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The Khasis by P. R. T. Gurdon

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"Come down, and bear witness, thou goddess who reignest above
and below, who createst man, who placest him (on earth), who
judgest the right and the wrong, who givest him being and stature,
(i.e.) life. Thou goddess of the State, thou goddess of the place,
who preservest the village, who preservest the State, come down and
judge. If this man's cause be unrighteous, then shall he lose his
stature (being), he shall lose his age (life), he shall lose his clan,
he shall lose his wife and children; only the posts of his house shall
remain, only the walls of his house shall remain, only the small posts
and the stones of the fireplace shall remain; he shall be afflicted
with colic, he shall be racked with excruciating pains, he shall fall
on the piercing arrow, he shall fall on the lacerating arrow, his
dead body shall be carried off by kites, it shall be carried off by
the crows, his family and his clan shall not find it; he shall become
a dog, he shall become a cat, he shall creep in dung, he shall creep
in urine, and he shall receive punishment at thy hands, oh, goddess,
and at the hands of man. If, on the other hand, his cause be righteous
(lit. _lada u kren hok_) he shall be well, he shall be prosperous,
he shall live long, he shall live to be an elder, he shall rise to be
a defender and preserver of his clan, he shall be a master of tens
and a master of hundreds (immensely rich), and all the world shall
see it. Hear, oh, goddess, thou who judgest." (The whole of this
invocation is uttered while a libation is poured out from _u klong_.)

_U klong_ is next invoked as follows:--

"Thou, _u klong_, with whose assistance--according to our religion
and our custom, a man when he is born into the world is named--hear
and judge. If he speaks falsely (his cause be false), his name shall
be cut off (by thee) and he shall surely die."

The fermented rice is then invoked as follows:--

"Thou yeast, thou charcoal, thou rice of the plough, thou rice of
the yoke, thou, too, hear and judge. If he speaks falsely, eat off
his tongue, eat away his mouth."

The arrow is lastly invoked as follows:--

"Thou piercing and lacerating arrow, as thou hast been ordained by the
goddess, who creates man, who appoints man to occupy a pre-eminent
place in war and in controversy, do thou hear and judge. If he
(i.e. the man taking the oath) speaks falsely, let him fall upon thee,
let him be cut and be torn, and let him be afflicted with shooting and
pricking pains." The man then takes _u klong_ or, _u klong u khnam_,
and holds it on his head, and while in that posture utters the same
invocation. _U klong_ is then made over to the judge (the Siem or
the Sirdar as the case may be, &c.).

The person who undergoes the above ordeal wins the case, the production
of evidence being unnecessary.


Although the Khasis, unlike the Nagas, the Garos, the wild Was of
Burma, the Dayaks of Borneo, and other head-hunting tribes, cannot be
said to have indulged in head-hunting in ancient times, as far as we
know, merely for the sake of collecting heads as trophies, there seems
to be some reference to a custom of head-hunting in a description of
the worship of the god _u Syngkai Bamon_, one of the principal gods of
war amongst the Khasis. This god is described in one of the folk tales
(I have obtained it through the kindness of Dr. Roberts, the Welsh
missionary at Cherrapunji) as being the deity who gives the heads of
the enemy to the successful warriors. To this god, as well as to _Ka
Ram Shandi_, they offer a cock. Before sacrifice the warriors dance
round an altar, upon which are placed a plume of cock's feathers (_u
thuia_), a sword, a shield, a bow, an arrow, a quiver, _pan_ leaves,
and flowers. After the cock has been sacrificed, they fix its head on
the point of a sword and shout three times. The fixing of the cock's
head on the point of a sword is said to have been symbolical of the
fixing of the human head of an enemy killed in battle, on the top
of the _soh-lang_ tree. Mr. Shadwell, of Cherrapunji, whose memory
carries him back to the time when the British first occupied the Khasi
Hills, has a recollection of a Khasi dance at Cherra, round an altar,
upon which the heads of some _Dykhars_, or plains people, killed in a
frontier raid had been placed. The Khasis used to sacrifice to a number
of other gods also for success in battle. An interesting feature of
the ancient combats between the people of different Siemships was
the challenge. When the respective armies had arrived at a little
distance from one another, they used to stop to hear each other shout
the _'tien-Blei_, or challenge, to the other side. This custom was
called _pyrta 'tien-Blei_, or shouting out the challenge. From the
records available of the military operations of the Khasis against
the British, the former appear to have relied principally on bows
and arrows, ambushes and surprises, when they fought against us at
the time of our first occupation of the hills. During the Jaintia
rebellion firearms were used, to some extent, by the Syntengs. The
military records do not, however, disclose any peculiar battle customs
as having been prevalent amongst those hill people then. Both Khasis
and Syntengs seem to have fought much in the same manner as other
savage hill-men have fought against a foe armed with superior weapons.

Human Sacrifices.

The Thlen Superstition.

There is a superstition among the Khasis concerning _U thlen_,
a gigantic snake which requires to be appeased by the sacrifice
of human victims, and for whose sake murders have even in fairly
recent times been committed. The following account, the substance
of which appeared in the _Assam Gazette_, in August, 1882, but to
which considerable additions have been made, will illustrate this
interesting superstition:--"The tradition is that there was once
in a cave near Cherrapunji, [25] a gigantic snake, or _thlen_, who
committed great havoc among men and animals. At last, one man, bolder
than his fellows, took with him a herd of goats, and set himself down
by the cave, and offered them one by one to the _thlen_. By degrees
the monster became friendly, and learnt to open his mouth at a word
from the man, to receive the lump of flesh which was then thrown
in. When confidence was thoroughly established, the man, acting under
the advice of a god called _U Suid-noh_, [26] (who has as his abode
a grove near Sohrarim), having heated a lump of iron red hot in a
furnace, induced the snake, at the usual signal, to open his mouth,
and then threw in the red-hot lump, and so killed him. He proceeded
to cut up the body, and sent pieces in every direction, with orders
that the people were to eat them. Wherever the order was obeyed, the
country became free of the _thlen_, but one small piece remained which
no one would eat, and from this sprang a multitude of _thlens_, which
infest the residents of Cherra and its neighbourhood. When a _thlen_
takes up its abode in a family there is no means of getting rid of it,
though it occasionally leaves of its own accord, and often follows
family property that is given away or sold. The _thlen_ attaches
itself to property, and brings prosperity and wealth to the owners,
but on the condition that it is supplied with blood. Its craving
comes on at uncertain intervals, and manifests itself by sickness,
by misadventure, or by increasing poverty befalling the family that
owns the property. It can only be appeased by the murder of a human
being." The murderer cuts off the tips of the hair of the victim
with silver scissors, also the finger nails, and extracts from the
nostril a little blood caught in a bamboo tube, and offers these to
the _thlen_. The murderer, who is called _u nongshohnoh_, literally,
"the beater," before he sets out on his unholy mission, drinks a
special kind of liquor called, _ka 'iad tang-shi-snem_. (literally,
liquor which has been kept for a year). This liquor, it is thought,
gives the murderer courage, and the power of selecting suitable victims
for the _thlen_. The _nongshohnoh_ then sets out armed with a short
club, with which to slay the victim, hence his name _nongshohnoh_,
i.e. one who beats; for it is forbidden to kill a victim on these
occasions with any weapon made of iron, inasmuch as iron was the
metal which proved fatal to the _thlen_. He also takes the pair of
silver scissors above mentioned, a silver lancet to pierce the inside
of the nostrils of the deceased, and a small bamboo or cylinder to
receive the blood drawn therefrom. The _nongshohnoh_ also provides
himself with rice called "_u 'khaw tyndep_," i.e. rice mixed with
turmeric after certain incantations have taken place. The murderer
throws a little of this rice over his intended victim, the effect of
which is to stupefy the latter, who then falls an easy prey to the
_nongshohnoh_. It is not, however, always possible to kill the victim
outright for various reasons, and then the _nongshohnoh_ resorts to the
following subterfuge:--He cuts off a little of the hair, or the hem
of the garment, of a victim, and offers these up to the _thlen_. The
effect of cutting off the hair or the hem of the garment of a person
by a _nongshohnoh_, to offer up to the _thlen_, is disastrous to the
unfortunate victim, who soon falls ill, and gradually wastes away and
dies. The _nongshohnoh_ also sometimes contents himself with merely
throwing stones at the victim, or with knocking at the door of his
house at night, and then returns home, and, after invoking the _thlen_,
informs the master that he has tried his best to secure him a prey,
but has been unsuccessful. This is thought to appease the _thlen_
for a time, but the demon does not remain inactive long, and soon
manifests his displeasure for the failure of his keeper to supply
him with human blood, by causing one of the latter's family to fall
sick. The _thlen_ has the power of reducing himself to the size of
a thread, which renders it convenient for the _nong-ri thlen_, or
_thlen_ keeper, to place him for safety in an earthen pot, or in a
basket which is kept in some secure place in the house. When the time
for making an offering to the _thlen_ comes, an hour is selected,
generally at dead of night, costly cloths are spread on the floor
of the house of the _thlen_ keeper, all the doors are opened, and a
brass plate is laid on the ground in which is deposited the blood,
or the hair, or a piece of the cloth of the victim. All the family
then gathers round, and an elderly member commences to beat a small
drum, and invokes the _thlen_, saying, "_ko kni ko kpa_ (oh, maternal
uncle, father), come out, here is some food for you; we have done
everything we could to satisfy you, and now we have been successful;
give us thy blessing, that we may attain health and prosperity." The
_thlen_ then crawls out from its hiding-place and commences to expand,
and when it has attained its full serpent shape, it comes near the
plate and remains expectant. The spirit of the victim then appears,
and stands on the plate, laughing. The _thlen_ begins to swallow the
figure, commencing at its feet, the victim laughing the while. By
degrees the whole figure is disposed of by the boa constrictor. If
the spirit be that of a person from whom the hair, or a piece of his
or her cloth, has been cut, directly the _thlen_ has swallowed the
spirit, the person expires. Many families in these hills are known,
or suspected, to be keepers of a _thlen_, and are dreaded or avoided
in consequence. This superstition is deep-rooted amongst these people,
and even nowadays, in places like Shillong or Cherrapunji, Khasis
are afraid to walk alone after dark, for fear of being attacked by
a _nongshohnoh_. In order to drive away the _thlen_ from a house
or family all the money, ornaments, and property of that house or
family must be thrown away, as is the case with persons possessed
by the demon _Ka Taroh_, in the Jaintia Hills. None dare touch any
of the property, for fear that the _thlen_ should follow it. It is
believed that a _thlen_ can never enter the Siem's or chief's clan,
or the Siem's house; it follows, therefore, that the property of the
_thlen_ keeper can be appropriated by the Siem. A Mohammedan servant,
not long ago in Shillong, fell a victim to the charms of a Khasi girl,
and went to live with her. He told the following story to one of his
fellow-servants, which may be set down here to show that the _thlen_
superstition is by no means dying out. In the course of his married
life he came to know that the mother of his Khasi wife kept in the
house what he called a _bhut_ (devil). He asked his wife many, many
times to allow him to see the _bhut_, but she was obdurate; however,
after a long time, and after extracting many promises from him not
to tell, she confided to him the secret, and took him to the corner
of the house, and showed him a little box in which was coiled a tiny
snake, like the hair spring of a watch. She passed her hands over it,
and it grew in size, till at last it became a huge cobra, with hood
erected. The husband, terrified, begged his wife to lay the spirit. She
passed her hands down its body, and it gradually shrank within its box.

It may be stated that the greater number of the Khasis, especially in
certain Siemships, viz. Cherra, Nongkrem, and Mylliem, still regard
the _thlen_, and the persons who are thought to keep _thlens_, with the
very greatest awe, and that they will not utter even the names of the
latter for fear some ill may befall them. The superstition is probably
of very ancient origin, and it is possible that the Khasi sacrifices
to the _thlen_ demon may be connected with the primaeval serpent-worship
which characterized the Cambodians, which Forbes says was "undoubtedly
the earliest religion of the Mons." But it must be remembered that
snake-worship is of very ancient origin, not only in Further India,
but also in the nearer peninsula, where the serpent race or Nagas,
who may have given their name to the town of Nagpur, were long held
in superstitious reverence. Mr. Gait, in the Journal of the Asiatic
Society of Bengal, vol. i. of 1898, gives some account of the human
sacrifices of the Jaintias or Syntengs. He writes as follows:--

"It appears that human sacrifices were offered annually on the _Sandhi_
day in the month of Ashwin (Sukla paksha) at the sacred _pitha_, in
the Faljur pargana. They were also occasionally offered at the shrine
of Jainteswari, at Nijpat, i.e. at Jaintiapur, the capital of the
country. As stated in the _Haft Iqlim_ to have been the case in Koch
Behar, so also in Jaintia, persons frequently voluntarily came forward
as victims. This they generally did by appearing before the Raja on
the last day of Shravan, and declaring that the goddess had called
them. After due inquiry, if the would-be victim, or _Bhoge khaora_,
were deemed suitable, it was customary for the Raja to present him
with a golden anklet, and to give him permission to live as he chose,
and to do whatever be pleased, compensation for any damage done by
him being paid from the royal treasury. But this enjoyment of these
privileges was very short. On the Navami day of the Durga Puja, the
_Bhoge khaora_, after bathing and purifying himself, was dressed in
new attire, daubed with red sandal-wood and vermilion, and bedecked
with garlands. Thus arrayed, the victim sat on a raised dais in front
of the goddess, and spent some time in meditation (_japa_), and in
uttering mantras. Having done this, he made a sign with his finger,
and the executioner, after uttering the usual sacrificial mantras,
cut off his head, which was placed before the goddess on a golden
plate. The lungs were cooked and eaten by such _Kandra Yogis_ as
were present, and it is said that the royal family partook of a small
quantity of rice cooked in the blood of the victim. The ceremony was
usually witnessed by large crowds of spectators from all parts of
the Jaintia pardganas.

