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1896-97 16,726 maunds
1897-98 7,805 maunds
1898-99 9,272 maunds
1899-00 5,422 maunds
1900-01 29,142 maunds
1901-02 38,251 maunds
1902-03 36,047 maunds
1903-04 50,990 maunds


It will be seen that in the three years following the earthquake of
1897 the exports fell very low indeed. Since 1901 the trade has been
steadily recovering, and the exports of 1904 reached half a lakh
of maunds.

It will be observed that there has been some improvement, but the
exports are still not half what they were in 1881-82. There are
two kinds of sweet potatoes grown in the district, the Garo potato
(_u phan Karo_), which appears to have been introduced from the Garo
Hills, and _u phan sawlia_, the latter being distinguished from the
Garo potato by its having a red skin, the Garo potato possessing a
white skin. These kinds of potato are planted on all classes of land
except _hali_, they do best on jhumed and homestead lands. The yam
proper (_u phan shynreh_) is also largely grown. The small plant
with an edible root called by the Khasis _u sohphang_ (_flemingia
vestita Benth_.), is also largely grown. The roots of the plant after
being peeled are eaten raw by the Khasis. As far as we know, this
esculent is not cultivated in the adjoining hill districts. Job's
tears (_coix lachryma-Jobi_) [17] are extensively grown, and are
planted frequently with the _sohphlang_ mentioned above. This cereal
forms a substitute for rice amongst the poorer cultivators. Maize or
Indian corn (_u riew hadem_) is grown frequently, thriving best on
homestead land, and requires heavy manuring; it is grown in rotation
with potatoes. Next in importance to rice comes the millet (_u krai_),
as a staple of food amongst the Khasis. There are three varieties
of millets generally to be seen in the Khasi Hills: - _u 'rai-soh_
(_setaria Italica_), _u 'rai-shan_ (_Paspalum sanguinale_), and
_u 'rai-truh_ (_Eleusine coracana_). _U 'rai-shan_ is cultivated
in rotation with the potato, _u 'rai-soh_ and _u 'rai-truh_ are
generally cultivated on jhumed land, where they thrive well. Millet
is sometimes used instead of rice in the manufacture of spirit by the
Khasis; _u rymbai-ja_ (_phaseolus calcaratus_), and _u rymbai ktung_
(_glycine soja_) are beans which are cultivated occasionally: Khasis
highly prize the fruit of the plantain, which they give to infants
mashed up. The following are the best known varieties: - _Ka kait khún,
ka kait siem, ka kait kulbuit, ka kait bamon, ka kait shyieng_.

The most important crop on the southern side of the hills is the
orange, which has already been referred to in the paragraph dealing
with agriculture.

The oranges are sold by the _spah_ or 100, which is not a 100
literally, but somewhat over 3,000 oranges. Different places have
different _spahs_. At Phali Hat, on the Bogapani River, the _spah_
is computed as follows: -


1 Hali = 4 oranges.
8 Halis = 1 Bhar.
100 Bhars = shi spah (one hundred) = 3200 oranges.


At Shella the computation is slightly different, being as follows: -


1 Gai = 6 oranges.
5 Gais + 2 oranges = 32 oranges.
4 Bhars = 1 hola = 128 oranges
27 holas + 2 bhars = shi spah (100) = 3,520 oranges.


By another method of calculation the _spah_ consists of 3,240 oranges.

The price per _spah_ varies from about 10 rupees in good years to
Rs. 40, when the orange harvest has been a poor one.

The lime is also cultivated, not separately, but along with the
orange. The lime can be grown with success at a higher altitude than
the orange. There is extensive betel-nut and _pán_ cultivation on the
southern slopes of the hills. The betel-nut tree is cultivated in the
same manner as in the plains, except that the trees are planted nearer
to one another. The trees bear when eight to ten years old. A portion
of the crop is sold just after it has been plucked; this is called _u
'wáí kháw_, and is for winter consumption. The remainder of the crop
is kept in large baskets, which are placed in tanks containing water,
the baskets being completely immersed. This kind of betel-nut is
called _u 'wáí um_. The Khasis, like the Assamese; prefer the fresh
betel-nut. They do not relish the dry _supári_ so much.

The principal _pán_ gardens are on the south side of the hills, _pán_
not being grown on the northern slopes, except in the neighbourhood
of Jirang. The _pán_ creepers are raised from cuttings, the latter
being planted close to the trees up which they are to be trained. The
creeper is manured with leaf mould. The plant is watered by means of
small bamboo aqueducts which are constructed along the hill-sides,
the water being conducted along them often considerable distances. As
in the plains, the leaves of the _pán_ creeper are collected throughout
the year.

