessary article for practically all Khasi and Synteng religious
ceremonies of importance, it being the custom for the officiating
priest to pour out libations of liquor from a hollow gourd (_u klong_)
to the gods on these occasions. As there is no Excise in the district,
except within a five-mile radius of Shillong, liquor of both the
above descriptions can be possessed and sold without restriction.

According to some Khasi traditions the Khasis in ancient times used
not to drink spirits, but confined themselves to rice-beer. It is
only in the last couple of generations that the habit of drinking
spirits has crept in, according to them. From Khasi accounts, the
use of spirits is on the increase, but there is no means of testing
these statements. There can be no doubt, however, that at the present
time a very large amount of spirit is manufactured and consumed in
the district. The spirit is distilled both for home consumption and
for purposes of sale; in some villages, e.g. Mawlai and Marbisu,
near Shillong, where there are fifty-nine and forty-nine stills
respectively, there being a still almost in every house. Mawlai
village supplies a great deal of the spirit which is drunk in Shillong,
and from Marbisu spirit is carried for sale to various parts of the
hills. Other large distilling centres are Cherrapunji, with forty-seven
stills; Jowai, with thirty-one stills; Laitkynsew, with fifty-four
stills; Nongwar, thirty-one stills; and Rangthang, thirty-seven stills.

From what has been stated above some idea may be gathered how very
large the number of stills in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills is. I am
not in a position to state with any degree of accuracy what is the
amount of spirit manufactured or consumed in the year, but it is very
considerable. The out-turn of a Khasi still has been reckoned at from
four to eight bottles per day. From this estimate, and the fact that
there are 1,530 stills in the district, it may be roughly calculated
what is the consumption annually. Practically the whole of the spirit
is consumed within the district. The liquor which is manufactured is
far stronger than the spirit distilled in the ordinary out-stills in
the plains. It has been stated by an expert analyst that the Khasi
spirit contains 60 to 80 per cent. of proof spirit, and that it
possesses "an exceptionally nice flavour and taste." The usual price
at which it is sold is 4 to 6 annas a quart bottle, a second quality
being sometimes sold for 3 annas. It will be seen that the liquor is
exceedingly cheap. A Khasi in the villages of the interior can get
drunk for 2 annas, [19] or a quarter of an ordinary coolie's daily
wage. Drunkenness prevails on every market day at Cherrapunji, Jowai,
and other large hats, and on occasions when there are gatherings of
the people for various purposes. This cheap but strong spirit is
demoralizing the people, and some restriction of its use would be
welcomed by many. In the Khasi Welsh Methodist Church abstention from
liquor is made a condition of Church membership, but the vast number
of stills and the facilities with which liquor can be obtained are a
constant source of temptation to the Christian community, and cause
many defections.


The Khasis have many games, but their principal game is archery, this
may be said to be the national game, and is a very popular form of
recreation amongst them, the sport being indulged in from about the
beginning of January to the end of May each year. The following is
a description of a Khasi archery meeting, for the details of which
I am largely indebted to U Job Solomon. By way of introduction it
should be stated that the Khasis opine that arrow-shooting originated
at the beginning of creation. The Khasi Eve (_Ka-mei-ka-nong-hukum_)
had two sons to whom she taught the toxophilite art, at the same time
she warned them never to lose their tempers over the game. At the
present day villages have regular archery meetings, the men of one
village challenging those of another. There are men on both sides
called _nong khan khnam_ (lit., he who stops the arrow). This man,
by uttering spells, and reciting the shortcomings of the opposite
side, is supposed to possess the power of preventing the arrows of the
opposing party hitting the mark. These men also, to some extent, may be
said to perform the duties of umpires. They may be styled umpires for
the sake of convenience in this account. Before the match commences
conditions are laid down by the umpires of both sides, such as (_a_)
the day on which the contest is to take place; (_b_) the place of the
meeting; (_c_) the number of arrows to be shot by each archer; (_d_)
the distinguishing marks to be given to the arrows of either side;
(_e_) the amounts of the stakes on each side; (_f_) the number of
times the competitors are to shoot on the day of the archery meeting,
and many other conditions too numerous to mention here. The targets are
generally small bundles of grass called "_u skum_," about 1 ft. long
by 4 in. in diameter, fastened on a small pole. Sometimes targets are
made from the root of a plant called _ka soh pdung_. The distances
from the point where the marksmen stand to the targets are some 40 to
50 yards. Each side has its own target, the different targets being
placed in a line, and the competitors taking up their positions in
a straight line at right angles to the line of fire, and facing the
targets; each side in turn then shoots at its own target. Early in
the morning of the day fixed for the contest the umpire of each side
sits in front of his target with a hollow bamboo full of water in
his hand, the bows and arrows being laid on the ground alongside the
targets. The umpire then repeats all the conditions of the contest,
invokes the aid of the primeval woman (_ka mei ka nong hukum_)
aforesaid, goes through certain incantations freely referring to the
many faults of the opposite side, and pours water at intervals from
the bamboo in front of the target. This business lasts about two
hours. Then they exhort the competitors of their respective sides,
and the match commences amidst loud shouts. Every time there is a
hit there are loud cheers, the competitors leaping high into the air,
the umpires muttering their incantations all the while. At the end of
each turn the number of hits are counted by representatives of both
sides. At the close of the day the side with the greatest number of
hits wins the match, the successful party returning home, dancing
and shouting. The young women admirers of both sides assemble, and
dispense refreshments to the competitors, taking a keen interest in
the proceedings withal. Frequently large wagers are made on either
side. In the _Khadar Blang_ portion of the Nongkrem State as much as
Rs. 500 are occasionally wagered on either side. In Jowai the practice
is also to bet a lump sum, the amount being raised by subscription
from amongst the competitors. More usual bets are, however, about
one anna a head. The _nong khang khnam_ and the men who prepare the
targets receive presents from their respective sides. The Khasi bow
carries a considerable distance, an arrow shot over 180 yards being
within the personal knowledge of the writer. It is believed that Khasi
bows wielded by experts carry up to 200 yards. The average range may
be said, however, to be 150 to 180 yards.

Yule mentions peg-top spinning amongst Khasi children as being
indigenous and not an importation, but Bivar thinks that the game is
of foreign introduction. I am, however, inclined to agree with Yule
that peg-top spinning is indigenous, inasmuch as this game could not
have been copied from the Sylhetis or the Assamese of the plains,
who do not indulge in it. As the British had only recently established
themselves in the hills when Yule wrote, they would scarcely have had
time or opportunity to introduce an English children's game. Khasi
children also play a kind of "hop Scotch" (_khyndat mala shito_ and
_ia tiet hile_), and Yule writes, "Another of their recreations is
an old acquaintance also, which we are surprised to meet with in the
Far East. A very tall thick bamboo is planted in the ground, and well
oiled. A silver ornament, or a few rupees placed at the top, reward
the successful climber." A leg of mutton, or a piece of pork fixed
at the top of this pole would render the pastime identical with the
"greasy-pole" climbing of English villages. The following are some
other Khasi games:--

Wrestling; two persons grasping each other's hands with the fingers
interlocked, and then trying to push one another down; tug-of-war with
a piece of stick, the two combatants placing their feet one against
the other; butting at one another like bulls, and trying to upset
each other (_ia tur masi_); long jump; high jump; blind-man's buff;
flying kites; pitching cowries into a hole in the ground; a game like
marbles, only played with round pebbles, and others.


The manufactures of the Khasis are few in number, and do not seem
to show any tendency to increase. On the contrary, two of the most
important industries, the smelting of iron ore and the forging of
iron implements therefrom, and the cotton-spinning industries at
Mynso and Suhtnga, show signs of dying out. Ploughshares and hoes
and bill-hooks can now be obtained more cheaply from the plains than
from the forges in the hills, and Manchester piece goods are largely
taking the place of cloths of local manufacture. The iron industry
in former days was an important one, and there is abundant evidence
that the workings were on a considerable scale, e.g. at Nongkrem
and Laitlyngkot, in the shape of large granite boulders which have
fallen to the ground from the sides of the hills owing to the softer
rock which filled the interstices between the boulders having been
worked out by the ironworkers, their process being to dig out the
softer ferruginous rock, and then extract the iron ore from it by
means of washing. The softer rock having been removed, the heavier
portions fell by their own weight, and rolled down to the bottom of
the slopes, the result being the great number of boulders to be seen
near the sites of these workings.

Colonel Lister, writing in 1853, estimated that 20,000 maunds of iron
were exported from the hills in the shape of hoes to the Assam Valley,
and in lumps of pig iron to the Surma Valley, where it was used by
boat-builders for clamps. Nowadays the smelting of iron is carried
on in very few places. There are still smelting-houses at Nongkrem
and Nongsprung, but these are practically the only places left where
smelting of iron ore goes on: there are many forges where rough iron
brought from the plains is melted down and forged into billhooks and
hoes. Messrs. Yule and Cracroft have described the native process
of smelting iron, and it is only necessary to refer to their papers
if information is required on the subject. Yule's account is a very
full one, and is to be found at page 853, vol. xi. part ii. of the
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The system pursued, both in
the extraction and in the subsequent smelting of the ore, is the same
at the present day as that described by Yule. Dr. Oldham, writing in
1863, says, "The quality of this Khasi iron is excellent for all such
purposes as Swedish iron is now used for. The impurity of the blooms
(or masses of the metal in a molten state), however, as they are sent
to market, is a great objection to its use, and the waste consequent
thereon renders it expensive. It would also form steel or wootz (Indian
steel) of excellent quality. I have no doubt that the manufacture
could be greatly improved and possibly extended." Dr. Oldham, however,
goes on to remark that the manufacture of iron could not be very much
extended, owing to the scanty dissemination of the ore in the rocks,
and the consequent high cost of obtaining it. At present the want
of any permanent supply of water prevents the natives from working
for more than a few days during the year, whilst the rains are heavy,
and they can readily obtain sufficient force of water for the washing
of the ore from its matrix. The export of iron in any form from the
district has now almost died out, only a few hoes being brought down by
the Khasis from Laitdom, in Khadsawphra, to the Burdwar and Palasbari
markets in the Kamrup District of the Assam Valley. Iron of English
manufacture has, of course, much cheapened the market, but probably
the fact that the parts of the country in the neighbourhood of the
rocks which contain the metal have been denuded completely of timber,
charcoal being necessary for smelting, has affected the production
almost as much as the presence of cheap iron in the market.

