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East Khasi Hills
Particulars
Description
Area
2,748 Sq.km
Population
824,059
District Head Quarters
Shillong
Language
Khasi
History And Geography

East Khasi Hills District Website

The Khasi Hills District was divided into two districts, viz the East Khasi Hills District and the West Khasi Hills District on 28 October 1976. On June 4, 1992, East Khasi Hills District was further divided into two administrative districts of East Khasi Hills District and Ri-Bhoi District.

Shillong is the district headquarter of East Khasi Hills District. The district consists of Eight Community and Rural Development blocks at present.

People

The Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi, War collectively known as the Hynniewtrep people predominantly inhabit the district of East Khasi Hills, also known to be one of the earliest ethnic group of settlers in the Indian sub-continent, belonging to the Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race.

The Khasis occupying the northern lowlands and foothills are generally called Bhois. Those who live in the southern tracts are termed Wars.

Language: The common language spoken is the Khasi language. English is also being used by the educated masses as well as for official communications.

The traditional Khasi male dress is ‘Jymphong’ or a longish sleeveless coat without collar, fastened by thongs in front. Now, the Khasis have adopted the western dress. On ceremonial occasions, they appear in ‘Jymphong’ and dhoti with an ornamental waist-band.

The Khasi traditional female dress is rather elaborate with several pieces of cloth, giving the body a cylindrical shape. On ceremonial occasions, they wear a crown of silver or gold on the head. A spike or peak is fixed to the back of the crown, corresponding to the feathers worn by the menfolk.

The staple food of Khasis is rice. They also take fish and meat. Like the other tribes in the North-East, the Khasis also ferment rice-beer, and make spirit out of rice or millets by distillation. Use of rice-beer is a must for every ceremonial and religious occasion.

The Khasis have a matrilineal society. Descent is traced through the mother, but the father plays an important role in the material and mental life of the family. While, writing on the Khasi and the Jaintia people, David Roy observed, 'a man is the defender of the woman, but the woman is the keeper of his trust'. No better description of Meghalayan matrilineal society could perhaps be possible.

In the Khasi society, the woman looks after home and hearth, the man finds the means to support the family, and the maternal uncle settles all social and religious matters.

Khasis follow a matrilineal system of inheritance. In the Khasi society, it is only the youngest daughter or ‘Ka Khadduh’ who is eligible to inherit the ancestral property.

If 'Ka Khadduh' dies without any daughter surviving her, her next elder sister inherits the ancestral property, and after her, the youngest daughter of that sister. Failing all daughters and their female issues, the property goes back to the mother’s sister, mother’s sister’s daughter and so on.

The Ka Khadduh’s property is actually the ancestral property and so if she wants to dispose it off, she must obtain consent and approval of the uncles and brothers. Among the War-Khasis, however property passes to the children, male or female, in equal shares.

Marriage within a clan is a taboo. Rings or betel-nut bags are exchanged between the bride and the bridegroom to complete the union. In the Christian families, however, marriage is purely a civil contract.

The Khasis are now mostly Christians. But before that, they believed in a Supreme Being, The Creator – U Blei Nongthaw and under Him, there were several deities of water and of mountains and also of other natural objects.

Songs and Music

The Khasis are particularly fond of songs praising the nature like lakes, waterfalls, hills etc. and also expressing love for their land. They use different types of musical instruments like drums, duitaras and instruments similar to guitars, flutes, pipes and cymbals.

Crafts

Weaving is an ancient craft of the tribals of Meghalaya - be it weaving of cane or cloth. The Khasis are famous for weaving cane mat, stools and baskets. They make a special kind of cane mat called 'Tlieng', which guarantees a good utility of around 20-30 years. Khasis also weave cloth. The Khasis have also been involved in extracting iron ore and then manufacture domestic knives, utensils and even guns and other warfare weapons using it.

Costumes and Jewellery

The three major tribes of Meghalaya have distinct costumes and jewellery. However, with the change of time as in the rest of the country, the males have adopted the western code of dress leaving the ladies to continue the tradition of ethnic sartorial elegance.