"Sometimes the supply of voluntary victims fell short, or victims
were needed for some special sacrifice promised in the event of some
desired occurrence, such as the birth of a son, coming to pass. On
such occasions, emissaries were sent to kidnap strangers from outside
the Jaintia Raj, and it was this practice that eventually led to the
annexation of the country by the British. In 1821, an attempt was made
to kidnap a native of Sylhet proper, and while the agents employed
were punished, the Raja was warned not to allow such an atrocity to
occur again. Eleven years later, however, four British subjects were
kidnapped in the Nowgong district, and taken to Jaintia. Three of
them were actually sacrificed, but the fourth escaped, and reported
the matter to the authorities. The Raja of Jaintia was called on to
deliver up the culprits, but he failed to do so, and his dominions
were in consequence annexed in 1835."

There seems to be an idea generally prevalent that the Raja of Jaintia,
owing to his conversion to Hinduism, and especially owing to his
having become a devotee of the goddess Kali, took to sacrificing human
victims; but I find that human victims were formerly sacrificed by
the Jaintias to the Kopili River, which the Jaintias worshipped as a
goddess. Two persons were sacrificed every year to the Kopili in the
months _U' naiwing_ and _U' nai prah_ (November and December). They
were first taken to the _hat_ Mawahai or Shang-pung market, where
they were allowed to take any eatables they wished. Then they were
conducted to Sumer, and thence to Ka Ieu Ksih, where a stone on the
bank of a small river which falls into the Kopili is pointed out as
having been the place where the victims were sacrificed to the Kopili
river goddess. Others say that the sacrificial stone was situated on
the bank of the Kopili River itself. A special clan in the Raliang
doloiship used to carry out the executions. It seems probable that
the practice of sacrificing human victims in Jaintia was of long
standing, and was originally unconnected with Hinduism, although
when the Royal family became converts to Hinduism, the goddess Kali
may easily have taken the place of the Kopili River goddess. Many of
the Syntengs regard the River Kopili to this day with superstitions
reverence. Some of these people will not cross the river at all,
others can do so after having performed a sacrifice with goats and
fowls. Any traveller who wishes to cross the river must leave behind
him the rice which he has taken for the journey, and any other food
supplies he may have brought with him. This superstition often results
in serious inconvenience to travellers between the Jaintia Hills and
North Cachar, unless they have arranged for another batch of coolies
to meet them on the Cachar side of the River Kopili, for the Synteng
coolies throw down their loads at the river side, and nothing will
induce them to cross the river. The Kopili is propitiated by pujas
in many parts of the Jaintia Hills, and at Nartiang a tank where
sacrifices are regularly performed is called Ka Umkoi Kopili.



General Character of Popular Beliefs.

The Khasis have a vague belief in a God the Creator, _U Blei
Nong-thaw_, although this deity, owing, no doubt, to the influences of
the matriarchate, is frequently given the attribute of the feminine
gender, cf., _Ka lei Synshar_. The Khasis cannot, however, be said
to worship the Supreme God, although it is true that they sometimes
invoke him when sacrificing and in times of trouble. The religion of
the Khasis may be described as animism or spirit-worship, or rather,
the propitiation of spirits both good and evil on certain occasions,
principally in times of trouble. The propitiation of these spirits
is carried out either by priests (_lyngdohs_), or by old men well
versed in the arts of necromancy, and as the _lyngdoh_ or wise man
deals with good as well as evil spirits, and, as often as not, with
the good spirits of ancestors, the propitiation of these spirits
may be said to partake of the nature of Shamanism. A very prominent
feature of the Khasi beliefs is the propitiation of ancestors; but
this will be described separately. There is a vague belief amongst
the Khasi of a future state. It is believed that the spirits of the
dead, whose funeral ceremonies have been duly performed, go to the
house or garden of God, where there are groves of betel-nut trees;
hence the expression for the departed, _uba bam kwai ha iing u blei_
(he who is eating betel-nut in God's house), the idea of supreme
happiness to the Khasi being to eat betel-nut uninterruptedly. The
spirits of those whose funeral ceremonies have not been duly performed
are believed to take the forms of animals, birds, or insects, and to
roam on this earth; but this idea of transmigration of souls has been
probably borrowed from the Hindus. Bivar writes that although the
ideas of a Godhead are not clearly grasped, yet a supreme creator
is acknowledged, and that the following is the tradition relating
to the creation of man. "God in the beginning having created man,
placed him on the earth, but on returning to look at him, found he
had been destroyed by the evil spirit. This happened a second time,
whereupon the Deity created first a dog, then a man; and the dog,
who kept watch, prevented the devil from destroying the man, and the
work of the Deity was thus preserved." The Khasis, apparently, do not
believe in punishment after death, at least there is no idea of hell,
although the spirits of those who have died under the ban of _sang_
remain uneasy, being obliged to wander about the earth in different
forms, as noted above. The spirits worshipped by the Khasis are many in
number; those of the Syntengs being specially numerous. The particular
spirit to be propitiated is ascertained; by egg-breaking. The offering
acceptable to the spirit is similarly ascertained and is then made. If
the particular sacrifice does not produce the result desired, a fowl
is sacrificed; the entrails being then examined, an augury is drawn,
and the sacrifice begins afresh. As the process of egg-breaking is
believed to be peculiar [27] to the Khasis amongst the Assam hill
tribes, a separate description of it is given in the Appendix. It
should be remarked that the Khasis never symbolise their gods by
means of images, their worship being offered to the spirit only. The
following are some of the principal spirits worshipped by the Khasis
and Syntengs, omitting the spirits of deceased ancestors such as _Ka
Iawobi, u Thawlang_ and _u Suidnia_, which will be described under
the heading of ancestor-worship.

_U'lei muluk_--the god of the State, who is propitiated yearly by
the sacrifice of a goat and a cock.

_U'lei umtong_--the god of water, used for drinking and cooking
purposes. This god is similarly propitiated once a year so that the
water supply may remain pure.

_U lei longspah_--the god of wealth. This god is propitiated with a
view to obtaining increased prosperity.

_U Ryngkew_, or _u Basa shnong_, is the tutelary deity of the
village. This godling is propitiated by sacrifices whenever they are
thought to
be necessary.

_U Phan u kyrpad_ is a similar godling to the above.

Then follows a list of minor deities, or, rather, evil spirits,
e.g. _Ka Rih_, the malarial fever devil; _ka Khlam_, the demon
of cholera; _ka Duba_, the fever devil which is said to haunt the
neighbourhood of Theriaghat.

Bivar says "the Khasi religion may be thus briefly defined as forms
used to cure diseases and to avert misfortunes, by ascertaining
the name of the demon, as the author of the evil, and the kind of
sacrifice necessary to appease it." We may accept this description
as substantially correct. In the Jaintia Hills there is a peculiar
superstition regarding a she devil, called "_ka Taroh_" which is
supposed to cause delirium in cases of fever. When such cases occur,
it is believed that "_ka Taroh_" has caused them, and inquiries are
made by means of breaking eggs to find out in whose person the demon
has obtained a lodgment; or sometimes the sick person is asked to
reveal this. When in either of these ways the name of the person
possessed by "_ka Taroh_" is known, the sick person is taken to the
house of the possessed, and ashes and bits of broken pots are cast into
the enclosure, after which, if the sick person recovers, the party
indicated is denounced as possessed by the demon; but if the patient
dies, it is concluded that the person possessed has not been properly
ascertained. If people are satisfied that some one is really possessed,
they denounce the person, who is then out-casted. The only way for him
to regain his position is to exorcise the demon by divesting himself
of all his property. He pulls down his house, burns the materials,
his clothes, and all his other worldly goods. Lands, flocks, and
herds are sold, the money realized by the sale being thrown away. No
one dares touch this money, for fear he should become possessed by
_ka Taroh_, it will be observed that, as in the case of the _thlen_,
the demon is believed to follow the property.

Mr. Jenkins, in his interesting little work on "Life and Work in
Khasia," gives a slightly different account of the superstition,
in that he states that it is the sick person who is possessed by _ka
Taroh_. The above belief is perhaps a Synteng development of the Khasi
_thlen_ superstition. In the Jaintia Hills "the small-pox" is believed
to be a goddess, and is reverenced accordingly. Syntengs regard it as
an honour to have had small-pox, calling the marks left by the disease
the "kiss of the goddess"; the more violent the attack and the deeper
the marks, the more highly honoured is the person affected. Mr. Jenkins
says, "When the goddess has entered a house, and smitten any person or
persons with this disease, a trough of clean water is placed outside
the door, in order that every one before entering may wash their feet
therein, the house being considered sacred." Mr. Rita mentions cases
of women washing their hair in water used by a small-pox patient, in
order that they may contract the disease, and women have been known
actually to bring their little children into the house of a small-pox
patient, in order that they may become infested and thus receive the
kiss of the goddess. It is possible that the Syntengs, who were for
some time under Hindu influences; may in their ignorance have adopted
this degraded form of worship of the Hindu goddess, "Sitala Devi,"
who is adored as a divine mother under different names by Hindus all
over India, cf., her name _mari-amman_, or mother of death, in the
South of India, and the name Ai, mother, of the Assamese.

In the Khasi Hills the god of small-pox is known under the name of
_u Siem niang thylliew_. He is not, however, appeased in any way,
the people calling on two other spirits, _Thynrei_ and _Sapa_,
to whom a fowl or a goat is offered. This section cannot be closed
without some reference to the household gods of the Syntengs. The
legend is that in ancient times there came a woman "from the end of
heaven to the borders of the country of _u Truh_" (the country of the
plains people at a distance from the foot of the Khasi and Jaintia
Hills). The name of the woman was Ka Taben, and she was accompanied
by her children. She offered herself to _u Dkhar_, the plains man,
as a household goddess, but he rejected her. She then went to the
Khasis; who were ploughing their fields, and offered to help them
with their cultivation. The Khasis also refused her, saying they
were capable of managing their own cultivation, and at the same time
told her to go to the country of the Bhois and Syntengs, i.e. the
Jaintia Hills. Acting on this advice, she went to the village of
Nongphyllud in the Jaintia Hills, where the people again turned a
deaf ear to her. She proceeded to Mulagula village in Jaintia, at
the foot of the Jaintia Hills, and ascended from thence to Rymbai,
where she met a man who conducted her to the house of the Siem, who
consented that she and her children should live with him. Ka Taben then
apportioned to her children various duties in the house of the Siem
as follows:--Ka Rasong was to look after the young unmarried folk,
and was to supervise their daily labour and to prosper their trading
operations at the markets. Next Ka Rasong was given a place at the foot
of the king post, _trai rishot_, and her duty was to befriend young
men in battle. Then came _Ka Longkhuinruid_, alias _ka Thab-bulong_,
who said, "There are no more rooms in the house for my occupation,
so I will go and live in the forest, and him who turns not his coat
when I meet him I will make mad." Finally came _U Lamsymphud_, who
elected to live with his youngest sister inside the house.

There are special sacrifices offered to these household deities. The
leaves of the _sning_, or Khasi oak, are wrapped round the post of the
house, and, a fowl is sacrificed and other formalities are observed
which it would be tedious to describe in detail. The legend of the
arrival of Ka Taben with her children in the Synteng country from
a distant clime is interesting in that it perhaps indicates the
possibility of the migration of these people, i.e. the Syntengs,
in ancient times from some distant place to their present abode.