Manufacture of Eri Silk Cloths and Cotton Cloths in the Jaintia Hills.

The number of weavers in the district at the last Census was 533. This
number in the Census Report is ascribed to the cotton industry, no
mention being made of weavers of silk. The spinning of Eri silk thread,
and weaving it into cloths is, however, a fairly considerable industry
amongst the Khyrwang and Nongtung villages of the Jaintia Hills. The
Nongtungs and Khyrwangs rear their own Eri worms, and spin the silk
from the cocoons. The late Mr. Stack, in his admirable note on silk
in Assam, says, "Throughout the whole range of the southern hills,
from the Mikir country, Eri thread is in great request for weaving
those striped cloths, in which the mountaineers delight," but this
observation should have been confined to the Jaintia Hills portion of
this district, the Khasis not weaving themselves either in silk or
cotton. The Khasis obtain their silk cloths from the Assam Valley,
and from the Nongtung or Khyrwang villages in Jaintia. The latter
villages have given the name to the striped cloth, _ka jain Khyrwang_,
which is almost invariably worn by the Syntengs. Mr. Stack has given
in detail a description of the silk industry in Assam, and it is not
therefore necessary to go over the same ground here. The Khyrwang
cloth is red and white, mauve and white, or chocolate and white,
the cloth being worn by both men and women. The Khyrwang cloths vary
in price from Rs. 5 to Rs. 25, according to size and texture. These
cloths are the handiwork of women alone, and a woman working every
day regularly will take six months to manufacture a cloth valued at
Rs. 25; but, as a rule, in the leisurely manner in which they work,
it takes a year to complete it.

Cotton Cloths.

In the Jaintia Hills at Mynso cotton is spun into thread, and weaving
is carried on there, but on a limited scale. The Mynso people weave
the small strips of cloth worn by the men to serve the purpose of the
Assamese _lengti_ or Hindi _languti_. In Suhtnga the people import
cotton thread from Mynso and weave the (_ingki_) or sleeveless coat,
peculiar to the district; these coats are dyed red and blue. The dark
blue or black dye is obtained from the leaf of a plant called _u sybu_,
which Mr. Rita has classified as _strobilanthus hoeditolius_, which
grows in the gardens round the homesteads. The leaves are dried,
then reduced to powder, mixed with hot water, and the skeins of
thread are steeped in the liquid. The colour is permanent. The red
dye is obtained from the mixture of the dry bark of two shrubs,
_ka lapyndong_ (_symplocos racemosa_, Roxb.), and _ka 'larnong_
(_morinda-tinctoria_, Roxb.), the latter being the same as the Assamese
( _achukath_. The bark is dried, then pounded, and the two
sorts are mixed together and made into a paste with hot water. The
skeins are steeped in this mixture for twenty-four hours, then taken
out and divided, and again steeped for another twenty-four hours. The
Lalungs and Bhois and Lynngams all weave cotton cloths, which are
generally dyed blue, sometimes striped blue and red. The Wars weave
cotton cloths which are dyed red and yellow, the cloths being woven in
checks. Mr. Darrah remarks that the cotton grown in the Jaintia Hills
is said to be the best cotton produced in the province. Its thread
can be more closely woven than that of other kinds. This statement,
however, is not borne out by Mr. Allen, writing in 1858, who says
that the cotton is of inferior quality, the staple being short and
woolly. The cotton cloths woven by the Bhois are called _spua_.


The Census Report of 1901 gave the number of persons who are supported
by the manufacture of pottery at 54 only. Pottery is manufactured
at one place only in the Jaintia Hills, Larnai. The Larnai potters
make many of the earthen pots to be found in the Khasi houses called
_khiew ranei_, or sometimes _khiew Larnai_. Mr. Gait says, "These
potters use two kinds of clay mixed; one is of a dark blue colour,
_'dew-iong_, and the other of a greyish colour, _'dew khluid_. These
clays seem to correspond closely with the _kumar mati_ and _hira mati_
of the Brahmaputra Valley."

The clay at Larnai is well beaten out upon a hide, or upon a flat
disc of wood; the women fashion the pots by hand, they do not use
the potter's wheel. The pots are sun-dried and then fired. They are
painted black with an infusion of a bark called _sohliya_. The Larnai
potters also make flower-pots which are sold in Shillong at from 2
annas to 4 annas each, the price of the ordinary pot or _khiew ranei_
varying from 2 pice to 4 annas each. A water-pot (_khiew um_) is
also fashioned, which is sometimes used in the manufacture of liquor,
price 4 annas to 6 annas each.


Laws and Customs

Tribal Organization.

The inhabitants of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills may be said to
be divided into the following sections:--Khasi, Synteng or Pnar,
War, Bhoi, and Lynngam. These divisions represent collections of
people inhabiting several tracts of country and speaking dialects
which, although often deriving their origin from the Khasi roots,
are frequently so dissimilar to the standard language as to be
almost unrecognizable. The above sections may be sub-divided as
follows:--The Khasis into the inhabitants of the central high plateau,
Cherra and Nongstoin, Maharam, Mario, Nongkhlaw, and the neighbouring
Siemships. The Syntengs or Pnars may be divided as follows:--Into
Syntengs proper, Nongtungs and Kharwangs; the Wars into War proper,
and War Pnar; the Bhois into Jinthongs, Mynris, Ryngkhongs, and the
Khasi-Bhois, i.e. Khasis who inhabit the low country to the north
of the district, which is called generally the "Bhoi." The Lynngams
are a separate division. They must not be confused with the Dkos or
Hanas who are Garos. It must, however, be remembered that the Jinthong,
Mynri, and Ryngkhong Sub-divisions of the Bhoi division are not Khasi,
but Mikir, i.e. they belong to the Bodo or Bara group. The Lynngams
are half Khasis and half Garos, and the Dkos or Hanas are Garos who
observe the Khasi custom of erecting memorial stones. The above tribes
and sub-tribes are not strictly endogamous, nor are they strictly
exogamous, but they are more endogamous than exogamous; for instance,
Syntengs more often marry Syntengs than Khasis, and _vice versa_, and
it would be usually considered derogatory for a Khasi of the Uplands
to marry a Bhoi or War woman, and a disgrace to marry a Lynngam. These
divisions are subdivided into a number of septs, taking Mr. Risley's
definition of "sept" as being the largest exogamous division of the
tribe. It will, however, be more convenient to speak of these septs
as "clans," the word "clan" having been used in other parts of this
Monograph and by other writers.

Many of the clans trace their descent from ancestresses or _kiaw_
(grandmothers), who are styled _ki Iawbei-Tynrai_, lit. grandmothers
of the root (i.e. the root of the tree of the clan). In some of the
clans, the name of this ancestress survives; take as instances the
Mylliem-ngap and Mylliem-pdah clans of the Khyrim State, the names
of the ancestresses of the clans being _ka ngap_ (honey, i.e. the
sweet one), and _ka pdah_ respectively. This tribal ancestress,
as will be seen in the paragraph of the monograph dealing with
ancestor-worship, is greatly reverenced, in fact, she may almost be
said to be deified. The descendants of one ancestress of the clan,
_Ka Iawbei Tynrai_, are called _shi kur_ or one clan. We then come
to the division of the _kpoh_ or sub-clan, all the descendants of one
great grandmother (_ka Iawbei Tymmen_), being styled _shi kpoh_. The
next division is the _iing_ (lit. house) or family. It is almost
invariably the case that the grandmother, her daughters and the
daughter's children, live together under one roof, the grandmother
during her life-time being the head of the house. The grandmother is
styled _ka Iawbei Khynraw_, or the young grandmother, to distinguish
her from the other two grandmothers, _ka Iawbei-tynrai_ and _ka
Iawbei-tymmen_ who have been mentioned above. The young grandmother,
her daughters and their children are said to belong to _shi iing_,
one house, the word _iing_ in this instance possessing amongst the
Khasis the same significance as the English word _family_.

