The close-knit Khasi community is the largest ethnic group found in Eastern Meghalaya, some parts of Bangladesh and certain sections of Assam. They have a unique lifestyle and their societal norms are different from most communities. Even though they have existed for centuries, some might say they have progressed further than the most developed countries.
A Matrilineal Society
In a world where patriarchy prevails, it is rather rare to find a community that is built around women and matriarchy. For the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya, however, this concept is far from being alien. The natives have established a matrilineal tradition that puts women in a pivotal position in aspects such as inheritance of wealth and taking family names after marriage. The youngest daughter in the family inherits the family treasure, children take their maternal surname while a man must live at his mother-in-law’s home after marriage. These are just some of the societal norms in Khasi tribe culture that is a rich tapestry of an egalitarian and matrilineal framework.
The tribe is said to have once been a patriarchal society. However, as more men lost their lives to wars and battles, leaving behind their widows who were forced to marry and the children who were labelled illegitimate after their mothers remarried, the people decided to not tolerate such discriminations. Hence, they decided that children should take up their mother’s last name.
The Origins of Khasi Tribe Culture
While talking about Meghalaya, one cannot forget the contributions of this tribe to the state’s history. Khasi tribe makes for a significant portion of Meghalaya’s population and are speculated to have existed in the state from 56,000 years ago. Scholars have unanimously traced their origins to almost 60,000 years ago when they separated from the main branch of the Austro Asiatic people. Since then, Khasi natives have grown in number and now occupy the Eastern part of Meghalaya that shares a border with Assam and some parts of Bangladesh as well.
The Khasi tribe wear their traditional dresses with pride and most often wear them during special occasions like weddings and festivals. The male attire is known as Jymphong. It is a long, sleeveless and collarless coat that is tightened on the front. The coat is often paired with a Dhoti and an ornamental waistband. The female counterpart's outfit is quite elaborate and is called Jainsem or Dhara. It comprises several layers and pieces of cloth that bind together to give the body a cylindrical shape. Both men and women love to accessorise with headgears like crowns or turbans with a spike or peak fixed to the headgear.
Khasi myths and legends revolve around nature and its relationship with forests. They celebrate Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem every April to thank Mother Nature for a good harvest season as well as pray for another fruitful season before the fresh sowing of seeds. The locals gather together to witness a ritualistic dance performed by the unmarried women and the men of the community. Khasi observes another harvest festival, Ka Pom-Blang Nongkrem, in the month of either October or November. The community comes together to pray for the prosperity and peace of its sect.
Come Face to Face with Khasi Culture in Meghalaya
Witness the rich culture and the way of life of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya during your trip here. Visit local markets where you will find more women than men running the stalls and selling fresh produce. The local museums are also a great source of information. Stay at Polo Orchid Cherrapunji and explore the neighbouring villages. Our 5-star resort offers 6 broad categories of luxurious accommodations including rooms, cottages, suites and villas. We also have excellent dining facilities where you can try traditional Khasi dishes.