The Lyngngams and their Folk Dances


1. Introduction:

The Lyngngams are the sub-tribe of the Khasi people. Our ancestors told that the Lyngngams came from Burma before 1200 A.D. The original name of the lyngngams was 'Ingam' which the Garos call 'Megarm'. But later on it changed to 'Langam' and 'Lyngngam'. The first village of the Lyngngam is Nongkulang which is still existing now in the South-West of the Khasi Hills near the border of Bangladesh. After some hundred years of the migration from Burma, the Lngams/Langams/Lyngngams spread from Nongkulang village to three different parts. Some of them moved to the north-east of Nongkulang, some of them moved to the South-West of Nongkulang and some of them remained in Nongkulang area. Those who moved to the North-East are called 'Lyngngam Hynneng brei', those who moved to the south-west are called 'Lyngngam Hyrrum-brei' and those who remained in Nongkulang area are called "Lyngngam Langkymma". Today, there are about fifteen Lyngngam villages in Bangladesh and eighty-five villages in India, in the West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya spreading around the border of Bangladesh, Garo Hills and Assam.

2. Folk Dances of the Lyngngams:

There are six popular folk dances of the Lyngngams i.e. (a) Chad aideit (b) Chad reinmaw (c) Chad kutsnim (d) Chad Seinkhynrum (e) Chad Lynniang and (f) Chad Ku iing.

3. Dress materials and musical instruments:

In all types of Folk Dances of the Lyngngams, all the male dancers should use white dresses especially 'Jainboh' and 'Jainspong' as called by pure Khasi which the Lyngngams called 'Bongaila' and 'Khamlong' (Turban). The female dancers should use red and yellow dresses with red ornaments or sometimes mixed of colours. Besides that, the materials used by female dancers are baskets/corns, feathers of cock or pea-cock,bamboos and Khasi umbrellas called ' Knup'. The musical instruments mostly used by men (male dancers) are the long drums called 'Dama', black plates called 'Wiang' and 'Mungor' (Mungor is bigger than the wiang or mrang), Tangsohma (Flute), Tanglihir (Blowing bamboo/horn), seinkyndoh (round in shape) and Sein-chynnad which aresmaller than 'Darna'. Swords and shields are used only by men or male dancers.




Traditional Institutions of the People of Meghalaya

By Julius L.R.Marak

The State of Meghalaya was carved out of the Assam's Hill areas that sprawl along her southern frontiers with Bangladesh and act as her natural barriers. The Autonomous State of Meghalaya came into being on April 2, 1970 attaining its statehood on the January 21, 1972. State of Meghalaya comprises of three major tribes of Khasi & Jaintia and the Garos with a total population of 17,74,779 and areas of 22,429 Sq. Km. The Garos, Khasis & Jaintias were the indigenous tribes of North-East India.
The Garos, Khasis and Jaintias of Meghalaya are purely matrilineal society and as such the descent of an individual either men or women is always reckoned and traced from the mother alone and through her genealogical tree traces its origin back to the common ancestress. The matrilineal system gave the woman, the wife and the mother, a social rather than a personal standing.

Indigenous Tribal Instiyutions During Pre-British Periods :

Prior to the advent of the British into the Garo Hills areas, all the civil and criminal cases were tried and settled by the tribal chiefs known as A. king Nokmas assisted by the village Nokmas and their councils. The A. king Nokmas were all in all, in all the civil administration, administration of justice and the welfare of his subjects within his A. king land. They are all independent of each other and subjects to none. The proceedings of the cases were not recorded and every decision and judgments were oral but binding on the offender. The village elders took part in the melaa (bichal or meeting) argued the cases and gave decisions according to the customary laws and practices.
The traditional institutions in the form of Syiemships, Wadadarships, Dolloiships, Lyngdohships and Nokmaships were functioning in the form of Panchayati Raj of other states. The Khasi hills comprised of 25 native states commonly known as the 'Khasi States' which signed the Instrument of Accession and authorised the constituent Assembly of India to make Rules keeping in view the terms and conditions laid down in the Instrument of Accession. Garo Hills areas was annexed into the British dominion in the last battle of Chisobibra of Rongrenggre village, near the present district of East Garo Hills headquarters Williamnagar on the 12th December, 1872. In this last battle with the British army, Pa Togan Sangma, Garo warrior and the Chief was shot and succumbed to bullet injuries. But, the Garos managed and retained the A. king Nokmaship till the present generation.

British Periods :

During the British periods, the tribal indigenous institutions of Syiemships, Dolloiships, Nokmaships, etc, were recognised
and did not disturb the functioning of these democratic institutions. In the case of A. king Nokmas in Garo Hills, Deputy Commissioner appoints Laskers and Sardars who were given the third class magisterial powers to try cases of civil and criminal cases committed under the customary laws and practices. The Laskers are empowered to try offences on theft (value stolen property upto Rs. 50, injury to property, injury to persons, house trespass, affronts of any kind, gambling, drunkenness, etc. and were made to pay 'Dai' or compensation. The payment of 'Dai' (compensation) varies according to the nature of offence. British have put to an end to capital punishment and had hunting practiced by the Garo community.