We will now see how the Khasi clan (_kur_ or _jaid_) grew out of the
Khasi family (_iing_). Let us take the example of the great Diengdoh
clan of Cherra. Disregarding the myth that the Diengdohs are descended
from a mermaid, it may be stated that there seems to be a fairly
general belief amongst the Diengdohs that their first ancestress or
_kiaw_ came from the country beyond the Kopili river (some go so far
as to say that she came from the Assam Valley), to the Jaintia Hills,
where she found a husband. Legend relates that it was one of the
peculiarities of this woman that she was able to accommodate herself
in an earthen jar or _lalu_, which fact gave rise to the name _Lalu_
by which she and her children were called by the Syntengs. The family
prospered during the time when a powerful chief of the Malngiang clan
held sway in the Jaintia Hills. On the death of this king a civil
war arose, and the _Lalu_ family, together with many others, beat a
retreat across the river Kopili. Here they lived in prosperity for
some generations until a plague arose and carried off the whole family
except one female, called _Ka Iaw-Iaw_, who became the sole owner
of the family wealth. Many desired to marry her for her possessions,
and it was owing to their importunities that she fled to Jowai to the
house of a _lyngdoh_ or priest. The _lyngdoh_, under pressure from
his wife, tried to sell Ka Iaw-Iaw as a slave, but no one would offer
more than 20 _cowries_ for her (_shi-bdi_); this decided the _lyngdoh_
to keep her. Out of gratitude for this kindness, Ka Iaw-Iaw brought
her wealth from beyond the Kopili to the _lyngdoh's_ house, when the
son of the _lyngdoh_ was given her in marriage. They lived happily for
some time, when some adventurers from beyond the Kopili came to Jowai
with the intention of carrying off this rich bride. The _lyngdoh_,
however, received warning of their intent, arranged for the escape of
Ka Iaw-Iaw, and they fled to Sohphohkynrum, a place near Nongkrem in
the Khasi Hills, where she established a village. Here Ka Iaw-Iaw was
called _Ka Iaw-shibdi_, because she paid every man who was engaged
by her in founding a market there 20 cowries (_shi-bdi_) per day for
their labours. Here also she is credited with having first introduced
the art of smelting iron, and she is said to have made various iron
implements which she exported to the plains. She is also said to have
kept a huge herd of pigs which she fed in a large trough hollowed out
of a _diengdoh_ tree; it is to this fact that the Diengdoh clan owes
its name. After _Ka Iaw-shibdi_ and her children had lived for some
years in prosperity at Sohphohkynrum, they were attacked by the Swarga
Raja (the Ahom King), U long Raja (probably the Raja of Jaintia), and
the Assamese Barphukan. They fled to a place called Lyndiangumthli,
near Lyngkyrdem. Finding this place unsuitable as a home, the family
split up into four divisions. One division returned to Jowai, where
it increased and multiplied and afterwards grew into the Lalu clan,
another went to Nongkhlaw and became the Diengdoh Kylla clan; another
went to Mawiong and formed what is now known as the Pariong clan;
the fourth, after some vicissitudes of fortune, went to Rangjyrteh and
Cherra, at which place it established the powerful Diengdohbah clan,
and became afterwards one of the chief _mantri_ or minister clans of
this state. I have quoted the history of the origin of the Diengdoh
clan at some length, to show what I consider to be an example of
the Khasi conceptions of how the clan was formed, i.e. from a common
ancestress, all of the clans having traditions more or less of descent
from some particular _Kiaw_ or ancestress. This story moreover is
remarkable as pointing to a Khasi migration from beyond the Kopili
river to their present abode. The clans of the present day are
nothing more or less than overgrown families, they are bound together
by the religious tie of ancestor-worship in common, and of a common
tribal sepulchre, except in cases of clans which have, owing to their
size, spit up into several sub-divisions, like the Diengdoh clan;
such sub-divisions possessing their own cromlechs. Ancestor-worship
in common and tribal sepulchres in common seem to indicate that the
original unit was the family and not the tribe, for there would be no
reason for the members of a clan to worship the same household gods
and to deposit the remains of the clan members in the same tomb unless
there was some strong tie, such as that of consanguinity, binding them
together. It has been already mentioned that each of these clans is
strictly exogamous; this again supports the family origin theory. A
Khasi can commit no greater sin than to marry within the tribe. Some
of the clans are prohibited moreover from intermarriage with other
clans, because of such clans being of common descent. If the titles
(see Appendix) are carefully examined, it will be seen that some of
them bear the names of animals, such as the _Shrieh_ or monkey clan,
the _Tham_ or crab clan, or of trees, such as the Diengdoh clan
(already referred to). The members of these clans do not apparently
regard the animals or natural objects, from which they derive their
names, as totems, inasmuch as they do not abstain from killing, eating
or utilizing them. The names of these objects are connected generally
with some story, concerning the history of the clan, but there is no
evidence to show that the clans-folk ever regarded the above animals
or objects as their tribal totems. If the lists of the Khyrim and
Cherra clans are examined, it will be seen what a large number bear
the name of _Dkhar_ or its abbreviation _'Khar_. The word _dkhar_
is that applied by a Khasi to an inhabitant of the plains. We come
across names such as _'khar-mukhi, khar sowali_, the first word being
an abbreviation of _dkhar_, and _mukhi_ being the common Bengali name
which occurs in Chandra Mukhi, Surjya Mukhi, &c. Sowali (_chowali_)
is the common Assamese word for a girl. The ancestresses of these
tribes were plains women, carried off, no doubt, in the raids made
by the Khasis over the border into Assam and Sylhet. The word _Jong_
in the list of tribes is a Synteng synonym of _kur_ or _jaid_, and the
War word _khong_, which will often be found in the names of the tribes
of the twenty-five villages of the Khyrim State, is merely a corruption
of _jong_ or _iong_, the Synteng word for clan. Let us now see how the
State or Khasi Siemship was formed out of a collection of these clans,
how these clans obtained political powers, how some clans became more
powerful than others, and how a Khasi King or Siem is appointed.

State Organization.

We have studied in the preceding chapter the formation of the clan
from the family, and how the former established villages. Let us
now turn to the constitution of the Khasi State, which, it will be
seen, has been formed, in more than one instance, by the voluntary
association of villages, or groups of villages. The head of the Khasi
State is the Siem or chief. A Khasi state is a limited monarchy,
the Siem's powers being much circumscribed. According to custom,
he can perform no act of any importance without first consulting and
obtaining the approval of his durbar, upon which the state _mantris_
sit. This durbar must not be confused with the electoral durbar which
will be referred to later. It is an executive council over which the
Siem presides, and also possesses judicial powers (for a description
of a judicial durbar, see page 91 of the monograph). The form of
summons to appear before this durbar used to be a knotted piece of
string or cane, the number of knots denoting the degrees of urgency
of the summons, not a piece of pork, as one writer has said. Pork is
a luxury which is not usually distributed gratis. The Siem manages the
State business through his _mantris_, although it is true that in some
States the members of the Siem family have been allowed a considerable
share of the State management. This latter arrangement is, however,
a departure from the ordinary rule in the Siemships, and is regarded
as unconstitutional. In some States there are village headmen, styled
Sirdars, who settle cases, collect labour, and assess and receive
for the chief the _pynsuk_, which may be literally translated as
"gratification." In Nongstoin there is an official styled _lyngskor_,
who is the superior of a number of village sirdars, and who acts
as the Siem's deputy-governor. In the Khasi Hills there is no land
revenue, nor are there any tithes or other imposts levied upon the
cultivator's produce. The land, to a great extent, is the property of
the different clans and villages, although in some instances there are
estates owned by private persons. The chief is entitled to receive the
income that arises from what are known as the _raj_ or State lands
only. All that the Siem usually receives from his people in the way
of direct revenue is the State subscription, or _pynsuk_, mentioned
above. Even this is supposed to be a voluntary contribution, and it
is not demanded in some States. This tax is nominally a collection
to meet the expenses of the State ceremonies, but is really a means
of increasing the chief's private income. The contribution varies in
amount according to the means of the villagers. The Siem's principal
source of income, however, in all the Khasi States is the toll
(_khrong_), which he takes from those who sell at the markets in his
territory. As the Khasis are great traders these tolls are often
at the larger markets fairly valuable. The chief raises no excise
revenue, the manufacture of both fermented and distilled liquor
being subject to no fiscal restrictions whatsoever. In a few States
the Siems are commencing to levy registration fees, but the amounts
are insignificant. Judicial fines are divided between the chief and
the members of the durbar. In some States the Siems' incomes amount
to a few hundreds a year only. Generally speaking, the Khasi chiefs
are necessarily a very impecunious set of persons, and many of them
are indebted to, comparatively speaking, large amounts. The Siem is
appointed from the Siem family, there being such a family in each
of the fifteen Khasi States. The most important States are Khyrim,
Mylliem, Cherra, Nongstoin, and Nongkhlaw. There are a few other petty
States presided over by Lyngdohs, Sirdars, or Wahadadars. A fact which
is of universal application is, that heirship to the Siemship lies
through the female side. The customary line of succession is uniform
in all cases, except in Khyrim, save that in some instances cousins
rank with brothers, or are preferred to grand-nephews, instead of
being postponed to them. The difference between the rule of succession
and the rule of inheritance to real property should be noted. In the
former case the sons of the eldest uterine sister inherit in order of
priority of birth, although it is true that this rule has sometimes
been disregarded. In cases of succession to realty, however, the
inheritance goes to the youngest daughter of the deceased's mother, and
after her to her youngest daughter. In successions to the Siemships,
in the absence of male heirs from the eldest sister, the succession
passes, by what has been aptly described as the "knight's move," to
the male children of the next eldest sister. In Khyrim the custom of
succession is peculiar, there being a High Priestess, and heirship
being limited to her male relatives. Generally speaking, it would
appear that succession was originally controlled by a small electoral
body constituted of the heads (_lyngdohs_), of certain priestly clans,
who, it is presumed, exercised their authority to reject candidates,
when necessary, mainly on religious grounds. There has, however,
been a distinct tendency towards the broadening of the elective
basic. In the large State of Khyrim the number of the electoral body
has been greatly increased by the inclusion of the representative
headmen of certain dominant but non-priestly clans (_mantris_). In
other States the Council has been widened by the addition to it of
village headmen (_sirdars_), or the chief superintendents (_basans_)
of the village markets, tolls from which constitute the chief item
in the public receipts of these States. A further step towards the
recognition of the public will in the nomination of a Siem has been
the introduction of popular elections, at which all the adult males
vote. Such popular elections were very greatly due to the views held
by Colonel Bivar who was Deputy-Commissioner of the Khasi and Jaintia
Hills from 1865 to 1877. These elections have been, in many States,
an innovation which is hardly in accord with public sentiment, and in
many cases the voters have done no more than confirm the selection
of a special electoral body. It is, however, clear that the idea of
popular elections is not one with which the people are unfamiliar,
e.g. in Langrim State, where all the adult males customarily vote
at an election of a Siem. Popular election has also customary in the
Nobosohpoh and Bhowal States, in cases where a special electoral body
has been unable to agree upon a nomination, and also in Nongspung,
if a Council of five _lyngdohs_, which has in this State authority
to declare who is the rightful heir, but not to disqualify him,
cannot come to an unanimous decision. The Siems are appointed by an
assembly, or _durbar_, which will be described later. The chiefs,
having been thus chosen by the _durbar_, which is supposed by the
people to be an institution of Divine origin, are styled, _ki Siem u
blei_, or Siems of God. In most States the Siem is the religious as
well as the secular head, e.g. in the Cherra State, where the Siem
is also _lyngdoh_. In Khyrim State the Siem has sacerdotal duties to
perform at different religious ceremonies, especially at the time of
the annual Nongkrem dance. It is the custom for the Siem to consult
the auspices with the soothsayers for the good of the State. The Siem
in matters judicial acts as a judge, the whole body of the _durbar_
being the jury. In olden days the Siem marched to war at the head of
his army. It is not customary to recognize an heir-apparent, and the
young men of the Siem family pursue the ordinary avocations of a Khasi,
not comporting themselves in the least like scions of royalty. In
quite recent years there have been instances of Siems having been
summoned, like the Roman Cincinnatus, from quite humble positions,
to undertake the duties of chief. We will now turn to an examination
of the systems in the different Siemships. In the Kyrim or Nongkrem
State there is a spiritual head, i.e. a High Priestess, _Ka Siem Sad_,
who is responsible for the due performance of the State religious
ceremonies, although, as already stated, the Siem also performs some
of these duties. The temporal power here is delegated by the High
Priestess to a Siem, who is her son or her nephew, or occasionally some
more distant male descendant. It is the duty of an official called
a _lyngskor_, who is the official spokesman of the Siem's _durbar_,
to propose a new Siem to the six _lyngdohs_, or priests, and to the
heads of the twenty-four _mantri_ clans. The latter then decide in
_durbar_ whether the proposed Siem should be appointed. In the event
of their disapproving of the _lyngskor's_ nominations they proceed
to elect another Siem. The High Priestess is appointed by the above
electors, the order of succession to the post wing as follows:--She
is succeeded by her eldest surviving daughter; failing daughters,
by the eldest daughter of her eldest daughter; failing daughters of
her eldest daughter; by the eldest daughter of her second daughter,
and so on. If there are no daughters or grand-daughters, as above,
she is succeeded by her eldest sister. In the absence of sisters, she
is succeeded by the eldest daughter of her mother's eldest sister, and
so on. In this State the tradition runs that the first High Priestess
was Ka Pah Syntiew, i.e. the flower-lured one. Ka Pah Syntiew was a
beautiful maiden who had as her abode a cave at Marai, near Nongkrem,
whence she was enticed by a man of the Mylliem-ngap clan by means of
a flower. She was taken by him to be his bride, and she became not
only the first High Priestess, but also the mother of the Siems of
Nongkrem. [20] In Nongkrem the electors may disqualify the first,
or any, heir to the Siemship for sufficient reason according to the
Khasi religion and custom, such as bad character, physical disability,
change of religion, etc. If the first heir be disqualified, the next
in order must be appointed Siem, unless he be disqualified, and so
on. In this State there are six divisions, each of which is known as
a _raj_. In each _raj_ there is a _durbar_, to which are submitted
for approval the elections of the heads of the _mantri_ clans. These
elections are subject to the approval of the Siem. The Siem, sitting
with the _durbar_ of the _raj_ concerned, may dismiss a _lyngdoh,
lyngskor_, or _mantri_, for bad conduct, or on account of physical
disability, in which case another _lyngdoh_, _lyngskor_, or _mantri_
would be appointed, as stated above. The Mylliem State originally
formed a portion of the Nongkrem State, but owing to a quarrel between
one of the Siems and his nephew there was a partition. In this State
the electors are the heads of five _mantri_ clans, eleven _matabors_,
or heads of clans, and certain _basans_, and other heads of clans. A
majority of the electors is sufficient for the election of a Siem. A
Siem is succeeded by the eldest of his uterine brothers; failing such
brothers, by the eldest of his sisters' sons; failing such nephews,
by the eldest of the sons of his sisters daughters; failing such
grandnephews, by the eldest of the sons of his mother's sisters; and,
failing such first cousins, by the eldest of his male cousins on
the female side, other than first cousins, those nearest in degree
of relationship having prior claim. If there were no heirs male, as
above, he would be succeeded by the eldest of his uterine sisters; in
the absence of such sisters, by the eldest of his sisters' daughters:
failing such nieces, by the eldest of the daughters of his sisters'
daughters; failing such grand-nieces, by the eldest of the daughters
of his mother's sisters; and failing such first cousins, by the eldest
of his female cousins on the female side, other than first cousins,
those nearest in degree of relationship having prior claim. A female
Siem would be succeeded by her eldest son, and so on. As in the Khyrim
State, the first, or any other subsequent heir, may be disqualified
by the electors for sufficient reason. An elector is succeeded by the
eldest of his brothers; failing brothers, by the eldest of the sons
of his sisters, and so on. An elector can be dismissed by the Siem,
but only for good cause and with the consent of his _durbar_.

