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INTRODUCTION

1.00 : Origin of the Khasis :

Khasi Jaiiitia Hills is the home of the hill tribe known as U


Hynrliew Trep Hynniew Skum (seven huts). Although no historical

record is available, it has been an accepted fact that the Khasis are
in these hills for a very long time. Many Khasis believe to this day
that they belong to the Hymliew Trep Hymliew Skum who were
separated from the heavenly brethren of Khyndai Trep Khyndai
Skum (Nine huts) at a certain point of time.

Scientific researches done in the last century concerning


the origin of the Khasis have led to different conclusions. The most
prominent amongst them are as follows :-

(a) Some historians and anthropologists too are of the


view that this group of people came from South East
Asia. One theory holds that the Khasis migrated to the
Sylhet area, in present day Bangladesh, from the North.
They settled here for a period of time. However, harassed
by the regular floods and climatic threats, they came to
their present habitat. 1

(b) Another theory states that the Khasis came from


Myanmar (Burma); they seem to have come through the

1. P.RT.Ourdon, Tlte Khasis, New Delhi: Cosmo PublicaUon, 1975, p.10.

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Patkoi range into the plains of Assam and finally made
their settlement in these hills. As a proof of their
connection with Burma, it is said that the early Khasi
king used to send an annual tribute in the form of an
axe. 2

(c) According to J.R. Logan,

The Khasis have close relationship with the Mons or


Talangs of Pegu and Terasserim, the Khmer of Cambodia
and the inhabitants of Annam. Logan identifies a tribe
called the Palaungs who inhabit the Shan States of
Myanmar, as the c1osest kinsmen of the Khasis. fn the
opinion of Roy, the Khasis belong to the Mongoloid family
on account of the similarity of the languages of these
two groups. 3

(d) J .A. Anderson was of the opinion that the Khasis were
the first group of the Monkhmer speaking race that had migrated
to these regions whose history was not known, unlike the other
two Tibet-Burma invasions. 4

(e) The well known Khasi scholar Dr. Homiwell Lyngdoh is of


the opinion that the Khasis migrated from the North Eastern
direction through Nowgong, Lumding and Halflong across the Kupli

2. H.Barch, A Short History of Khasi Literature, Gauhati Spectrum


Publication, 1997, pp. 10-11.
3. R.S.Rnnn, The People ofMeghalaya, ~lcutta: Punthi Pustnk, 198<). p. 65.
4. J.N.Choudhury, "The Khasis: Conjectures about their origin", in
S.Knmtemprel (ed) The Tribes of North East India, Shillong : Don Bosco
Centre for Indigenous Culture, 1998, p.69.

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River. According to him the Khasis have their home of origin
somewhere in western China which was the migrating ground of
many other tribes who spread into Indo-China, Cambodia and
Myanmar. It seems that the Khasis were familiar with the Himalayas
which they called "Ki Lum Makashang". They seemed to have settled
down at the foot of these mountains around Darrang and Sadiya
Dibrugarh. "5

(f) Another theory is that the Khasis come from Bunna and

belong to the remnant of the Monkhmer groups. However, nothing


can be ascertained scientifically for reason of absence of recorded
history and documents;

Since we have our own theory of creation , then why not


accept? Man, in the Khasi concept U Hynniew Trep, was
sent to eRrth by God to rule."

1.01 :The People

The Khasi, as a race has a very unique and rather mysterious


origin. The origin is shrouded in mystery due to lack of recorded
history and all we know about their history is derived from legends
and folklore. The term "Khasi" as summed up by E. Brektis R.Wanswet

5. II. Barch, History and Culture of the Khasi People, Calcutta : Naba
Mundran, Private Ltd., 1978, p. 22.
6. S.Lamarc, htttp:/ /WUJW.khasilit.org