Post-Independent Periods :

After the attainment of Independence, the Hill districts of Meghalaya is being administered according to the provisions under Para-1(1) of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution of India, the District Council was constituted in 1952 with a view to preserve, protect and strengthening the existing tribal indigenous institutions amongst tribal communities. District Council is empowered to make laws for an autonomous districts which have effect only after assented to by the Governor.
When the District Councils came into being in the Hill areas of Khasi & Jaintia and the Garo Hills districts, the traditionally elected chiefs or traditional heads such as Syiems, Dollois, Wadadars and Lyngdohships were appointed by the District Councils and the rights of election of Chiefs by the people were taken away. But, in the case of selection of A. King Nokmaship amongst the Garo community, the traditional way of selection continued unaffected. The District Council only recognise formally the A. king Nokma selected by the ma.chong or motherhood.
The President of India may direct that any Act of Parliament shall not apply to an autonomous districts. These provisions were inserted in the Schedule by the north-eastern areas (Re-organization) Act, 1971. Further, the Governor of a State could exclude the operation of any Act of Parliament or of the State Legislature in these Autonomous District.

Land System in Kashi Hills :

Each village in Khasi & Jaintia Hills has its own lands in which rights of private ownership are recognised. There are two main classes of land in Khasi Hills, namely - (1) Ri Raid Lands; and (2) Ri Kynti Lands. And under these there are sub-classes of land by different names in the various elakas.

  1. Ri-Raid lands are the lands set apart for community over which no persons have proprietary, heritable or transferable rights except the right to use and occupy as long as one occupies and use the land. The Ri Raid lands comprises of Ri shnong, Ri shnat, Ri kuna, Ri Lyngdoh, Ri RamSyiem, Ri Law Kyntang, Ri Law Lyngdoh, Ri Law Niam, Ri Law adong, Ri Law Sang, Ri Law Sumar, Ri Bam Lang, Ri Lynter, Ri Leh Mokotduma, Ri Aiti Mon Sngewbha, Ri Phlang, Ri Bamduh, Ri Diengshai-diengjin, Ri Samla.

  2. Ri Kynti lands are also known by the different names such as - Ri Kur, Ri Nongtymmen, Ri Maw, Ri Seng, Ri Khain, Ri Duwat, Ri Khurid, Ri Bitor, Ri Dakhol, Ri Shyieng, Ri lapduh, Ri Lynter, Ri Span, Ri Longdung, Ri Pud, Ri Kut and Ri Lyngdoh, Ri Syiem, Ri Khain Raibuh.

Land System in Jaintia Hills:

In Jaintia Hills there are two classes of lands exists. They are (i) Hali or irrigated paddy lands and (ii) High lands. These two main categories of land are again sub-divided into different classes. Hali lands consists of (1) Raj lands; (2) Service lands; (3) Village puja lands; and (4) Private lands.
Raj lands were the property of the Syiems of Jaintia Hills. They were unoccupied lands and vested with the Jaintia Syiems. After the abolition of Syiemship in Jaintia Hills, these lands were taken over by the British and assessed to land revenue. This type of land can be settled by any individual on lease basis.
Service lands are the rent free lands given to Dollois, Pators, Basans and other officials for their service rendered to their administration. They were not paid but allowed to hold this piece of land in recognition.
The village puja lands are the lands held by the Lyngdohs and the Raid. These lands were set apart for the purpose of worship. These lands are revenue free lands and the Lyngdohs can use the revenue from these lands for their own upkeep, etc.
Private lands are the lands held by the individuals and have the right to transfer, mortgage sale, etc. at their will.
The Patta or lease lands were the lands allotted and settled by the British during their regime. These same lands are now being exercised by the District Council who settles to any individuals in consultation with the Dollois of the areas.

Land System in Garo Hills:

The lands in Garo Hills consists of Revenue areas and Non-revenue areas. The Revenue areas are the Plain areas of Garo Hills and the non-Revenue areas are the A.king lands of Garo Hills.
The Revenue areas of Plain areas under Mouza No. IX and X are directly under the management and administration of District Council in matters of settlement of land to any of the individuals for cultivation, etc.
The Hill areas of Garo Hills are the A. king lands which belongs to the A. king Nokma of particular clan. The entire A. king lands are managed by the A. king Nokma who is the guardian and custodian of a particular clan or motherhood. The District Council do not have direct control over the A. king lands. A. king lands belong to the particular motherhood whose head is a female. The ultimate ownership lies with the motherhood which exercise its control through her husband. The A. king Nokma being a mere custodian and guardian of A. king lands cannot take any arbitrary decisions in matter of sale, mortgage, gift, transfer etc.

There are different kinds of a A. king lands in Garo Hills such as A. milam, A. jikse, A. joma, etc. All these different kinds of lands held by particular ma.chongs, cannot exercise the power over their own acquired lands as the entire property belongs to the wife or female. The Chras or male elder members of the family play an important role in shaping their future and welfare.

District Council Court and Administration of Justice :

The District Council constituted village courts or district council courts for trial of suits and cases between the parties of all of whom belong to the Scheduled Tribe within the Autonomous district. Village Courts do not try cases arising out of the special laws or cases relating to the offences of serious in nature (punishable with death, life imprisonment, etc.) However, the Governor may extend the jurisdiction of village court to decide such cases. The Rules requires the village Court to try all cases and suits in accordance with the customary laws and practices. These village courts are supposed to be non-professional bodies and decide cases in an informal atmosphere without any procedural technicalities and formalities.
Applicability of General Laws ;
Meghalaya is the land where the customary laws and practices prevail. The cases are usually taken into the village headmen or village courts which disposed off all the local cases and settles minor disputes within its jurisdiction. The aggrieved parties are at liberty to appeal to the Deputy Commissioner's Court against any decisions. Most of the statutory instruments are regulated by the Rules or Orders issued under Rule 15 of the Assam Autonomous District (Constitution of District Councils) Rules, 1951.
Subject to the certain exceptions and subject to the provisions of the rules, the procedure of district council court of all grades -
(a) Shall, in criminal cases, be "in the spirit of the code of criminal procedure", so far as it is applicable to the circumstances of the district (Rule-44 (1), and
(b) Shall, in Civil cases, be guided by the spirit but not bound by the letter" of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in all matters not covered by recognized customary laws and usage of the District (Rule-48). The Tribal areas of the Khasi & Jaintia and Garo Hills, etc. were governed separately from the other areas, during the British Rule. These areas are being administered under the Scheduled district Act, 1874, making special provisions for their administration and governance. When the Government of India Act, 1935 came into force, these tribal areas were continued to govern under the new terminology of "Excluded and partially excluded areas". In matters of procedure to be followed in the trial of suits and cases in the district council courts, Para 5 (3) of the Sixth Schedule provided that "Code of Civil Procedure, 1903, and Code of Criminal procedure, 1898, shall not apply to trial of any suit, cases or offences in an Autonomous District".
The traditional institutions of the Khasi & Jaintia and Garo communities still continues to exist and run their own affairs without any difficulties in the midst of modern Rules, Regulations and Laws. The Sixth Schedule was incorporated in the Constitution of India to grant certain autonomy to these traditional indigenous institutions of the Khasi & Jaintia and the Garo people.

