Culture of India

Meghalaya’s Matrilineality

A tribal council’s decision not to grant a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate to any Khasi person who takes her or his father’s surname has sparked a verbal brawl in matrilineal Meghalaya.

Meghalaya Matrilineal Society

  • Matrilineal descent is practised by several tribes in Meghalaya, northeast India.
  • The main tribes addressed in the essay are the Khasi and Garo.
  • The Khasi are referred to as “Ki Hynniew Trep” (The Seven Huts), while the Garo are referred to as Achik.
  • These tribes are proud of their matrilineal tradition, although there are fears about their decline.


  • The Khasi people are an ancient tribe with the world’s largest surviving matrilineal society.
  • Khasis, along with other subgroups like as the Garo, live in Meghalaya as well as territories bordering Assam and Bangladesh.
  • The Khasi people have a matrilineal tradition that is unique in India.
  • The Khasi tribe’s mythology, folklore, and origin stories emphasise matrilineal principles.
  • The reference to “Nari Rajya” in the epic Mahabharata is most likely related to the matrilineal culture of Meghalaya’s Khasi and Jaintia Hills.

Rights, Functions, and Responsibilities

  • Women are dominant in Meghalaya’s matrilineal society.
  • Ka Khadduh, the youngest daughter, receives ancestral property.
  • After marriage, husbands reside with their mother-in-law.
  • Children are given the surname of their mother.
  • If a couple does not have any daughters, they can adopt one and give her property rights.
  • The birth of a girl is honoured, and there is no societal shame attached to women remarrying or having children outside of marriage.
  • Women have the right to marry outside of their tribe.
  • Independent, well-dressed unmarried women prefer not to marry because they value security.
  • Women run a large number of small enterprises.

Practises of the Garo and Khasi are compared

  • In 1994, Bina Agarwal contrasted Garo and Khasi practises. (Aspirants with Sociology optional will undoubtedly recall the sociologist’s name.)
  • Garo also practises matrilocal post-marital living and matrilineal inheritance.
  • Both tribes tolerate premarital sex by women, although female adultery is penalised.
  • The Khasi use duolocal post-marital housing, in which the husband stays apart from the wife’s parents.
  • Cross-cousin marriage is frowned upon by the Khasi.

Men’s Roles and Political Representation

  • Children are cared for by their moms or mothers-in-law.
  • Khasi men see themselves as having a lower position and have created groups to preserve men’s rights.
  • Women have little representation in politics, the legislative assembly, village councils, and panchayats.
  • Women believe they handle money better and have more economic flexibility.

Matrilineal rather than matriarchal

  • Society is matrilineal, but not matriarchal. In previous monarchy of the realm, the throne was inherited by the son of the king’s youngest sister.
  • Even now, women have little representation in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, village councils, or panchayats.

Problems with the system

  • Some Khasi men consider themselves to be second-class citizens.
  • They have founded organisations to safeguard men’s equal rights.
  • They declare that Khasi males lack stability, do not own land, do not control the family business, and are almost worthless.
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