The bay leaf (_'la tyrpád_, or _tezpát_) is classified in the
_Agricultural Bulletin_ as _Cinnamomum tamala_, and there is a note
in the column of remarks that "this tree, as well as one or two
others of the same genus, yields two distinct products, _tezpát_
(bay leaf) and cinnamon bark." The bay leaf is gathered for export
from the extensive gardens in Maharam, Malaisohmat, Mawsynram, and
other Khasi States. The plants are raised from seed, although there
are no regular nurseries, the young seedlings being transplanted from
the jungle, where they have germinated, to regular gardens. Bay leaf
gardens are cleared of jungle and weeds periodically; otherwise no
care is taken of them. The leaf-gathering season is from November to
March. The leaves are allowed to dry for a day or two in the sun,
and then packed in large baskets for export. The gathering of bay
leaf begins when the trees are about four years old.

The following are the other minor crops which are grown in the Khasi
and Jaintia Hills: -

Pineapples, turmeric, ginger, pumpkins and gourds, the egg plant,
chillies, sesamum, and a little sugar-cane. The arum [18] (_ka shiriw_)
is also extensively grown in the hills, and forms one of the principal
articles of food amongst the poorer classes; it is generally raised in
rotation with potatoes, or is planted along with Job's tears. The stem
of the arum is sometimes used as a vegetable, also for feeding pigs.

In the Jowai Sub-Division, notably at Nartiang, there are fairly good
mangoes, which are more free from worms than those grown in the plains
of Assam.

The Bhois and Lynngams cultivate lac. They plant _arhar dal, u landoo_,
in their fields, and rear the lac insect on this plant. Last year the
price of lac at Gauhati and Palasbari markets rose as high as Rs. 50
per maund of 82 lbs., it is said, but the price at the outlying
markets of Singra and Boko was about Rs. 30. The price of lac has
risen a good deal of late years. Formerly the price was about Rs. 15 to
Rs. 20 a maund. The lac trade in the Jaintia Hills and in the southern
portion of the Khyrim State is a valuable one. The profits, however,
go largely to middle-men, who in the Jaintia Hills are Syntengs from
Jowai, who give out advances to the Bhoi cultivators on the condition
that they will be repaid in lac. The Marwari merchants from the plains
attend all the plains markets which are frequented by the hill-men,
and buy up the lac and export it to Calcutta. The whole of the lac
is of the kind known as stick lac.


Hunting.

The weapons used by the Khasis for hunting are bows and arrows,
the latter with barbed iron heads, and spears which are used both
for casting and thrusting. Before proceeding on a hunting expedition
the hunters break eggs, in order to ascertain whether they will be
successful or not, and to which jungle they should proceed. Offerings
are also made to certain village deities, e.g. _U. Ryngkew, u Basa_,
and _u Basa ki mrád_. A lucky day having been selected and the deities
propitiated, the hunters start with a number of dogs trained to the
chase, the latter being held on leashes by a party of men called _ki
nongai-ksew_. When the dogs have picked up the scent some hunters
are placed as "stops" (_ki ktem_), at points of vantage in the
jungle, and the drive commences with loud shouts from the hunters,
the same being continued until the object of the chase breaks into
the open. The man who draws the first blood is called u _nongsiat_,
and the second man who scores a hit _u nongban_. These two men get
larger shares of the flesh than the others. The _nongsiat_ obtains
the lower half of the body of the animal, thighs and feet excepted,
called _ka tdong_, and the _nongban_ one of the forequarters called
_ka tabla_. The other hunters obtain a string of flesh each, and each
hound gets a string of flesh to itself. These hunting parties pursue
deer sometimes for many miles, and are indefatigable in the chase, the
latter lasting occasionally more than one day. In the Jaintia Hills,
at the end of the chase, the quarry is carried to the house of the
_nongsiat_, where a _puja_ is performed to some local deity, before
the flesh is distributed. At Shangpung, when a tiger or a mithan is
killed, the head is cut off, and is carried in triumph to a hill in
the neighbourhood where there is a _duwan_, or altar, at the foot
of an oak tree (_dieng sning_). The head is displayed on the altar,
and worship offered to _u 'lei lyngdoh_, the God of the doloiship.

