There are many races of people in the
state, mainly the region is inhabited by tribes, the tribes from
Mizoram, tribes from Nagaland and other tribes that have migrated from
the neighboring states.
Taking Meghalaya tribes into account, they are broadly classified
into the Hynniewtrep people and the Garos.
¤ The Hynniewtrep Tribe
Known to be the earliest ethnic group of settlers in the Indian
sub-continent, the Hynniewtrep inhabit the districts of East
Meghalaya. The Hynniewtrep are composed of the tribes of Khasi, Bhoi
and War and they belong to the Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race. The
three sub-tribes belong to the group Khasi but are known according to
the place they belong to. The Khasis that inhabit along the southern
tracts are known as War and those living in the Khasi Hills are known
as War-Khasis and in the Jaintia hills as War-Pnars and War-Jaintias.
The Khasis settling in the northern lowlands and foothills are known
as Bhois. And lastly the Khasis who inhabit the eastern part of
Meghalaya, ie, the Khasi Hills and the Jaintia Hills are known as
Jaintias or Pnars. All of them claim to be the descendants of the "Ki
Hynniew Trep" or commonly known as Khasi-Pnars or Khasis. They
collectively have the same traditions and customs.
Though they have a traditional dress by the name 'Jymphong', they
usually wear it during ceremonial celebrations. These male dresses are
longish sleeveless coat without collar, fastened by thongs in front.
During the occassions, they appear in Jymphong and Dhoti (long cotton
cloth) with an ornamental waistband. Women dresses are elaborate with
several pieces of clothes, giving the body a cylindrical look.
Food and Drinks
The Khasis staple food is rice. Fish and meat is also eaten in these
areas. During every celebration, rice beer is a must.
The tribes in these places have a peculiar feature. The Khasis, the
Jaintias and the Garos have a matrilineal society. The name and the
property of descendant is traced through the mother. In the Khasi
society, it is only the youngest daughter or 'Ka Khadduh' who is
eligible to inherit the ancestral property.
Marriage within a clan is prohibited and regarded as a taboo. During
the marriage, they have a tradition to exchanged rings or betel-nut
bags between the bride and the bridegroom to complete the union. In
the Christian families, however, marriage is purely a civil contract.
The religion of the people is mostly Christians. Before Christianity
came, they believed in 'The Creator' - U Blei Nongthaw and under
'Him', there were several deities of water, of mountains and also of
other natural objects.
¤ The Garos Tribe
The Garos, belonging to the Bodo family of the Tibeto-Burman race,
are said to have migrated from Tibet. The Garos prefer to call
themselves as Achiks and the land they inhabit as the Achik-land.
The term Garo was taken from the name of a small group of the Garos
residing in the central part of the southern hills. The vibrant and
virile ethnic people who reside in the Garo Hills are known as the
Garos. Besides the Garo hills, there are Garo settlements in the
plains of Assam and Bangladesh.
The women wear a piece of cloth around their waists and puts on a
blouse or vest. The men wear a turban in addition to the usual attire.
A headdress with rows of beads stuck with feathers of hornbill is worn
by men and women on all the festive occassions, bangles are also worn
irrespective of sex.
Food and Drink
There is no inhibitions regarding food. Rice with onions, capsicum
and salt thrice a day is their chief meal and practically all types of
animal meat are eaten. Liquor formed a part of their life.
The lineage of the Garos are also matriarchal. When a new baby is
born, the baby belongs to the mother's family, irrespective of sex.
Marriage within the clan is considered a taboo and looked upon as
punishable. Marriage is however, arranged with the formal sanction of
The Garos are mostly Christians.