The Khasis not only revere the memories of deceased ancestors, but they
adore them by means of offerings, which are sometimes periodical, and
sometimes made when thought necessary, as in times of trouble. These
offerings take the shape of articles of food which are theoretically
partaken of by the shades of the deceased ancestors, the idea of
making such offerings being very similar to that of the Hindus when
they offer the "_pinda_," or cake, to nine generations of ancestors,
i.e. to propitiate the shades of the departed, and to obtain their help
thereby. U Hormu Rai Diengdoh writes that, "the real religious demand"
amongst the Khasis is the _ai bam_, or giving of food to the spirits
of deceased ancestors, in order that the latter may aid the living
members of the clan with their help; and bless them. To honour dead
ancestors is the duty of every Khasi, and he who wilfully neglects
this duty it is believed, will neither receive their help, nor be
defended from the influence of the numerous spirits of evil in which
the Khasis believe. Amongst the Syntengs, a few days after depositing
the bones in the ancestral tomb, the ceremony of feeding the spirits
of the dead is performed: At this ceremony there are some families
which give two pigs for each person of the family who is dead, and
there are some who give one. The pigs are taken to the _iing-seng_,
or puja house of the clan. Presumably, pigs are usually offered to
the shades only of those members of the family whose remains have been
recently deposited in the clan cromlech. In the chapter dealing with
memorial stones the reader will notice how many of them are erected
to the memory of deceased ancestors, and how they bear the names of
such ancestors, e.g. _Ka Iawbei_ (the first grandmother), _U Suidnia_,
or _U kni rangbah_ (the first maternal uncle). It was the custom in
former days to make offerings of food upon the flat table-stones to
the spirits of the deceased ancestors, and this is still the case
in places in the interior of the district. This practice, however,
may be said to be largely dying out, it being now commonly the custom
to make the offerings in the house, either annually, or at times when
it is thought necessary to invoke the aid of the departed. Such acts
of devotion may well be said to partake of the nature of worship. As
has been the case in other countries, and amongst other people, it
is possible that the Khasi gods of today are merely the spirits of
glorified deceased ancestors transfigured, as has happened with some
of the gods of the Shinto Pantheon of Japan. It may be interesting to
note that the ancient Shinto cult of Japan possesses some features
in common with the ancestor-worship of the Khasis. Take the funeral
ceremonies. With both people we find the dead laid out in the house,
food placed before the corpse; and the funeral ceremonies taking
place, accompanied by music and dancing. Mr. Lafcadio Hearn, in
an interesting book on Japan, writes "that in ancient times the
Japanese performed ceremonies at regular intervals at the tombs of
deceased members of the family, and food and drink were then served
to the spirits;" this is exactly what the Khasis used to do at their
*cenotaphs. This, apparently, was the practice in Japan before the
"spirit tablet" had been introduced from China, when the worship of
the ancestors was transferred from the tomb to the home. We have
an exactly similar instance of evolution amongst the Khasis of
the present day, i.e. the transfer of the ancestor cult from the
flat table-stones erected in honour of deceased ancestors to the
home. Last, but not least, is the idea common to both people, that no
family or clan can prosper which does not duly perform the worship of
deceased ancestors; this, as Hearn puts it, is "the fundamental idea
underlying every persistent ancestor-worship; i.e. that the welfare of
the living depends upon the welfare of the dead." The "Khasi Mynta,"
in an interesting article, notes some further points of resemblance
between the methods of ancestor-worship adopted by the two people. The
following instances may be quoted. Amongst the Japanese the spirits
of those who fall in battle are said to help their fellow-warriors
who are still fighting. The "Khasi Mynta" quotes a similar belief
as having existed amongst the Khasis in former days. The remains of
Japanese warriors who die in battle are said to be reverently taken to
the warrior's home at the first opportunity. The Khasis do likewise,
the clothing in default of the ashes of Khasi transport coolies, who
were employed on military expeditions on the North-Eastern Frontier,
having been carried home by the survivors to present to the dead men's
relations, who then performed the ceremonies prescribed by custom
for those who have died violent or unnatural deaths. Of all deceased
ancestors the Khasis revere _Ka Iawbei_ the most, the word _Iawbei_
being made up of _'iaw_, short for _kiaw_ (grandmother), and _bei_,
mother. _Ka Iawbei_ is the primeval ancestress of the clan. She is
to the Khasis what the "tribal mother" was to old Celtic and Teutonic
genealogists, and we have an interesting parallel to the reverence of
the Khasis for _Ka Iawbei_ in the Celtic goddess Brigit, the tribal
mother of the Brigantes. Later on, like _Ka Iawbei_, she was canonized,
and became St. Bridget. [28]

The greater number of the flat table-stones we see in front of
the standing monoliths in these hills are erected in honour of _Ka
Iawbei_. In former times, it was the custom to offer food to her on
these stones. In cases of family quarrels, or dissensions amongst the
members of the same clan, which it is desired to bring to a peaceful
settlement, it is customary to perform a sacrifice to the first mother,
"_Ka Iawbei_." They first of all take an augury by breaking eggs,
and if it appears from the broken egg-shells that _Ka Iawbei_ is
offended, they offer to her a cotton cloth, and sacrifice a hen. On
these occasions incantations are muttered, and a small drum, called,
"_Ka 'sing ding dong_," is beaten. It is not unlikely that the Khasi
household deities, _Ka lei iing_ and _Ka ksaw ka jirngam_, to whom
pujas are offered for the welfare of the house, are also _Ka Iawbei_
in disguise. Notwithstanding the strong influence of the matriarchate,
we find that _U Thawlang_, the first father and the husband of _Ka
Iawbei_, is also revered. To him on occasions of domestic trouble
a cock is sacrificed, and a _jymphong_, or sleeveless coat is
offered. This puja is called _kaba tap Thawlang_, i.e. covering
the grandfather. The following incantation to _U Thawlang_ is then
chanted:--"Oh, father Thawlang, who hast enabled me to be born, who
hast given me my stature and my life, I have wronged thee, oh father,
be not offended, for I have given thee a pledge and a sign, i.e. a red
and white sleeveless coat. Do not deliver me into the power of (the
goddess of) illness, I have offered thee the propitiatory cock that
thou mayest carry me in thine arms, and that I may be aware of thee,
my father, Thawlang." We see clearly from the above prayer that the
Khasi idea is that the spirit of the deceased male ancestor is capable
of being in a position to help his descendant in times of trouble. The
same thought underlies the extreme reverence with which _Ka Iawbei_
is regarded. Thus we see a striking point of resemblance between
the Khasi ancestor-worship and the ancient Shinto cult of Japan, as
described by Mr. Lafcadio Hearn. _U Suid-Nia_, or _u Kni Rangbah_, the
first maternal uncle, i.e. the elder brother of _Ka Iawbei_, is also
much revered. It will also be noticed under the heading of memorial
stones that the great central upright monolith of the _mawbynna_,
or memorial stones, is erected in his honour. The influence of the
_kni_, or mother's elder brother, in the Khasi family is very great,
for it is he who is the manager on behalf of the mother, his position
in the Khasi family being very similar to that of the _karta_ in the
Hindu joint family. It is on this account that he is so much revered,
and is honoured with a stone which is larger than the other up-right
memorial stones after death. It will be seen in the article dealing
with "the disposal of the dead," that at Cherra, on the occasion of
the bestowal of the ashes in the cinerarium of the clan, a part of
the attendant ceremonies consists of the preparation of two effigies
called _Ka Puron_ and _U Tyngshop_, intended to represent _Ka Iawbei_
(the first mother) and U Suid-Nia (the first maternal uncle). The
Wars of Nongjri have a custom peculiar to themselves. They erect
small thatched houses in their compounds, which they call _iing
ksuid_. When they worship their ancestors they deposit offerings of
food in these houses, the idea being that the ancestors will feed on
the offerings. These Wars do not erect memorial stones, nor do they
collect the ashes of the clan in a common sepulchre; they deposit
the ashes in circular cineraria, each family, or _iing_, possessing
one. It should further be noted with reference to the Khasi custom of
_ai bam_, or giving food to the spirits of deceased ancestors, that
Dr. Frazer, in his "Golden Bough," has mentioned numerous instances
of firstfruits being offered to the spirits of deceased ancestors
by the tribes inhabiting the Malay Archipelago. (See pages 462-463
of the "Golden Bough.") Some other points of similarity in customs
have already been noticed between the Khasis and certain Malay tribes.

Worship of Natural Forces and of Deities.

In the Khasi Hills, especially on the southern side, there are numerous
rivers, sometimes of considerable size, which find their way to the
Sylhet plains through very deep valleys, the rivers flowing through
narrow channels flanked by beetling cliffs which rise to considerable
altitudes. The scenery in the neighbourhood of these beautiful rivers
is of the most romantic description, and the traveller might imagine
himself in Switzerland were it not for the absence of the snowy
ranges. Of such a description is the scenery on the banks of the
river Kenchiyong, the Jadukata [29] or Punatit of the plains. It is
in the bed of the river, a few miles below Rilang, that there is the
curiously-arched cavity in the rock which resembles an upturned boat,
which the Khasis call _Ka lieng blei_ (the god's boat), and the plains
people Basbanya's ship. Near to this, on the opposite side of the
river, there is a rock bearing a Persian inscription, but so defaced
by the action of the water as to be impossible to decipher. Like other
inhabitants of mountainous countries, the Khasis reverence the spirits
of fell and fall, and propitiate them with offerings at stated times. A
brief description of the ceremonies which are performed at Rilang,
on the occasion when the annual fishing in the river Punatit takes
place, may be of interest. The three Siems of Nongstoin, Langrin,
and Nobosohpoh each sacrifice a goat to _Ka blei sam um_ (the goddess
of the river) before the boatmen can cast in their nets. In former
times they say the passage up the river was obstructed by the goddess,
who took the form of an immense crocodile; but she was propitiated
by the gift of a goat, and the boatmen were then allowed to pass up
the river in their boats. Hence it became necessary for the owners of
the fishery to sacrifice annually a goat each to the goddess. At the
time of my visit each Siem's party erected an altar in the bed of the
river, in the midst of which a bough of the Khasi oak (_dieng sning_)
was planted. The goats were then decapitated, it being considered an
essential that the head should be severed with one blow. As soon as
the head was cut off there was a rush on the part of the sacrificers
to see in which direction the head faced. If the head faced towards
the north or west, it was considered an evil omen; if it faced towards
the south or east, a good omen. The east is a lucky quarter amongst
the Assamese also. The people ended up the proceedings by giving a
long-drawn-out, deep-toned chant, or _kynhoi_. Immediately after the
ceremony was concluded hundreds of boats shot out from the numerous
creeks, where they had been lying, and fished the river all night,
the result being an immense haul, to the delight of the Lynngams,
who were seen next morning roasting the fish whole on bamboo stakes,
after which they consumed them, the entrails being eaten with great
gusto. Such is the worship of the goddess of the Punatit.

Similar pujas take place among the people of War-ding (the valley of
fire) before they fish in the Khai-mara river and elsewhere in the
Khasi Hills. In the Jaintia Hills there is the Synteng-worship of the
Kopili river, which used to be accompanied by human sacrifices, as
has been mentioned above, pp. 102-104. The Myntang river, a tributary
of the Kopili, must also be annually appeased by the sacrifice of a
he-goat. Numerous hills also are worshipped, or rather the spirits
which are said to inhabit them. One of the best known hill godlings
is the deity who is thought to inhabit the little wood close to the
summit of the Shillong Peak. This deity is said to have been discovered
by a man named "U Shillong" who gave his name to the Shillong Peak,
and indirectly to our beautiful hill station. The Siems of Mylliem
and Nongkrem reverence _U'lei Shillong_, and there are certain clans
who perform periodical sacrifices to this god. Probably the origin
of the superstitious reverence with which U'lei Shillong is held by
the Siems of Nongkrem and Mylliem is that their fabled ancestress
"Ka Pah Syntiew," of whom an account will be found in the folk-lore
section, took her origin from a rock not far from the Shillong Peak
in the Nongkrem direction.

Rableng Hill, which is within full view of the Shillong Peak in an
easterly direction, is also said to be the abode of a minor god who
is periodically propitiated by the members of the Mawthoh clan of
the Khyrim State with a he-goat and a cock. Apparently no special
puja is performed to U Kyllang (the Kyllang Rock) nowadays.

The picturesque hill of Symper, which rises abruptly from the plain
in the Siemship of Maharam, is visible for many miles. It is in shape
not unlike the Kyllang. Symper is said to be the abode of a god called
"U Symper." There is a folk-tale that Kyllang and Symper fought a great
battle, and that the numerous holes in the rocks at the base of the
Symper hill are evidences of their strife. At the base of Symper there
is a great cave, where many cattle find shelter in rainy weather. The
people of Mawsynram propitiate the god of Symper in cases of sickness
by sacrificing a he-goat or a bull. Symper, like _U'lei Shillong_,
is one of the minor deities of the Khasis.

Close to Shangpung, in the Jaintia Hills, there is a small hill called
"_u lum pyddieng blai lyngdoh_," where sacrifices are offered on an
altar at seed time, and when the corn comes into ear. This altar used
to be overshadowed by a large oak tree. The tree is now dead.

The Wars of Nongjri worship "_u'lei lyngdoh_" the tutelary deity of the
village, under the spreading roots of a large rubber tree which gives
its name to this village Nongjri. This village worhsip is performed
by a village priest (_lyngdoh_) at stated intervals, or whenever it
is considered necessary. There are numerous other instances of hills
and rivers being regarded as the abode of godlings, but those quoted
above are sufficient for purposes of illustration.

Religious Rites and Sacrifices, Divination.

The Khasis, as has been explained already, worship numerous gods and
goddesses. These gods and goddesses are supposed to exercise good
or evil influence over human beings according to whether they are
propitiated with sacrifice or not. They are even supposed to possess
the power of life and death, over men and women, subject to the control
of _u Blei Nongthaw_, God the Creator. Thus illness, for example, is
thought to be caused by one or more of the spirits on account of some
act or omission and health can only be restored by the due propitiation
of the offended spirits. In order to ascertain which is the offended
spirit, a system of divination by means of cowries, breaking eggs,
or examining the entrails of animals and birds, was instituted. The
Khasi method of obtaining auguries by examining the viscera of animals
and birds may be compared with that of the Roman _haruspex_. Some
description of these modes of divination has been given at the end
of this chapter. The Khasi religion has been described by Bivar as
"demon worship, or a jumble of enchantments muttered by priests who
are sorcerers." But even a religion which is thus unflatteringly
described is based on the cardinal doctrines of sin and sacrifice
for sin. Tradition amongst the Khasis states that in the beginning
(_mynnyngkong ka sngi_) there was no sin, heaven and earth were near
each other, and man had direct intercourse with God. How man fell into
sin is not stated, but it is certain that he did fall. Experts at "egg
healing" never forget to repeat the formula "_nga briew nga la pop_"
(I man have sinned). The cock then appears as a mediator between God
and man. The cook is styled, "_u khun ka blei uba kit ryndang ba shah
ryndang na ka bynta jong nga u briew_," i.e. the son of god who lays
down his neck (life) for me man. The use of the feminine _ka blei_
is no doubt due to matriarchal influences. There is another prayer in
which the Khasis say, "_ap jutang me u blei ieng rangbah me u briew_"
(oh god do not forget the covenant arise oh man). The idea is that
man has fallen into sins of omission and commission (_ka pop, ka lain
ka let_) but that God is nevertheless expected to spare him, and to
accept a substitute for him according to the covenant (_jutang_). By
this covenant God is supposed to have accepted in exchange the
cock as a substitute for man. How the cock came to occupy such an
important position, tradition is vague and self-conflicting. The
fact remains that the covenant of the cock is the foundation of the
Khasi religion. It is of interest to mention that amongst the Ahoms
the tradition is that Khunlung and Khunlai brought down from heaven
the _kai-chan-mung_, [30] or pair of heavenly fowls, and that to
this day the sacrifice of the fowl is considered by the Deodhais,
or priest-soothsayers of the Ahoms, a most important feature of the
ancient Ahom ritual. But amongst the Ahoms there is the difference
that auguries are obtained, not from the entrails, but by examining
the legs of the fowls. The Ahoms are Shans belonging to the Tai branch,
another great division of the Indo-Chinese group of the human race.