10
includes "U Khynriam, U Pnar, U Bhoi, U War". 7 This is a general
nrune that is given to a group of people that presently inhabit the
East and West Khasi and Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya. According
to L.G.Shullai, "they have the same common language, common
customs, traditions and usages. They have the same common beliefs.
Geographically speaking, the people of the eastern plateau are known
as Pnars or Syntengs; the people of low-lying hills in the northern
areas are known as Bhois and those in North areas as Lyngngam;
the people of Western plateau are known as Khynriams to the Pnars
and as Nongphlang to the Wars. There are some others groups of
people known as Labangs, Khyrwangs and others, but all these are
known by the generic name Khasis."8 The distribution of population
in Khasi Hills (East and West Khasi Hills) and Jaintia Hills according
to the census 1971 is 6,05,084".'1 The indigenous religion of the Khasis
teaches then to believe in one God, the Creator, who is invisible,
kind, loving and forgiving, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

1.02: Language

The Khasis are linguistically placed under the Austro-Asiatic


group as belonging to a sub-group known as the Mon-Khmer. Like
all other languages, the Khasi language is as old as the nation itself.

7. K.K.Tnrinng, (cd), Khasi Students Association Magazine, 1962-63,


Shillong, p.2.
8. L. G.Shullai, Ki Hima Khasi, Shillong, p. 61.
9. Ibid.

11
Language is an important tool and before the written
language came into existence-and even fifty years ago a
spoken word or a verbal agreement was sacred to the
Khasis. 10

Besides spoken language, the "Khasi has also a written


language, which may be considered as the standard language." 1 1
There is a saying that with the arrival of the Christian missionaries,
the Khasis got their \\Titten language ... hence, we could agree
with Late Prof. R. S. Lyngdoh Nongbri that the Khasi written
language was born in the lap of Christianity. 12

Written language was started in 1841 by Thomas Jones of


Welsh Calvinistic Mission and recorded right from 1855 by William
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Pryse. This work was continued by Hugh Roberts' Grammar in
1891. Among others who had written on Khasi language was Nissor
Singh with his Hints on the Study of Khasi Language in 1900 and
The Khasi English Dictionary in 1903.

An exemplary nature of Khasi philology is seen in F.M.Pugh's


treatise Nangno u Kllasi U Hiar Pateng, a dialogue that appeared
in 1960. Pugh tried to explore the phonetic and lexical relation of

10. S.Lamare, h11p:/ /www.khasilitory •KhasiLanguageAsa Written Language•.


11. B.War, Seminar Paper on "Halor ka Jingpule ia Ka Ktien bad ka
Thoh kn Tar ha ka ktien Khasi," organized by KAS on 1l'h July, 1998.
12. S.Lamare, http:/ /www.khasilit.org
13. W.Pryse, An Introduction to The Khasi Language, Rpt. by KAS, 1988,
p.124.

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Khasi to Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, English and other Aryan
languages. He deviated from the opinion held by Peter Schmidt,
Dr. Grierson and others who were of the view that Khasi language
belongs to the Monkhmer group of languages in South East Asia.

F.M.Pugh's Ka Jingfar Ka Ktien Khasi, I. Kharkongor's Ka


Dienshonhi ( 1968), Glossary (1973), E. Bars' Khasi English

Dictionary, D. Franklin's Ka Grammar Khasi ( 1974), Rev. S. Sngi

Lyngdoh's Khasi-Hebru Dictionary, Khasi-Greek Dictionary, H.W.


Sten's Ka History Ka Ktien Klw.si (1979), M.B. Jyrwa's Ka Jingpule
Shaphang Ka Ktien, B. War's Ki Sur Kren Bad Kynnoh , Hectorius

Manvein's Ki Verb Khasi and Shaphang Ka Ktien by H.W.Sten


were important to highlight in the study of Khasi language.

The standard Khasi language i9 now U9ed a9 a medium in


schools, District Councils, local Durbars, District Courts, text books,
radio programmes, newspapers, Doordarshan and for academic
achievements as a subject up to the Ph.D degree in the North
Eastern Hill University. Recently it was also passed in the
Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, that the Khasi language be used
as a State Associate Official Language of the State.