The Khasis make use of an ingenious species of spring gun for killing
game, the spring gun being laid alongside a deer path in the jungle. A
string stretched across the path, when touched, releases a bolt and
spring, which latter impels a bamboo arrow with great force across
the path. This spring gun is called _ka riam siat_. A pit-fall, with
bamboo spikes at the bottom, is called _u 'liw lep_, and a trap of the
pattern of the ordinary leopard trap is called _ka riam slung_. A noose
attached to a long rope laid in a deer run is named _riam syrwiah_.

There is also _ka riam pap_, the principle of which is that an animal
is attracted by a bait to walk on to a platform; the platform sinks
under the weight of the animal, and a bolt is released which brings
down a heavy roof from above weighted with stones, which crush the
animal to death.

There are several means employed in snaring birds; one of the most
common is to smear pieces of bamboo with the gum of the jack-tree,
the former being tied to the branches of some wild fruit tree, upon
which, when the fruit is ripe, the birds light and are caught by the
bird lime. This is called _ka riam thit_. Another is a kind of spring
bow made of bamboo which is laid on the ground in marshy places,
such as are frequented by snipe and woodcock. This form of snare
is unfortunately most common. A third is a cage into which birds
are lured by means of a bait, the cage being hidden in the grass,
and the entrance being so contrived that the birds can hop in but
not out again. This is called _ka riam sim_.


Fishing.

Although there are some Khasis who fish with rod and line, it
may be said that the national method of fishing is to poison the
streams. Khasis, except the Wárs and the people of Shella, unlike
the Assamese and Bengalis, do not fish with nets, nor do they use the
bamboo-work device known by the Assamese as _pala_ (pala) and _jakai_
(jakaaii). The method of fish-poisoning of the Khasis is the same
as that described by Soppitt in his account of the tribes inhabiting
North Cachar. The following is a description of how Khasis poison fish
in the western portion of the district; it may be taken as a sample
of the whole. A large quantity of the bark of the tree _ka mynta_ and
the creeper _u khariew_ is first brought to the river-side to a place
on the stream a little above the pool which it is proposed to poison,
where it is thoroughly beaten with sticks till the juice exudes and
flows into the water, the juice being of a milky white colour. In a
few minutes the fish begin to rise and splash about, and, becoming
stupefied, allow themselves to be caught in the shallows. If the
beating of the bark has been well carried out, many of the fish soon
die and after a time float on the surface of the water. A large number
of Khasis stand on the banks armed with bamboo scoops shaped like
small landing nets, to catch the fish, and fish traps (_ki khowar_)
Assamese _khoká_ (khookaa) are laid between the stones in the rapids
to secure any fish that may escape the fishing party. Another fish
poison is the berry _u soh lew_, the juice of which is beaten out in
the same manner as described above.

Soppitt says, certain fish do not appear to be susceptible to the
poison, and not nearly the destruction takes place that is popularly
supposed. The mahseer and the carp family generally do not suffer
much, whereas, on the other hand, the river shark, the _bagh mas_ of
the Bengalis, is killed in large numbers. It is impossible, however,
in the opinion of the writer, that the mahseer fry, which abound in
these hill rivers in the spring and early summer months, can escape
being destroyed in great numbers when the streams are frequently
poisoned. In the neighbourhood of lime quarries and other large works
where dynamite is used for blasting, this explosive is sometimes
employed for killing fish. The practice, however, has been strictly
prohibited, and there have been some cases in which the offenders
have been punished in the courts. Fish-poisoning is bad enough, but
dynamiting is still worse, as with an effective cartridge all the
fish within a certain area are killed, none escape. When poisons are
used, however, some fish are not affected by them, and others are
only stupefied for the time being and afterwards recover.


Food.