The covenant of the cock as thus explained shows the importance of this
sacrifice to the Khasis. The large intestine of a fowl has two pea-like
protuberances, one close to the other. One is symbolically called
_u blei_ or god, and the other is styled _u briew_ or man, they are
connected by a thin membrane. Directly the bird has been disembowelled
the sacrificer throws a few grains of rice on the entrails and then
watches their convulsive movements. If the portion of the entrail
called _u blei_ moves towards that portion which represents man, it
is considered proof positive that the god has heard the prayer of the
sacrificer, but if the movement proceeds in the opposite direction,
then the reverse is the case and the omen is bad. If the entrails are
full and healthy, having no spots (_brai_), or blood marks (_thung_),
and if the membrane between the two protuberances has not been
fractured, these are favourable signs. If the intestines are empty,
wrinkled, or spotted, and the membrane mentioned above is fractured,
these are bad signs. Auguries also are drawn by examining the livers,
the lungs and spleens and gall bladders of pigs, goats and cattle. If
the liver of a pig is healthy and without spot, the augury is good;
if the reverse, it is bad. The spleen must not be unduly distended,
otherwise the omen is unfavourable and the gall bladder must not
be over full. Invocations to deduce omens from the appearance of
the entrails are quoted on page 11 of Col. Bivar's Report. From the
first invocation quoted by him it appears that the method of drawing
the augury from the fowl differs slightly in detail from that which
has been described to me by certain Khasis, but both descriptions
agree in the main, and the slight dissimilarity in detail may be due
to the methods of obtaining auguries varying slightly in different
localities. Divination by breaking eggs and by other means, although
not strictly sacrifice with the Khasis, partakes of the nature of a
religious ceremony. Such divinations are of almost every-day occurrence
in a Khasi house, and always precede sacrifices. The Khasis, moreover,
do nothing of what they consider to be of even the least importance
without breaking eggs. When a Khasi builds a new house, or before
he proceeds on a journey, he always breaks eggs to see whether the
building or the journey will be lucky or not. The description of
egg-breaking given by Shadwell in his account of the Khasis is not
altogether correct. A detailed description of this method of divination
will be found in Appendix C. The description can be depended upon,
as it is the result of my personal observations of egg-breaking on
several occasions. A board of the shape shown in the diagram (Appendix
C) is placed on the ground, the egg-breakers' position being that
indicated in the diagram. After the egg has been smeared with red
earth, it is thrown violently down and the contents and the fragments
of egg-shell fall on the board. Auguries are drawn from the positions
of the fragments of shell on the board, and from the fact of their
lying with the inner sides facing upwards or downwards. Another method
of egg-breaking is for the diviner to wrap up the egg in a plantain
leaf with the point uppermost, or merely to hold the egg in his hand
in this position without wrapping it up, and then to press another
egg down upon it. If the end of the egg so pressed breaks at once,
this is a good sign, but if it remains unbroken, the egg has a god
in it, and the omen is bad.

A common method of divination is by means of the _shanam_, or
lime-case. The diviner holds the lime-case by the end of its chain,
and addresses the god. He then asks the lime-case a question, and if
it swings, this is supposed to be an answer in the affirmative; if
it does not move, this is a negative reply. This seems to be a very
simple trick, for the diviner can impart movement to the lime-case by
means of the hand. A similar way of consulting the oracle is by the
bow, which is held in the hand by the middle of the string. A simple
method of divining is by means of cowries or grains of rice. The
diviner plunges his hand into a bag or basket after asking the god a
question. If the number of cowries or grains of rice comes out odd,
the omen is good; if it comes out even, the reverse is the case. The
Khasi word for consulting the omens is khan, and a diviner is called
a _nongkhan_. Another method of obtaining omens is by dropping two
leaves into a pool of water or on a stone, the position of the leaves
as they fall, either right side uppermost or upside down, signifying
good or evil as the case may be; this is called _khan-sla_.


The Khasi priest is usually called _Lyngdoh_, or _langdoh_; he is
always appointed from the lyngdoh clan. The etymology of the word
_lyngdoh_ is said by certain lyngdohs of the Khyrim State to be
_lang_ = together and _doh_ = flesh. A _lyngdoh_, or _langdoh_, is
one who collects sacrificial victims, i.e. flesh for the purpose of
sacrificing. It must be confessed, however, that this definition is
doubtful, owing to the absence in the word _lyngdoh_ of the prefix
_nong_ which is the sign of the agent in Khasi. Besides _lyngdohs_
there are persons called _soh-blei_ or _soh-sla_, who may also be said
to be priests. The Khasis, unlike the Hindus, have no _purohit_ or
priest to perform the family ceremonies. Such duties fall to the lot of
the head of the family or clan, who carries them out generally through
the agency of the _kni_, or maternal uncle. Old Khasis are frequently
well versed in the details of sacrifices, and in the art of obtaining
auguries by examining the viscera of sacrificial victims. Apart from
family and clan sacrifices, there are the sacrifices for the good
of the State or community at large; it is these sacrifices that it
is the duty of the _lyngdoh_ to perform. He may be said to be the
priest of the communal religion, although he has certain duties in
connection with offences committed against the social law of marriage,
and with regard to the casting out of evil spirits from houses which
may be thought to be infested with them. The _lyngdohs_ of the Khasis
may be likened to the Roman _pontifices_. In the different Khasi
States there is, as a rule, more than one _lyngdoh_; sometimes there
is quite a number of such priests, as in Nongkrem where there is a
_lyngdoh_ for each _raj_ or division of the state. There are a few
Khasi States where the priest altogether takes the place of the Siem,
and rules the community with the help of his elders in addition to
performing the usual spiritual offices. The duties of _lyngdohs_,
their methods of sacrificing, and the gods to whom they sacrifice,
vary in the different Siemships, but there is one point in which we
find agreement everywhere, i.e. that the _lyngdoh_ must be assisted at
the time of performing sacrifices by a female priestess, called _ka
soh-blei, ka soh-sla_, or simply _ka lyngdoh_. This female collects
all the _puja_ articles and places them ready to the _lyngdoh's_
hand at the time of sacrifice. He merely acts as her deputy when
sacrificing. The female _soh-blei_ is without doubt a survival of the
time when, under the matriarchate, the priestess was the agent for
the performance of all religious ceremonies. Another such survival is
the High Priestess of Nongkrem, who still has many religious duties
to perform; not only so, but she is the actual head of the State in
this Siemship, although she delegates her temporal powers to one of
her sons or nephews, who thus becomes Siem. A similar survival of the
ancient matriarchal religious system is the _Siem sad_, or priestess,
at Mawsynram, who, on the appointment of a new Siem or chief, has
to assist at certain sacrifices. Here we may compare Karl Pearson's
remark, when dealing with matriarchal customs, that "according to the
evidence of Roman historians, not only the seers but the sacrificers
among the early Teutons were women." The duties of the _lyngdohs_,
as regards communal worship, consist chiefly of sacrificing at times
of epidemics of cholera, and such-like visitations of sickness (_jing
iap khlam_). In the Khyrim State there is a goddess of each _raj_,
or division, of the state, to whom sacrifices are offered on such
occasions. To the goddess are sacrificed a goat and hen, powdered rice
(_u kpu_), and a gourd of fermented liquor; the leaves of the _dieng
sning_, or Khasi oak, are also used at this ceremony. The _lyngdoh_
is assisted by a priestess called _ka soh-sla_, who is his mother, or
his sister, or niece, or some other maternal relation. It is the duty
of the priestess to prepare all the sacrificial articles, and without
her assistance the sacrifice cannot take place. Sacrifices are also
performed by the _lyngdoh_ to _u Lei Lyngdoh_, alias _u Ryngkew_. This
used to be the tutelary deity in times of war, but in less troublous
times the Khasi _lyngdoh_ sacrifices to him for success in tribal or
State litigation. A pig and a cock, with the usual accessories, are
sacrificed by the _lyngdoh_ to this god. As in the case of sacrifices
to _Ka lei Raj_, the services of a priestess are indispensable.

A _lyngdoh_ is a _lyngdoh_ for life. When a _lyngdoh_ dies and
his successor is appointed, certain rather elaborate ceremonies
are observed in the Nongkrem _raj_ of the Khyrim State. The funeral
ceremonies of the old _lyngdoh_ having been completed, the _lyngdoh_
clan appoints his successor. The latter then, after performing his
ablutions, proceeds, accompanied by the assembled members of the
_lyngdoh_ clan, to the top of the Shillong Peak. The _lyngdoh_ and his
clansmen advance along the road dancing, this dancing being carried
on all the way from the _lyngdoh's_ house to the Shillong Peak. All
are clad in the distinctive Khasi dancing dress. Having reached the
Peak, they pick the leaves of a tree called _ka 'la phiah_, which
they spread on the ground. A goat and a cock are then sacrificed,
the new _lyngdoh_ acting as the sacrificer. There are the usual
accessories, including branches of the Khasi _sning_ or oak. Nine
portions (_dykhot_) are cut from different parts of the victims and
are offered to the god of the Shillong Peak, _U lei Shillong_. The
_lyngdoh_ and his companions then perform obeisance three times
to the god, and the _lyngdoh_ walks backwards some paces. The puja
is then over, and they return dancing to the _lyngdoh's_ house. On
another day the _lyngdoh_ performs a puja to _u lei Lyngdoh_, alias
_u Ramjah_. Undoubtedly the most interesting feature of the ceremonies
on these occasions is the dancing. This dancing is carried out by the
_lyngdoh_ and his companions armed with sword and shield, a fly-flap
made of goat's hair (_symphiah_) being also sometimes held in one hand,
a quiver of arrows being slung on the back, and a plume of black and
white cocks' feathers (_u thuya_) fixed in the turban. The dance is
executed in a regular figure, the dancers advancing and retiring in
an orderly and methodical manner, and finally clashing their swords
together in mock combat. The dance of the present day is not unlikely
the survival of a war dance of ancient times. The _lyngdohs_ say they
dance in honour of _U lei Lyngdoh_, to whom such dances are thought
to be pleasing. The dance of the _lyngdohs_ on these occasions may be
compared with that of the Roman _salii_, who, in the month of March,
performed a war dance in honour of Mars.

The above and other similar sacrifices to the gods of the State
or divisions of the State may be said to be the communal religious
duties of the _lyngdohs_. The duties of _lyngdohs_ with reference to
private persons may now be mentioned. When it is found that any two
people have made an incestuous marriage, that is to say a marriage
within the exogamous group of the _kur_, or clan, the parties at
fault are taken before the _lyngdoh_ by their clansmen, who request
him to sacrifice in order to ward off the injurious effects of the
_sang_, or taboo, of such a connection from the kinsfolk. On this
occasion a pig is sacrificed to _u'lei lyngdoh_ and a goat to _ka
lei long raj_. The parties at fault are then outcasted. As mentioned
in another place, the sin of incest admits of no expiation for the
offenders themselves. In the Khyrim State, it is said by the _lyngdohs_
themselves, although not by the Siem or the myntries, that they are
the reversionary legatees of all the persons who die without leaving
female heirs (_iap duh_). In other Siemships such property passes to
the Siem. The _lyngdoh_ of Nongkrem can also take possession of the
property of persons who have been found to harbour an evil spirit
(_jingbih_) in their houses. It appears that in such cases the house
and furniture are burnt, as in the case of the _Taroh_ superstition
in the Jaintia Hills, the _lyngdoh_, however, taking possession of
jewellery or anything else of value. The only practical service the
_lyngdoh_ renders in return is to build the afflicted person a new
house; unless, indeed, we take into account the casting forth of the
devil by the _lyngdoh_. Mr. Jenkins, of Shangpung, in the Jaintia
Hills, writes: "Such is the belief of the people in the evil spirits,
that they are completely under the influence of the priests and spend
large sums of money in order to secure their favour. They live in
constant dread lest by the least transgression or omission they should
offend these avaricious men and so bring upon themselves the wrath
of the demons." The influence of the _lyngdohs_ over the people in
the Jaintia Hills seems to be stronger than in the Khasi Hills. For
instance, it came to my notice in Raliang that crops cannot be cut
until the _lyngdoh_ has seem them, in other words, until the _lyngdoh_
has claimed and obtained his share of the produce. In many places,
however, in the Khasi Hills the _lyngdoh_ is much discredited, owing,
no doubt, to the advance of Christianity and education.

Ceremonies and Customs Attending Birth and Naming of Children.

