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The Khasis, like the Alfoors of Poso in Celebes, seem to be somewhat reluctant to utter the names of their own immediate relations, and of other people’s also. Parents are very frequently called the mother of so and so (the child’s name being mentioned), or the father of so and so, cf. Ka kmi ka Weri, U kpa u Philip. The actual names of the parents, after falling into desuetude, are often entirely forgotten. The origin of the practice may be that the Khasis, like the Alfoors, were reluctant to mention their parents by name for fear of attracting the notice of evil spirits. The practice of teknonomy, however, is not confined to the Khasis or the Alfoors of Celebes (see footnote to page 412 of the “Golden Bough"). The custom is also believed to have been prevalent to some extent not long ago in some parts of Ireland.

The advent of the Welsh Missionaries and the partial dissemination of English education has in some cases produced rather peculiar names. I quote some instances:

U Water Kingdom, Ka Mediterranean Sea, Ka Red Sea; U Shakewell Bones, U Overland, Ka Brindisi, Ka Medina, Ka Mary Jones, U Mission, and Ka India.

Khasi Method of Calculating Time.

The Khasis adopt the lunar month, u bynai, twelve of which go to the year ka snem. They have no system of reckoning cycles, as is the custom with some of the Shan tribes. The following are the names of the months:

U kylla-lyngkot, corresponding to January. This month in the Khasi Hills is the coldest in the year. The Khasis turn (kylla) the fire brand (lyngkot) in order to keep themselves warm in this month, hence its name kylla-lyngkot.

U Rymphang, the windy month, corresponding with February.

U Lyber, March. In this month the hills are again clothed with verdure, and the grass sprouts up (lyber), hence the name of the month, u Lyber.

U Iaiong, April. This name may possibly be a corruption of u bynai-iong, i.e. the black moon, the changeable weather month.

U Jymmang, May. This is the month when the plant called by the Khasis ut’ieu jymmang, or snake-plant, blooms, hence the name.

U Jyllieu. The deep water month, the word jyllieu meaning deep. This corresponds to June.

U naitung. The evil-smelling month; when the vegetation rots owing to excessive moisture. This corresponds with July.

U’nailar. The month when the weather is supposed to become clear, synlar, and when the plant called ja’nailar blooms. This is August.

U’nai-lur. September. The month for weeding the ground.

U Ri-saw. The month when the Autumn tints first appear, literally, when the country, ri, becomes red, saw. This is October.

U’nai wieng. The month when cultivators fry the produce of their fields in wieng or earthen pots, corresponding with November.

U Noh-prah. The month when the prah or baskets for carrying the crops are put away (buh noh). Another interpretation given by Bivar is “the month of the fall of the leaf.” December.

The Khasi week has the peculiarity that it almost universally consists of eight days. The reason of the eight-day week is because the markets are usually held every eighth day. The names of the days of the week are not those of planets, but of places where the principal markets are held, or used to be held, in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The following are the names of the days of the week and of the principal markets in the district:

Khasi Hills. Jaintia Hills.

1. Lynkah (Barpani or Khawang) Kylino.
2. Nongkrem Pynain. Um-Iong (Maolong the hat at Maolong. (Nartiang).
4. Ranghop (Ieu-bah at Cherra) Maosiang. (Jowai).
(Mawtawar in Mylliem)
(Unsaw in Nongkhlaw)
5. Shillong (Laitlyngkot) Maoshai. (Shangpung). 6. Pomtih or Pomtiah (Mawkhar, Pynkat. (Mynao).
small market)
7. Umnih Thym-blei. Yeo-duh (Mawkhar, large market) Ka-hat. (Jaintiapur).

In the War country, markets are usually held every fourth day, e.g. at Nongjri, Mawbang, Tyllap, and Shella. At Theria the market is held every Friday, and at Hat-majai, or Rholagunj, every Tuesday.

The Lynngams.