The Khasi and Syntengs ordinarily take two meals a day, one in
the early morning and the other in the evening, but labourers and
others who have to work hard in the open take a midday meal as well,
consisting of cold boiled rice wrapped in a leaf (_ka já-song_),
cakes (_ki kpu_) and a tuberous root (_u sohphlang_) which is eaten
raw. They are fond of all kinds of meat, especially pork and beef,
although some of the Syntengs, owing to Hindu influence, abstain from
eating the latter. Unlike the neighbouring Naga, Garo and Kuki tribes,
the Khasis abstain from the flesh of the dog. Both Bivar and Shadwell
say the reason why the Khasis do not eat the flesh of the dog is
because he is in a certain sense a sacred animal amongst them. There
is a Khasi folk-tale relating how the dog came to be regarded as
the friend of man. It is, however, quite possible that the Khasis
may never have eaten the flesh of the dog from remote times, and it
is nothing extraordinary that the Khasis should differ in a detail
of diet from the neighbouring Thibeto-Burman tribes which are so
dissimilar to them in many respects. The Khasis, except some of the
Christian community and some of the people of the Mawkhar, do not use
milk, butter, or ghee as articles of food. In this respect they do
not differ from the Kacharis and Rabhas of the plains or the Garos
of the hills. The Mongolian race in its millions as a rule does not
use milk for food, although the Tibetans and some of the Turcoman
tribes are exceptions. Before fowls or animals are killed for food,
prayers must be said, and rice sprinkled on the body of the animal. The
staple food of the Khasis is rice and dried fish. When rice cannot
be obtained or is scarce, millet or Job's tears are used instead. The
latter are boiled, and a sort of porridge is obtained, which is eaten
either hot or cold according to fancy. Khasis eat the flesh of nearly
all wild animals, they also eat field rats and one kind of monkey
(_u shrih_). The Syntengs and Lynngams are fond of tadpoles, and the
Khasis consider a curry made from a kind of green frog, called _ka
japieh_, a _bonne bouche_. They, however, do not eat ordinary frogs
(_jakoid_). The Khasis of Mariao, Maharam, Nongstoin and some other
Siemships eat the hairy caterpillar, _u'ñiang phlang_.

A staple food which must not be forgotten is the inner portion of
the bark of the sago palm tree, _ka tlái_, which grows wild in the
forest and attains a large size. The tree is felled and the outer bark
removed, the soft inner part is cut into slices, dried in the sun,
pounded in a mortar and then passed through a fine bamboo sieve. A
reddish flour is obtained, of sweet taste, which is boiled with
rice. This flour is said to make good cakes and puddings.

Although the Khasis are such varied feeders, there are some clans
amongst them which are prohibited by the ordinance of _sang_, or taboo,
from eating certain articles. The following are some instances: -

The Cherra Siem family cannot eat dried fish (_'khá-piah_); the
Siem of Mylliem must not eat the gourd (_u patháw_); a fish called
_ka'khá-lani_ is taboo to some of the _Siem-lih_ class. Some of the
Wár people must not eat _ka ktung_ (preserved fish), and the clan
_'khar-um-núid_ in Khyrim is debarred from the pleasure of partaking
of pork. The flesh of the sow is _sang_ to the _'dkhar_ clan, although
that of the male pig may be eaten.


Drink.

The Khasis are in the habit of regularly drinking considerable
quantities either of a spirit distilled from rice or millet (_ka'iad
pudka_), or of rice-beer, which is of two kinds (1) _ka'iad hiar_,
(2) _ka'iad um_. Both of these are made from rice and, in some places,
from millet, and the root of a plant called _u khawiang_. _Ka'iad hiar_
is made by boiling the rice or millet. It is then taken out and spread
over a mat, and, when it cools, fragments of the yeast (_u khawiang_)
are sprinkled over it. After this it is placed in a basket, which
is put in a wooden bowl. The basket is covered tightly with a cloth
so as to be air-tight, and it is allowed to remain in this condition
for a couple of days, during which time the liquor has oozed out into
the bowl. To make _ka'iad um_ the material, the rice or millet from
which the _ka'iad hiar_ was brewed, is made use of. It is placed in
a large earthen pot and allowed to remain there for about five days
to ferment, after which the liquor is strained off. _Ka'iad hiar_ is
said to be stronger than _ka'iad um_. The former is used frequently by
distillers of country spirit for mixing with the wort so as to set up
fermentation. The people of the high plateaux generally prefer rice
spirit, and the Wárs of the southern slopes of the Khasi and Jaintia
Hills customarily partake of it also. The Khasis of the western hills,
e.g. of the Nongstoin Siemship, and the Lynngams, Bhois, Lalungs,
and Hadems almost invariably drink rice-beer, but the Syntengs, like
the Khasi uplanders, drink rice-spirit. Rice-beer (_ka'iad um_) is
a necessary article for practically all Khasi and Synteng religious
ceremonies of importance, it being the custom for the officiating
priest to pour out libations of liquor from a hollow gourd (_u klong_)
to the gods on these occasions. As there is no Excise in the district,
except within a five-mile radius of Shillong, liquor of both the
above descriptions can be possessed and sold without restriction.