The Khasi birth ceremonies and customs are as follows:--When a child
is born the umbilical cord is cut by a sharp splinter of bamboo;
no knife can be used on this occasion. The Mundas of Chota Nagpur
similarly taboo a metal instrument for this purpose. The child is then
bathed in hot water from a red earthen pot. The placenta is carefully
preserved in an earthen vessel in the house till after the naming
ceremony has taken place. When the umbilical cord, after being tied,
falls off, a puja is performed with eggs to certain water deities
(_ka blei sam-um_ and _ka niangriang_), [31] also to a forest spirit
(_u'suid bri_ or _u'suid khlaw_). The naming ceremony of the child
is performed the next morning after the birth. Certain females are
invited to come and pound rice in a mortar into flour. The flour when
ready is placed on a bamboo winnower (_u prah_). Fermented rice is
mixed with water and is placed in a gourd. Some powdered turmeric
is also provided, and is kept ready in a plantain leaf, also five
pieces of _'kha piah_, or dried fish. The earthen pot containing the
placenta is then placed in the _nongpei_, or centre room of the house,
If the child is a male, they place near him a bow and three arrows
(the implements of a Khasi warrior); if a female, a _da_ and _u star_,
or cane head-strap for carrying burdens. An elderly man, who knows how
to perform the naming puja, which is called by the Khasis "_kaba jer
khun_," places a plantain-leaf on the floor and sprinkles some water
on it. He takes the gourd in his hand and calls a god to witness. The
people assembled then mention a number of names for the child, and
ask the man who is performing the puja to repeat them. This he does,
and at the same time pours a little liquor from the gourd on to the
ground. As he goes on pouring, the liquor by degrees becomes exhausted,
and finally only a few drops remain. The name at the repeating of
which the hot drop of liquor remains adhering to the spout of the
gourd is the name selected for the child. Then the puja performer
invokes the god to grant good luck to the child. The father takes the
pot containing the placenta, after having previously placed rice flour
and fermented rice therein, and waves it three times over the child,
and then walks out with it through the main entrance of the house and
hangs up the pot to a tree outside the village. When he returns from
this duty, before he re-enters the house, another throws water over
the father's feet. The father, being thus cleansed, enters, and holds
the rice flour to his mouth three times. Two people then, holding the
dried fish by their two ends, break them in two. The powdered turmeric
mixed with rice flour and water is applied to the right foot of the
father, the mother and the child receiving the same treatment. The
friends and relations are then anointed, the turmeric being applied,
however, to their left feet. The bow, arrows, _da_, and _u star_ are
carefully placed inside the inner surface of the thatch on the roof,
and the ceremony is over. Rice flour is then distributed to all who
are present, and the male adults are given liquor to drink. After
two or three months the ears of the child are bored and ear-rings are
inserted. These ear-rings are called, _ki shashkor iawbei_ (i.e. the
ear-rings of the great-grandmother). Mr. Jenkins mentions that the
naming ceremony amongst the Syntengs is performed by the "eldest aunt,"
presumably on the mother's side. A basket of eggs is placed in the
centre of the room, and before the ceremony begins one egg has to
be broken. Then the aunt of the child takes two sticks, and, raising
them to her shoulder, lets them fall to the ground. Before they fall
she shouts, "What name do you give the child?" The name is mentioned,
and if, on falling upon the ground, one stick crosses the other, it
is a proof that the name has won the approval of the spirit. If the
sticks do not fall in this position, another egg is broken and another
name is chosen, and the sticks are dropped as before until they fall
in the required position, when it is understood by the performers
that the name is a good one. Mr. Jenkins was informed by a young man
"who had renounced heathenism" that some of the more cunning women
cross the sticks before lifting them, and that when they do this they
invariably fall crossed to the ground. "They thus save their eggs, save
time and trouble, get the name they desire for the child. . . ." It
is noteworthy that the Khasis consider it necessary to preserve the
placenta until the ceremony of naming the child is over, and that
the pot containing the placenta is waved over the head of the child
before it is removed and hung up in a tree.

Dr. Fraser, at page 53 _et seq_. of the "Golden Bough," when dealing
with the subject of sympathetic magic, refers to the navel string
and the placenta as parts which are commonly believed amongst certain
people to remain in sympathetic union with the body after the physical
connection has been severed, and it is interesting to note that in
the Babar Archipelago, between New Guinea and Celebes, the placenta
is mixed with ashes and put in a small basket, which seven women,
each of them armed with a sword, hang up on a tree of a peculiar kind
(_citrus hystrix_). The women carry the swords for the purpose of
frightening the evil spirits, otherwise the latter might get hold of
the placenta and make the child sick. Mr. C. M. Pleyte, Lecturer on
Indonesian Ethnology, at the Gymnasium William III at Batavia, who has
most courteously furnished me with some interesting information on this
subject, states that it is especially in the Southern Moluccas that the
placenta is mixed with ashes and hung in a tree. Wider spread is the
custom of placing the after-birth on a small bamboo raft in a river
"in order that it may be caught by crocodiles, incarnations of the
ancestors, who will guard it till the person to whom it has belonged
dies. Then the soul of the placenta is once more united with that of
the dead man, and together they go to the realms of the dead. During
lifetime the connection between men and their placentas is never
withdrawn." The Khasis, although they cannot explain the meaning of
the presence of the placenta at the naming ceremony, and the care with
which they remove it and hang it up in a tree, are probably really
actuated by the same sentiments as the inhabitants of the Southern
Moluccas, i.e. they believe that there is, as Dr. Fraser puts it,
a sympathetic union with the body after the physical connection with
the child has been severed. There is no fixed period of _sang_, or
taboo, after a birth, but the parents of the child are prohibited
by custom from crossing a stream or washing their clothes until the
navel-string falls off, for fear that the child should be attacked
by the demons of the hills and the vales.

The War birth customs are substantially the same as those of the
Khasis, but there is the difference that a War family after a birth
is _sang_, or, taboo, for seven days, whereas amongst the Khasis the
only prohibition is that the parents must not cross a stream or wash
their clothes until they have propitiated the spirits. A twin birth is
_sang_, or taboo. The Khasis argue that as there is but one _Ka Iawbei_
(first ancestress), and one _U Thawlang_ (first ancestor), so one
child, either male or female, should be born at a time. A twin birth
is accordingly regarded as a visitation from God for some _sang_, or
transgression, committed by some member of the clan. When the twins are
of opposite sexes the _sang_ is considered to be extremely serious, the
Khasi idea being that defilement has taken place within the womb. The
case is treated as one of _shong kur_, or marriage within the clan,
and the bones of the twins cannot be placed in the sepulchre of the
clan. There are no special birth customs amongst the Lynngams.

There is no trace of the _couvade_ amongst the Khasis.


We now come to consider marriage amongst the Khasis from a religious
point of view. Shadwell has said that marriage amongst the Khasis
"is purely a civil contract." This statement is not correct, for
there is an elaborate religious ceremony at which God the creator,
_U'lei thaw briew man briew_, the god or goddess of the State, _U_ or
_ka'lei Synshar_, and, what is probably more important, the ancestress
and ancestor of the clan, _Ka Iawbei-tymmen_ and _U Thawlang_, are
invoked. There are three marriage ceremonies prevalent amongst the
Khasis, which are (_a_) _Pynhiarsynjat_, (_b_) _Lamdoh_ and (_c_)
_Iadih-kiad_, respectively. The first and second forms above mentioned
are considered the more respectable; the last-named is resorted to
by the very poor who cannot afford the greater expense entailed by
the first two ceremonies.

_Preliminaries_.--A young man of marriageable age, say between
seventeen or eighteen years of age and twenty-five, fixes upon a girl
of, say between thirteen and eighteen years, as likely to become
a fitting partner; probably he has been acquainted with the young
woman for some time before, and is on more or less easy terms of
intimacy with her. He mentions the name of the girl to his parents,
and uncles and aunts in the house, and they agree or disagree, as
the case may be. Sometimes marriages are arranged by the parents of
the young people themselves. Having agreed regarding the fitness of
the bride, the young man's parents send a male representative of the
family, or in some cases a man unconnected with the family, to arrange
matters with the parents of the bride. The latter then ascertain their
daughter's wishes. According to the late U Jeeban Roy, the daughters
nearly always agree, it is very seldom that it is necessary to bring
any pressure to bear. The parents then investigate whether there is any
_sang_, or taboo, such as clan relationship, between the young woman
and her intended, in the way of the marriage. If there is found to be
no such hindrance, they fix a date for finally arranging the marriage
(_ban ia kut ktien_.) On the day appointed the bride's family consult
the auspices by breaking eggs and examining fowls' entrails. If the
omens are favourable, well and good. Should they be unfavourable, they
abandon the marriage project. There is a strong prejudice against a
marriage taking place under unfavourable auspices, the belief being
that such an union will be childless, that the bride will die an
untimely death, or that poverty will ensue. Given favourable auspices,
the parents fix a day for the marriage. It was formerly the custom for
the bridegroom to provide himself beforehand with a ring, usually of
silver, but, amongst the rich, of gold, which is called _ka synjat_
(hence the name of the marriage ceremony _pynhiar-synjat_), and for
the bride to provide herself with a similar ring. The bridegroom
used to place his ring upon the bride's finger, and the bride
used to place her ring upon the bridegroom's finger; it is however
believed that this custom is rare nowadays. On the marriage day a
man is selected from the party of the bridegroom called _u ksiang_,
or go-between. The bridegroom then sets out with this man and a
number of followers, clothed in clean garments and wearing either
white or red pagris (a black pagri not being considered a fitting
head-dress on this occasion), to the house of the bride, where a
feast has been prepared, and fermented rice-beer (_ka-kiad-hiar_)
in gourds (_klong_) placed ready. The bride, her female attendants,
and her mother and aunts have collected in the meantime, dressed in
their best, wearing their jewellery, and with their heads uncovered,
for it is not thought proper for the females to cover their heads
on the marriage day. On the side of the bride, also, a _ksiang_
(go-between) has been appointed, and it is his duty to manage all
the business of the marriage on behalf of her family. Some young men
of the bride's party go to meet the bridegroom's contingent by way
of doing them honour. When they have reached the bride's house, the
_ksiang_ of the bridegroom enters first, followed by the bridegroom,
and after him the bridegroom's party. The _ksiang_ then hands over
the bridegroom to the maternal uncle (_kni_) of the bride, or to the
bride's father. Either of the latter then provides the bridegroom
with a seat next the bride. The bride and bridegroom exchange bags
of betel-nut, and where the custom of investiture of the ring is in
vogue, these tokens are interchanged. The _ksiangs_ of the bridegroom
and bride recite the marriage contract in lengthy formulae, which
may be found on pages 6, 7, 8 of the late U Jeebon Roy's interesting
notes on the Khasi religion. The two _ksiangs_ then take up, each of
them, a gourd containing fermented liquor from the gourd provided by
the contracting party, and give them to an old man who is versed in
sacrificial lore, who solemnly mixes the contents together. Three dried
fish are produced, and are placed on the floor of the house. The priest
thus appointed then solemnly adjures the gods in the following words:--

_Hei_, oh god from above; oh god from below; oh _'lei synshar_;
oh god who hast created man; as thou hast ordained this marriage,
the ring has been given this day; thou wilt know; thou wilt hear;
from the clear firmament above that . . . . have been married
this day. Thou wilt bless them; thou wilt grant them prosperity;
thou wilt show them the way; thou wilt show them the road, that
they may be well, that they may obtain dwellings and houses, that
they may prosper, that they may obtain rice and fish, that they
may possess hundreds and thousands; thus, oh god." The priest then
pours liquor on the ground three times from the gourd, counting "one,
two, three." He then continues the invocation thus, "_Hei_, thou, oh
mother; oh grandmother; oh maternal uncle; oh father: oh _Suid-nia_;
oh younger grandmother; oh elder grandmother; oh younger grandfather;
oh elder grandfather. As the flesh has fallen (on the floor, i.e. the
feast has been prepared), the ring has been put on, the three strips of
flesh are ready (alluding to the three dried fish already mentioned),
you will all of you (ancestors) give ear, you will continue giving
strength and spirit (i.e. to the married pair) that they may be well"
(and so on, as written in the first invocation). He then pours out the
liquor three times as before. He then adjures the Siem, the elders,
and all the people who do not belong to either of the two clans, and
pours out liquor three times as before. The three pieces of dried fish
are first placed on the _tympan_, the high rack above the fire-place,
then removed and tied to the ridge-pole of the house, amidst shouts
of _Ho, hoi, hoi, hoi_. The poor then sacrifice a fowl, and the rich
a pig without blemish (_uba tlem_), to _u Suid nia_ and _ka Iaw-bei_
(the spirits of deceased ancestors of the family), and present them
with _dykhot_, or pieces of flesh. Two or three days afterwards,
the bride, accompanied by her female relatives, pays a visit to the
bridegroom at his house, and after this they go and come as they like
to one another's houses. After two or three children have been born,
they take down the pieces of dried fish from the roof and sacrifice
two pigs, one on behalf of the husband and another on behalf of the
wife. Then they say there can be no possible _sang_, and husband
and wife use each other's things and pool their earnings, and if the
husband has a house of his own, the wife can go and live with him;
this, however, is not the custom amongst many of the Syntengs, who more
strictly observe the principles of the matriarchate. The cost of the
marriage ceremonies amongst Khasis, Syntengs and Wars, may be put down
at between Rs. 50 and Rs. 200 according to the position of the parties.

Lamdoh Ceremony.

This ceremony is identical with that of _Pynhiar synjat_, except that
the bride and bridegroom do not interchange rings, and that there is
no sacrifice of the pig. The parties merely buy some pig's flesh and
perform a puja with a small portion of the flesh of the legs of the
animal. Amongst the poor, fish sometimes takes the place of pork at the
_Iadih-kiad_ ceremony. The latter consists of a drinking bout mingled
with muttered sentences by a _nongkinia_ (sacrificer), the invocations
and prayers being the same as at the _Pynhiar synjat_. The _Lamdoh_
and _Iadih-kiad_ ceremonies take the place of the more elaborate
_Pynhiar synjat_ in most places now-a-days.

Lynngam Marriages.