Consequently in 1987, Khasi. Studies, a quarterly journal came


out to serve as a forum for the discussion of various aspects of the
Khasi language. The methodology of study is linguistic study in nature.

13
The journal used the phonetic symbols made available through
experiment done by different scholars in the CIEFL lab at Shillong and
Mysore. Unfortunately, the journal served only a short period of time.

1.03 : Geographical Feature

Khasi Jaintia Hills is a hilly land projecting like a monument


between the two plains of Assam in the North and Bangladesh in
the South. The land lies at an elevation of about 1496 metres or
4104 feet above the sea level. It is bounded in the north by Kamrup
District, Bangladesh in the South, Cachar District in the East and
Garo HiJls District in the west.

The climate in the Khasi Hills has been largely controlled by


the South-West Monsoon and the North-East winter winds. "The
average maximum and minimum temperature is approximately 20.5
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degree Celsius and 12.5 degree Celsius respectively." The land
receives the highest rainfall in the world. "In 1977 the recorded
rainfall was 11,689 mm at Sohra and 11 ,986mm at Mawsynram". 15

The Hills are characterized by numerous peaks, precipices,


cliffs, waterfalls, lakes and rivers. The major peaks are Shillong
peak, which is the highest peak in the state of Meghalaya, and
14. P.T.Matwciil., Meghalaya Hand Book, Ri Khasi Press, Shillong, 1981,
p. 122.
15. /hid.

14
Maryngksih peak in Jaintia Hills. Major rivers flowing to Brahmaputra
are Kupli, Umiam, Umtrew, Khri, Lukha and Myntdu. All these rivers
have different names when they reach the plains. There are numerous
waterfalls in Khasi and Jaintia Hills, though most of them are seen
mostly only during rainy season. Some of these falls are
Nohsngithiang, Shad Thurn, Kynshiang falls, Winnia falls, Thylliej
Lyngwa falls on the Umiam river, Other small but approachable falls
include Sunapani or Beadons falls, Umshyrpi or Bishops falls,
Umkaliar falls, Dainthlen falls, Nohkalikai falls, Kynrem falls etc.

1.04 : The Caves of Khasl and Jalntla Hills

Meghalaya is a treasure throve of nature, with its richly


varied and endemic, exotic and cultivated flora. Nature in its
generosity, had bestowed on Meghalaya a unique diverse
topography, with abundance of caves. Meghalaya is a land of caves
and caverns which would delight many a caver's heart. There are
probably over 200 caves in the state, many of which have not been
explored and mapped. Of the caves already explored and surveyed,
five of them have the distinction of being the longest known in the
Indian subcontinent . And these are the following:

Krem Mawmluh : The cave is situated half a kilometer west

of Cherrapunjee adjacent to the small hamlet of Mawmluh. The


cave has a five river passage with impressive proportions. With a

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length of 4503 m, it is currently the fourth longest in the Indian
sub-continent.

Krem Phyllut : situated in a village of Mawsmai, south of

Cherrapunjee. The cave has a large section of fossil passage, two


stream. ways and three entrances, its length is 1003m.

Krem Sohshytnpi: ( Mawlong, East Khasi Hills}: It has a large

pot hole entrance of 20m deep. The cave passage is very large with
numerous formation at one end, its length is 760m.

Krem Dam : It is the largest sandstone cave in the Indian

sub-continent. It has a very large entrance with a stream entering


the cave and running down its main passage, its length is I 297m.

Jaintia Hills : Jowai, the headquarters of Jaintia Hills District

situated 64 kms from Shillong is a picturesque town circled by the


majestic Myntdu river. Syndai 40 kms from Jowai is dotted with a
number of caves and caverns, used as hideouts during war times
between Jaintia Kings and foreign intruders. In the village
Lumshnong, 60 kms from Jowai there are numerous caves in and
around the vicinity.