The Khasi lady wears a dress called 'Jainsem' which flows loose to the ankles. The upper part of her body is clad in a blouse. Over these, she ties both ends of a checkered cotton cloth on one shoulder, thus improvising on apron. On formal occasions, worn over the 'Jympien' is a long piece of Assam muga silk called 'Ka Jainsem Dhara' which hangs loose below the knees after being knotted or pinned at the shoulders. The 'Tapmohkhlieh' or head-shawl is either worn by knotting both ends behind the neck or is arranged in a stylish manner as done with a shawl.

The jewellery of the Khasis and the Jaintias are also alike and the pendant is called 'Kynjri Ksiar', being made of 24 carat gold. The Khasis and the Jaintias also wear a string of thick red coral beads round their neck called 'Paila during festive occasions.

Festivals

Nongkrem Dance is a religious festival in thanksgiving to God Almighty for good harvest, peace and prosperity of the community. It is held annually during October/ November, at Smit, the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship near Shillong.

The dance is performed in the open by young virgins and men, both bachelors and married. The women dressed in expensive silk costumes with heavy gold, silver and coral ornaments dance in the inner circle of the arena. The men form an outer circle and dance to the accompaniment of music of flutes and drums. An important feature of the festival is the 'Pomblang' or goat sacrifice offered by the subjects to the Syiem of Khyrim, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi State). Ka Syiem Sad, the eldest sister of the king is the chief priest and caretaker of all ceremonies. The festival is conducted alongwith the Myntries (Ministers), priests and high priest where offerings are made to ancestors of the ruling clan and the deity of Shillong Shad Suk Mynsiem

One of the most important festivals of the Khasis is Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem or Dance of the joyful heart. It is an annual thanksgiving dance held in Shillong in April. Men and women, dressed in traditional fineries dance to the accompaniment of drums and the flute. The festival lasts for three days.

With the advent of Christianity and the embracement of the Christian faith by the Khasis, various Christian festivals like Christmas, Good Friday, Easter etc are celebrated during the year.

Education

The history of formal education in Meghalaya in general and in East Khasi Hills District in particular has been a recent one commencing with the formulation of a Khasi Alphabet in 1842 by Mr. Thomas Jones, a Welsh missionary.

The first college in fact was established in Shillong only in 1924 by the Christian Brothers of Ireland. Being a hill station blessed with bracing weather and having a strong colonial influence, several quality colleges and Public schools have been established over the years. Also several National Institutes of repute like the North Eastern Hill University which is a Central University, The North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Science (NEIGRIMS), the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), National Institute of Fashion Design (NIFT), Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages(CIEFL) and various other Prominent Institutes of Higher Learning have since then been set up at Shillong, the district headquarter.

Administrative Units

There is one Civil Sub-Division in the district, ie. the Sohra Civil Sub-Division.

The district further comprise of eight Community & Rural development Blocks namely,
Mylliem C&RD Block,
Mawphlang C&RD Block,
Khatarshnong Laitkroh C&RD Block,
Shellabholaganj C&RD Block,
Mawsynram C&RD Block,
Pynursla C&RD Block,
Mawryngkneng C&RD Block
Mawkynrew C&RD Block

The District Administration is headed by the Deputy Commissioner [DC]. The DC is the executive head as well as judicial head of the district. The DC also acts as the Collector in case of Revenue matters, as District Magistrate in case of maintenance of Law and Order and General Administration, as District Election Officer in case of conduct of Election and so on. The Deputy Commissioner is aided by a number of officers like Additional Deputy Commissioners, Sub-Divisional Officers, Extra Assistant Commissioners and others.

Moreover, the local administration of the state vests in the Autonomous District Councils setup, under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the constitution of India. As such in the district there is The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council seated at Shillong covering the East Khasi Hills and West Khasi Hills Districts.

The District Councils are constituted by the members representing different District Councils constituencies, elected on the basis of universal adult franchise like members of the Legislative Assembly. The leader of the largest party/group returned to the Council is appointed by the Governor as the Chief Executive Member. On the advice of such C.E.M., a number of members are appointed by the Governor as Executive Members. The C.E.M. and the E.M. s constitute the Executive Committee of the Autonomous District Councils and exercise its Executive Powers.