The ritual observed at these marriages is described as under:--First
of all a proposal is made in the following manner. A _ksiang_, or
go-between, is sent, with the brother of the girl for whom a husband
is required, to the house of the father of the young man (not to the
house of the mother as is the case with the Khasis). If the proposal is
accepted, the father of the young man kills a pig, and gives a feast
to the people of the village of his father-in-law elect; also to the
go-between and the _borang_ (brother of the bride). The father of the
bride then gives a similar feast. A sum of Rs. 1 each is given as a
present to the go-between by the fathers of the bride and bridegroom,
and the father of the bride pays from Rs. 5 to Rs. 15 to the father of
the bridegroom. Further feasting ensues at the house of the father of
the bride. The go-betweens then sacrifice a pig and two fowls at the
house of the bridegroom, and afterwards perform the same sacrifice at
the house of the bride. At the house of the bride, after the fowls and
the pig have been sacrificed, the go-between, after drinking liquor
himself, pours out some on the floor of the house and then gives some
to the bride and bridegroom to drink. The killing of the fowls, the
sacrifice of the pig, and the libation of liquor are essentials at
a Lynngam marriage. The sacrifice of the fowls is also an essential
feature of a Garo marriage. The Lynngams, unlike the Garos, do not
observe which way the beaks of the fowls turn when they are thrown
on the ground after being sacrificed. The Lynngams, like the Khasis,
take auguries from the entrails of the fowls and the pig. After these
ceremonies are over, the Lynngam pair are allowed to cohabit. The
cost of an ordinary Lynngam marriage is from Rs. 30 to Rs. 40. The
marriage system in vogue among the Lynngams may be described as a
mixture of the Khasi and Garo customs. As has already been stated,
the Lynngams are a mongrel breed of Khasis and Garos.

Ceremonies Attending Death.

The death customs of the Khasis are not only very elaborate, but
possess a significance of their own, it is; therefore, necessary to
describe them in detail; they are as follows:--

A member of the family bends down towards the ear of the apparently
deceased person and calls him or her by name three times, to make
sure that death has occurred. If no answer comes, the family laments,
for it is then concluded that the person is really dead. The body is
then bathed in warm water from three earthen pots and is reverently
laid on a mat (_japung_), where it is dressed in white cloth,
a peculiar feature of the dressing being that the waist-cloth and
turban are folded from left to right, and not from right to left, as
in the case of the living. An egg called _u'leng kpoh_ is placed on
the stomach of the deceased, and nine fried grains, of _riw hadem_,
or Indian corn, are tied round the head with a string. The rich place
ear-rings in the ears and other jewellery on the body of the deceased,
it being necessary that this jewellery should be specially made for
the occasion, and they deck the corpse with valuable cloths. A cock,
_u'iar krad lynti_ (literally the cock that scratches the way), is
sacrificed, the idea being that a cock will scratch a path for the
spirit to the next world. A sacrifice of a bull, or of a cow in case
the deceased is a woman, (_u_ or _ka masi pynsum_,) follows. Portions
of the left leg of the fowl and the lower part of the jaw of the
bull or cow are kept, to be placed afterwards in the _mawshieng_,
or bone, receptacle. A small basket (_ka shang_) is hung up over
the head of the corpse, the basket containing pieces (_dykhot_) of
the sacrificed animals. A dish containing eatables, and betel-nut,
and a jar of water are placed near the head of the corpse by way
of offering refreshment to the spirit of the departed. The food is
given each morning and evening that the corpse remains in the house;
this is called _ai ja miet ja step_. Each night the corpse remains
in the house guns are fired, drums are beaten and flutes (_sharati_)
are played. It is a noteworthy custom that the body is not retained
in the house for an even number of nights, the usual time being
three nights. If it is intended to burn the body on a masonry pyre
(_jingthang_), a bull (_u masi kynroh_) is sacrificed. If the body is
placed in a coffin (_ka shyngoid_), a pig named _u'niang shyngoid_
is sacrificed, and if it is intended to adorn the pyre with flags,
a fowl called a _u'iar kait_ is sacrificed. On the day of the funeral
procession pigs are sacrificed by the relatives and friends of the
deceased; those who cannot afford pigs bring liquor (_ka'iad rong_),
a small portion of which they pour on the funeral pyre. The coffin is
laid on a bamboo bier (_ka krong_.), money being placed close to the
corpse, so that the spirit of the deceased may possess the wherewithal
to buy food on its journey. Cotton, or, in the case of the rich, silk
cloths are tied cross-ways over the bier, if the deceased is a male,
and in the form of a parallelogram, if it is a female. Before lifting
the bier a handful of rice and water from a jar are thrown outside,
and a goat (_u'lang sait ksuid_) is sacrificed. These are purificatory
ceremonies. The funeral procession then forms up and slowly passes
along the way to the plaintive music of flutes (_sharati_) and the
beating of drums. At intervals, in the case of the rich, salutes from
guns are fired. Copper coins are also scattered along the route. On
nearing the pyre the dead body is exposed to view, and the pieces
of flesh of the sacrificial animals, which are with the corpse,
are thrown away. They make ready three baked loaves (_ki kpu_), an
egg, the lower jar-bones of the animals which have been sacrificed,
the left leg of the fowl (_u'iar krad lynti_), a jar of water,
eatables in a dish, and a bow and three arrows. A goat is then
sacrificed, _u'lang mawkjat_. The corpse is laid on the pyre, inside
the coffin, if one is used, with the head to the west and the feet
to the east. Logs of wood are placed around the body, and the egg,
"_u'leng kpeh_," is broken, not over the stomach of the deceased,
as has been sometimes supposed, but by being thrown on the pyre
in the direction of the feet of the corpse. Fire in applied to the
pyre, first by the _kur_, or members of the clan, and then by the
children, if any, of the deceased. Another fowl, "_u'iar padat_,"
is sacrificed, its blood being smeared round the pyre three times,
and across the corpse three times. The bier is then broken to pieces,
the cloths having been removed from it previously. The eatables and
the jaw-bones of the sacrificial animals are then placed at the head
of the pyre. After the fowl (_u'iar padat_) has been sacrificed,
the three arrows already mentioned are shot from the bow, one to
the north, another to the south, and the third to the east. These
arrows are called _ki'nam tympem_. It is, perhaps, significant that
the arrows which are shot at death despond in numbers with those
which are used at the time of the birth ceremony. When the fire
has blazed up, another goat, "_u'lang dholia_," is sacrificed. In
some cases all the clothes of the deceased are burnt with the body,
in others the clothes are merely held over the fire and then taken
away, after which they can be used (this is only in the case of poor
persons). Before leaving the burning-place the relatives and friends
of the deceased place betel-nuts on the pyre and bid farewell to the
deceased, saying "_Khublei khie leit bam kwai sha iing u Blei ho_"
(good-bye, go and eat betel-nut in the house of god). When the body has
been thoroughly burnt, the fire is extinguished with water, and the
uncalcined bones are collected by the relatives in three trips. The
collectors ace not allowed to turn back and pick up a bone which has
been forgotten in any one of these trips. The bones thus collected are
carefully wrapped in a piece of white cloth by the female relatives,
and an old member of the family throws on the ground some powdered rice
from a leaf, at the same time adjuring the spirit of the deceased not
to trouble the _kur_, or the family, as the funeral ceremonies have
been duly performed. The party then sets out to the bone repository,
or _mawshieng_. In front walks one who strews along the line of route
leaves of the tree known by the Khasis as _diang shit_ (the berries of
which are need for fishing with), and grains of rice, all the way from
the pyre to the cairn. If any stream has to be crossed, a rough bridge
is made of branches and grass. This trail of leaves and the bridges are
intended to guide the spirit of the deceased to the cairn. The person
who carries the bones is not allowed to turn round, or to the right,
or to the left, but must proceed straight to the cairn. On reaching
it, a _nongknia_, or sacrificer, washes the bones three times and
then places them in an earthen pot, tying up the mouth with a white
cloth. Then, having taken three pieces of the hard yolk of an egg,
three loaves of bread, the leg of the fowl, "_u'iar krad lynti_,"
and the lower jaw-bones of the animals which have been sacrificed,
he places them inside the cairn and shuts the door. Eatables and
betel-nut are then placed on the top of the cairn. Early next morning
the relatives and friends go to the cairn with fresh food and water,
and look about for new foot-prints, the idea being that from these
foot-prints they can foretell future events. This they do until the
third night after the cremation. During these three nights the front
door of the house formerly occupied by the deceased is never closed,
it being thought that the spirit may wish to return and visit its
earthly abode. The whole family is moreover _sang_, or taboo, during
this period, and no manner of work can be done. When the three nights
are over, it is called the _lait ia_, i.e. the days (of mourning) are
passed, and three eggs are broken to ascertain what was the cause of
the death. After this the family goes to bathe, and the clothes and
mats in the house are washed. When this has been done, the taboo is
removed and the family can go to work. After a month a pig or a fowl
is sacrificed, the ceremony being called "_ai bam lait bnai_." It will
be observed that three seems to be the lucky number throughout these
funeral ceremonies. The number seems to bear a similar significance
in other matters of Khasi ritual, e.g. the pouring out of libations,
which is always done three times.

It is _sang_ or taboo for a Khasi widow to re-marry within one year
from the death of her husband, there is a similar prohibition for a
husband re-marrying; but such _sang_ can be got over by the payment of
a fine to the clan of the deceased. After the expiration of one year
the fine is reduced in amount. Khasi widows do not as a rule re-marry,
according to U Jeebon Roy, unless they have no female children,
in which case the clan urges them to re-marry, so that the chain of
inheritance may not be broken, inheritance amongst the Khasis always
passing in the female line.

Customs in Connection with Deaths by Violence or Accident.

These customs are interesting enough to deserve a separate description;
they are as follows:--

If a man dies by the sword, before his body can be burnt, a sacrifice
of a black hen must be offered to _Ka Tyrut_, the goddess of death. The
bones are then placed in a stone cairn. Again they are removed, and,
after eggs have been broken, are taken to a river bank and there
washed. If there is no river at hand, a tank is dug for the purpose,
which is called _umkoi_. There are various such _umkois_ in different
parts of the district, e.g. near Raliang and Nartiang. A sacrifice
of a goat is offered to the god _U Syngkai Bamon_, and a sow to _Ka
Ramshandi_, both of whom are evil deities. Another sow is sacrificed
to _Ka Tyrut_. After this the bones are placed in another newly-built
cairn. The ceremony of placing the bones in one and then removing
them to another cairn is usually performed three times; but unless
the auspices, as deduced from the eggs, are favourable, the relatives
must go on sacrificing and removing the bones until they are so. These
ceremonies having been completed, they erect a flat table-stone, or
_mawkynthei_, for the ghost of the departed to sit upon, and return
home, where they propitiate their ancestors with offerings of food. In
the case of the murdered victims of the _thlen_ superstition the same
ceremonies are observed. For people who have died by drowning, or been
killed by wild animals, and for women who have died in childbirth,
similar pujas are offered, except that a sacrifice to _U Syngkai Bamon_
does not take place. In the case of one who has died at a distance from
his home, e.g. in a foreign country, whose body has not been burnt
in accordance with custom, and whose bones have not been collected,
the members of his clan, or his children, take three or five seeds or
cowries (_sbai_) to a place where three roads meet. Here they summon
the spirit of the departed in a loud voice, and throw up the seeds
or cowries into the air, and when they fall to the ground they say,
"_to alle noh ba ngin sa lum sa kynshew noh ia phi_," come now we
will collect you (the idea being that the seeds represent the bones
of the deceased). Having collected the seeds, they place them on
a bier and perform the service for the dead just in the same way
as if a real dead body were to hand. If possible a portion of the
dead person's clothes should be burnt with the seeds in the bier,
and it is with this view that the coats or cloths of Khasi coolies,
who die when employed as porters on military expeditions at a distance
from their homes, are brought back by their friends to give to the
relatives. If a person, dies of cholera, small-pox, or other such
infectious or contagious disease, the body is buried, but is dug up
again and burnt with all the customary rites when fear of infection
or contagion is over. In parts of the district upright stones called
_maw-umkoi_ are erected along the line of route when the remains of
a person who has met with an accidental death are brought home. This
is stated to be the case in the Rambrai Siemship.

Miscellaneous Customs in Connection with Death.

In Nongjri, a large village in the War Country, the dead body is
placed on a bier near the door of the house, a turban being tied
about the head, the face being left bare and turned towards the
door. In some of the Shella villages a second cremation is performed,
in which a bamboo frame-work represents the corpse. This second
cremation takes place when the body has been disposed of without the
requisite ceremonies. The bones and ashes of the dead in Shella are
in some cases kept in a cavity hollowed out of a post erected for
the purpose. The bones and ashes find a temporary resting-place here,
but are afterwards removed to a cromlech.