Krem Umlawan : A beautiful cave of the Eocene Age with an

upper fossil passage and a lower active passage, it has numerous

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cataracts ·anq waterfalls ... It is presently the longest (6318) and
deepest (106.8 m) cave in the Indian sub-continent.

Krem Kotsati : This cave has eight entrances with the main

entrance through a deep pool. Portions of the beautiful river passage


have to be traverse by swimming or using inflatable rubber boat.
Its length is 3650m.

Krem Umshangkat: The entrance passage of 350 meters

offers a comfortable stroll on the moist sand. The last stretch required
a mild climb across fallen limestone blocks and debris to reach the
collapse do-line of the upper entrance. By the collapse there is a
belly crawl passage which eventually terminates in a sizeable
chamber. Its length is 955m.

1.05: Religion:

Like other tribes, the Khasi have their own religion known
as "Ka Niam Khasi". Religion is considered to be an impQrtant part
of culture and civilization of any particular society. Religion is based
on the classical customs and traditions practice and propagate
according to their belief. It is not only a faith; it has a practical
value as well. It has a practical aspects in the fonn of worship, like
prayers, sacrifices, rites and rituals. Belief and rituals have been
found to be the most important part of religion every where. It is

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through religion that human beings have a contact with the divine
creator or the supreme being or between man and some other
higher power. Many want to know what religion is and why it occurs.
To analyze its elements, functions and structures, different writers
or authors have their own views to describe about religion.

According to Hutchison 20'h Century Encyclopedia, religion


is the,

Term usually derived from the Latin religare, to bind,


that is used to describe man's attitude towards the gods
or God ... E. B. Tylor gave as 'the minimum definition of
religion, the belief in spiritual beings' Mathew Arnold,
defined it as 'morality touched with emotion'. 16

This shows that man through religion learned many things


like moral values, to lead a good and honest life and to express the
quality of god the Supremacy.

According to Knowledge Encyclopedia, religion is :

The word that describes the various beliefs human


beings have about God and the way in which they
17
practice these beliefs.

As it is pointed out that,

16. E.M.Ilorslcy, (cd.) Hutchison 20" Century Encyclopedia, 7'" edition,


1987, p. 1049.
17. J.P.Winward, (ed.) Knowledge Encyclopedia, © by Gristwood and
Dempsey, Ltd. 1979, p. 300.

18
Religion has taught the human being to live a noble
and quality life from the moral point of view. It has linked
18
the human race by force of religious faith.

Through rites and rituals man can describe the beliefs and
practices of any religion, particularly its functions or methods by
which he realizes his relation to the Supreme Being upon whom
he regards himself as dependent.

According to A. Reville,

Religion is the definition of man's life by the connection


of the human with that mysterious spirit, the power of
which over the universe and himself he recognizes and
with which he feels himself united. 19

A more comprehensive definition given by Jean Reville is


that,

Religion is essentially a principle of life, the feeling of a


living relation between the human individual and the
power of which the universe is the manifestation. What
characterizes each religion is its way of looking upon
this relation and its method of applying it. 20

F.G. Frazer's definition of religion stated that,

18. S.K. Sharma, (Ed.) Culture and Religious Heritage of India, Vol.l, New
Delhi : Hinduism, Mittal Publications, 2004, p.4.
19. M.A.Canney, (ed.) An Encyclopedia of Religion, 1st rpt, Nag Publishers,
1976, p.305.
20. Ibid.

