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Shillong, the native soil of three endemic hill communities Khasi,Jaintia and Garo presents a motley of various different cultures which harmoniously co-exist since ages. The maximum of the Shillong population belongs to the Khasi Tribe who are eminently Christian by faith. Christian missionaries and Christianity have had a cogent influence on this region with nearly half the state's population.
Impressively, the term Khasi is believed to come from Ka Shi, which means the first woman of the society. ‘Ka’ connotes feminine gender, and Shi means one. Similarly, many clans belonging to the Khasi ethnic group have their origin in narratives claiming descent from the mother.
If a Khasi would offer you a betel nut preparation, locally known as ‘Kwai’ as a gesture of friendship and alliance traditionally when somebody visits any family, invariably a homemade rice beer is also served.
Festivals in Shillong
The people of Shillong celebrate several festivals
throughout the year which are directly or indirectly connected with religion. The people bring to life the myths and traditions through symbolic performances. Some of the popular festivals in Shillong include Shad Suk Mynsiem, Behdiengkhlam festival, Autum Festival, Nongkrem Dance. Festivals are a substantial part of the cultural identity of the tribes of Shillong
Rituals in Shillong
The Khasi society is matrilineal by nature and the mother is the head of the family. The surname of the mother is passed on to the children. The womenfolk are more active at work inside as well as outside the house as well. The groom has to shift to the bride’s house and has to assume the bride’s family surname after his wedding. Thereafter three days, the newly wedded couple visits the groom’s house. Also the youngest daughter of the family inherits all the property and stays in her mother’s house. The other daughters get a share as well from the ancestral property but they have to move out with their husbands and build their separate homes after marriage.
Every year a ritual named ‘Khlieh Iew’ is performed in the markets of Shillong for the economical prosperity and good trade and commerce. Stupendous monoliths are reared and the blessings of Lord ‘U Blei Shyllong’ – the God of Shillong and Lord ‘Ka Iew- Lei Hat-Lei Khyrdop’ – the market deity are worshipped for the welfare of ‘Ri Hynniewtrep’ – the land of ‘Hima Mylliem’.
Bestowed to the custom when somebody dies, the dead body is kept at the house for three days so that the family and friends can have a view of it. The visitors who come to share the grief are offered food and drink. If an old person dies the family throws a feast to commemorate his / her life that he / she lived to the fullest.
Dress of Shillong
Costumes of Shillong show the beauty of the indigenous tribes of the Khasis and the Jaintias, nestled in the peaceful and beautiful hill of Northeast India. The traditional costume of a Khasi woman is ‘Jainsem’ i.e. two pieces of cloth affixed at the shoulder and covered with a shawl well known as ‘Tapmohkhlieh’. The Jaintia usually wears the same. As for occasion the Khasi wears a "Dhara" and for the Jaintia they usually wear a "Jaintia sari" or "ryndia and muka". In old times the aboriginal Khasi men used to wear, half coat, dhoti and turban; nevertheless, due to the increasing western influence people dress themselves in shirts and trousers these days.
Art and Craft of Shillong
Shopaholics love Shillong for its shopping markets, as well as the delights such as Traditional Bamboo Handicrafts, Bamboo Furniture, Bamboo Hats, Woodcarving, Cane Artifacts, Pineapple Fiber Articles, Khok or Thugis Baskets, Ats, Khasi Umbrellas, Moorahs, Carpets, Tibetan Shawls, Textile Weaving Items, Woolen Handmade Shawls, Khasi Silk Skirts, Endi Silk, Handmade Khasi , Fashion Apparels, Naga Souvenirs and Fresh Local Fruits like Sayang and Saflang,Vegetables, Cashew Nuts, Forest Honey, Bamboo Shoot Pickles, Black Mushrooms, Fish.
Food in Shillong
The traditional gastronomy of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes is apparent with various delectable culinary items such as Momos, Jadoh, Tung-Rymbai, Ki Kpu, Dohkhlieh, Dohneiiong, Khiew Ranei, Pumaloi, Pudoh, Putharao, Kyat, Tit Tung, Pukhlein, Pickled Bamboo Shoots, Mylliem Chicken, Rice Beer, Minil Songa, Sakkin Gata, etc. A trip to Shillong can never be completed without relishing the mouth-watering taste of these exclusive cuisines.
The food habits, architecture and the clothing style of the contemporary populace of Shillong is completely influenced by the modern cataract of westernization. The traditional houses of Shillong draped with scores of wooden floors and windows are made in Assamese style wherein the roofs are inclined. These sloping roofs let the rain water flow away which is beneficial for a place like Shillong which often receives heavy showers. A lot of people from outside the region coupled with waves of development and modernization have all played a part in changing the region's cultural structure. Folklore in Shillong, much like other regions and states of Northeast, has a special significance. Unlike other countries of the West where folklore becomes a vistage or an artifact, here it lives, relives and growing part of the culture, here the people maintain and love their culture and traditions.