In the Nongstoin State there is a tradition that the first Siem
originally came from Simsong [21] Durgapur. The name, Sushong
Durgapur, of the place at the foot of the Garo Hills in the Mymensing
district, may be a corruption of the former. The Siems are supposed
to be descended from a stag, possibly a relic of totemism in this
family. In this State there is a large electoral durbar consisting
of 2 _mantris_, 31 _lyngdohs_, 25 _sirdars_, 1 _lyngskor_, and 1
_basan_. The _lyndohs_ are the heads of the priestly clans, by whom
they are chosen. The sirdars of villages are appointed by the Siem in
conjunction with the adult males of the different villages. There are
two _lyngskors_ and two _basans_ in the State, but one _lyngskor_
and one _basan_ only at present are members of the durbar which
nominates the Siem. A _lyngskor_ is the Siem's agent for the purpose
of governing a collection of villages. He is appointed by the Siem
with the consent of the adult males of the villages which he is to
supervise. The Siem family of Nongkhlaw, or Khadsawphra, is believed
to have been founded by a Synteng of the name of U Shajer, who left
the Jowai hills with his sister, Ka Shaphlong, because she had failed
to obtain her share of the family property in Jaintia. This man is
said to have purchased certain lands in Bardwar in Kamrup. Apparently
he did not obtain possession of this estate, for he came up into the
Khasi Hills, and finding there certain villages without a ruler, he,
at the wish of the _lyngdohs_ of these villages, consolidated them
into a state over which he ruled as a Siem. He was succeeded by his
sister's son, U Syntiew who further extended his territories until
he obtained possession of other villages. U Syntiew is said to have
delegated a portion of his powers to his two sisters, Ka Jem and Ka
Sanglar, who ruled at Sohiong and Nongkhlaw respectively. Succeeding
rulers further extended the Nongkhlaw territory. In 1829, U Tirut
Singh rebelled against the East India Company and carried on for
four years a successful guerilla warfare. He was finally captured,
and was imprisoned for life by the British Government. According to
the statement of Raja Kine Singh, it would seem that formerly the
heads of five clans had the right to appoint the Siem, i.e. the
heads of 3 _lyngdoh_ clans and of the Jaid Dykhar, and Diengdoh
clans. In the Cherra State the electors are the male adults of the
State, who are represented on the State durbar by the _mantris_ of
the 12 aristocratic clans, known as the _khadar kur_, and certain
representative elders. This State is divided for electoral purposes
into the following divisions:--

I. Cherra, or Sohra, consisting of 8 villages, inclusive of Cherra,
which is the capital. These villages return the heads of the 12 tribes,
as well as 5 elders, as their representativee on the electoral durbar.

II. The "five" villages, or 5 tribes. This division now consists of
17 villages, which return 5 representative elders.

III. The "twelve" villages, comprising now 38 villages, which return
12 representative elders.

IV. The "four" villages, comprising now 5 villages, which return
4 elders.

V. The "sixteen" villages, which return 6 representative elders.

VI. Three villages, which return 3 and 4 sirdars and 2 elders

In this State it is the custom for a Siem to cremate the body of his
predecessor. Unless he performs the cremation ceremony, he is not
considered to be Siem according to the Khasi religion. U Hajon Manik
Siem failed to cremate the body of his predecessor, U Ram Singh whose
remains still repose in a wooden coffin which is kept in the house
of the Siem family. The remains of Siems in this state are preserved
by a peculiar process of embalming which will be found described
elsewhere in this monograph. U Hajan Manik died not long ago, and
his body also is awaiting cremation. U Ram Singh's remains, however,
have been awaiting the funeral pyre for more than thirty years; but
arrangements are being made by the present Siam U Roba Singh for the
cremation ceremony. The cremation of Siems in the state is attended
by a very great deal of expense, a large amount of money being spent
on the feasting which then takes place. The Maharam State was ruled
until 1875 by two Siems, called, respectively, the "white" and the
"black" Siems. In this State originally there were five _lyngdohs_ who
appointed the Siems, but as in certain other States the number of the
electors has been expanded by the inclusion of _mantris_, _sirdars_,
and _basans_. The electors now number seventy-two persons. There
is much the same state of things in the Mariaw Siemship as regards
the electorate. In Rambrai, on a vacancy occurring in the Siemship,
three _lyngdohs_ and two _mantris_ assemble and decide who is to
be Siem. They then summon the sirdars of villages to meet them in
_durbar_ and obtain the approval of the latter to their nomination. If
the sirdars do not approve, the combined durbar than decides who is
to become Siem. In Nongspung there is a tradition that two sisters,
Ka Jah and Ka Jem, came to the village of Nongspung, which was then
ruled by two _lyngdohs_, and that the latter, having ascertained that
the two sisters were of royal birth, married them. They then travelled
to other villages and obtained the consent of the _lyngdohs_ of these
villages to the formation of all their villages into a State, of which
Nongspung became the capital, and over which U Sngi Shaflong, the son
of Ka Jem, was appointed Siem by the five principal _lyngdohs_. After
some generations the lyngdoh of Mairang with his villages became
subject to the Siem of Nongkhlaw, an event which finds mention in the
annals of the Nongkhlaw State as the conquest of the territory of the
"Black" Siem of Nongspung. Another _lyngdoh_ was appointed in place
of the one whose territory had been thus annexed.

