History of Khasi Tribes
The term Khasi is applied to the Mon Khamer-Nicobar group of the Austro-Asiatic language speaking people who migrated from South-East Asia into the hills of North-East India. According to some historians, Khasi is a generic term used for various tribes and sub-tribes who inhabit the Khasi hills and Jaintia hills. The Khasis have old and rich oral tradition which reveals a hidden truth of their past. English is their second language.
Society of Khasi Tribes
The Khasis are an endogamous tribe who are divided into exogamous clans which are again subdivided into exogamous matrilocal families. The exogamous clans are Lyngoh, Kharkongor, Diengdoh, Sohkhler, Marbaniang and syiemlich who trace their descent from respective female ancestress. Inheritance of property takes place only through the female line. The Khasi clans provide a good example of social organisation which is based on clans.
Marriage has both a religious and a social aspect among the Khasi tribes. Monogamy is the common form of marriage. Inter marriage between them is allowed. As their society is matriarchal, all the earning of males and females are owned jointly and administered by the head woman. Property is inherited from mother to daughter. Khasi family life is woven into religious rituals and ceremonies. In some cases it has seen that women act as religious and secular chiefs.
Economic Life of Khasi Tribes
The economic life of the Khasi is characterized by division of labour based on gender. It is a market oriented one in which women has an important role to play. They are the producers and sellers. Rearing of live stock is still in practice. Child labour also exists in the community. The Khasis also engage in other subsistence activities such as fishing, bird snaring, hunting and the raising of goats, cattle, pigs, dogs, hens, chickens and ducks, and bees. Cottage industries and industrial arts include cane and bamboo work, blacksmithing, tailoring, handloom weaving and spinning, cocoon rearing, lac production, stonecutting, brick making, jewellery making, pottery, iron smelting and beekeeping.
Religion of Khasi Tribes
As far as religion is considered the Khasis are monotheistic. They do, however, invoke God by various names according to the need of the moment. Besides adapting to the indigenous practices of the Khasi religion, these people are Presbyterians. Majority of the Khasi have adopted Christianity though they are rooted in their traditional religion too. Besides Hinduism, Islam and Jainism are also practiced respectively. A small number of them are Buddhists and Sikhs also.
Festivals of Khasi Tribes
Khasis celebrate many festivals with the help of ritualistic dance performances. Dance and music form an integral part of Khasi Life. 'Phawar' is one of the basic forms of Khasi music.
Khasis are trying to preserve their tribal identity. With their unique cultural heritage, the Khasi tribe remains an integral part of Indian demography even today.