Under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution the District Councils enjoy legislative, executive and judicial powers mainly over the following items:

  • Land other than reserve forests
  • Forests other than reserve forests
  • Use of any land or water course for agricultural purposes
  • Regulation in the practice of Jhum or other forms of shifting cultivation
  • Establishment of village or town administration including village or town police and public health and sanitation.
  • Appointment and succession of Chiefs and their powers
  • Establishment of village or town Committees or Councils and their powers
  • Regulation of laws or inheritance of property
  • Marriage
  • Social customs

Tourism

Khasi Hills is perhaps best known for Sohra (Cherrapunjee), geographically famous for being the wettest place on earth and also Shillong, one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. Infact the entire Khasi Hills region that forms the central part of Meghalaya is richly endowed with natural beauty. Everywhere you go, you will never cease to be mystified by the spectacular charm the state offers.

Shillong, the capital city of the State as well as the District headquarter of East Khasi Hills District. The name Shillong is derived from U-Shyllong, a powerful deity and is situated at an altitude of 1,491m above sea level. This beautiful city is 103kms. from Guwahati, the nearest air and train link. The presence of many well reputed educational institutions, many of them established by various missionary groups make Shillong the hub of education for the entire north-east.

Lady Hydari Park

A popular spot both with locals and tourist, it is located in the heart of the city with an abundance of plants and flowers. The best months to see the flowers in bloon are April and October.

Ward's Lake

A beautiful manmade lake named after Sir William Ward, the then, Chief Commissioner of Assam. A beautiful little lake with short garden walks and boating facilities - this is a popular spot for both local and visiting tourists.

Cathedral Catholic Church

In the heart of the city, there stands a beautiful cathedral of Roman Catholics dedicated to Mary Help of Christian.

Capt. Williamson Sangma State Museum

For those interested in ethnic tribal culture and tradition this Govt. Museum under the control of Art and Culture Department offers insights to the lifestyle of the people. This museum is in the State Central Library complex where monuments for the great patriots of the state had been erected besides the statue of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures

A three-in-one Institution combining a museum with a research and publication centre, for promoting and preserving the rich cultural heritage of North East India -a unique fusion of all the sister states under one roof.

With seven stories, 56,000 square feet of floor space and 15,154 squhttp://dbcic.org/are feet of display wall space, it ranks among the top 36 or so cultural centres of its kind in the Salesian world. Museums/ Cultural Centres in practice appear to be a significant aspect of the Salesian mission

Even in terms of design the DBCIC is startling: built in hexagonal shape, its seven floors represent the seven states of North East India. The building rises to form a flame, expressing the reality that if cultures are understood well, they can form a communion of cultures for a better society.

DBCIC contains seventeen galleries displaying cultural artefacts and paintings. It offers study and research facilities throughout its specialised library of 10,000 volumes, a media hall and a conference hall. It is frequented by school students and older research students and anthropologists, since this area of India is an anthropologist's paradise.

Golf Course

Shillong Golf Course one of the oldest and best natural golf course in the world is considered to be the "Gleneagle of the East" by the United States Golf Association and Museum. The site where the Golf Course is located provides a scenic view. It was set in an undulating valley covered with thick groves of pine and rhododendron trees at an altitude of 5200 ft in 1898 as a 9 (nine) hole course and later converted into a 18 (eighteen) hole course in 1924 by Captain Jackson and C. K. Rhodes.

Spread Eagle Falls

Located within the Shillong Cantonment, on the outskirts of the city, lies a sparkling waterfall which looks like an eagle with wings spread. Hence the name Spread Eagle Falls. The falls is locally known as Umkaliar or the falls into which Ka Liar slipped. A soothing setting amidst the calmness of nature - a treat to the eyes.

Sweet Falls

Situated near Happy Valley at a distance of about eight kilometers from Shillong. It resembles a straight pencil of water emerging from a large size water pipe, as it drops vertically over a distance exceeding two hundred feet. Most suitable for a day's outing and picnic, Explore it!

Elephant Falls

12 kms on the outskirts of the city the mountain stream descends through two successive falls set in dells of fern-covered rocks. At a short distance beyond the falls, there are two smaller falls which are none the less beautiful and captivating. These are the Wei Iaplam Falls and the Wir Phang Falls. A well paved footpath and a small wooden bridge facilitate access to these falls.