In the Mawiong State the ancient custom was that six _basans_ appointed
the Siem, subject to the approval of the people of the Siemship. In
the Nobosohpoh State there are two Siem families, the "Black" and the
"White" from either of which it has apparently been the custom for the
people to select a Siem, as they wished. In Mawsynram the electors of
the Siem are the heads of the four principal clans in the State. On
a recent occasion, the electors being equally divided regarding the
appointment of a Siem, it was necessary to appeal to the people of
the State. In Langrin there are, as in Maharam and Nobosohpoh, two
main branches of the Siem family, i.e. the "Black" and the "White"
Siems. Here there is no special electoral body; all the adults of
the state have the right to vote at the election of a Siem. In Bhawal
State Siems are appointed by the heads of eight clans whose decision
is apparently final, provided that it is unanimous. In Malai-Sohmat
a bare majority of the heads of six clans would be sufficient for
the election of a Siem. Presumably both in Bhawal and Malai-Sohmat,
if the electors were equally divided, there would be an appeal to the
people. Mention has been made above of States over which _lyngdohs_
possess temporal as well as spiritual powers. The States of Sobiong,
Mawphlang, and Lyniong may be quoted as examples. Here the _lyngdoh_
is elected from the _lyngdoh_ clan by all the adult males of the
state. Some small States, such as Maodon and Pomsanngut, are presided
over by Sirdars, a name which has probably been introduced during the
British era of supremacy in these hills. The Sirdar is elected by the
adult males of the State. In Mawlong there are a Sirdar, a _lyngdoh_,
and a _doloi_ who govern the State. These two latter officials
are elected by the people as in the case of Sirdars. In the Shella
Confederacy there are four officials who are styled _Wahadadars_, the
name being probably a corruption of the Persian _'uhda-dar_. [22] These
officials are elected for periods of three years each by the people.

The Jaintia Hills, which are British territory, are divided up into
twenty doloiships, the doloi being an officer elected by the people,
the Government reserving the right of approval or the reverse to the
doloi's appointment. The dolois, under the rules for the administration
of justice in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, as well as the Sirdars
of the British villages in the Khasi Hills, possess certain judicial
powers. They are assisted by officials known as _pators, basans_, and
_sangots_ in the performance of their duties. This administration,
on the whole, works well, and its success shows the wisdom of the
Government in having made use of the indigenous agency it found to
hand when the Jaintia territory was annexed. In the Jaintia Hills
there are also three Sirdarships, the office being filled by election
as in the case of dolois.

In conclusion it should be stated that it has been attempted here to
give but a brief _resume_ of the Khasi political system as it exists
at the present time. The above account of the procedure at elections is
based on existing usage. The procedure should not, however, be regarded
as stereotyped, for it will no doubt be open to such revision as may
on occasion be suggested by the legitimate evolution of tribal customs.


It is proposed in this section to consider marriage from its social
side, the religious aspect thereof being reserved for another
paragraph. The most remarkable feature of the Khasi marriage
is that it is usual for the husband to live with his wife in his
mother-in-law's house, and not for him to take his bride home, as is
the case in other communities. This arrangement amongst the Khasis
is no doubt due to the prevalence of the matriarchate. As long as the
wife lives in her mother's house, all her earnings go to her mother,
who expends them on the maintenance of the family. Amongst the Khasis,
after one or two children are born, and if a married couple get on
well together, the husband frequently removes his wife and family to
a house of his own, and from the time the wife leaves her mother's
house she and her husband pool their earnings, which are expended
for the support of the family. Amongst the Syntengs, however, and the
people of Maoshai, the case is different, for with them the husband
does not go and live in his mother-in-law's house, he only visits her
there. In Jowai some people admitted to me that the husband came to
his mother-in-law's house only after dark, and that he did not eat,
smoke, or even partake of betel-nut there, the idea being that because
none of his earnings go to support this house, therefore it is not
etiquette for him to partake of food or other refreshment there. If a
Synteng house is visited, it is unusual to find the husbands of any
of the married daughters there, although the sons of the family may
be seen in the house when they have returned from work. Generally
in the day-time you will find in a Synteng dwelling an old crone,
who is the grandmother, or even the great-grandmother, of the family,
also grandchildren or great-grandchildren; but the husbands of the
married daughters are not there. The Syntengs seem to have more closely
preserved the customs of the matriarchate than the Khasis, and the
Syntengs claim that their _niam_ or religious ceremonies are purer,
i.e. that they more closely correspond to what they were in ancient
times than those of the Khasis. Amongst the Syntengs, occasionally,
a widow is allowed to keep her husband's bones after his death,
on condition that she does not remarry; the idea being that as
long as the bones remain in the widow's keeping, the spirit of her
husband is still with her. On this account many wives who revere
their husband's memories, and who do not contemplate remarriage,
purposely keep the bones for a long time. If a widow marries, even
after the customary taboo period of one year, whilst her deceased
husband's bones are still in her keeping, she is generally looked down
upon. Her children in such a case perform the ceremony of handing over
the bones of their father to his clan in a building specially erected
for the purpose. The widow cannot enter therein, or even go near it,
whilst the ceremony is proceeding, no matter whether the _jing sang_,
or the price for removing the taboo after a husband's death, has been
paid to the husband's clan or not. There is no evidence to show that
polyandry ever existed amongst the Khasis. Unlike the Thibetans,
the Khasi women seem to have contented themselves always with one
husband, at any rate with one at a time. Certainly at the present
day they are monandrists. Polygamy does not exist amongst the Khasis;
such a practice would naturally not be in vogue amongst a people who
observe the matriarchate. There are instances, however, of men having
wives other than those they have regularly married, and in the War
country children by such wives enjoy rights to their father's acquired
property equally with the children by the legally married wife. As
the clans are strictly exogamous, a Khasi cannot take a wife from
his own clan; to do this would entail the most disastrous religious,
as well as social consequences. For to marry within the clan is the
greatest sin a Khasi can commit, and would cause excommunication
by his kinsfolk and the refusal of funeral ceremonies at death,
and his bones would not be allowed a resting-place in the sepulchre
of the clan. To give a list of all the Khasi exogamous clans would
perhaps serve no useful purpose, but I have prepared from information,
kindly furnished me by the Siems of Khyrim and Cherrapunji, a list
of the clans in those States which will be found in Appendices A and
B. These will suffice as examples. It will be seen from the Cherra
list that the different divisions of the Diengdoh clan, viz. Lalu,
Diengdoh-bah, Diengdoh-kylla, are prohibited from intermarriage;
this is due to those branches of the clan being descended from a
common ancestress. There are other instances of clans being connected
with one another, such connection being called by the Khasis _iateh
kur_. Whenever such connection exists, intermarriage is strictly
prohibited, and is considered to be _sang_. There is no custom of
hypergamy. A Khasi cannot marry his maternal uncle's daughter during
the lifetime of the maternal uncle. This is probably due to the fact
that the maternal uncle, or _kni_, in a Khasi household is regarded
more in the light of a father than of an uncle. His children, however,
would belong to the clan of his wife, and there would, therefore, in
ordinary cases be no bar to the nephew marrying one of them. Marriage
with the daughters of a father's sister is not allowed during the
lifetime of the father, but after the latter's death there is no
religious ban, although such unions are looked upon with disfavour by
the Khasis. In the War country, however, such marriages are totally
prohibited. A Khasi cannot marry two sisters, but he can marry his
deceased wife's sister after the expiry of one year from the wife's
death, on payment of _jing sang_ (price of _sang_, or taboo) to
the wife's clan. A Khasi cannot marry the daughter of his father's
brother, she is his _para kha_ (lit. birth sister). Similarly he
cannot marry the daughter of his father's paternal uncle. He can,
however, marry the daughter of his mother's brother, provided that
the brother is dead. This somewhat paradoxical state of affairs
is explained by the fact that the children of the mother's brother
belong to a different clan to that of the mother, i.e. to the mother's
brother's wife's clan. The Khasi, Synteng, War, and Lynngam divisions
are not strictly endogamous groups, and there is nothing to prevent
intermarriage between them. For instance, it has been the custom in
the Nongkhlaw Siem family to obtain husbands for the princesses of
the state from the War country. There is no custom amongst the Khasis
of two men exchanging daughters, i.e. each marrying his son to the
other's daughter. Notwithstanding the existence of the matriarchate,
and the fact that all ancestral property is vested in the mother,
it would be a mistake to suppose that the father is a nobody in the
Khasi house. It is true that the _kni_, or mother's elder brother,
is the head of the house, but the father is the executive head of
the new home, where, after children have been born to him, his wife
and children live with him. It is he who faces the dangers of the
jungles, and risks his life for wife and children. In his wife's clan
he occupies a very high place, he is second to none but _u kni_, the
maternal uncle, while in his own family circle a father and husband is
nearer to his children and his wife than _u kni_. The Khasi saying is,
"_u kpa uba lah ban iai, u kni uba tang ha ka iap ka im_," which may
be translated freely as, "the father bears the heat and burden of the
day, the maternal uncle only comes when it is a question of life or
death." The Khasi father is revered not only when living, but also
after death as _U Thawlang_, and special ceremonies are performed to
propitiate his shade. Further remarks on the subject of marriage will
be found in the Section which deals with religion.