At Nartiang, in the Jaintia Hills, the head of the corpse is shaved,
but a tuft of hair in the middle of the head is left; this is called
(_u'niuh Iawbei_), the great grandmother's lock. At Nartiang betel-nut,
which has been chewed by one of the mourners is put into the mouth
of the corpse, also cooked rice. There is a similar custom prevalent
amongst the Khyrwangs. The Nongtungs, in the Jaintia Hills, keep dead
bodies sometimes as long as a month, until the _phur_ or ceremonial
dance has been performed. Hence they are called Nong-tung, or
"stinkers." Amongst the Lynngams the dead body is kept for sometimes
three or four months, or up to the time when a bull can be procured
for a feast to the villagers. This feast is an essential, and,
cattle being scarce in the Lynngam country, there is often great
delay in disposing of the body. Lynngam villages at such a time are
best avoided. The Lynngams of Nongsohbar bury the unburnt bones of the
deceased within the village, and in front of the house occupied by the
deceased when alive; the bones being placed in a hole in the ground,
over which is laid a stone, a bamboo mat being nailed over the stone. A
bamboo fence three or four feet high is erected round the grave. Other
Lynngams bury the uncalcined bones and ashes in a gourd in the jungle
near the burning-place. On their way home, the members of the clan of
the deceased who have come from other villages to witness the funeral
obsequies, put up a stone on the path in honour of the deceased, a
turban being tied round the top of the stone. The Garos or Dkos, who
live at the foot of the hills on the Kamrup border, and are called by
the Assamese _Hana_ (spear-men), erect memorial stones in honour of the
deceased, the lower jaw-bones of sacrificial animals and other articles
being hung on the stones. The stones are also swathed in cloths, and
turbans are tied round the tops. The death customs of the Lynngams,
and, indeed, other customs also, are partly Khasi and partly Garo,
it being difficult to say that the Lynngams are more Khasi than Garo,
or more Garo than Khasi in this respect; their language, however; has
been found by Dr. Grierson to be a corruption of Khasi. In Nongstoin,
Mawlih, and Mariaw villages, the inhabitants of which profess to be
Khasis, the bones and ashes of the deceased are not collected and
placed in repositories, as at Cherrapunji. At Mariaw and Nongstoin
a large wooden coffin is used, painted white, with ornamentations on
the outside, and standing on four legs. This coffin is not burnt on
the funeral pyre. In the family of the chiefs of Cherra, the body
of a deceased Siem is subjected to the following process:--It is
wrapped in a cloth and placed in the hollowed-out trunk of a tree,
_ka-shyngoid_, there being a small hole with a plug at the bottom of
this receptacle. Spirit is then poured into the _shyngoid_ until the
whole body is immersed, the liquor being allowed to stand for three
days. After the body has been thus steeped, the liquor is allowed to
run out, and the body is washed with warm water, after which it is
allowed to dry for a day. Then a quantity of lime-juice is poured
in, the latter being obtained from the fresh fruit of the lime
(_u soh jew_). The body is thus exposed to a process of pickling,
which continues until the whole is thoroughly dry and becomes like
that of a mummy. It is then placed in a coffin, which is kept in
the house of the Siem family until it is time to perform the funeral
obsequies. These ceremonies entail a very large amount of expense,
and it sometimes happens that they cannot be completed for some years
after the death of a Siem. The body of a deceased Siem according
to the Cherra custom should be burnt by his successor otherwise the
latter is not Siem according to the Khasi religion. The last Siem of
Cherra, U Hajon Manik, did not perform the funeral obsequies of his
predecessor U Ram Singh, and it is stated that many of his subjects
did not regard him as Siem, according to the Khasi religion, in
consequence. There are at the present time the corpses of two Siems
of Cherra which have been preserved in the manner described above,
awaiting cremation. The first Siem, U Ram Singh, died as far back as
1875, and the second, U Hajon Manik, died in 1901.

Sir Joseph Hooker and other authorities have stated that the
bodies of deceased Siems of Cherra used to be embalmed in honey,
and an amusing story is told regarding the necessity of exercising
caution in purchasing honey from Cherra (honey being plentiful in
this neighbourhood), except in the comb, for fear of honey which
has been used for embalming purposes being passed off on the unwary
purchaser. But the members of the Siem family and the old residents
deny that honey is used for this purpose nowadays, possibly in the
interests of the trade. It is, however, not unlikely that honey
was so utilized in days gone by, as it is a well-known agent for
embalming. The bodies of priests in Burmah are said to be embalmed
in honey, _vide_ Yule's "Embassy to Ava."

The Disposal of the Dead.

The collection of the uncalcined bones and ashes of the deceased
members of the clan and their bestowal in the _mawbah_, or great
_cinerarium_ of the clan, is without doubt the most important
religious ceremony that the Khasis perform. That this ceremony is now
but seldom celebrated, is due partly to the difficulty that exists
in obtaining general agreement amongst the members of the clans,
and partly to the considerable expense it entails. The information
I have obtained regarding the ceremony, although differing to some
extent in detail from that recorded by the late U Jeebon Roy, agrees
with the latter's account as regards the main facts. The information
may now be set down as follows. By way of premise it may be stated
that the bones and ashes of the deceased are kept after cremation in
small stone cairns, or _mawshieng_. From these small cairns the bones
and ashes are removed to larger bone repositories called _mawphew_,
each branch of a clan possessing a repository of its own. The ceremony
attending the removal of the bones and ashes from the small cairns
to the larger repository, or _mawphew_, and the ceremony attached
to the removal of these remains from the _mawphew_ to the sepulchre
of the clan are practically the same, except that when the bones are
removed to the _mawphew_, no female dancing takes place. First of all,
the members of the various branches of the clan collect the bones
from the different subsidiary repositories, when a ceremony called
"_khot ia u lor u kap_," which it is not necessary to describe here,
is performed. The bones of the deceased males and females are kept
separately, and preparations are made to bring them to the sepulchre
of the clan. Before, however, anything further can be done, it must be
ascertained that the members of the clan are at peace with one another
and no differences exist. If all differences are settled, a sacrificer
offers up a prayer that the sins of the clans-folk may be forgiven,
and then breaks eggs and sacrifices a cock to ascertain which will be
a propitious day for depositing the bones in the sepulchre. A lucky
day having been thus ascertained, the bones and ashes are brought to
the _iing seng_, or clan puja-house, the bones of males and females
being kept in separate bundles wrapped in white cloth, two women of
the clan reverently carrying them in their arms, bidding the bundles
of hones to their breasts. One female carries the bones of the males
and the other those of the females. In front of these women walks an
old man who scatters along the way leaves of the _dieng-shit_ tree
and grains of rice, and when it is necessary to cross any stream or
river, he ties a thread from one side of the bank to the other, this
is for the spirit of the departed to cross the water. Sometimes _u'nam
tohrih_, a kind of long grass, is used instead of thread for the above
purpose. On arrival at the clan puja-house, the bones of the males
are laid on one bed and those of the females on another, the beds
being bedecked with rich hangings. A cock, _u'iar kradlynti_ (lit.:
"the cock which scratches the way"), is sacrificed, this sacrifice
being considered by the Khasis to be of peculiar significance. A pig,
a cock, and a bull are then sacrificed, and portions of the above are
offered to the spirits of the deceased. These offerings are known by
the name of ai-bam, and are placed in a basket which is hung up in the
house, together with the left thigh of the fowl and the lower jaw-bone
of the bullock. A dance is performed that night, first in the house
by two women, one belonging to the clan and the other an outsider,
and afterwards in a specially prepared place outside the house called
"_lympung_." The _sharati_, or flute, which is played at funerals
is sounded, drums are beaten, and bombs are exploded. This dancing
lasts from one to nine days, the limit being always an uneven number
of days. At Cherra two effigies called _Ka Puron_ and _U Tyngshop_
are prepared and dressed up; the former is intended to represent
_Ka Iawbei_, the first ancestress, and the other _U Suidnia_, the
first maternal uncle of the clan. These effigies are held in the
hands of the dancers. In the meantime two lines of upright stones
consisting of three each, with a table-stone in front of each line,
have been set up. These are called _mawkjat_ or _mawlynti_, and are
intended to serve as resting-places for the spirits of the dead on
their way to the tomb of the clan. These stones are generally not
more than three feet in height, and must not be confounded with the
larger stones or _mawbynna_. On the night before it is proposed to
deposit the bones, a ceremony called "_Beh-tympew_" is performed,
which consists of driving out the devils from the house, so that
they may not interfere with the peace of the spirits of the departed
whilst they rest in the house, and on their journey to the tomb. All
the men after they have performed this ceremony are given a drink
of rice-beer known as _'iad nonglieh_. Another cock is sacrificed,
and a small bamboo ladder of three rungs is prepared for the use of
the spirits when climbing into the tomb. Rice is then thrown outside
the door. The next morning they perform further sacrifices, which need
not be detailed here, and let loose a bull whose horns have been cased
in silver. They dig two shallow tanks called _umkoi_, into which is
poured water supposed to possess the virtue of purifying the bones
of any deceased clansmen who have died violent or unnatural deaths,
or at places far away from their homes, where it was not possible to
perform their funeral ceremonies according to custom. Three vertical
stones are also erected, called _maw umkoi_. A bamboo with a white
flag, and a plantain tree are set up; to the bamboo are attached three
bamboo rings (_kyrwoh_), which are supposed to act as summonses to
the spirits of the departed who have not received the benefits of
a proper funeral ceremony. It may be explained that this ring of
bamboo or cane is the form of summons used by the Khasi chiefs to
their subjects when they wish to call them before them. Then a cock,
_u'iar umkoi_, is sacrificed as a vicarious victim to bear the sins of
the departed. When the procession reaches the _mawkjat_ or _mawlynti_
(the upright stones which have been erected), a goat called _u'lang
mawlynti_ is sacrificed. Then a bamboo is fixed to the centre one of
the three upright stones, to which is attached the lower jaw-bone
of one of the cattle sacrificed in the puja-house; this is called
_u masi mawlynti_. A special ceremony called _ka-lyngka-pongrei_
is then performed for those of the clan who have died childless. We
now come to the actual ceremony of placing the bones in the tomb of
the clan. Having arrived at the tomb, the bones are washed three
times in a dish (this is a Cherra custom). In Mawshai, the bones
are exposed to the heat of a fire kindled on a small _jingthang_, or
burning-platform. The stone door of the _cinerarium_ is then opened,
and the bones of the females are placed in an earthen pot inside
the tomb close to the wall which is farthest away from the door, the
bones of the males being deposited in a pot inside the tomb nearest
the door. Some clans keep the pot containing the bones of the males on
the right, and the vessel containing those of the females on the left
hand. Then offerings of food and libations of liquor are offered to
the ancestors on a stone in front of the tomb. The males them perform
a ceremonial dance with swords and shields, three times, and the door
of the sepulchre is closed, a flag being fixed to the tomb. All the
clansfolk then depart except three men. One of these sacrifices a
cock (_iar-tanding_) in front of the tomb, a second sits behind the
sacrificer, holding three firebrands, and a third sits behind the
tomb. The man with the firebrands shakes them about, and then crows
like a cock three times. The man behind the tomb listens attentively
for any fancied noise within it, the superstition being that if
the ceremonies detailed above have not been properly performed, the
whole tomb will quake. If the three watchers are satisfied that there
is no commotion within the tomb, then all is well, and they return
and report the result to the clanspeople. This ceremony is called
_tanding_, or the fire test. Next morning the woman who is the head
of the _iing-seng_, or puja-house, distributes to all those who have
taken part in these sacrifices the hinder portions of the sacrificial
animals. She then blesses one by one the assembled clansfolk. The
latter are not permitted by custom to go to work until after three
days from the time of the ceremony; the third day being called _ka
sngi lait ia_. The ceremony described above is a symbolical one. The
massive stone sepulchre is regarded as a symbol of a secure place of
rest for the departed spirits. If the spirits of the dead are not,
however, appeased by the due performance of the ceremonies attending
the bestowal of the remains in the clan _cinerarium_, it is believed
that they roam about and haunt their relations on earth, and plague
them with various misfortunes. It may be interesting to note here,
that Mr. Moberly, the Superintendent of Ethnography in Bengal,
reports that the ashes of deceased Hos, after being sprinkled with
water by means of peepul branches, we collected, dried, and placed
in a new earthen pot, and kept in the house until the day of burial,
which may take place, as with the Khasis, long afterwards. The bones
are buried in the village under a large slab of stone (cf. the Khasi
stone _cinerarium_), and a monolith is erected outside the village
to commemorate the deceased.

Khasi Memorial Stones.

Probably one of the first objects which strikes the eye of a visitor to
the Khasi Hills is the very large number of monoliths, table-stones,
and cromlechs that are to be met with almost everywhere in that
country. Yule, Dalton, and other writers have incidentally referred
to them, but, as far as is known at present, no attempt has been
made to explain in any detail what is the peculiar significance
of these objects to the Khasis. These stones are rightly styled
memorial stones; _kynmaw_, literally, "to mark with a stone," is the
word in the Khasi language for "to remember" The memorial stone,
in the ordinary sense of the word, is a memorial to the dead; but
we have such names of places in these hills as _Maomluh_, the salt
stone (the eating of salt off the blade of a sword being one of the
Khasi forms of oath), _Maosmai_, the oath stone, _Maophlang_, the
grassy stone, and others. To commemorate with a stone an important
event has been a constant custom amongst many people in many places,
and the erection of grave-stones, to mark the spot where the remains
of the dead are buried, is an almost universal practice amongst the
Western nations, as indeed amongst some of the Eastern also. But the
Khasi menhirs are no more gravestones, in the sense of marking the
place where the remains of the dead lie, than some of the memorials
of Westminster Abbey and other fanes; the Khasi stones are cenotaphs,
the remains of the dead being carefully preserved in stone sepulchres,
which are often some distance apart from the memorial stones. It is
proposed to treat this subject under the following heading:--

(1) A general description of the memorial stones in the Khasi
Hills, showing, that they are very similar in shape to monoliths,
table-stones, or cromlechs in other parts of the world and of India.

(2) A comparison between Khasi memorial stones and those of the
Ho-Mundas, the stones near Belgaum, those of the Mikirs, the monoliths
at Willong in the Manipur Hills, and the Dimapur monoliths.

(3) The meaning of the stones.

(4) The method of their erection.