19
By religion I understand a propitiation or conciliation of
powers superior to man which are believed to direct and
control the course of nature and of human life. 21

Religion is concerned with man's life so it is an attitude


packed with emotion and sentiment, to the feeling of human mind
that certain things are above and apart from the ordinary matters
of evel}'day life. Religion is treated as something sacred which as
individual realized the important aspects in his everyday life. So,
for many, religion is the :

Belief in the existence of God or Gods, especially the belief


that they created the universe, and gave human beings a
spiritual nature which continue to exist after the death of
the body. 22

Through this definition we can say that according to the Khasi


belief, there are three things that human beings possessed in his
life, viz the body, soul, and 'ka Rngiew' (spiritual is nature); even
after the death of the body, the 'rngiew' still exists. As it is believed
that God not only give man the capacity to grow in stature but a
unique gift called ka Rngiew is also conferred on him, H.O. Mawrie
described this as,

Ka Rngiewis man's capacity to bring rational considerations


to bear upon his understanding of his own situation. When

21. Ibid.
22. A.S.Homby, Oxford Advance Leamer's Dictionary, New edition Oxford
University Press.

20
man has lost this capacity (Ka Rngiew), he has lm~t the
very being of his life ..... .it is said that 'ka Rngiew' of a man
has fled to the devils or to other evil powers, and the real
cause of it is that man has gone astray from God, and so
God must have forsaken him. No other power in this world
can restore to man his lost ka Rngiewexcept his own sincere
endeavor towards peace with God"2 3

According to Bijoya Sa\\-rian, "The Khasis believe every person


has an aura (Rngiew) around him and his or her well-being is indicated
by its luster4 If a man who had gone astray from God, in order to
regain 'Ka Rngiew' he has to perform the ceremony called 'Ka Tap
Rngiew' or 'Ksan Rngiew'. So a human being has a duty towards
mankind in general and through his performance better himself in
goodness, kindness, helpfulness and not to cause harm or injury to
fellow human beings or even to the other creatures unnecessarily.

Attempt has also been made by various Khasi authors to


describe Khasi religion. Pascal Malngiang stated that;

It is the belief of the Khasi that his religion which he calls


NIAM is directly given by God and it is not something
that is invented by man, because of fear or because of his
search for the one \vho is above everything. The Khasi
believes that his religion is instituted by god himself. 25

H.O. Mawrie says that;

23. H.O.Mawrie, The Khasi Milieu, Concept Publishing Company, New


Delhi, 1981, p. 25.
24. B. Sawian, The Teaching of Elders, A translation, p.l.
25. P.Malngiang, Aspects of Khasi Philosophy, published by Seven Huts
Enterprise, Shillong, 1991, pp.33-34.

21
According to the Khasi, religion is the relationship
between man and God and this relationship is governed
by two factors, namely, Ka Nia and Ka Jutang (reason
and covenant). The principal reason for man is that he
is a creature of God. Man belongs to God during his
lifetime as well as after he has left this world. His
permanent habitation is with God. 26

According to R.T. Rymbai,

Ka niam Khasi - Pnar ka dei ka niam tip-briew tip-blei,


ba wan long briew sha pyrthei ban kamai ia ka hok, ki
Hyniiiew trep Hynr1iew skum ki shem ba ka bneng ka
kynjih bad u Blei u jngai noh na ki, ynda haba ki hi ki
Ia pynkheifi hukum bad ki len jutang. 27

(Knowing himself as a man and knowing God as his creator


and earning righteousness in ways of life are the religious thoughts
of the Khasis, as thought by the ancestors or ki Hynfiiew trep
Hyniiiew skum).

H. Lyngdoh pointed out that,

Ka jingngeit shaphang u Blei ka long ba u don tang


uwei hi. Ba dei une uba la thaw ia ka pyrthei bad ia u
khunbynriew shikhrum ka bneng, bad ia u mrad u
mreng, ia ka sim ka doh, ia u dohthli dohtham, ia ka
dieng ka sieh, ia u ph lang u kynbat bad ia ki jingthung

26. H.O.Mawrie, The Khasi Milieu, Concept Publishing Company, New


Delhi, 1981, p. 35.
27. R.T.Rymhai, Ban Pynfeng La Ka Rasong bad kiwei de ki Ese, Shillong,
lq79. pp. 86-87.

