Read CHAPTER III of The Khasis, free online book, by P. R. T. Gurdon, on

Laws and Customs

Tribal Organization.

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

Many of the clans trace their descent from ancestresses or kiaw (grandmothers), who are styled ki Iawbei-Tynrai, lit. grandmothers of the root (i.e. the root of the tree of the clan). In some of the clans, the name of this ancestress survives; take as instances the Mylliem-ngap and Mylliem-pdah clans of the Khyrim State, the names of the ancestresses of the clans being ka ngap (honey, i.e. the sweet one), and ka pdah respectively. This tribal ancestress, as will be seen in the paragraph of the monograph dealing with ancestor-worship, is greatly reverenced, in fact, she may almost be said to be deified. The descendants of one ancestress of the clan, Ka Iawbei Tynrai, are called shi kur or one clan. We then come to the division of the kpoh or sub-clan, all the descendants of one great grandmother (ka Iawbei Tymmen), being styled shi kpoh. The next division is the iing (lit. house) or family. It is almost invariably the case that the grandmother, her daughters and the daughter’s children, live together under one roof, the grandmother during her life-time being the head of the house. The grandmother is styled ka Iawbei Khynraw, or the young grandmother, to distinguish her from the other two grandmothers, ka Iawbei-tynrai and ka Iawbei-tymmen who have been mentioned above. The young grandmother, her daughters and their children are said to belong to shi iing, one house, the word iing in this instance possessing amongst the Khasis the same significance as the English word family.

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

State Organization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

V. The “sixteen” villages, which return 6 representative elders.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tenure of Land and Laws Regarding Land.

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

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

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

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

Ki ’lawkyntang. These are sacred groves, situated generally near the summit of hills, composed of oak and rhododendron trees, which are held sacred (kyntang), it being an offence, or sang, for any one to cut timber in the grove, except for cremation purposes. These groves are the property of the villages.

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

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

In the Jaintia Hills lands are classified as follows:

Hali Lands or Irrigated Paddy Lands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laws Regarding Other Property.

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

Decisions of Disputes.

Khasi Courts of Judicature.

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

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

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

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

The punishment of adultery was imprisonment for life (ka sah dain mur), or a fine of R,100, and one pig (ka khadwei spah wei doh). Whether such a heavy fine was ever paid is perhaps doubtful, and probably some other form of punishment was substituted for it. A husband finding his wife and a man in flagrante delicto could, as under the law of the ancients, kill both adulterer and adulteress without punishment for murder. He was, however, bound to deposit R, and the conventional pig in the Siem’s durbar. The punishment for rape (kaba khniot tynga) was imprisonment for life in the case of the woman being married, and a heavy fine and one pig if the woman was a spinster. Arson was punishable with imprisonment for life, or a heavy fine. The punishment for causing people to be possessed by devils (ka ba aï-ksuid briew) was exile (pyrangkang par); but if a person so possessed died, the sorcerer was hurled down a precipice (pynnoh khongpong). The punishment for robbery and theft was the stocks (ka pyndait diengsong), the imposition of fetters, or a punishment known as kaba s’ang sohmynken, by which the culprit was compelled to sit on a bamboo platform under which chillies were burnt. The result of such torture can be better imagined than described. Incest, or sang, which amongst the Khasis means cohabiting with a member of a man’s or woman’s own clan, was punishable with exile or a fine of R/- and one pig. It is believed by the Khasis that the evils resultant from incestuous connection are very great; the following are some of them: being struck by lightning, being killed by a tiger, dying in childbirth, &c.

Decision of Cases by Ordeal.

Water Ordeal.

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

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

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

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

“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 Bornéo, 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, 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, (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.