Khasi - History and Cultural Relations



In the mid-sixteenth century there were twenty-five separate Khasi chiefdoms along with the separate kingdom of Jaintia. Before the arrival of the British, the Jaintia were vassals to a Series of dominant kingdoms from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries (e.g., the Kachari, Koch, and Ahom). At the beginning of the sixteenth century Jaintia rule was extended to Sylhet and this marked the beginning of Brahman influence on the Jaintia. The annexation of Sylhet in 1835 (instigated by the seizing of British subjects for human sacrifice) preceded the subjugation of the Khasi states by some twenty or more years. By 1860, the British had annexed all of the Jaintia Hills region and imposed taxes on it as a part of British India. The Khasi states had limited cultural relations before the arrival of the British, characterized in large part by internal warfare Between villages and states and raiding and trading in the Sylhet and Brahmaputra valleys. The incorporation of the markets at Sylhet into the British colonial economy in 1765 marked the beginning of Khasi subjugation. Khasi raids in the 1790s led to the rise of British fortifications in the foothills and an eventual embargo on Khasi-produced goods in Sylhet markets. In 1837 the construction of a road through Nongkhaw State linking Calcutta to the Brahmaputra Valley led to the eventual cessation of Khasi-British hostilities, and by 1862 treaties between the British and all of the Khasi states (allowing Khasi autonomy and freedom from British taxation) were signed. A significant amount of cultural change (e.g., an increase in wealth, Decline of traditional culture, rise in educational standards, and frequent intermarriage) occurred after the British made Shillong the capital of Assam. In 1947 there was constituted an autonomous tribal area responsible to Assam's governor as an agent of the president of India. However, the native state system with its various functionaries remains intact, and Khasis now have their own state, Meghalaya, in which they predominate.


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