Friday, June 14, 2024
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Khasi Matrilineal society is not Matriarchal

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Editor,
Using the expression of the two adjectives ‘matriarchal’ and ‘matrilineal’ from the Advance Oxford Dictionary we can clearly say that the Khasi society is a matrilineal society and not matriarchal. Many people never analyze this fact and they take for granted that these two different words have the same meaning and expression for the Khasi society. Therefore when the concept is not clear people fall prey to misinterpretation. The distinction is that matrilineal system refers to a relationship between mother and the children, which can be understood only as ‘matrilineal descent,’ while the term matriarchal means a society which is controlled by women rather than men. And the fact is that, from tradition, except the present generations in which people have become more inclusive, in Khasi society women are never included in any forum (durbar) related to governance. Of course, the reason is not to underestimate them but is a common practice of the society that follows from its own traditional belief.
In fact, from the traditional belief of the Khasi society, women are usually considered to be of one strength (kynthei shibor) and man of twelve strength (rang khatarbor), and because of this belief women are given more opportunity. Man is looked upon as a protector, earner and a loyal warrior. And also, traditionally, man is supposed to be a responsible father and a powerful uncle (kñi). Our ancestors were very wise; they did not make rules and customs for fun sake. They, in their judgment, understood the weakness of a woman and what her fate would be if she is left on her own with nothing. Therefore, a woman is given the right to inherit the property for proper security and also the right to entitle all her children to herself. Another reason, for having the clan’s descending order from a mother’s side is because she is the primary care taker of her child right from her womb with all the pain and suffering: Father sows the seed but the seed develops fully in the mother’s womb.
Another question may arise as to why only the youngest daughter (khatduh) has the sole right to inherit the family property. Here we must clearly understand the philosophy behind this. In the past Khasi families were not like the present with two or three children at home. Perhaps, the then existing society considered it to be a great blessing if procreation in the family is like reaping a fruitful harvest. The reason was that a big family cannot give equal share to all, especially those in abject poverty. Therefore the youngest daughter becomes the preference to inherit the family’s property for the reason that she is the youngest and weakest among all. Man has no legal right to inherit except when it is given by a family (of course not absolutely restricted to inherit) because he is considered to be a person with twelve strengths and manages to look after himself.
However, coming to the present situation it is very sad that some groups and individuals (among the Khasi) are not able to appreciate the beauty of the Khasi society which is unique in the whole world. They want to revolutionize this ancient existing tradition of the Khasi and also sometimes wrongly propagate facts; often with baseless illustration. From time immemorial the Khasi inheritance and the descending order of a clan (Kur) is drawn from the mother’s side and not from a father. And now all of a sudden some people want to make a paradigm shift, from matrilineal to patrilineal, by citing groundless illustrations to support their stances. It is very demeaning for Khasi men to buy the argument of some revolutionaries who claim that Khasi men are becoming irresponsible towards the family and the society because of the matrilineal system. They also claim that this society would become extinct if it does not shift to the patrilineal form of society. Really, such arguments are baseless and quixotic.
Yours etc.,
Peter A Dohkrut,
Shillong-17

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