According to some Khasi traditions the Khasis in ancient times used
not to drink spirits, but confined themselves to rice-beer. It is
only in the last couple of generations that the habit of drinking
spirits has crept in, according to them. From Khasi accounts, the
use of spirits is on the increase, but there is no means of testing
these statements. There can be no doubt, however, that at the present
time a very large amount of spirit is manufactured and consumed in
the district. The spirit is distilled both for home consumption and
for purposes of sale; in some villages, e.g. Mawlai and Marbisu,
near Shillong, where there are fifty-nine and forty-nine stills
respectively, there being a still almost in every house. Mawlai
village supplies a great deal of the spirit which is drunk in Shillong,
and from Marbisu spirit is carried for sale to various parts of the
hills. Other large distilling centres are Cherrapunji, with forty-seven
stills; Jowai, with thirty-one stills; Laitkynsew, with fifty-four
stills; Nongwar, thirty-one stills; and Rangthang, thirty-seven stills.

From what has been stated above some idea may be gathered how very
large the number of stills in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills is. I am
not in a position to state with any degree of accuracy what is the
amount of spirit manufactured or consumed in the year, but it is very
considerable. The out-turn of a Khasi still has been reckoned at from
four to eight bottles per day. From this estimate, and the fact that
there are 1,530 stills in the district, it may be roughly calculated
what is the consumption annually. Practically the whole of the spirit
is consumed within the district. The liquor which is manufactured is
far stronger than the spirit distilled in the ordinary out-stills in
the plains. It has been stated by an expert analyst that the Khasi
spirit contains 60 to 80 per cent. of proof spirit, and that it
possesses "an exceptionally nice flavour and taste." The usual price
at which it is sold is 4 to 6 annas a quart bottle, a second quality
being sometimes sold for 3 annas. It will be seen that the liquor is
exceedingly cheap. A Khasi in the villages of the interior can get
drunk for 2 annas, [19] or a quarter of an ordinary coolie's daily
wage. Drunkenness prevails on every market day at Cherrapunji, Jowai,
and other large háts, and on occasions when there are gatherings of
the people for various purposes. This cheap but strong spirit is
demoralizing the people, and some restriction of its use would be
welcomed by many. In the Khasi Welsh Methodist Church abstention from
liquor is made a condition of Church membership, but the vast number
of stills and the facilities with which liquor can be obtained are a
constant source of temptation to the Christian community, and cause
many defections.


Games.

The Khasis have many games, but their principal game is archery, this
may be said to be the national game, and is a very popular form of
recreation amongst them, the sport being indulged in from about the
beginning of January to the end of May each year. The following is
a description of a Khasi archery meeting, for the details of which
I am largely indebted to U Job Solomon. By way of introduction it
should be stated that the Khasis opine that arrow-shooting originated
at the beginning of creation. The Khasi Eve (_Ka-mei-ka-nong-hukum_)
had two sons to whom she taught the toxophilite art, at the same time
she warned them never to lose their tempers over the game. At the
present day villages have regular archery meetings, the men of one
village challenging those of another. There are men on both sides
called _nong khan khnam_ (lit., he who stops the arrow). This man,
by uttering spells, and reciting the shortcomings of the opposite
side, is supposed to possess the power of preventing the arrows of the
opposing party hitting the mark. These men also, to some extent, may be
said to perform the duties of umpires. They may be styled umpires for
the sake of convenience in this account. Before the match commences
conditions are laid down by the umpires of both sides, such as (_a_)
the day on which the contest is to take place; (_b_) the place of the
meeting; (_c_) the number of arrows to be shot by each archer; (_d_)
the distinguishing marks to be given to the arrows of either side;
(_e_) the amounts of the stakes on each side; (_f_) the number of
times the competitors are to shoot on the day of the archery meeting,
and many other conditions too numerous to mention here. The targets are
generally small bundles of grass called "_u skum_," about 1 ft. long
by 4 in. in diameter, fastened on a small pole. Sometimes targets are
made from the root of a plant called _ka soh pdung_. The distances
from the point where the marksmen stand to the targets are some 40 to
50 yards. Each side has its own target, the different targets being
placed in a line, and the competitors taking up their positions in
a straight line at right angles to the line of fire, and facing the
targets; each side in turn then shoots at its own target. Early in
the morning of the day fixed for the contest the umpire of each side
sits in front of his target with a hollow bamboo full of water in
his hand, the bows and arrows being laid on the ground alongside the
targets. The umpire then repeats all the conditions of the contest,
invokes the aid of the primeval woman (_ka mei ka nong hukum_)
aforesaid, goes through certain incantations freely referring to the


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Online LibraryP.R. T. GurdonThe Khasis → online text (page 6 of 22)