Conclusion :

The indigenous traditional institutions of the Khasi & Jaintia and the Garo communities in the different forms of Syiemships, Dolloiships, Wadadarships, Lyngdohships and the A. king Nokmaships existed from the time immemorial and continued to survive till date due to its democratic in actions and decisions which is far better than the Panchayati Raj system of other states. The age old indigenous traditional institutions which were firmly established on a democratic systems need now be strengthened and revived by returning to them the rights to decide their own destiny especially in the present day complex situations. These traditional institutions of Syiems, Dollois, Lyngdohs, Wadadars and A. king Nokmas should be involved at the grass root level in formulation of schemes, plans and programmes as well as any developmental schemes, and seek their participation. The involvement of traditional institutions and their co-operation can be obtained, if the Government at the State/Central is sincere to bring the village administration and their involvement to decide their own-welfare and future. The involvement, strengthening and decentralization of power with the indigenous traditional institutions may not be at the liking by the present politicians, and administrators but the only way to save the present situations is involvement of these traditional institutional heads.

The Panchayati Raj system found in the plain areas of towns and cities as found in other states is not desirable for the people of Meghalaya as there are already existed and deep rooted traditional institutions. The tendency of the administration to do away with the traditional institutions, as they think that these institutions are hindrance to their liking, instead attempts should be made to strengthen, develop and improve upon by making the traditional institutions more workable, coordinating body and responsible within their own respective areas or jurisdiction.

The local cases of civil and criminal can be dealt better, if the heads of traditional institutions are involved and are taken into confidence in curtailing them. The selection of traditional heads should be given free hand without any political interference in the hands of the people. The services of the heads of the traditional institutions can best be utilised, if the State Government nominates at least 5 members in the Autonomous District Council as members. While trying to formulate the policy of decentralization of power as envisaged by the Government of India through Panchayati Raj system with a view to involve the people at the grass root level in the developmental process, the financial powers and planning be entrusted to these traditional institutions. The traditional institutions of Syiems, Dollois, and the A. king Nokmas be delegated with economic power to enable them to participate in the planning process and implementation of developmental programmes through different Government agencies as per the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India of Para 3 & 4, if the Government is to work for the betterment and their economic and social upliftment, the community leaders, heads of traditional institutions need to be involved. The traditional institutions and their head still exists amongst the community who needs revitalizing and necessary Legislation or Amendments to the existing Rules, Regulations and Provisions of Constitution of India and get the community participation in saving the country's economy, administration and future of the people of the State.
The grass root planning development and implementation of various programmes and projects carried out for the welfare of the people need their co-operation and help. But, these can be best achieved only if the administration take these institutions into confidence.


  1. The Assam Re-organization (Meghalaya) Act, 1969 NO. 55 of 1969.

  2. Customary Law and Justice in the Tribal Areas of Meghalaya (9182) - The Indian Law Institute.

  3. Law of Administration of Justice in Meghalaya (1973) First Edition - Jangsan Sangma

  4. Census of India 1991 Series-16 Meghalaya (Part-XII-A&B). District Census Hand Book, East & West Garo Hills village and town directory.

  5. Garo customary laws and practices (1999-2000) 2nd. Edition -Julius L. R. Marak

  6. The Constitution of India (1969) L.D. 144 (1969)

  7. Report of the Land Reforms Commission for Khasi Hills, p-17.

  8. Garo Hills Autonomous District (Administration of Justice) Rules1953 and the Assam High Court (Jurisdiction Order, District Council Court Order, 1954).

  9. Sangma, M.S. "History and Culture of the Garos'"(1981).

  10. Succession to the Syiemships in the Khasi States by Capt. D. Herbert, D.C., Khasi & Jaintia Hills (1903).

  11. . British Administration in Meghalaya, Policy and pattern. - D. R. Syiemlieh (1989).




