Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Daloiship and the Traditional Institution in Jaintia Hills

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By HH Mohrmen

What are the traditional institutions and how are they established in the Jaintia hills? Why does the traditional institution of Daloiship prevail only in the Jaintia hills and not in the Khasi and Ri Bhoi regions of the state? Is the office of the Daloiship part of the traditional institutions? In this article, we are basically dealing with the Raid, the Elaka, and the office of the Daloi.
The ïawbei and the Raid Story intertwine
The story of any village or town in the Jaintia hills always starts with the story of the first clan that came to settle in the area. The first settlers could be just one clan led by one or many ïawbei/Seiñ jeit or there could be many ïawbei/Seiñ jeit who came to live in the place for the first time.
All traditional villages or even those which have developed into towns would have these stories of their first settlers and then how the place was later on populated. The stories of these first clan(s) are also followed by the story of how the traditional institutions in the villages were instituted. The first clan then subsequently the other clans followed and as the population of the villages grew, they started organizing themselves into a Raid. The Raid could be a single village or a conglomerate of villages. The size of the Raid varies from one Raid to another; Raid Jowai, Raid Chyrmang, and Raid Ialong are a few examples.
Different Traditional Institutions under the Raid
The question that follows is what are the different institutions under the Raid? The Raids were instituted in such a way that it is headed by the male Lyngdoh, and the female Lyngdoh also has a role to play, particularly in the religious ceremonies. It is here that the importance of the first clan is emphasized, as the Lyngdoh clan should always be from the clans of the first settlers. This also answers the question that confused many who believe that “Lyngdoh/Langdoh/Lyndoh” is a clan name. It is not; it is the position in the traditional institutions. In fact, if we try to translate it, it loosely translates to “Priest/Priestly,” and in one Raid, it could be one clan, while in another Raid, it could be another which can occupy the office. Many clans are entitled to the office of the Lyngdoh in one Raid, but they are always from the same clan or they should be related.
Role and Responsibility of the Lyngdoh
In fact, not only the position of Lyngdoh, but almost all the important traditional offices are allotted to the first clan. Traditionally, the most important office in the Raid is the office of the Lyngdoh/Langdoh/Lyndoh. He is not only the chief priest who officiates in all the public ceremonies of the traditional religion, but he is also the custodian of the religion and culture of the area. Religious ceremonies in the family/clan are performed by the maternal uncle. In most of the Raid, there is also a Priestess, and they should both belong to the same clan that is the first clan.
The offices which are of less significance were allotted to the clan which came to settle in the village later. This is how the Raids were instituted at least in the Jaintia hills region. Therefore, to understand the Raid, one also needs to understand the first clans that came to settle in the area.
Oral Tradition
Before we proceed any further, it is necessary to mention that there is a difference between oral narrative and oral tradition. The oral traditions are not just narratives, but there are traditions that are connected with the story. In the Jowai Raid, one will not be able to understand the function of the Raid and the other aspects of culture that connect with it unless one understands the story of ka Bon, ka Wet, ka Teñ, and ka Doh who are believed to be half-human and half-divine (chiteñ I bru chiteñ I blai). They are the first people who came to live in the area and as per tradition, they are the only clan which can assume all the traditional offices in the Raid. They can contest the election of the Daloi and can be appointed by the Raid for even the lowest post in the Raid as per tradition. As we can see, the story of the first clan is closely intertwined with the tradition in the Raid.
Understanding the Raid
Most of the time, Raids comprise one or two villages at the most, and they are differentiated by the ‘Ryngkew ki Basa’, the nature gods that dwell in and around the region. Each Raid has its own Ryngkew Basa and also their guardian angels which clearly demarcate the boundaries of the village or the raid. The Ryngkew Basa are not boundaries as such, but they are guardian angels who protect the villages. In Jowai, there are the Soo duar soo luti or the four passages or the corridors, and in Nongtalang, there are the Phlong gateways (khyrdop) shloh shngai Eastern and the Phlong Sepshngai (western). The concept of Ryngkaw Para. The Sohkha and Nongtalang episode.
The different traditional institutions in the Raid
The head of the Raid is the Lyngdoh/Langdoh, and the other traditional institutions are the Pator, the Sangot, ki Wasan, ki Chutia, ki Dhulia, and others. Each Raid has a specific number of institutions; some have fourteen, yet some have fifteen depending on the Raid. All the traditional offices have their respective roles to play either in the function of the Raid or the community festivals.
There are also cases when the Raid ran short of clans to hold certain traditional offices, but the offices needed to be in operation, so they needed another clan to be appointed in the office. In such cases, they would request a clan from another Raid to come settle in the raid and assume the office. My search for our roots led me to discover the truth of how we became part of Raid Pamchadong. The case of the Myrmen/Mohrmen
Daloi and Eleka
The Daloi is the head of the Dorbar Elaka, and in most Elakas, he is also the head of the traditional Niamtre religion. The Daloi, therefore, has a dual role to play; he is the head of the Eleka as well as the Chief Priest of the Traditional religion.
But the question is what is Elaka? Elaka is obviously a foreign word borrowed from Hindi which means area. What exactly is Elaka? Elaka is an area which comprises a few villages and the size of the Elaka varies. Some Elaka comprise hundreds of villages and some comprise two or even one village.
Who can become the Daloi?
Daloiship is based on clan, and only members of certain clans are eligible to contest the Election. Only males can become a Daloi, and he has to be from the clan prescribed by tradition. The clans are different from one Elaka to another. In one Elaka, the clans which can contest the election are the Kynjin, the Pakynteiñ or any kur from Soo kpoh Khadar wyrnai clan and the Rymbai and Lato clan, but in another Elaka, the Lamin can contest the election to become Daloi. The prescribed clans can be two or many depending on the tradition in the Elaka. In most cases, it is the clans which first settled in the area that are entitled to contest, but if there are other clans prescribed by tradition to contest the office, then there must be some story to it, and the case in point is the story of Ka Piah Rah.
In some Elaka, the other criteria for a person to be able to contest the election are that the candidate has to be a person who still follows traditional religion in the Raid under the Eleka. The reason is that the Daloi performs a dual role to perform which includes the role of chief Priest of the Elaka too. But currently, there are Elakas where even a person who does not belong to the traditional religion can become the Daloi.
How is the Daloi Elected?
The Daloi is elected by only the male members of society. It is said that earlier it was done by counting of heads, but now that the JHADC conducts the election. The Daloi is elected by voting and they use paper ballots. The JHADC now uses the Election Office’s electoral roll to conduct the election of the Daloi by removing the female voters from the list.
The Daloi is elected for a lifetime as he remains in the office as long as he is alive. The Daloi does not receive any remuneration, but he is compensated for his services by accessing the Rek Daloi. Rek is a paddy field allotted as per tradition for the Daloi to use to compensate him for the time and services he provides to the people and the Elaka.
Now that the Daloi is the agent of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, he also gets remuneration as a fee for the recommendation of applications for land registration.

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