Although mention has been made incidentally in various parts of this monograph of Lynngam customs, it has been thought necessary to give the Lynngams a separate chapter, as these people differ so very greatly from the Khasis in their manner of life, and in their customs. Lynngam is the Khasi name; the Garo name for the Lynngams is Megam. There are several Megam villages in the north-eastern corner of the Garo Hills district, and there is regular communication kept up between these villages and the Lynngam inhabitants of the Khasi Hills district. The Lynngams must not be confused with the Hana or Namdaniya Garos who inhabit the low hills to the north of the Khasi Hills district, and are called by the Khasis Dko. All Lynngams claim to be Khasis, they dislike being called Garos; but although it is true they speak what may be called a dialect of Khasi, and observe some of the Khasi customs, the Lynngams are more Garo than Khasi. Before proceeding further, it should be stated that the Assamese of Boko call the Lynngams Nuniya Garos, all hill people being Garos to the Assamese of that region, without distinction or difference. It is owing to these three different names being used for the same people that there has been so much confusion about Lynngams previously; e.g. at one census they were named Lynngam, at another they received the appellation of Garo, and at a third enumeration they were called Khasis. In Section I. the habitat of the Lynngams has been roughly defined. It is impossible to define the Lynngam country exactly, because these people are continually shifting their village sites owing to the exigencies of jhum cultivation, which has been described in Section II. Some of the Lynngams preserve a tradition that they originally came from the Kamrup plains. It is interesting that a people, like the Garos in so many respects, should have the same idea as the Garos as to the hills on the south bank of the Brahmaputra not always having been their abode. The Garo legend is that they dwelt for some years in the Goalpara and Kamrup plains after they descended from Thibet, and before they moved to the Garo Hills; and there is unmistakable evidence of their occupation of both districts in the shape of certain Garo villages on both banks of the Brahmaputra for some little distance up the river. If, as I suspect, the Lynngams are an offshoot of the Garos, it is, perhaps, possible that they entered the Khasi Hills much in the same way as the Garos entered the hill district to which they have given their name. The Lynngams are much darker than the Khasis, and possess the Thibeto-Burman type of feature often to a marked degree. It is not extraordinary that they should have adopted some of the Khasi customs; for the Khasis, being the stronger people, would in course of time be bound to influence them in this respect. That the Lynngams observe the matriarchate and erect (some clans) memorial stones is not peculiar, because the Garos, like the Khasis, are also a matriarchal people (to a limited degree), and the custom of erecting memorial stones is not confined to the Khasis, for other hill tribes in Assam observe the practice, e.g. certain Naga tribes and the Mikirs; and the Garos themselves put up carved posts, called kima, in honour of the departed. Although there is not much intermarriage between the Khasis and the Lynngams nowadays, perhaps in days gone by there was a mixture of blood, the result being the hybrid race we are now considering. Some of the leading characteristics of the Lynngams will now be detailed. The Lynngams are by complexion swarthy, with features of Mongolian type. The men are of middle height and the women remarkably short, both sexes being not nearly so robust as the Khasis, a result due probably to climatic influences, for the Lynngams live in fever- haunted jungles. The men have very little hair about the face, although a scanty moustache is sometimes seen, the hairs in the centre being carefully plucked out, the result being two tufts on either side. Beards are never seen. The women are ill-favoured, and wear very little clothing. The men wear the sleeveless coat of the Khasi and Mikir pattern, called phongmarong, which is made of cotton dyed red, blue, and white. This custom may have been borrowed from the Khasi. They do not grow their own cotton, but obtain it from the plains. They make their own dyes, changlong (red) and hur saï-iong (black). A cotton cloth, barely enough for purposes of decency, is tied between the legs, the ends being allowed to hang down in front and behind. Sometimes an apron is worn in front. At the present day the men wear knitted woollen caps, generally black or red, of the Nongstoin pattern (a sort of fisherman’s cap), but the elderly men and head-men wear turbans. The females wear a cotton cloth about eighteen inches broad round the loins, sometimes striped red and blue, but more often only dark blue. A blue or red cloth is thrown loosely across the shoulders by unmarried girls, but married women only wear the waist-cloth, like the Garos. A cloth is tied round the head by married women, sometimes, Garo fashion. The women wear quantities of blue beads as necklaces, like their Garo sisters. They obtain the beads from the Garo markets at the foot of the hills. Brass ear-rings are worn by both sexes; the women, like the Garos, load their ears to such an extent with brass rings as to distend the lobes greatly. Silver armlets are worn by the head-men only, or by those who possess the means to give a great feast to the villagers. This is the custom of the Garo nokmas, or head-men. Both sexes wear bracelets. The men also wear necklaces of beads. The rich wear necklaces of cornelian and another stone which is thought by the Lynngams to be valuable. A necklace of such stones is called u’pieng blei (god’s necklace). This stone is apparently some rough gem which may be picked up by the Lynngams in the river beds. A rich man amongst them, however, is one who possesses a number of metal gongs, which they call wiang. For these they pay very high prices, R being quite a moderate sum for one of them. Being curious to see one of these gongs, I asked a sirdar, or head-man, to show me one. He replied that he would do so, but it would take time, as he always buried his gongs in the jungle for fear of thieves. Next morning he brought me a gong of bell metal, with carvings of animals engraved thereon. The gong when struck gave out a rich deep note like that of Burmese or Thibetan gongs. These gongs have a regular currency in this part of the hills, and represent to the Lynngams “Bank of England” notes. It would be interesting to try to ascertain what is their history, for no one in the Lynngam country makes them in these days. Is it possible that the Garos brought them with them when they migrated from Thibet? The gongs are well known in the Garo Hills, and I hear that when a nokma, or head-man, there dies his corpse is laid out upon them. They thus possess also an element of sanctity, besides being valuable for what they will fetch to the Garos or Lynngams. We may hope to hear more about them in Captain Playfair’s account of the Garos.