22
jingtep baroh; uba don ha hneng bad ha ka khyndcw
uba long u trai kiei kiei baroh.::?R

The Khasis believe that there is only one God the creator of
heaven and earth and all living creatures, who is the Almighty, Lord,
Master and the Be-a11 and End-all of all that exists in the universe.

Jeebon Roy wrote about,

The universality of God in Khasi religion and the basic


features of other religions of the world. It is a powerful
exposition of a Khasi monotheism in which he pleaded
for the divine omnipotence of God, the Supreme being
on which the original creed of the Khasi lays so much
stress and the sanctity of the covenant on which the old
religion rests. 2 q

According to the Khasi Mythology God created sixteen


families, the Khathynriew Trep Khathynriew Skum they came down
to earth through Ka Jingkieng Ksiar (golden ladder), which joined
heaven and earth from U Lum Sohpet Bneng (Sohpet Bneng Peak).
The seven families decided to live on earth, where as the nine
choose to live with God, so,

Ki Hym1iewtrep Hym1iewskum were the first ancestors


of the Khasis. The Khasis believed that in the beginning

:28. II. Lyngdoh, Ka Niam Khasi, Shillong Printing Works, Shillong, :2'"1
edition, 199:2, p.S.
29. ILK. ~ynn·m, Revivalism in Khasi Society, ~tcrling Publishers private
Ltd, 1992, pp.rt7 ·H~.

23
God, who created all the different races of men created
sixteen of themselves. He kept nine of them with him in
Heaven. They are known to this day as Ki Khyndai Trep
Khyndai Skum (nine families) above. He put down seven
families on earth in these very hills which have been
their homeland ever since. These seven families are
known as Ki Hymliew Trep Hynniew Skum below. 30

As the Hynfliew Trep Hynfliew Skum were the first ancestors


of the Khasis, they became the progenitors of the Khasi race. They
also got along with them the religion given by God which based on
simple tenets and relatively free from dogma.

According to R.T. Rymbai, "The Khasi-Pnar believe that God


is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient". 31 Which shows that
Khasi religion is the religion which believes in God the almighty.
H. 0. Mawrie, another prominent Khasi writer in his book, The
Essence of tile Kltasi Religion defined God as,

He is almighty and all-powerful, omniscient and


omnipresent, Being all in all. He is above Gender and
so we can call him 'U Blei' or 'Ka Blei'. He is also above
Number and we can call Him 'U Blei', Ki Blei... 32

Jeebon Roy further expressed his views in these lines;

30. llipshon Roy (Ed.}, Where Lies The Soul of Our Race, Shillong : Seng
Khnsi, 1982. p. 37.
31. Hipshon Roy (Ed.), Khasi Heritage, Shillong: Hipshon Roy Kharshiling,
1979, p.114.
32. II.O.Mawrie, The Essence ofThe Khnsi. Religion, Shillong :Ri Khasi Press,
1981' p. 1.

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Hapdeng ngi ki briew ngi don ka jingsngewthuh , ngi
don kajingmut, ngi don kajingkyrmen ia kaba shadien,
ngi don ka jingsngewtieng, bad ngi don ka jingtriem ka
jingsngewma, da kine ki jingmut ki Ia kyrsiew, bad ki
ialam i"a ngi ban pyrkhat bad ban ithuh ia u Blei kum i"a
u Trai Nongthaw, kumta kita hi ki jingmut ki Ia kyntu,
bad ki Ia pynbor ia ngi ban duwai ia u Blei; ba kawei ka
sngi ba ngin shem ka jingsuk bad ka jingsngewbha
hakhmat jong u .-13

(Among human beings there IS a sense of thought in the


mind that there is hope, fear, dreadfulness which are the ways to
consider and recognize God the Creator, so these thoughtful events
instigate and compel us to pray to God, so that one day we will find
happiness and pleasure infront of God).