Evolution of Riangsih Sirdarship

By P.S.Nianglang

The essence and efficacy of myths, folktales, legends, stories and other oral traditions in the Khasi literature can neither be derecognised nor set aside. Like a phoenix who rejuvenates from its own ashes every 500 years they represent the antiquity of the Khasi culture in their quaint and fascinating forms by withstanding themselves against the test of time. They contain in them the elements of truth wherein full truth and axioms can be extracted. They throw a Drummon light and beckon the progeny to carry out further investigations and research works in all aspects of the society. We can boldly say so, in view of the absence of chronicles and literary frameworks during the pre-British era, to show how the Khasis establish their polity. But through them, we comprehend the basic, socio-economic fabric of our society. They are like conduits through which water flows uniformly to quench the thirst of the panting deer. They act as the panacea to heal the wounds of the researcher. Therefore, Mrs. N. Natarajan (1977)1 strongly advocates their role wherein she says, "Mythology, folklore, legends, poetry, the court language, political expressions - all form early oral Khasi literature. The essence is on the divine origin of the Khasi race, for the Khasis considered themselves the chosen people of God. The oral literature contains past economic undertakings the evolution of the state, society and institutions, migration of clans, wars and victories and historical incidents covering the activities of the ancestors". Another stalwart of Khasi authors namely Dr. H,B. Ngapkynta (1985)2 fully appreciates their importance and authenticity in the field of Khasi literature wherein he emphasizes "the absence of the literary evidence from the early period is a conspicuous problem with which we are confronted in the task of historical reconstruction and we will have, therefore, to depend mainly on both the oral traditions and foreign evidence which is preserved in diplomatic documents maintained between Khasi rulers and their neighbours. The importance of oral traditions called Ki Parom handed from generation to generation and the legends throwing light on the history of the people cannot be neglected." In his latest treatise on the Khasi people in Khasi vernacular, Dr. Hamlet B. Ngapkynta3 (2000) provides a special attachment of their role in reinforcing our social fabric wherein he further elucidates "Kawei pat ka bhah jong ka parom ka long ban pynneh ia ka dak ka shin jong ka mynnor; ka ialam ia ngi ban sngewthuh ia ka jingkylla badonbor, shaphang ka jingkhie bad ka jingkyllon jong ki Hima bakhrawbor bad ki new radbah kiba la pynkylla khongpong ia ka Ri ha ki lyngkha bapher na ka jingringmraw sha ka jingksan, na ka jinglong lyngki sha ka jingseisoh.......," Finally, the prominent Khasi poet U Soso Tham4 (1960) nicely puts the lines of his poem:

Mynmiet mynstep M trei minot
Hapoh ka kpoh ki thep ka kot
Nangta ki kha ki puriskam,
Nangta ki mih ki purinam.

During the Anglo Khasi war that took place in between the years 1829-1832 Riangsih Syiemship appeared as a state and U Dima Syiem was the ruling chief who actively took part and joined the federation of U Tirot Singh Syiem during their insurrection against the British people as can be seen from the writings of Dr. H.B. Ngapkynta5 (1984). This, therefore, points out the fact that before the advent of the British people, Riangsih Sirdarship had already existed as a state. However, the theory which states that Riangsih is one of the erstwhile composite state of Muliang as advocated by Mr. L.G. Shuliai6 (1975) is still a debatable subject. The author7 (1994) had a chance to meet Shri Rosclean Nongbri (who is now dead) the youngest son of (Late) Mrs. Samei Nongbri and (late) Mr. Amur Syiem of Riangsih Sirdarship and Shri Shondro Diengngan(who is now dead), residents of Mawlein and Nongkyndang villages respectively and kept in black and white about the story of the evolution of this so petty princely state. It smoothy goes : In its antiquity once upon a time there was a rogue elephant lived in the Northern Ri Nongtrai. The said elephant was very ferocious and cruel in nature. It used to destroy the jhum lands, crops, cattle and even human beings who lived therein as the subjects of the Syiem of Hima Nongstoin and the Syiem of Hima Jyrngam, or Hima Muliang at that time. The inhabitants of Hima Muliang or Hima Jyrngam and Hima Nongstoin were in great trouble and there was nobody who would kill the rogue elephant aforesaid. So they appealed to the Syiems of Nongstoin and Jyrngam state to kill the said ferocious and rogue elephant.

One day the Syiems of both the Him as convened a joint state council (Durbar Hima) and summoned the warriors and armed men of both the states to kiil the elephant. Though the Durbar Hima had resolved in that manner, but there was no one among the armed men who dared to combat and kill the rogue elephant. So they were at their wits' end. At last they have found one tactic i.e. to decide that they would part some portion of their state and would allow to establish a new state to be ruled by that native person who would be able to kill that el ephant. The resolution was notified and an offer was made to the subjects of both the states but there was no one who would accomplish this great and noble mission.

In the midst of such perplexity, there came out one person who was strong, brave, full of manly stature and whose height was about 10 feet. It was further narrated that the size of his shirt's sleeve was so big so that a boy of 18 years can enter and crawl through it from one end to another end. This man was nobody but Shri Shilibri Sohmad, one of the subjects of Nongstoin Syiemsnip who lived at Mawlein village. Some said that he lived at Mawnar village.This is one of the villages that situates in Northern Ri Nongtrai. While abiding by the promise and covenant that were spoken by the Syiems of the two states, this brave man, one day, early in the morning before the cock's crow left his village with the sword and the packed rice (Jasong) in his hands. He travelled through the bottom of the hillock called Mawirang and he passed through the village of Mawpamblang and then proceeded further to the areas where the present Langja village exists and he found the rogue elephant who lived in those thick jungles. As soon as he saw the elephant, he jumped into it and caught hold the trunk hose empty handed without using any tying rope. He returned to his village taking along with him the rogue el ephant by holding its trunk hose and walked through the village of Nongmawriat and arrived at Nongrynnniaw then he took rest there. From Nongmawriat to Nongrynniaw, he passed through the source of Baiu river and he collected two stones fromiyrsung river. The bigger one was used as a chair and the smaller one as dining table. He carried these two stones by insertng each to his right and left armpits, and then the packed lunch, the sword as he was driving the elephant all along by holding from its trunk hose. At Nongrynniaw, he rested and took his lunch by making the bigger stone as his chair and the smaller stone as his dining table. Hitherto, this stone at Nongrynniaw is still known as "Maw Thaw Shilibri*. After taking his lunch, he proceeded to Nongmawlein with the rogue elephant and the sword in his hands. At Mawlein village he tied the elephant and he informed the Chiefs of Nongstoin and Jyrngam states to present there at the time when he would kill the atrocious elephant. The subjects of both the states were gathered wherein the Syiems, the councillors, the priests and the nobles were also present on that day. He held the sword in his right hand and firmly held the trunk hose with his left hand. He then chopped the elephant's neck off and the elephant died there instantaneously.Thus peace and tranquility were restored in that area.