The Lynngams do not tattoo. Their weapons are the large-headed Garo spear, the dao, and the shield. They do not usually carry bows and arrows, although there are some who possess them. They are by occupation cultivators. They sow two kinds of hill rice, red and white, on the hill-sides. They have no wet paddy cultivation, and they do not cultivate in terraces like the Nagas. They burn the jungle about February, after cutting down some of the trees and clearing away some of the debris, and then sow the paddy broadcast, without cultivating the ground in any way. They also cultivate millet and Jobs-tears in the same way. With the paddy chillies are sown the first year. The egg plant, arum, ginger, turmeric, and sweet potatoes of several varieties are grown by them in a similar manner. Those that rear the lac insect plant landoo tress (Hindi arhal dal) in the forest clearings, and rear the insect thereon. Some of these people, however, are prohibited by a custom of their own from cultivating the landoo, in which case they plant certain other trees favourable to the growth of the lac insect. The villages are situated near their patches of cultivation in the forest. The villages are constantly shifting, owing to the necessity of burning fresh tracts of forest every two years. The houses are entirely built of bamboo, and, for such temporary structures, are very well built. In front, the houses are raised some 3 or 4 ft. from the ground on platforms, being generally built on the side of a fairly steep hill, one end of the house resting on the ground, and the other on bamboo posts. The back end of the house is sometimes some 8 or 9 ft. from the ground. At the end of the house farthest away from the village path is a platform used for sitting out in the evening, and for spreading chillies and other articles to dry. Some Lynngam houses have only one room in which men, women, and children an all huddled together, the hearth being in the centre, and, underneath the platform, the pigs. Well-to-do people, however, possess a retiring room, where husband and wife sleep. A house I measured at Nongsohbar village was of the following dimensions: Length, 42 ft; breadth, 16 ft.; height of house from the ground to the eaves, front, 9 ft.; back 18 ft. Houses are built with a portion of the thatch hanging over the eaves in front. No explanation could be given me for this. It is probably a Garo custom. In some Lynngam villages there are houses in the centre of the village where the young unmarried men sleep, where male guests are accommodated, and where the village festivities go on. These are similar to the dekachang or bachelors’ club-houses of the Mikirs, Garos, and Lalungs, and to the morang of the Nagas. This is a custom of the Thibeto-Burman tribes in Assam, and is not a Khasi institution. There are also high platforms, some 12 ft. or 15 ft. in height, in Lynngam villages, where the elders sit of an evening in the hot weather and take the air. Lynngam houses and villages are usually much cleaner than the ordinary Khasi villages, and although the Lynngams keep pigs, they do not seems to be so much en evidence as in the Khasi village. There is little or no furniture in a Lynngam house. The Lynngam sleeps on a mat on the floor, and in odd weather covers himself with a quilt, made out of the bark of a tree, which is beaten out and then carefully woven, several layers of flattened bark being used before the right thickness is attained. This quilt is called by the Lynngam “Ka syllar” (Garo simpak). Food is cooked in earthen pots, but no plates are used, the broad leaves of the mariang tree taking their place. The leaves are thrown away after use, a fresh supply being required for each meal.