Therefore Khasi religion maintains that there is God the creator


(U Blei Nongbuh Nongthaw) who is invisible, kind, loving and forgiving,
omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. The Khasi invokes God
by various names according to the need of the moment, as God has
all the attributes of goodness and all the power to do good. According
to the Khasis, religion is the relationship between man and God. The
main reason for man is that he is a creature of God and he belongs to
God during his life-time as well as after he has left this world.

The Khasis believe in a formless God, whose existence Is


everywhere - above, below and even within themselves. He is a
supreme being. According to H.O. Mawrie;
33. ,Jccbon l~o,v, Ka f(itab Ba Batai Pynshynna Shaphang Uwei U Blei,
Shillong: Ri Khasi Press, 2rpt, 1979, p.26-27.

25
A Khnsi addr<'SS<'S God with diV<'fS<' names but nil these
names are only to express the qualities and attributes
relating to different functions of God in particular relation
to man ... , namely u Nongbuh u Nongthaw (Planner and
Creator), U Nongsei u Nongpynlong (Giver and Dispenser
of Life) and u Nongthaw-bynriew U Nongbuh bynriew
{Creator of mankind and Architect of mankind) refer
particularly to God in His capacity as the creator of the
world and man. 3 ·'

According to Sib Charan Roy he described God as,

U Blei Najrong natbian-God above and here below. U


Blei Nongbuh Nongthaw-God the creator and Bestower.
U Blei u Nongsei ia ka rynti.ieng ka rta - God the life
Giver and sustainer. U Blei u Nongsam-bynta Nongbuh-
bynta -Gracious God the dispenser. U Blei shihajamguh-
God a thousand thanks. 35

The existence of one Supreme God who is the creator of the


universe, man and living beings. lie is the regulator of the universe,
giver and source of life, the dispenser of plenty and justice. The
worship of God in the Khasi faith is not confined to any one place at
all. Therefore, as a Khasi, he can pray God besides his home in any
place according to his need and the need may arise at any place.

Generally though he is attributed as a male (U Alei) but


according to circumstances, He is addressed as a female (Ka Blei)

34. 11.0. Mawrie, Op.cit, p.30.


35. S.C.l~oy. Ka Niam Ki Khasi Ka Niam Tipblei Tipbriew, Shillong :Ri Khasi
Press, rpt. 1993, p. 6.

26
too. When we pray to Him as a creator for strength, for general well
being of the family which corresponds to the affection, peace, clan,
goodwill of the family. He is addressed as female (Ka Blei). But one
thing, we must remember that in all walks of life a Khasi before
doing anything, after his decision, would call upon God to make
known his aims and objectives, so that His help and guidance would
be there side by side with his decision.

The term 'U Lei Khyrdop u Lei Kharai' relates to God as


guardian of the land and its territorial limit, where there
is a threat of offensive and defensive war. In the affairs
of his hearth and home, relating to family affairs, he
would address God as 'Ka Lei Lon&:ing ka Lei longsem'.
According to information collected through interview, the
term 'lei longspah' has not been used liberally amongst
the Khasis because they believed that first of all, children
either males or females should come before the coming
of wealth and property. Othetwise, according to Khasi
thought beseeching for wealth and riches is not in
consonance with his argument in prayer for the increase
in the lineage and descendants. 36

That is why the saying goes, when God had given the spiritual
wealth in the human issues, then their upbringing, their needs,
that is, feeding and clothing would have to be met. Then only
he would beseech God for opportunities to enhance the
earnings and income to enable him to raise up the issues in an
honourable way.