Divorce amongst the Khasis is common, and may occur for a variety of
reasons, such as adultery, barrenness, incompatibility of temperament,
&c. The rule amongst the Khasis is that both parties must agree,
but amongst the Wars, especially the people of Shella, the party who
divorces the other without his or her consent must pay compensation,
which is called _ka mynrain_, or _ka thnem_. Amongst the Khasis
it is not the custom to enforce restitution of conjugal rights;
as a rule, when husband and wife cannot live together amicably,
they agree to divorce one another; but occasionally it happens that
either the husband or the wife will not agree to a divorce. Usually
the husband would be willing to live with his wife; but when the
latter consents neither to live with her husband nor to accept a
divorce, a difficult situation arises, and it is in the event of such
a contingency happening that the necessity of assessing _ka mynrain_,
or _ka thnem_ (compensation), occurs. The latter is computed by the
village elders. Parties who have been divorced cannot afterwards
remarry one another, but they are at liberty to marry into other
families. A woman cannot be divorced during pregnancy. The following
description of the divorce ceremony is taken from U Jeebon Roy's note
on the Khasi religion. If the marriage has been celebrated according
to the _pynhiar synjat_ rite, a _ksiang_ (go-between) is necessary
on each side, also the _kni_, or maternal uncles of the parties,
to witness the divorce. In other cases the presence of the _ksiang_
is unnecessary, but some acquaintances and friends as well as the
relatives on both sides should witness the ceremony. The husband and
the wife each bring five cowries (_sbai_), or, more commonly nowadays,
five pice. The wife gives her five cowries or pice to her husband, who
places them with his, and then returns the five cowries or coins to his
wife, together with his own five. The wife then returns the ten shells
or coins to the husband who throws them on the ground. A crier (_u nong
pyria shnong_) then goes round the village to proclaim the divorce,
using the following words:--"Kaw--hear, oh villagers, that U----,
and K---- have become separated in the presence of the elders. Hei:
thou, oh, young man, canst go and make love to Ka---- for she is now
unmarried (_khynraw_), and thou, oh, spinster, canst make love to
U----. Hei! there is no let or hindrance from henceforth." Among the
Khasis divorce must be by mutual consent, and the ceremony must take
place in the open air. Until the divorce ceremony has been performed as
above described, neither husband nor wife can marry again, but after
it has taken place, either can remarry, but not within the family of
the divorced husband or wife. In the event of a husband or wife being
absent for a long period, say ten years, without any communication
having been received from either of them, a divorce ceremony is
performed by the relatives on his or her behalf. It is stated by U
Jeebon Roy [23] that the rule of monogamy is not so strict for the
husband as it is for the wife, he can contract an informal alliance
with another woman, the only prohibition being that she must not belong
to the original wife's village. Such a wife is called _ka tynga tuk_,
literally, stolen wife, in contradistinction to the legally married
wife (_ka tynga trai_). The children by the unmarried wife are called
_ki khum kliar_ (children from the top). By children from the top,
is understood to mean children from the branches not from the root
(_trai_) of the tree. Such children cannot claim ancestral property,
except in the War country. In the event of a divorce the mother is
always allowed the custody of the children. Divorces amongst both
Khasis and Syntengs are of common occurrence, the result being that
the children in many cases are ignorant of even the names of their
fathers. For the mother, on the other hand, the children cherish a
very strong affection, all their sympathies and affections binding
them closely to the mother's kin. Divorce amongst the Syntengs,
though resting on the same principle as that of the Khasis, differs
in detail, and must be described separately. It is as follows:--In
the first place it is not necessary for both husband and wife
to be consenting parties, as is the case with the Khasis. In the
Nongkhlih doloiship divorce takes place before the relatives of the
parties. The man has to give eight annas as a sign of the divorce,
and clothes worth Rs. 3/- or Rs. 5/- to the wife. There is a similar
custom in the Suhtnga and Amwi doloiships. In the Jowai doloiship
the divorce takes place in the presence of a village official called
_U basan_. The husband or the wife gives the _basan_ an eight anna
piece, the latter gives this either to the wife or to the husband,
as the case may be. The _basan's_ share of the eight annas is two
pice, the remainder being spent on liquor. The _basan_ is entitled
to a further fee of one anna from the man. If a wife does not agree
to accept divorce, she is entitled to receive two pieces of cloth
from the husband to the value of Rs. 3/-. This compensation is called
_thnem_. The divorce then takes place. If a wife wishes to divorce her
husband, and the latter is unwilling, before she can obtain divorce,
she must pay _thnem_ to the value of the whole amount the husband has
spent on her and her children during the marriage. Divorce customs
in Nartiang and Nongjinghi doloiships are much the same, only the
amounts tendered by the parties and that of compensation differing.

In conclusion it should be stated that the great drawback attaching to
divorce in ordinary communities, i.e. the effect that it has on the
lives of the children of the marriage, does not apply to the Khasis,
for with them the children always live with their mother and their
mother's family, which latter would be bound to maintain them in the
event of a divorce.


The Khasi and Synteng laws of inheritance are practically the same,
although in some of the doloiships in the Jaintia Hills there are
some slight differences. The War law of inheritance differs greatly
from that of the Khasis, and the customs of the Bhois or Mikirs,
who inhabit the Bhoi doloiship of the Jaintia Hills, are totally
different from those of the Khasis, thereby supplying another link in
the chain of evidence in support of the conclusion that the Bhois, or,
more correctly speaking, the Mikirs, are of Bodo origin, and not Khasi
or Mon-Anam. The Lynngams follow the Khasi law of inheritance. It will
be convenient to describe the Khasi law first, and then to pass on to
the special customs in vogue in the different doloiships in the Jaintia
Hills, and, finally, to describe the War, Bhoi and Lynngam customs.

The Khasi saying is, "_long jaid na loa kynthei_" (from the woman
sprang the clan). The Khasis, when reckoning descent; count from
the mother only; they speak of a family of brothers and sisters,
who are the great grandchildren of one great grandmother, as _shi
kpoh_, which, being literally translated, is one womb; i.e. the
issue of one womb. The man is nobody. If he is a brother, _u kur_,
a brother being taken to mean an uterine brother, or a cousin-german,
he will be lost to the family or clan directly he marries. If he be a
husband, he is looked upon merely as a _u shong kha_, a begetter. In
some of the War villages a newly married man is spoken of by the
bride's family as, "_u khun ki briew_," some one else's son. It is,
perhaps, somewhat of a paradox under the circumstances that wives
should address their husbands as "_kynrad_," or lord. There is,
however, no gainsaying the fact that the husband, at least in theory,
is a stranger in his wife's home, and it is certain that he can take
no part in the rites and ceremonies of his wife's family, and that
his ashes after death can find no place within the wife's family
tomb, except, in certain cases, amongst the Syntengs. Further, the
ceremonial religion amongst Khasis, especially that of the home,
is in the hands of the women. It is, therefore, perhaps not to be
wondered at, considering the important status assigned to women by
the Khasis, that women should inherit the property and not men. The
rule amongst the Khasis is that the youngest daughter "holds" the
religion, "_ka bat ka niam_." Her house is called, "_ka iing seng_"
and it is here that the members of the family assemble to witness
her performance of the family ceremonies. Hers is, therefore, the
largest share of the family property, because it is she whose duty
it is to perform the family ceremonies, and propitiate the family
ancestors. The other daughters, however, on their mother's death
are entitled, each of them; to a share of their mother's property,
although the youngest daughter gets the lion's share, e.g. the family
jewellery, and the family house, and the greater part of what it
contains. The youngest daughter cannot dispose of the house without
the unanimous consent of her sisters. If the youngest daughter dies,
she is succeeded by the next youngest daughter, and so on. All the
daughters are bound to repair the house of the youngest daughter free
of cost. In the event of the youngest daughter changing her religion,
or committing an act of _sang_, or taboo, she loses her position
in the family, and is succeeded, by her next youngest sister, as
in the case of a death. Failing daughters, inheritance would pass
by the "knight's move" to the sister's youngest daughter, who would
be succeeded by her youngest daughter, and so on. Failing sister's
daughters succession would revert to the mother's sisters and their
female descendants. In the Jaintia Hills the inheritance of all real
property passes from mother to youngest daughter. No man in the
uplands of the Jaintia Hills can possess landed property, unless
it is self-acquired property. In the Jaintia Hills, if a man dies
and leaves acquired property, his heir will be his mother, if alive,
excluding wife, sons, and daughters. If the wife, however, undertakes
not to re-marry, she will inherit half of her husband's property,
which at her death will descend to her youngest daughter by him.

Amongst Khasis all property which has been acquired by a man before
marriage is considered to belong to his mother; indeed it may be
said to belong to the man's _kur_, or clan, such property being
called by Khasis, "_ka mai iing kur_" (the earnings of the house
of the clan). After marriage, if there are children, the case is
different, provided that the property has been acquired by the man
after marriage. Here the wife and children would inherit the acquired
property, the youngest daughter obtaining the largest share of such
property on the death of the wife. If there were no daughter, the
acquired property would be equally divided amongst the sons.

The following examples of the Synteng law of inheritance are taken from
the exhaustive diaries recorded by the late Mr. Heath, who was for
some years Sub-Divisional Officer of Jowai. In the Nongkli doloiship
ancestral land passes from mother to her youngest daughter; again,
if a youngest daughter who has so acquired dies, the next youngest
in point of age succeeds. Should such direct female succession
fail, the family tree has to be looked up for the nearest branch,
in which the youngest female, or her youngest female descendant,
succeeds. Thus, respecting ancestral land, the youngest daughter, or
youngest female descendant of youngest female heir, is virtually heir
to entailed property. If a woman dies leaving acquired property, her
youngest daughter or youngest granddaughter of that youngest daughter
succeeds to all. In default, next youngest daughter, and so on. In
default of daughters, the youngest son inherits. A man can hardly,
in any circumstances, possess ancestral land; his property must
almost necessarily be self-acquired. If a man dies leaving acquired
property, his heir will be his mother, if alive, excluding wife, sons,
and daughters. If the wife undertakes, however, not to marry again,
she will get half, which will descend to her youngest daughter by
her deceased husband. The mother, who thus gets the whole or half of
her son's property, leaves it to her youngest daughter, or youngest
daughter of that daughter, and so on, as described above in the ease of
a woman leaving ancestral or acquired property. If there is no mother,
the man's youngest sister stands next heir with the same right as
her mother. If there is no mother or sister, then the sister's female
descendants stand in the man's mother's place. If there are none of
these, then the man's youngest daughter succeeds to all. Ancestral
property cannot be alienated without the consent of all the heirs in
the entail. A gift of self-acquired property to any amount can be made
by a donor during his lifetime. Acquired property cannot, however,
be left by will out of the course sanctioned by custom. In the Amwi
doloiship a widow who consents to pay the costs of her husband's
funeral, provided she agrees not to re-marry, inherits half of her
husband's acquired property.