Shillong Peak

An ideal picnic spot, 1965 metres above sea level and 10 kms from the city, offers a panoramic view of these country side, and is also the highest point in the State. Obeisance is paid to U Shulong at the sanctum at the peak's summit every springtime, by the religious priest of Mylliem State. In the evening the city lights below appear like a star-studded abyss.

Mawphlang

One of the most remarkable features of the Khasi Hills are the sacred forests, which have been preserved by traditional religious sanction, since the ancient days. One of the most famous sacred forests is the Mawphlang Sacred Forest, about 25 kilometres from Shillong. The sacred grove has an amazing life form of plants, flowering trees, orchids and butterflies. An ideal destination for nature lovers.

The sacred-groves which have been preserved since time immemorial, are in sharp contrast to their surrounding grasslands. These groves are generally rimmed by a dense growth of Castanopsis kurzii trees, forming a protective hedge which halts intrusion of Pinus kasia (Khasi pine) which dominates all areas outside the sacred groves. Inside the outer rim, the sacred groves are virtually Nature's Own Museum. The heavily covered grounds have a thick cushion of humus accumulated over the centuries. The trees in every sacred groveare heavily loaded with epiphytic growth of aroids, pipers, ferns, fern-allies and orchids. The humus-covered grounds likewise harbour myriad varieties of plant life, many of which are found nowhere else.

Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Sohra, previously known as Cherrapunjee, a Sub-Division in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, is set upon a plateau on the southern slopes of the state. Sohra is dotted with waterfalls cascading over deep gorges. The swift flowing rivers and streams flow in a southernly direction to the plains.

Laitkynsew

15 Kms further from Sohra (Cherrapunjee) there is a holiday resort run by a private party. The resort offers visitors treks around the picturesque hills, spring bath, the thrills of caving and many other forms of excitement. Close to the resort there is the living root bridge across a torrential stream, that any visitor would love to see.

In the adjacent village of Nongriat two such living bridges have been created by weaving and inter-twine roots of the same banyan tree. It has come to be referred to as Jingkieng Nongriat or more commonly Double Decker.

Mawsynram

Mawsynram is a small village in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya state in north-eastern India, 56 kilometres from Shillong. Reportedly the wettest place on Earth, Mawsynram receives an average annual rainfall of 11,872 mm (about 39 feet). However, as there has been no meteorological department office in the area and for all practical and statistical purposes, Cherrapunjee has been recorded as the wettest place in the world.

Mawsynram is a place where nature-loving people frequently visit wherein they take pleasure in the steep, sliding slopes, the fresh air, the rolling green mountains and the deafening but beautiful waterfalls.

In Mawsynram, there is a cave called the Mawjymbuin Cave which is one of the well known caves in Meghalaya. This cave, due to years of weathering and due to dripping of mineralized solutions and deposition of calcium carbonate, it has thus given rise to some magnificent stalagmites. These stalagmites are not only important and of great interest for geological research but also because of their exquisiteness. The stalagmite of the Mawjymbuin Cave is shaped into a massive Shivalinga. The cave also has a dome shaped rock with a flat top called the Symper Rock.

Mawlynnong Village

Mawlynnong Village has earned the distinction of being the cleanest village in India. It is situated 90 kms. from Shillong and besides the picturesque village, offers many interesting sights such as the living root bridge and another strange natural phenomenon of a boulder balancing on another rock.

Mawlynnong nestled in the pristine hill state of Meghalaya, is along the Indo-Bangla border. This cute and colourful little village is known for its cleanliness. The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. They mostly grow betel nut. About 82 households live in Mawlynnong. Keeping the surrounding environment clean is an age old tradition. Discover India magazine declared the village as the cleanest in Asia in 2003.

A dustbin made out of bamboo is found all along the village. Every one makes it a point that dirt and waste are not thrown everywhere. All the waste from the dustbin is collected and kept in a pit, which the villagers use as manure. The villagers are now on a mission to ban plastic. The village with cent per cent literacy is conscious and they are spreading the message of conservation and protection of the forest. Locals plant trees to ensure that the virgin forest is kept intact and also replenished.

Mawlynnong's fame is now drawing an endless stream of guests from across the country and abroad. Although residential facilities are still scarce and are in the process of being developed, the existing one constructed from bamboo and thatch is quite hospitable and restful. Mawlynnong is an artist's delight and the sort of getaway that would titillate creative writers and poets.