Upholding Khasi identity

By Sweetymon Rynjah

Seng Kut Snem in relation to Seng Khasi means the yearly return of the date of establishment of The Seng Khasi organisation, which is due on November 23 of each year. This organisation aimed to gather together those Khasis professing the original Khasi faith and who adhere to the traditional custom of matriliny; on the concept of knowing the agnates and cognates with sanctified patriliny trait as understood in Khasi philosophical thought.
The wording Seng Kut Snem does not in any way convey the meaning of the beginning of the year for the Khasis. As per records available, there were about 16 predecessors, male elders whose statesmanship and farsightedness — which was indeed very valuable, praise-worthy and unique — were able to formulate their thought and ponder into action.
Seng Khasi was formed in 1899 by Rash Mohon Roy Nongrum, Chandra Nath Roy Sawian, Nalak Sing ‘Iangblah’, Said Sing Dkhar, Joshon Tariang, Rubi Sing Swer, Burton Singh Hynniewta, Roberts Dkhar, Kupardon Dkhar, Nadon Roy Diengdoh, Mohon Roy Rynjah, Rutonmuni Roy War, Raibon Sing, Indromuni Roy Jyrwa, Rajinshon Marbaniang and Ram Charan Dympep.
The organisation in its humble beginning started to consolidate, educate and enlighten the Khasis. They imparted oral teachings, wrote books etc about the original faith and belief, the traditional custom, behaviour, etiquette and the Khasi culture, as handed down by the ancient Khasis predecessors.
With this aim in view, and in order to preserve the way of life as a Khasi, the organisation was founded, it has how flourished to the position and status as it is at present. The founders also energised the feeling of the people for the love and affection of the Khasi way of songs, dance and archery as the traditional amusements. This was because the coming of the English with their expansionist policy and the eventful war at the Khadsawphra (Nongkhlaw syiemship) was but a step to further advancement and intrusion of not only the natural wealth of the Khasi land but to the rich cultural heritage of the people. They left no stone unturned with their mischievous endeavours by way of trading and usurping the simplicity of the people to achieve in their policy of divide and rule.
It was indeed very surprising to think how these Seng Khasi founders were able to depict and frame the Constitution of the organisation. It was also very strange how they have been able to steer clear of the entanglements and encounters that might have been tainted with bloodshed and enmity with those Khasis who had been traded and mentally subjugated.
This is due perhaps to the human values inherent with them in the concept of Khasi religion being the religion of the family and the womb. With this philosophical thought, the very spirit of toleration and secularism has been engraved upon Khasis long before the consciousness of which influences other people in the world.
It is indeed a real pride for all Khasis in particular and to the world in general to proclaim that here in our land the light of peace and spirit of understanding had been uppermost than all the religious constitutions of the civilised worlds.
What had affected most in the mind of those elders might have been fear, less the Khasis would be swallowed up and effaced from the surface of this land because of the impact of imitation of the western ways of life and the foreign civilisation. They are indeed, the true patriots of their land and their people to stamp upon this organisation, an emblem of the originality, for which the modern world is struggling hard to achieve even at the international level.
The founder-members toiled and sweated in devising a way and mean to presence the Khasi faith, the traditional custom, dance, the archery of the Khasis through the Seng Khasi for unique Khasi identity.
With this aim and determination and the objectives in mind they laid upon the foundation of the Seng Khasi organisation with the following principles which have been embedded in the Seng Khasi Constitution spelt out as under:
It is an organisation of the Khasi agnates and cognates who adhere to the tenets of matriliny as handed down by the predecessors from time immemorial.
The second principle — in humanity, to earn only righteousness — a tribute to the Creator. This principle was based on the teaching of the original Khasi faith as laid down and handed over by the ancient Khasis. A Khasi understood that he came into this Khasi world with the divine commandment of the Almighty and he is bound by the tenet to regulate his life with the knowledge of the Creator. This tenet is a link between man and his Creator by a chain of righteousness conduct in life for there-after. Man has a right to live in correlation with his duties to be raised for pleasing not only himself, his fellowmen, but also to the Almighty God.