36. An Interview.

27
The term u 'Leilum-u 'Leiwah indicates that the phenomenon
in nature pertaining on his land and places that have been created
by God to indicate as guardian of the place and its natural
surroundings, eg., u Lum Simper for the Raid Saw Simper, u Lum
Shillong for the Shillong Syiemship before and Mylliem-Khyrim
Syiemship at present. It is believed that God had created these to
safe-guard not only the land but to conserve the wanton disaster
of human and caprice as to the sources of water supply, preservation
of forest and wild life. Hence these terms signify only the
personification of the Almighty through the permanent objects of
nature in his home land. So Rabon Singh Kharsuka described
that Khasi Religion is given by God as the majority of the Khasi
writers shows the true concepts of the same;

Without exception, mo~t Khn~i writf'r~ seem to np,r<'<'


that the Khasi I~eligion is a God-given gift . It is not a
creation of some human fancies or novelty. 37

Other non Khasi writers like Bivar, Gurdon, Hooker and


Namita C. Shadap Sen explained that there is no religion in the
Khasi belief. These writers accepted that Khasi religion is theistic
and animistic. This view has been contradicted by these writers.

In reality, the Khasi Religion is monotheistic, and God is


known by different names and he can be addressed in many

37. J.~abon Singh, Ka Kitab Niam Khein Ki Khasi, rpt. 1950, p. i.

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different ways in order to signify (Man and God relations) the relation
between man and God. These writers in their writings explained
that it is just a superstitious belief and an animistic Religion.
According to Hooker:

The Khasis are superstitious, but they have no religion,


like the Lepchas, they believe in a supreme being and
in the deities of the grove, cave and stream. 38

Bivar explained that,

The Khasi religion may be thus briefly defined as forms


used to cure disease and to avert misfortunes, by
ascertaining the name of the demon, as the author of the
evil, and the kind of sacrifice necessary to appease it. 39

Gurdon in his book, The Khasis explained that,

The Religion of the Khasis may be described as animism of


spirit worship, or rather the propitiation of spirits both good
and evil on certain occasions, principally in times oftrouble. 40

Hamlet Bareh in his book The History and Culture of the


Khasi People explained that Khasi Religion is a theistic and

animistic religion as;

Khasi Religion is both theistic and animistic though in


the beginning it was apparently monotheistic. Tradition

38. Hooker, as quoted from J.N.Choudhury's, The Khasi Canvas,


Calcutta, 1979, p.l83.
39. Divnr as quoted in P.R.T.Gurdon,The Khasis, Delhi, 1981, p.107.
40. P.R.T.Gurdon, The Khasis, Deihl :Low Price publication, 1996. p.lOS.

29
maintains that at first God-creator ( U Hlei Nongthaw)
alone was worshipped. But later on it was polluted with
animistic beliefs.~'

Namita C. Shadap Sen expressed her thought on Khasi


religion thus :

The belief of the Khasis in a High God was of a rather


vague nature, and he played a smaller part in religious
life than did many lesser gods of more immediate
importance. "2

According R.R.G. Mathur in his book, The Khasis of


Meghalaya explained that Khasi religion is ancestor worship
as,

Ancestor worship plays an important part in the Khasi


Religion. They propitiate their A.nccstors by offering
sacrifices to them, from time to time, particularly when
there are troubles. 43

In the view of different writers who are non-Khasis it shows


that they are more influenced by their fixed ideas about religion.
They did not attempt to have a deeper knowledge or an indepth
study about Khasi religion. Most of the Khasis do not believe that
it is an animistic religion or ancestor worship. Khasi religion is

41. H.Bareh, Op.cit. p.322.


42. N.C.S.Scn, The Origin and Early History ofThe Khasi Synteng, Calcutta,
1981. p.204.
43. P.RG.Mathur, The Khasis of Meghalaya, 1979. p. 62

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monotheistic and God is known and can he addressed in differ(~nt

ways in order to signify the relation between man and God.


Generally though his attribute is male (U Blei), but according to
circumstances, he is addressed as a female (Ka Blei) too. When
one prays God as a creator for strength, for general well being of
the family which corresponds to the affection, peace, clan, goodwill
of the family. God is addressed as female. God has no gender and
number, he can also be addressed as 'ki Blei'.

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