In the War country the children inherit both ancestral and acquired
property in equal shares, both males and females, with the exception
that the youngest daughter is given something in addition to her
share, although not such a large share of the property as amongst
the Khasis. Amongst the Mikir-Bhois, i.e. the Mikirs who inhabit the
Bhoi doloiship of the Jaintia Hills, the law of inheritance is totally
different from that of the Khasis, for males succeed to all property,
whether ancestral or acquired. Thus, if a man dies, leaving son,
mother, wife, and daughters, the son takes all. If there are several
sons, they divide. If there are no sons, the property goes to the
nearest male heir. If a woman dies, leaving husband and children,
the husband takes all. If the husband is dead, and there are sons and
daughters, the former inherit. The great difference in the custom of
inheritance between Khasis and Bhois is, as I have already pointed out,
part of the evidence that these people are of different origin.

The Lynngam law of inheritance is the same as that of the Khasis. The
youngest daughter obtains the largest share of the ancestral property,
the remainder being divided between the remaining daughters. The sons
do not get any share. The rule is also said to apply with regard to
acquired property.


Both Khasis and Syntengs observe a custom known as _'rap iing_ (an
abbreviation for _ia rap iing_, literally, to help the house). This is
practically adoption. If in a family the female members have died out,
the male members of the family are allowed by custom to call (_khot_)
a girl from some other family, to act as _ka'rap iing_, and to perform
the family religious ceremonies, and therefore to inherit the family
ancestral property. The female so introduced into the family then takes
her place as _ka khun khadduh_, or youngest daughter, and becomes the
head of the house (_ka trai iing_). The adoption of a female obviates
the family dying out (_iap duh_), which to the Khasi is a very serious
matter, inasmuch as there will then be no one qualified to place
the bones of its members within the family tomb (_ka ba thep shieng
mawbah_), and to perform the requisite funeral ceremonies. Amongst
the Khasis no particular ceremonies are performed at the time of
adoption; but some of the Syntengs observe a religious ceremony which
consists largely of a feast to the clans-folk, at which liquor, rice,
dried fish, and ginger are partaken of. Before the feast commences,
each clansman is provided with a small gourd (_u klong_) filled with
liquor, a little of the latter is then thrown on the ground from the
gourd, and the following words are uttered:--"Oh, God! oh, Lord! oh,
ruling king Biskurom, now the _pynrap iing_ ceremony is about to be
performed, let the ceremony be propitious, and let males and females
(of the clan) increase in numbers, so that the clan may become great,
and respected, and that intelligent male members may spring up." No
such ceremony is, however, observed, it is understood, in the Nartiang
and Raliang doloiships.

In the case of a family being _iap duh_ (extinct), the family property,
according to Khasi custom, passes to the Siem. Therefore it is to
the interest of the members of families to adopt a female, when
such necessity arises. As there is no religious ceremony which is
compulsory to the Khasis on the occasion of an adoption, perhaps we
are almost justified in concluding that in former times the adoption
custom did not exist, more especially as the Khasis possess a special
word, _iap duh_, for describing a family the females of which have
all died out; and it is admittedly the custom for the Siem to succeed
to the property of such a family. The Synteng custom of _'rap iing_
may have been borrowed from the Hindus, when the Rajas of Jaintia
became converts to that religion.

Tenure of Land and Laws Regarding Land.

Land in the Khasi Hills proper, i.e. land in the high plateau, is
held somewhat differently from land in the Jaintia Hills and the War
country; it will be necessary to describe the land tenures and laws
regarding land of each of these divisions separately. As land is always
jhumed by the Bhois and Lynngams from year to year, customs regarding
land with these people are naturally very simple. Taking land in the
high plateau of the Khasi Hills first:--The lands are classified under
two main divisions, (_a_) public and (_b_) private lands. The following
are the different descriptions of lands in the first division:--

_Ka ri Raj_, or _ka ri Siem_, which are Siem's, or Crown lands. These
lands are intended for the support of the Siem family, they cannot be
alienated. The Siems are, however, precluded by custom from levying a
land tax on persons who cultivate such lands, the relation of landlord
and tenant between the latter and their chiefs being unknown.

_Ka ri Lyngdoh_.--These lands are for the support of the Lyngdohs
or priests of the State. In some Siemships, as in Mawiang Siemship,
paddy is grown on these lands from which rice is obtained for the
State pujas.

_Ri shnong_, or village lands.--These lands are set apart to provide
a supply of firewood, thatching grass, &c., and are the property
of the village. The inhabitants of other villages are not allowed
to enjoy the produce of such lands. Such lands can be cultivated by
ryots of the village, but the latter possess only occupancy rights,
and cannot transfer them.

_Ki 'lawkyntang_.--These are sacred groves, situated generally near
the summit of hills, composed of oak and rhododendron trees, which
are held sacred (_kyntang_), it being an offence, or _sang_, for any
one to cut timber in the grove, except for cremation purposes. These
groves are the property of the villages.

(_b_.) Private Lands. These may he subdivided into _ri-kur_ or lands
which are the property of the clan, and _ri kynti_, family, or acquired
landed property. In the Khasi Hills proper a very large proportion,
certainly of the high lands, is the property of the clan; for instance,
the high lands at Laitkor; which are the property of the Khar kungor
and Kur kulang clans, whose ancestors the large memorial stones close
to the Laitkor road commemorate, also the lands of the Thang khiew
clan, and many others. It has been explained, in a previous paragraph,
how the clan grew out of the family. The clan lands originally, when
population was sparse, were owned by families, but as the members
of the family increased and a clan was formed, the lands became
the property of the clan instead of the family. Such clan lands are
properly demarcated by stone boundary marks. The manager of the clan
lands is the _kni_ (maternal uncle of the youngest daughter of the
main family, or branch of the clan), whose house "_ka iing khadduh_,"
or last house, is the place for performing all the religious ceremonies
of the clan, and is also called _ka iing seng_. All the members of
the clan are, however, entitled to share in the produce of any of
the clan lands they may cultivate. No clan lands can be alienated
without the consent of a durbar of the whole clan.

_Ri kynti_ are private lands which have been either acquired by a
man or woman individually, or, in the case of a woman, inherited
from her mother; such lands must he entirely distinguished from
the lands of the clan. In portions of the Jaintia Hills, if a man
purchases a piece of land, at his death it passes to his mother, to
the exclusion of his children; but in the Khasi Hills nowadays a man
may leave such lands, provided they were acquired after marriage,
either formally by will, or informally, to his children for their
support. In land customs as well as other customs the Syntengs seem to
preserve more closely than the Khasis what are probably the ancient
usages of the race. It must be clearly understood, however, that all
land acquired by inheritance must follow the Khasi law of entail,
by which property descends from the mother to the youngest daughter,
and again from the latter to her youngest daughter. Ancestral landed
property must therefore be always owned by women. The male members
of the family may cultivate such lands, but they must carry all the
produce to the house of their mother, who will divide it amongst
the members of the family. Daughters, other than youngest daughters,
are entitled to maintenance from the produce of such family lands.

In the Jaintia Hills lands are classified as follows:--

Hali Lands or Irrigated Paddy Lands.

(1) _Raj_ lands, which used to be the property of the Raja of
Jaintiapur, now the property of Government, which are assessed to
land revenue.

(2) Service lands, which are lands given rent free to dolois, pators,
and other officers who carry on the administration.

(3) Village puja lands, being land the occupants of which pay rent
to the doloi or lyngdoh, which are set apart in each village for
purposes of worship. These lands are not assessed to revenue.

(4) Private lands held by individuals and which have been transferred
from time to time by mortgage sale or otherwise at the will of the
owner. These lands are not assessed to revenue.

High lands are sub-divided into (1) Private lands, held like _hali_
private lands. (2) Unclaimed land, or Government Waste.

Up till now the Government has not assessed revenue on the high
lands which are its own property. Surveys have been made from time
to time of the Government _Raj hali_ lands in the Jaintia Hills,
but the maps require bringing up to date. The revenue on such lands
is assessed at an uniform rate, viz. at 10 annas a bigha, and the
leases have been issued so as to expire contemporaneously. A list
of service lands of dolois and others, showing the number of plots
held by each official and their approximate total area in bighas,
is kept in the Deputy Commissioner's Office. Puja lands are plots
of lands set apart entirely for the support of the lyngdohs and
other persons who perform the pujas of the doloiships. These lands
are generally leased out by the dolois, but in some doloiships they
are under the management of the lyngdohs. The occupants of the puja
lands have either to present annually sacrificial animals or objects,
e.g. bulls, goats, fowls, or pigs, rice, liquor, &c., or make a
payment in cash. In the War country in the Jaintia Hills, orange,
_pan_, and betel-nut gardens, are held as private property except
in a few villages where there are some Raj _pan_ gardens which have
been assessed to land revenue at the same rates as Government _hali_
lands. The various gardens are distinguishable by means of boundary
stones or stone cairns, by prominent trees on the boundary lines,
or by natural boundaries such as streams.

In the War country to the West of Cherra, notably the country between
the heights of Laitkynsew and the plains, considerable portions of
the hill-sides are the property of communities known as _sengs_. A
_seng_ may be defined as a collection of families sprung from some
common ancestress or ancestor. As an instance of these _sengs_ I may
describe the community known as the _lai seng_ which owns land in the
neighbourhood of Laitkynsew, the area owned being known as the "_ri
lai seng_," or land of the three clans. These clans are descended from
three men, U Kynta, U Nabein, and U Tangrai, it being remarkable that
in this case descent is traced originally from male ancestors and not
from females. The three ancestors are said to have owned a large tract
of land, and they had as their abode the village of Laitmawria close to
Laitkynsew; but owing to an epidemic, or some such cause, they deserted
the village of Laitmawria and went with their families to live in some
of the surrounding War villages, viz. in Tyrna, Nongkroh, Nongwar,
Mastoh, and Mawlong. The descendants of the three men above-mentioned
possess a genealogical table, showing their descent from the original
three founders of the _sengs_. They claim a large tract of country
lying to the south and south-east of the Laitkynsew plateau, containing
not only orange gardens, but also valuable lime quarries. There are
other _seng_ communities also in the neighbourhood, e.g. the _hinriew
phew seng_, or sixty _sengs_, who put forward claims to other tracts
of land. The boundaries of the _ri lai seng_ are identifiable on the
ground. The business of the _seng_ community is managed by a durbar,
an elder or other influential person being chosen as president.