The other principle on which Seng Khasi stands forth is to increase the knowledge of Tipkur-Tipkha, that is knowing one’s agnates and cognates as contended in Khasi thought.
Lastly, the Seng Khasi also stands forth for the faith and belief in one Almighty God, the Lord, the Master and the omniscient.
On the above principles, Seng Khasi has been regulating itself up to these days. Thanks to the independence of our motherland of which our organisation has been able to spread its principles far and wide to the people in our land without fear or favour. The principles on which Seng Khasi has been founded not only educate those who profess the original faith but also contributed and canopied the unique trait of the Khasi people as a whole in traditional customs, cultural heritage — a legacy to all Khasis of which one and all should be proud of.
It is indeed the mysterious way of the Almighty God and His protection and care that the mischievous intrusion has been able to erode the way of faith and belief only but had not swept away the unique trait, the character and the innermost feeling as a Khasi. With the march of time and the consciousness brought forth by education, the rationality side and the power to reason will further strengthen the mind of the Khasi people. Even now, the people have realised their stray mind, thoughts and deeds which will foster and enhance the unity and integrity amongst the Khasis.
The 16 founder members of this organisation have also timed well for the said date of November 23. This is the time of the year in our land when nature is bedecked with the golden colour of ripen paddy fields and the orchards painted with many light and shades of golden oranges, lemons and guavas. It seems that nature herself awaits the gift to be given to man not only for his physical needs but the spiritual gift of a well autumn-ripen thoughts to be put into operation as a divine mark of preserving the identity of the Khasis in its unique quality meant only for them.
It would be meaningless to speak about the birth and the circumstances leading to the establishment of the organisation without enumerating the milestones achieved in the strife for enhancing human values, preserving the Khasi culture and tradition and its enviable customs as well as Khasi behaviour and etiquette. It will be worthwhile to mention the contribution derived from the many speeches and lectures given in the Seng Kut Snem of previous years by one wise man — Late Rash Mohon Roy Nongrum.
In the Seng Kut Snem of 1907, Nongrum spoke as an admonition to one and all as to the evil effect of consuming intoxicating liquor which led to addiction.
In 1911, this same person encouraged one and all that through Seng Khasi only, we will be able to show the love and affection for our land and all should strive for to promote the good behaviour and Khasi etiquette as inherited from our fore-fathers.
In 1915, he encouraged one and all to strictly adhere to the righteous conduct and application less we fall into destructive taint. In 1933, he propagated that Seng Khasi is an organisation that strictly adheres to the tenet of ka khein kur khein kha, the lineage from the mother to the great great ancestress — a righteousness which stood forth from the beginning of time immemorial, when humanity came into this world.
Nongrum further clarified that as a Khasi, we are free, pure and wholesome. We are also originally free and pure in moulding our social customs by not having the evil trait of class distinction, differentiation in terms of the rich and poor. There is no disparity in the Khasi society. We are liberty in movement and in all walks of life.
The old newspaper U Nongphira of April 1911, published a report heralded that the Seng Khasi had been able to hold the Thanksgiving dance christened as Shad Suk Mynsiem as a tribute to the Almighty.
Hence, through this esteemed organisation, the original faith, the traditional customs and the rich cultural heritage of the Khasis have been preserved, enriched and extended. Therefore, the birth of Seng Khasi is and will always be an eternal milestone in the annals of the Khasi Land.
Likewise, the unique trait and the civilised outlook of those benevolent founder members will stand forth as the real pride above all prejudices.
It is also worth mentioning the poem written by one Khasi elder U Dolip Singh Diengdoh and which was publication in the November 1931 edition of U Nongpynim:
Khasi first born – oh Seng Khasi/As well conceived you came to be/Keep watch oneness and unity/The greatness need of the Khasis.

(The author is a senior member of Seng Khasi)

Photos by Seng Khasi

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