With regard to the first heading, the stones may be divided, into
(_a_) menhirs, or vertical stones; (_b_) table-stones, or dolmens,
and (_c_) stone cromlechs, or cairns, which serve the purpose of
cineraria. Taking the different stones in order, the menhirs are
large upright stones varying in height from 2 or 3 ft. to 12 or
14 ft., but in exceptional instances rising to a more considerable
elevation, the great monolith at Nartiang, in the Jaintia Hills, being
27 ft. high, and 2 1/2 ft. thick. A photograph of this stone has been
included. These menhirs are erected all in one line which nearly always
consists of an uneven number of stones. Three is the commonest number
of menhirs, but five together are frequently to be found, and there are
some instances of seven stones; at Laitkor nine stones are standing,
an illustration of which will be found in this book. The stones are
of hewn gneiss granite, or sandstone, to be met with in many places
in these hills. They are rough hewn, and generally taper gradually to
their tops, which are sometimes neatly rounded off. The tallest stone
is usually in the middle, and is occasionally ornamented with a small
stone, through the middle of which a hole has beam drilled so that
it may fit on the top of the other. At Nongkrem there is a centre
stone with a regularly carved top, evidently intended to represent
the head of a man. At Umstow, some two miles from Cherrapunji by
the cart road, stood two rows of fine monoliths, each row five in
number, and standing on either side of the old bridle road. All of
these stones except one were thrown down by the earthquake shock of
June, 1897. The centre stone, or _mawkni_, of one of these rows was
surmounted by a carved stone covering shaped like a hat, but having
a rim with indented edges, the intention being evidently to represent
a crown. This stone crown was riveted to the top of the large centre
stone. All the stones, including the _mawkynthei_, or dolmen, have
been very neatly hewn. They appear to be of granite. Stones with top
coverings or carved heads are however rare. In front of the line
of menhirs is a large flat table-stone resting on stone supports,
the top of the uppermost plane being some 2 to 2 1/2 ft. from the
ground; this flat stone is sometimes as much as a foot or more
thick. The largest table-stones are to be seen at Nartiang, in the
Jaintia Hills, and Laitlyngkot in the Khasi Hills. The Laitlyngkot
stone measures 28 1/2 by 13 3/4 ft., and that at Nartiang 16 1/2 by
14 3/4 ft. The Laitlyngkot stone is 1 ft. 8 in. thick. Sometimes two
table-stones are found parallel to one another. The table-stones are
always placed towards the centre of the group, generally in front
of the great central menhir. These groups of stones are usually
situated alongside roads, or close to well-known lines of route,
where they readily attract the attention of passers-by. They do not
necessarily face in any particular direction, but are to be found
fronting all points of the compass. There is nothing therefore to show
that they were erected so as to face the direction of the sun-rise,
or of any particular planet's. We will now pass on to the numerous
stone cromlechs which are to be found, frequently in proximity to the
menhirs and table-stones. These stone cromlechs contain the bones of
the dead, and the menhirs and table-stones are intimately connected
with them, inasmuch as memorial stones to deceased ancestors are
erected when the ceremony of depositing bones in the _cineraria_
has been completed. The _cineraria_ are built of blocks of stone,
sometimes on stone platforms, and sometimes resting on the ground. They
are frequently of considerable size. The cromlech is opened by removing
one of the heavy stone slabs in front. There are no windows such as
are to be seen in some of the illustrations of dolmens or cromlechs
in France and Circassia in Waring's book of "Stone Monuments, Tumuli,
and Ornaments of Remote Ages," probably because the Khasi idea was to
confine the spirits and not allow them to escape from the tomb and
haunt the living. The cromlechs are generally square or oblong, but
are sometimes circular in shape also. Let us now compare the Khasi
menhirs with some to be found in other parts of the world. In Lord
Avebury's "Prehistoric Times" Fergusson's work, and Waring's collection
of plates of stone monuments, there are numerous illustrations of
menhirs and dolmens to be found in other parts of the world, which
may be said to resemble those of the Khasis in appearance, but this
is by no means a matter for surprise, for, given like conditions,
amongst primitive peoples, totally unconnected with one another as
regards race, and living in countries far remote from one another,
the results, i.e. the erection of stones as memorials of important
persons, or events, are probably the same all the world over. Waring
in his book gives an illustration of several lines of stone monuments
with two table-stones, either in front or in rear according to the
position of the photographer or draftsman in taking the picture,
which would appear to be very similar to the lines of menhirs we
find in the Khasi Hills. In plate XLII, fig. 6, of Waring's book, are
the lines of stones to which I refer. They may be said to be almost
exactly similar to the lines of Khasi memorial stones, except that
the stones depicted by Waring have circles or ovals painted on them,
which are said to signify that certain sacrifices of animals have
been performed. Now the Khasis perform such sacrifices; but they
do not mark their performance thus on the stones. Fergusson on page
447 of his "Rude Stone Monuments" apparently refers to these stones,
which are near Belgaum in the Bombay Presidency, and he is of
opinion that "they were dedicated or vowed to the spirits of deceased
ancestors"; further it is stated that these stones are always in uneven
numbers, a striking point of similarity to the Khasi stones. We know,
for a fact, that the Khasi memorial stones were dedicated to the
same objects as those of the Belgaum stones, i.e. to the worship
of ancestors; so that we have not only similarity in appearance,
in confirmation, and invariable unevenness of number, but identity
of purpose, if Fergusson's conclusion is correct. It is, however,
a far cry from Shillong to Belgaum, and it may, perhaps, be thought
more reasonable if we look for stones nearer at hand. Bradley Birt
in his interesting book on Chota Nagpur has given a photograph of
certain Ho memorial stones, which would appear to resemble greatly the
Khasi menhirs, and if his photograph is carefully examined, it will
be seen that there are in rear of the stones what would seem to be
stone cairns, very similar in appearance to the Khasi _cineraria_. The
funeral ceremonies of the Hos as described by Bradley Birt, viz. the
cremation of the body, the collection of the ashes, their consignment
to a grave, and the offering of food to the spirit of the deceased,
are similar to those of the Khasis. Although not wishing to lay too
much stress on what may be merely a coincidence, I think that the
above similarity in death customs is well worth considering with
regard to the view, based on linguistic affinity, that the Khasis
and the Ho-Mundas were originally descended from a common stock,
i.e. the Mon-Khmer or Mon-Anam family, as has been postulated by Logan.

But there are other tribes in Assam which erect memorial stones,
e.g. the Mikirs and certain Naga tribes. The Mikirs erect memorial
stones in a line, the taller stone being sometimes in the centre, as
in the case of the Khasi memorial stones. Such stones are set up by
the Mikirs only in memory of important personages, such as _mauzadars_
or leading _gaonburas_ (village headmen). Besides the standing stones
(_long-chong_), a flat stone (_long pak_) is also erected in honour
of the deceased. I understand that the Mikir stones, like the Khasi,
are mere cenotaphs, the ashes of deceased Mikirs being left at the
burning places which are generally by the sides of rivers, and the
memorial stones not being necessarily anywhere near the burning
grounds. Unlike the Khasis, the Mikirs do not collect and carefully
keep the bones in stone cairns. Before erecting memorial stones,
they dig a small tank, cf. the Khasi custom of digging similar tanks
(_um-koi_), before erecting memorial stones (_maw umkoi_), to those
of the clan who have died unnatural deaths. As with the Khasis,
feasts and entertainments are given when the stones of the Mikirs are
erected: but they need not necessarily consist of uneven numbers, it
appears. It is possible that the Mikirs may have obtained the custom
of erecting memorial stones from their near neighbours, the Khasis.

Then there is the interesting collection of stones at Willong in
the Manipur Naga Hills, for a description of which I am indebted
to the kindness of Colonel Maxwell, the late Political Agent and
Superintendent of the State. It is said that about 300 or 400 years ago
these stones were erected by the rich men of the village as memorials
(probably to deceased ancestors). It is the custom of the Willong
village that any person who wishes to erect such a stone should, with
the members of his family, abstain from food; but liquor and ginger
are allowed to them. Having chosen what he thinks is a suitable stone,
the Naga cuts off a flake of it, returns home, and sleeps on it with a
view to dreaming of the stone. If his dreams are favourable, he brings
it in, otherwise not. From the day of the selection of the stone,
until it is brought in and erected, he must fast. Women are taboo to
him for the space of one year from the date of its erection. The custom
of erecting memorial stones is not therefore peculiar to the Khasis
amongst the hill tribes in Assam. An incidental reference should,
I think, be made to the interesting carved monoliths at Dimapur,
regarding the meaning of which there has been so much doubt. These
Dimapur stones are remarkably similar in shape to the carved wooden
_kima_ posts of the Garos, another hill tribe speaking a language
which is undoubtedly connected with the great Boro group of languages
in North Eastern India. The Garo _kima_ posts, like the Khasi stones,
are erected to commemorate deceased ancestors. Some of the other
Naga tribes, besides the Willong Nagas, are in the habit of erecting
what are called _genna_ stones, a description of which will, we hope,
be given in a subsequent Naga monograph. The object of the erection
of such stones is certainly to show reverence to the memories of
deceased ancestors amongst the Khasis, and Garos, and not improbably
among the Nagas also.

It is only with the very greatest difficulty that it has been
possible to obtain any intelligible information regarding the Khasi
monoliths. Whether through feelings of delicacy in revealing the
secrets of their religious system to a foreigner, or through ignorance
or apathy (there being but few Khasis nowadays who observe the ancient
ritual), it has been no easy task to extract information from people
about these stones. As far as my information goes at present, I am
inclined to classify the stones as follows:--

(_a_) _Mawlynti_, or _mawkjat_, the stones which are erected to
serve as seats for the spirits of departed clansfolk on their way to
the tomb of the clan, i.e. when their remains are carried by their
relations to the clan cromlech (see the section entitled "The Disposal
of the Dead").

(_b_) _Mawbynna_, or _mawnam_, which are stones erected to commemorate
a parent or some other near relation.

(_c_) _Maw-umkoi_, which are put up to mark the position of tanks
or _umkoi_, the water of which is supposed to cleanse the ashes and
bones of those who have died unnatural deaths.

(_d_) _Maw-shongthait_, or flat table-stones, often accompanied
by vertical stones, which are placed in the market places and by
the side of roads to serve as seats for weary travellers. Taking
the above main divisions seriatim, _mawlynti_, or _mawkjat_, may be
described as follows. These generally consist of three upright stones,
the tallest being in the centre, and a flat table-stone being placed
in front. There are, however, some clans which erect more than three
upright stones, as _mawlynti_, or _mawkjat_. As already stated, the
clansfolk used to erect these stones, _mawlynti_ (the stone of the
way), or _mawkjat_ (the stone of the leg), at each place at which
they halted for the night on their way to deposit the bones of their
deceased maternal relations in the clan sepulchre, or _mawbah_. The
stones are called _mawkjat_, or stones of the leg, because it is
supposed that the spirits of the departed sit and rest their limbs
on the flat table-stones. The upright stones are not as a rule more
than 3 or 4 ft high, and are not massive like the great _mawbynna_,
or memorial stones. They are to be found in great numbers all along
the roads or paths which lead to the clan cromlechs. These stones,
unlike the _mawbynna_, have no names.

(_b_) _Mawbynna_, or _mawnam_, are erected to commemorate deceased
parents or deceased ancestors, and consist of 3, 5, 7, 9, or even,
in an exceptional case, 11, upright stones with flat table-stones in
front. The upright stones are called _maw-shynrang_, or male stones,
and the flat table-stones _maw-kynthei_, or female stones. Turning
to the plate of the Laitkor stones, it will be observed that
there are nine upright stones, and one large flat table-stone in
front. Counting from right to left, stone No. 5 is called u maw
_kni_, or the maternal uncle's stone; and the stones to the right and
left of it, _ki maw pyrsa ki para_, i.e. the stones of the maternal
brothers and nephews. The table-stone is called _ka Iawbei tynrai_,
or _ka Iawbei tymmen_, literally the grandmother of the root, or
the old grandmother, in contradistinction to _ka_ _Iawbei khynraw_,
or _ka Iawbei kpoh_ (the grandmother of the family, or branch of the
family). It frequently happens that there are two flat table-stones
in front of the upright stones, the one on the left being _ka Iawbei
tynrai_, or the first ancestress, and the one on the right _ka Iawbei
longkpoh_, the grandmother of the branch of the clan to, which the
memorialists belong, or _ka Iawbei khynraw_, the young grandmother,
i.e. the grandmother of the actual family to which the memorialists
belong. In olden days it used to be the custom for the clanspeople
to place offerings of food on the flat table-stones for the shades
of the departed ancestors, and this is sometimes the case still;
but now it is more frequently the custom to make these offerings in
the _iing-seng_, or clan puja-house. The flat table-stones are some
2 to 2 1/2 ft. from the ground, and it is difficult to resist the
impression that they were originally sacrificial stones, i.e. that
animals or even human beings were actually sacrificed upon them. In
connection with this theory I would refer to the interesting folk-tale
about the Kopili river. It is here related that in olden days human
victims were sacrificed to the Kopili goddess on the flat table-stone
(_maw-kynthei_) at a place called _Iew Ksih_, close to the Kopili
river. A careful search has been made for this stone, with the
result that a flat table-stone has been found near the above village,
where goats are still annually sacrificed to the Kopili. The _doloi_
reports that this is an ancient custom. None can remember, however,
having heard that human victims were ever sacrificed there. Yet I do
not think it at all unlikely that this is the stone, locally called
_Mynlep_, which is referred to in the folk-tale. At Jaintiapur and
Nartiang, both of which places were the headquarters of the kings of
Jaintia, there are very large table-stones. We know for a fact that
human sacrifices used to take place at Jaintiapur. Is it possible
that human beings were immolated on these table-stones? It would be

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