It was on that very day itself, while fulfilling the covenant, the Syiem of Nongstoin State, had handed over in perpetuity the villages of Mawlein, Nongrynnniaw, Nongum-sohpieng, Nongkyndang and other adjoining areas to Shri Shilibri Sohmad. Similarly, the Syiem of Jyrngam state handed over in perpetuity the areas of Rongjiangdap, Hahim and other low lying areas to Shri Shilibri Sohmad. So, the villages and areas which were handed over by the Syiem of Nongstoin and Jyrngam states formed a new state with its own defined boundaries under the rule of Shri Shilibri Syiem Sohmad. It was further narrated that at the time of handing over of the aforementioned areas, by the Syiems, all ritual performances were carried out and a vow was made before the fowl's blood the fire and sword that the succeessors should not interfere at all costs and cannot take back the areas and villages already handed over and they would be fully under the administrative control of Shilibri Syiem Sohmad within his newly created state (Hima). This was the good luck of the Sohmad clan. Till date the sword still exists in the house of Mrs. Philin Sohmad of Myndo village though its size is reduced due to rust, etc.

On that very day itself they made a great feast at Mawlein village because a new state was formed. They killed cocks, pigs, cows and goats and they drank undistilled liquor from the jars and resorted to merrymaking and other forms of amusements. It happened that one woman of that village delivered a child in her house. This was one of the feast houses. As soon as a child was born, the relatives of that woman was still keeping the placenta (sih) in one of the corners of the house thinking that they would hang the placenta on the bamboo trunks in the morning of the following day. One of the elderly men who was present in that house, was inebriated he thought and mistaken that placenta (sih) to be the beef. He then took it and dried (Riang) on the raised platform (tyngir) over the hearth, so that he could cook and eat it. At that very moment when his friend and relatives found that he did the jestful job, they laughed at him because he had instead dried (Riang) the placenta (Sih). Since that time they declared that the name of the newly formed state would be called Riangsih and the first Syiem who ruled the state was Shri Shilibri Syiem Sohmad. This is the evolution of formation of Riangsih state or presently known as Riangsih Sirdarship.


  1. Natarajan N. (1977) The Missionary Among the Khasis, Sterling Publishers PuL Ltd. New Delhi, P.24.

  2. Bareh H. Dr. (1985). The History and Culture of the Khasi People. Spectrum Publication, Quwahati P.2.

  3. Ngapkynta B.H. Dr. (2000). Ka Spah Bad Ka Jingshai Thaba Jong Ka Ri, Self Publication P. 75.

  4. Thorn Sosofl 960) :KiSngiBarim U Hynniew TVep P. 1.

  5. Celebration of 150th Death Anniversary of U Tirot Singh Syiem ofNongkhlatu (1984) published by K.C.S. p. 32.

  6. Shullai L.G. (1975) Ki Hima Khasi, p. 3.

  7. The Author has conducted a fact-finding trip and personally met ShrL A. Rosclean Nongbn at his residence at Mawlein Village Riangsih Sirdarship on 14.5.94 and ShrL Shondro Diengngan at his residence at Nongkyndangf Jyrngam Sirdarship on 14.8.1994.





The Borghat Historical and Archaeological Remains

By G. Sumer

Borghat is a beautiful little vil lage situated on the East bank of the blue Myntdu river in the south of the Jaintia Hills District at about 80 Km. or so from Jowai. The navigability of the Myntdu River with other parts of the Surma Valley up to this point (Ghat) had created the place into a prospective commercial depot where traders from the hills and the plains of the vast Jaintia Kingdom could meet for commercial transaction, etc. Further, the place also situated midway between Jaintiapur, the plain capital and Sutnga, the Hill capital of the kingdom.

The commercial and the strategical importance of the place had prompted the then mighty Jaintia Raja Borkuhain or U Bor Singh from whom the name of the place is said to have derived to convert it into the kingdom's Sub-Headquarters and adorned it with palace, temple, tanks and other structural splendours which are to us now of historical and archaeological value and importance.

However, with the transfer of the Hills Capital from Sutnga to Nartiang sometimes during the 2nd or the 3rd quarters of the 16th century, the importance of Borghat had been replaced by that of Syndai and the former had lost of its political importance, though it continued to be still a flourishing market till the time of partition in 1947. As a pointer to the then glory of the village, the following remains are still being observed and seen.

This structure situated on the east bank of the River Myntdu just in the south of the present Borghat village under the shades of big banyan trees, but all in ruins and debris. The ruins was perhaps due to the longevity of time. But the important factor was most probably due to the damage caused by the havoc of the Myntdu river during the rainy season, especially when the Myntdu river had changed its course towards the east.