The Lynngams brew rice beer, they do no distil spirit; the beer is brewed according to the Khasi method. Games they have none, and there are no jovial archery meetings like those of the Khasis. The Lynngam methods of hunting are setting spring guns and digging pitfalls for game. The people say that now the Government and the Siem of Nongstoin have prohibited both of these methods of destroying game, they no longer employ them. But I came across a pitfall for deer not long ago in the neighbourhood of a village in the Lynngam country. The people declared it to be a very old one; but this I very much doubt, and I fear that these objectionable methods of hunting are still used. The Lynngams fish to a small extent with nets, but their idea of fishing, par excellence, is poisoning the streams, an account of which has already been given in this monograph. The Lynngams are omnivorous feeders, they may be said to eat everything except dogs, snakes, the huluk monkey, and lizards. They like rice, when they can get it; for sometimes the out-turn of their fields does not last them more than a few months. They then have to fall back on Jobstears and millet. They eat arums largely, and for vegetables they cook wild plantains and the young shoots of bamboos and cane plants. The Lynngams are divided up into exogamous clans in the same manner as the Khasis. The clans are overgrown families. The Lynngams have some stories regarding the founders of these clans, of which the following is a specimen: “A woman was asleep under a sohbar tree in the jungle, a flower from which fell on her, and she conceived and bore a female child who was the ancestress of the Nongsohbar clan.” Some of the stories of the origins of other clans do not bear repeating. There do not appear to be any hypergamous groups. As with the Khasis, it is a deadly sin to marry any one belonging to your own kur, or clan. Unlike the Khasis, however, a Lynngam can marry two sisters at a time. The Lynngam marriages are arranged by ksiangs, or go-betweens much in the same way as Khasi marriages; but the ritual observed is less elaborate, and shows a mixture of Khasi and Garo customs (see section III.). The Lynngams intermarry with the Garos. It appears that sometimes the parents of girls exact bride-money, and marriages by capture have been heard of. Both of these customs are more characteristic of the Bodo tribes of the plains than of the Khasis. There are no special birth customs, as with the Khasis, except that when the umbilical cord falls a fowl is sacrificed, and the child is brought outside the house. Children are named without any special ceremony. The death customs of the Lynngams have been described in Section III. A peculiar characteristic is the keeping of the dead body in the house for days, sometimes even for several months, before it is burnt. The putrefying corpse inside the house seems to cause these people no inconvenience, for whilst it remains there, they eat, carry on their ordinary avocations, and sleep there, regardless of what would be considered by others an intolerable nuisance. The religion of these people consists of a mixture of ancestor-worship and the propitiation of the spirits of fell and fall, which are, most of them, believed to be of evil influence, as is the case with other savage races. As with the people of Nongstoin, the primaeval ancestress, “ka Iaw bei,” is worshipped for the welfare of the clan, a sow being sacrificed to her, with a gourd of rice-beer, and leaves of the oak, or dieng-sning tree. The leaves of the oak are afterwards hung up inside the house, together with the jaw bone of the pig. Sacrifices are offered to a forest demon, U Bang-jang (a god who brings illness), by the roadside; also to Ka Miang Bylli U Majymma, the god of cultivation, at seed time, on the path to the forest clearing where the seed is sown. Models of paddy stone-houses, baskets and agricultural implements are made, sand being used to indicate the grain. These are placed by the roadside, the skulls of the sacrificial animals and the feathers of fowls being hung up on bamboo about the place where the has been performed. There are no priests or lyngdohs, the fathers of the hamlet performing the various ceremonies. The Lynngams possess no head-hunting customs, as far as it has been possible to ascertain. These people are still wild and uncivilized. Although they do not, as a rule, give trouble, from an administrative point of view, a very serious dacoity, accompanied by murder, was committed by certain Lynngams at an Assamese village on the outskirts of the Lynngam country a few years ago. The victims were two Merwari merchants and their servant, as well as another man. These people were brutally murdered by the Lynngams, and robbed of their property. The offenders were, however, successfully traced and arrested by Inspector Raj Mohan Das, and several of them suffered capital punishment, the remainder being transported for life.