In the country of the Lynngams the crop belongs to the person who
cultivates it, but the land belongs to the _kur_ or family. The
Lynngam villages; like those in the Khasi Siemships, do not pay any
rent to the Siem. If outsiders cultivate within the areas set apart
for the different Lynngam villages, all of them, including women,
have to pay eight annas each to the people of the village in whose
circle they cultivate. There is usually a mutual understanding between
inhabitants of Lynngam villages, that certain tracts of land belong
to the respective villages; sometimes, however, there are disputes
regarding those lands between the different villages. Such disputes are
settled by the Lynngam Sirdars of villages or by the Sirdars sitting
with the two Lyngskors of the Siemship. If the disputes cannot be
settled by these officials to the satisfaction of the parties, the
latter are taken by the Lyngskors and Sirdars to the Siem of Nongstoin,
who tries the case with the aid of the State mantris.

Laws Regarding Other Property.

There is no separate law applying to personal property, as opposed
to real property, amongst the Khasis.

Decisions of Disputes.

Khasi Courts of Judicature.

In the first place a complaint is made before the Siem or chief,
against a certain party or parties. The facts and circumstances
of the ease, are then detailed before the chief and his headmen,
the ostensible object being to attempt to bring about a compromise
between the parties. If no reconciliation can be effected, a crier
(_u nong pyrta shnong_), or in the Jaintia Hills a _sangot_, is
sent out to proclaim at the top of his voice the durbar which is to
assemble the following evening. He proceeds to cry the durbar in the
evening when all the inhabitants have returned to the village from
their usual daily pursuits. With a loud premonitory yell the crier
makes use of the following formula [24]:--

"_Kaw!_ thou, a fellow-villager; thou, a fellow-creature; thou, an
old man; thou, who art grown up; thou, who art young; thou, a boy;
thou, a child; thou, an infant; thou; who art little; thou, who art
great. _Hei!_ because there is a contest. _Hei!_ for to cause to
sit together. _Hei!_ for to cause to deliberate. _Hei!_ for to give
intelligence together. _Hei!_ about to assemble in durbar. _Hei!_
for to listen attentively. _Hei!_ ye are forbidden. _Hei!_ ye
are stopped to draw water then, not to cut firewood then; _Hei!_
to go as coolies then; _Hei!_ to go to work then; _Hei!_ to go a
journey then; _Hei!_ to descend to the valley then; _Hei!_ he who
has a pouch. _Hei!_ he who has a bag. _Hei!_ now come forth. _Hei!_
now appear. _Hei!_ the hearing then is to be all in company. _Hei!_
the listening attentively then is to be all together. _Hei!_ for his
own king. _Hei!_ for his own lord, lest destruction has come; lest
wearing away has overtaken _us_. _Kaw!_ come forth now fellow mates."

This proclamation is called _khang shnong_, and by it all are stopped
from going anywhere from the village the following day. Anybody who
disregards the prohibition is liable to fine. The following day,
towards evening, all the grown-up males of the village assemble at
the durbar ground, the site of which is marked in some villages by
rows of flat stones, arranged in an irregular circle, upon which the
durbaris sit. The proceedings are opened by one of the headmen, who
makes a long speech; then others follow, touching upon all sorts of
irrelevant matters, but throwing out hints, now and then, bearing on
the subject of accusation. By degrees the debate waxes warmer, and the
parties get nearer the point. Then the complainant and the defendant
each of them throw down on the ground a turban, or a bag containing
betul and _pan_, lime, &c., in front of the durbar. These are regarded
as the pledges of the respective parties and their representatives
in the suit; they receive the name of _mamla_ (hence the Khasi term
_ar liang mamla_ for the two contending parties in the suit). There
are pleaders on both aides called _'riw said_, who address the durbar
in lengthy speeches, the Siem being the judge and the whole body of
the durbar the jury. Witnesses are examined by the parties; in former
times they were sworn on a pinch of salt placed on a sword. The most
sacred and most binding foam of oath, however, is sworn on _u klong_
(a hollow gourd containing liquor). As, however, the latter form of
oath is regarded by the Khasis as a most serious ordeal, it will be
described separately. The durbar sometimes goes on for several days. At
length the finding of the durbar is taken, after the Siem has summed
up, and sentence is pronounced, which generally consists of a fine
in money, almost always accompanied by an order to the losing party
to present a pig. The pig is supposed to be sacrificed to a goddess,
_Ka 'lei synshar_, i.e. the goddess of the State, but it is invariably
eaten by the Siem and the members of the durbar. The Siem then calls
out "_kumta mo khynraw_" (is it not so, young people?) The members of
the durbar then reply, "_haoid kumta khein khynraw_" (yes, it is so,
young ones). Sentences of fine are more often resorted to than other
punishments nowadays, probably because very few of the Siems possess
jails for the reception of criminals. The condemned one in a criminal
case frequently serves his time by working for the Siem as a menial
servant. The above description, which is based on the account given
by the Rev. W. Lewis, with some modifications, may be taken as the
usual form of procedure of the Khasi durbar.

Under the heading of decision of disputes we may perhaps give a short
description of some of the punishments which were inflicted by the
Siems and their durbars in criminal cases in ancient times. Murder
was punishable by beating the culprit to death with clubs (_ki tangon
ki lymban_). The killing, however, of a _nong shoh noh_, i.e. a man
who seeks for human victims to sacrifice to the monster, _u thlen_,
is not considered murder, even now by the Khasis, and the slayer of
the _nong shoh noh_ only has to inform the Siem and deposit Rs. 5,
and one pig in the Siem's court. The slaying of a robber also is
dealt with in like manner.

The punishment of adultery was imprisonment for life (_ka sah dain
mur_), or a fine of Rs. 1,100, and one pig (_ka khadwei spah wei
doh_). Whether such a heavy fine was ever paid is perhaps doubtful,
and probably some other form of punishment was substituted for it. A
husband finding his wife and a man in _flagrante delicto_ could,
as under the law of the ancients, kill both adulterer and adulteress
without punishment for murder. He was, however, bound to deposit Rs. 5,
and the conventional pig in the Siem's durbar. The punishment for rape
(_kaba khniot tynga_) was imprisonment for life in the case of the
woman being married, and a heavy fine and one pig if the woman was a
spinster. Arson was punishable with imprisonment for life, or a heavy
fine. The punishment for causing people to be possessed by devils
(_ka ba ai-ksuid briew_) was exile (_pyrangkang par_); but if a person
so possessed died, the sorcerer was hurled down a precipice (_pynnoh
khongpong_). The punishment for robbery and theft was the stocks (_ka
pyndait diengsong_), the imposition of fetters, or a punishment known
as _kaba s'ang sohmynken_, by which the culprit was compelled to sit
on a bamboo platform under which chillies were burnt. The result of
such torture can be better imagined than described. Incest, or _sang_,
which amongst the Khasis means cohabiting with a member of a man's or
woman's own clan, was punishable with exile or a fine of Rs. 550/-
and one pig. It is believed by the Khasis that the evils resultant
from incestuous connection are very great; the following are some of
them: being struck by lightning, being killed by a tiger, dying in
childbirth, &c.

Decision of Cases by Ordeal.

Water Ordeal.

In ancient times the Khasis used to decide certain cases by means
of water ordeal (_ka ngam um_). Yule, writing in 1844, mentions a
water ordeal, and one of my Khasi friends remembers to have seen one
during his boyhood. There were two kinds of such ordeals. The first,
called _ka ngam ksih_, was as follows:--The two disputants in a case
would each of them fix a spear under water in some deep pool. They
would then dive and catch hold of the spear. The man who remained
longest under water without returning to the surface was adjudged
by the Siem and durbar to have won the case. Colonel Maxwell, late
Superintendent of the Manipur State, witnessed a similar ordeal in
the Manipur State in the year 1903, when two Manipuris dived to the
bottom of a river and held on to stones, the result being that one man,
who remained under water in the most determined way, was very nearly
drowned. Amongst the Khasis sometimes the supporters of the contending
parties used to compel the divers to remain under water by holding
them down with their spears. Another form of trial was to place two
pots, each of them containing a piece of gold and a piece of silver
wrapped up in cloths, in shallow water. The two contending parties
were then directed to plunge their hands into the water and take up,
each of them, one of the packets. The party who brought up a piece
of gold was adjudged the victor. If both parties brought up either
gold or silver, then the case was amicably settled by the Durbar,
and if it was a land case, the land was equally divided between the
parties. No instances of trial of cases by such ordeals have come
to notice of late years. Yule, referring to water ordeals, says:
"I have been told that it was lawful to use the services of practised
attorneys in this mode of trial; so that long-winded lawyers have as
decided a preference in these regions as they have elsewhere."

Ordeal by U Klong, or by U Klong U Khnam, in the War Country.

Of all the ordeals these are the most dreaded by the Khasis. They
believe that if a person swears falsely by _u klong_ or _u klong u
khnam_, he will die or, if he represents his family (i.e. wife and
children) or his clan (_kur_), that his family and his clan will die
out. Siems, Wahadadars, Lyngdohs, &c., do not order litigants, or even
propose to them, to have their cases decided by this ordeal, fearing
to incur blame for choosing it, owing to possible evil consequence
thereafter to the parties. One of the parties must propose and the
other must accept the ordeal, of their own accord and in open Court
or Durbar. A gourd (_u klong_) containing fermented rice (_ka sohpoh_)
is provided, and a feathered arrow with a barbed iron head is planted
in the fermented rice. The following is the procedure:--

The person who wishes to take the oath brings a gourd of fermented
rice, or a gourd with an arrow stuck in it, as the case may be,
and makes it over to the judge, or a deputy appointed by such judge
for this duty. The latter, before returning it to him, invokes the
goddess as follows:--


Back to Full Books