This temple is a very simple and auster looking Bengal type made of baked brickbats and situated right in the heart of the present Borghat village. The temple proper is 3.00 x 8.00 metres enclosed on all sides by a rectangular brick walls of 100 metres x 70 metres with an entrance provided at the south. Some portion of the walls are still in tact while the southern portions are in a dilapidating state. The temple proper is still standing and in good shape where prayer/ pujas are still being offered by some casual visitors. However on account of the unavailability of written records the builder and the date of the temple and other structures are not definitely known. But tradition states that the temple and the rest of the structures were built during the reign of U Raja Bor Singh who had embraced Hinduism and had shifted his principal Headquarters from Sutnga to Jaintiapur sometime during the last quarters of the 15th century and the first quarters of the 16th century. The temple was mainly constructed for the purpose of royal worship. However, with the fall of the Sutnga dynasty in 1855 A.D. the temple, the palace and other structures were almost abandoned except for few casual visitors and sweet memory of the lost glory of Borghat.

This is ceremonial tank situated at about 250 metres east of the temple by the side of a stream on the left side of the Borghat-Khliehriat road. The tank is dug out on the earth under the command of the Parang Clan for the purpose of the ceremonial cleaning of the Rajas after the performance of ritual human sacrifice.





The Concept of 'Kur' as part and parcel of the Khasi culture

By Smti. B.Kharlyngdoh

Right from the time immemorial, the Khasi society resolved around the concept of 'Kur'. It is a concept that is alive and active till the present day society. To make a study on the concept of 'Kur' in Khasi Culture one should try to define the term culture as found in Dictionaries and other related text for understanding of the term.

The Universal Dictionary defines: "The totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institution and all other product of human work and thought characteristics of a community or population".1

Graham Wallas an English Sociologist defines : "Culture as an accumulation of thoughts, values and objects; it is the social heritage acquired by us from proceeding generation through learning as distinguished from the biological heritage in passed on to us automatically through genes." 2
But when we talk of Khasi culture we understand that the whole system of Khasi culture stems from the basic tenets of teh Khasi religion and they are:

  1. "Kamai ia ka hok" which means to perform the duty well, to live justly and work honestly.

  2. "Tipbriew tipblei" which means that man must behave well with his fellow men to enable him to do God's will.

  3. "Tip kur tipkha" to know the 'Kur' and the 'kha' which means to respect the relation from mother's side and father's side respectively.

The whole system of Khasi culture cannot be covered within a small article, therefore lets concentrate only in the topic , " The concept of Kur as a part and parcel of the Khasi culture."

To understand better the word 'Kur' let us first see what our Khasi writers explain:-

  1. H.Lyngdoh, "The word 'Kur' refers to all group of people both male and female descended from the first mother of the family line which is known as "Lawbei" 3

  2. Kynpham Sing defines" All those who are discended from the some ancestral mother belong to the same 'Kur'. 4

  3. R.T. Rymbai defines, "The Kur have their origin from a common ancestress and their lineal descent is from the mother to daughter." 5

  4. Sib Charan Roy explains, "The Khasis are matrilineal descent. Generations after generations are still if the same 'kur' as long as they descended from the same ancestral mother, they are all related by blood." 6

  5. R.T. Rymbai explains, "The Kur may have one clan name as known from time immemorial or they may have different surnames known after the names of the female descendents of the first ancestress." 7

  6. S. Lamare, in his unpublished dissertation on "the concept of Kur among the Khasi, wrote, ".....among the Khasis the word 'jait' came to be understood as title or surname in the modern generation and even earlier." 8

From the above, we can say that the word 'Kur' among the Khasis is clear that the descend is from the mother and is passed on from the mother to daughter; while jait' is the name given to the 'Kur'. These names are based on various grounds such as :

  1. After the mythical ancestress such as Ngap, Bon, and Nga. (The daughters of Li Dohkha) where Phyrngap, Syiemlieh and Sutnga clan came out.

  2. After the names of plants like Sohhlie, Pathaw and Rymbai etc.

  3. After the name of the place from where they originated like Nongspung, Nongsteng, Massar, etc.

  4. After the name of the office like Lyngdoh, Doloi, Syiem, etc.

  5. After the name of the non-Khasi female who married a Khasi man. Hence, most of the Kur start with 'Khar' have their ancestral from the Non-Khasi mother like Kharshandi, Kharbani, Kharnarbi, etc.

Regarding marriage within the 'kur' till today the Khasi treat as a grievous crime a Khasi can commit and such person is ostracised from the kur and the society at large.

Till now we can see that the 'kur' plays an important role in the matter of birth and naming ceremony. Though it is a small ceremony, it is very important for they will introduce the 'kur' and 'kha' of the baby. And whether it be a boy or a girl they welcome it as a member of the 'kur'.

In the matter of death we find that the 'kur' still claims its own 'kur' when one member dies,all the 'kur' specially those who are near and dear ones share the sad occassion on the death of the particular 'kur'.

The 'Kur' has helped the Khasi to be united and organised . Every man, women and child is a member of one 'kur' or the other and no one is without a 'kur' . Therefore, the 'kur' is the pillar of the Khasi's family which needs of be always alive and active. It is very important to note down that from the 'Durbar' Kur' it gives birth to the Khasi traditional Democracy. These are the facts thet the concept of 'kur' is a part and parcel of the Khasi culture which needs to be alive and active even in the present society also.


1. Reader's Digest Association Ltd., Universal Dictionary.

2. C.N. Shankar Rao, Sociology. {New Delhi : S. Chand & Company, 1997) pg. 217.

3. H. Lyngdoh, Ka ninm khasi. (Shillong: George M, Lyngdoh, 1970) pg. 132.

4. Hipshon Roy (Ed.) Khasi Heritage (Shillong : Ri Khasi Press 1979) pg. 94.

5. Ibid pg. 112.

6. Sib Charan Roy Jait Dkhar, Ka Niam Khasi Ka Niam Tip Blei Tip briew. (Shillong: Ri Khasi Press, 1959), pg. 7.

7. Khasi Heritage pg. 75.

8. S. Lamare, "The Concept of kur Among the Khasis ,(Unpublished dissertion pg.4. )




The Title of the Theme 'Sawdong ka lyngwiar dpei'

Meaning -'around the hearth'

By Silbi Passah

The Khasis have a noble creative power , he ia an imaginative and a natural philosopher. His theories about the creation of the earth, sun and the moon,etc are very interesting.

The concept of 'Sawdong ka langwiar dpei'(around the hearth) is actually the place where the family members both young and old gather together after a day's hard work. They sit together circulating or around the fire which is right in the center of the room. You would be wondering what is so important sitting beside the fire. But in olden times , when Khasis knew nothing about education, in the modern sense. The Radio, T.V.,Cable and so on were unknown to them. Yet the Khasis have their own way of preserving the heritage of the past and educating their nieces,nephews,sons and daughters,learn our culture and tradition,customs and manners of which we are proud of. Even the religious belief and concept are forged and passed on from father to son and down to great grandson was done 'around the fire hearth' The legendary folk tales and fictitious stories are invented to instill upon the young mind positive and constructive thinking. We can say that from folktales to fairy tales and fables have their origin and evolution started around the fire side.

To entertain themselves , stories are told in the form of songs accompanied with vocal music and one of the most popular instrument is 'Ka duitara' Duitara is different from bow-shaped veena, sawaramandal, Santoor;Eklara;Tambura;Jantra;Rudra veena;Saraswati veena;Vichitra veena;Sarod;Banam and Sarangi. The Duitara is the typical musical instrument of the Khasis and jaintias. Purely home made the Duitara is made of strong hardwood. Hallow in the belly of the main body is covered with dried skin of animals. Its neck which is longer than the main body has its end four hole in which wooden pegs are fixed to hold the string in tune.

Another musical instrument of the Khasis is "Ka Besli". it is also a home made bamboo flute . Generally a happy working cowboy while tending his herd or while resting gaily on the top of the hill would play his favourite flute pouring out beautiful tunes in harmony blending with the nature surrounds him.

Another instrument is 'Ka Mieng' . This instrument is made of bamboo and it is used commonly both by men and women. With this instrument they entertain themselves during their journey in dense forest to overcome the solidarity of the nature.

Can we say that the Khasis are not the lover of the songs and music who are still using their home made instruments?.






Dresses and Ornaments of Dancers in Festivals: Meghalaya


Khasi Female Dress:

  1. Ka Jainpien shad : A single piece lungi called "Jainpien" worn from the waist downwards upto the ankle.

  2. Ka Sopti-Kit : A long sleeve velvet blouse with na (Sopti Muhmor) Rows of button on the front and lace decoration around the neck , colours of the blouse are usually red ,black, green, purple and violet.

  3. Ka Sem Poh : Ka Jainsem of any colour worn over the above the right shoulders with pins or decorations.

  4. Ka Dhara : A yellow or saffron coloured silk cloth especially designed for the khasi , worn on the right side and covering the "Sempoh" and fastened over the left shoulders with pins or decorations.

Khasi Female Ornaments:

  1. Pansngiat : A silver crown adorning the head , resting on the knot of hair purposely fastened to level the head of the dancer for placing the crown. At this portion of the knot of hair, a projection of silver "Lasubon", (which is a silver ornament attached with a bunch of flowers), is tied to their hair knot at the back. From the hair knot a projection of the female hair is also provided on the right side back to accompany the lone silver chair ornament from which hangs three silver bells, on the back called "Saikhyllong" falling upto the waist of the female dancer.

  2. Siar Kynthei : The female is also adorned on both side her ears with eardrops of solid gold with enhanced support in chain of gold enfolding each earlobe.

  3. U Shanryndang : This ornaments adorns the female neck of knopad either by gold called u "Shanryndang" are gold and red coral necklace "U Kpieng paila".

  4. Ki kpieng : The female dancer is decked with three rows of gold and red coral necklaces on her front. These three rows of necklaces are of different sizes and arranged in a descending order-big,bigger and biggest.

  5. Kynjri tabah Kynthei: A bunch of silver chains is also placed along with the necklaces in the apparel of a female dancer.

  6. Taj Rupa: These are silver armlets adoring both arms of the female dancer.

  7. Mahu Rupa : These are silver fore-armlets adoring both fore-arms of the female dancer.

  8. Khadu syngkha : These are wristlets of pure gold which find a place on both wrists of the female dancers.

  9. Kynjri ksiar : These are gold chains which adorn the female dancer.

Khasi male Dress:

  1. Jainspong khor : A head-dress or turban usually colour with maroon prints either of geometric design or animal motifs made of a valueable silk especially designed for the Khasis.

  2. Thuia : From the back of the head stands black and white feathers fastened from the back of the head and through the "Jainspong".

  3. Jainboh : A red coloured dhoti from waist downwards made of silk and bodered with golden threads.

  4. Ka Jymphong shad : A black sleeveless jacket type embroidered with motif of leaves, flowers and animals in various colours and decorated with golden or silver tassels at the bottom end of the jacket.

  5. Jainteh Syngkai : A waistband which is knotted on the left side of the waist leaving a projection downwards upto the left leg below the knee.

Khasi male Ornaments:

  1. Siar Shynrang : On both ears, earring of solid gold made of various designs.

  2. Shanryndang : Around his neck, a gold neckrest or two rows of gold and red coral necklace is fastened.

  3. Kynjri tabah Shynrang : These are a bunch of silver chains purposely made for the male which entwines his body front and back.

  4. Kynjri Syngkai : A bunch of silver chains adorning the waist of the male dancers.

  5. Ka Ryngkap : A silver quiver beautifully designed and consisting of three silver arrows worn on the left side back of the male dancer and adorned with colourful feathers and at the end of which hangs a small bunch of horses tail.

  6. U Kpieng : A single row of bis gold and red coral necklace.

  7. U Symphiah : A white hair whisp of 'Yak's tail.

  8. Ka Waitlam : A long iron sword.

and Ornaments of the Jaintias.

Jaintias Female Dresses:

  1. Jainpien/Ryndia Kyrwang : Striped cloth either black and white or black and maroon.
  2. Jainsem Muga : Muga cloth
  3. Sopti Mukmor : Velvet Blouse mostly red.
  4. Dhara : Silk dhara worn on both sides of shoulders and on the waist.
  5. Thoh Saru : Eri Clth wrapper
  6. Dhara Muga : Muga cloth

Jaintias Female Ornaments:

  1. Kanapad : Golden Necklace
  2. Kpieng Ksiar/Kynjiri Ksiar : Golden Chain & Locket.
  3. Khadu Ksiar : Golden Bangles.
  4. Pansnggiat : Crown worn by the leader of the group.
  5. Khasu Ksiar : Golden Bracelet
  6. Tiaw Lasubon/Thuia : Flowers worn on the head.

Jaintia Male Dresses:

  1. Jainboh : Maroon dhoti
  2. Tupia Jain : Black Cap
  3. Soptipohlieh : White Shirt
  4. Putoi : Waist Coat
  5. Ryndia : Shawl worn by men on occasions.
  6. Jainspenglieh : White Turban made of eri cloth
  7. Canvas Sawbthuh : Reddish Brown Canvas

Jaintia Male Ornaments:

  1. Kynjri Rupa : Silver
  2. Kpieng Paila : Red and Gold beads necklace

Dresses and Ornaments of the Garo Dancers.

Garo Female Dresses:

  1. Ganna Dakmanda : One piece of wrapper worn on the waist upto the ankles.
  2. Ganna Kore Kinga : Petticoat
  3. Chinani : Special Shawl with beads designs
  4. Chroko ganna : Wrapper with shells and beads.
  5. Dodok : One piece cloth worn across one arm.
  6. Re'king : Small petticoat
  7. Kotip : Coloured Turban

Garo Female Ornaments:

  1. Ripok Do'katchi : Necklace with stone gems and emerald.
  2. Rikgitok : Necklace of coral beads of 10 lines
  3. Rikgitchak : Necklace with various gems, ivory and metal bells.
  4. Ollongga/Nakongsi : Brass Earrings in bunches
  5. Kabong / Kade : Head gear made of shells.
  6. Kade bibol : Special designed head gear.
  7. Asingsok/Riksil : Necklace with metal bells.
  8. Bato Rengki : Hair Band
  9. Rikmatchu : Necklace Coral beads
  10. Seng'ki : Shell beads worn over the waist
  11. Siliting : Silver Chain with designs
  12. Konal : Tight Silver necklace
  13. Sis /Narikki : Earrings made of lead
  14. Naderong : Designed beads
  15. Nabal : Decorated beads worn on the ears.
  16. Sangong/Jaksan : Bangles of metal or Brass.
  17. Pilne : Decorated head gear with cock's plume
  18. Ki'chong : Special Bamboo comb

Garo Male Dresses:

  1. Gantap : Wrapper worn above knee
  2. Genji Gisim : Black T Shirt
  3. Kotip Nokma : Silk Maroon turban of head man
  4. Kotip : Turban
  5. Kadesil : Head gear
  6. Pandra : Cloth worn criss cross over the body
  7. Mending : Hair String for tying the hair.
  8. Do'me : Cock's Plume
  9. Kot :Coat.
  10. : Accompaniment of turban of Head man.

Garo Male Ornaments:

  1. Tapa/Jaksil/Rikgitok : Brass armlets
  2. Rikmatchu : Coral beads necklace
  3. Konal : Tight silver necklace
  4. Naderong : Designed earring of beads
  5. Sisa/Narikki : Bunch of earrings made of lead
  6. Mil'am : Sword double edged.
  7. Danil/Seppi : Shield made of rhino's skin.
  8. Rang : Brass Gongs.
  9. Sel'u : Spear.




Musical Instruments used during the festivals and ceremonies

Khasi and Jaintia:

  1. Beslie : Bamboo Flute.

  2. Tangmuri : Clarinet

  3. Duitara : Musical instrument like guitar with muga strings

  4. Ksing/Nakra : Drums used in different occasions.

  5. Dymphong : Flat bamboo instrument

  6. Maryngod :

  7. Marngthing :

  8. Padiah : Small drum to be beaten with fine sticks.

  9. Singthap : Side drum beaten with stick one side and hand on the other side

  10. Tanglod : Bamboo Flute

  11. Ksing Kynthei : Drum used for female dancers only . One side is applied wax.

  12. Shaw Shaw : Cymbals

  13. Sharati : Flute used during death ceremony.

  14. Sitar : Sitar


  1. Dama : Long drum

  2. Natik : Small drum accompaniment

  3. Nagra : Big round drum used by sticks.

  4. Kram : Head man's drum.

  5. Dimchang/Kimjim : Flat bamboo instrument

  6. Bangsi/Ile'p/Okra : Kinds of flutes.

  7. Ollongma/Imbinggi : Kinds of Flutes.

  8. Dakok : Longest Flute.

  9. Adil/Singga : Buffaloe Horn.

  10. Chengchap : Cymbals

  11. Chigring : Bamboo stump with strings

  12. Serenda : Violin type of instrument

  13. Gongmina : Jew's harp