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Unraveling ruminations : "The Matrilineal Society of Meghalaya"

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The Matrilineal Society of Meghalaya: Where Gender Equality is Not an Utopia

Last September, I had the opportunity of visiting one of the most beautiful sisters of the Seven Sisters of India with my husband for a five day tour. It might sound surprising but this was my first visit to the mountains in the true sense of the term and Shillong, popularly known as the Scotland of the East for its lush meadows, was just perfect.

I was mesmerized by the breathtaking scenic beauty of the place but alongside, something interesting caught my attention, being an observer that I am. I found young group of girls going to schools and colleges by walking down the rather desolate hilly roads without being accompanied by men. I saw girls dressed in shorts and skirts and considerably decked up with makeup driving down alone with windows open even when it was dark outside. And this place was far from being a metropolitan city. In Mawlynnong, a small village but the cleanest one in the whole of Asia, I found women managing the small stores visited by the tourists or often handling the cash section of the larger stores single-handedly. I was surprised and impressed and with a little probe, realized that the Khasis, the main inhabitant of Meghalaya, live in a matrilineal society. A society in which men accompany women to her homes to start a new life together, a society in which people celebrate when a baby girl is born, a society in which the youngest daughter of the family inherits the family property and is considered the custodian and preserver of her clan, family and lineage.

When states like Uttar Pradesh are busy shunning the girl child by committing female feticide and bride burning, demanding dowry or in short persecuting the weaker sex, Meghalaya is the only state that is holding a flame, a beacon of hope by putting the weaker sex on a strong pedestal of society. This is the state where woman power is at its peak.Speaking of the Khasis, it is difficult to state an exact date of the settlement of this tribe in the Khasi hills but it is believed that they migrated into the present home from the plains either from the Brahmaputra Valley or Kamakhya during the tenth and thirteenth century AD.


The power of the womenfolk does not imply the subjugation of the male like it happens in the so called patriarchal society. While the woman is the mistress of the household and the custodian of the family’s wealth, it is the father who is the primary guide, master and provider of the family. In fact, the division of the family responsibility follows a virtual three-fold structure where the mother looks after the hearth and home, the father provides all that is necessary for the maintenance of his wife and children and the uncle attends to the business affairs that come before the family. Very interestingly, a man does not forego membership in his own clan after marriage. His position in his wife's house is that of 'being in it, but not of it'.

If gender equality is a utopia, the Khasis of Meghalaya can indeed boast of having created a utopian society where men and women are equal and where the thin line of patriarchy and matriarchy fades to make place for a desirable society.



About the Column : Through my column, I will explore the various issues, stereotypes and prejudices that plague women and everyone around them. The observations, write-ups and stories in this column will serve the purpose of making women believe in themselves and breakthorugh the barriers. Unraveling Ruminations is about weaving together relationships, beliefs and everything else in an indomitable pillar called Life.

About the Author : "Currently playing the role of a technical writer in a corporate organization in Kolkata, I am a humanist, observer and a strong believer in gender equality and women empowerment. Writing is my passion and I love writing on anything that comes spontaneously to me. A very family oriented person by nature, I am a proud daughter, wife and daughter-in law to the most amazing people on earth"


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a nice takes you on

a nice takes you on a happy journey..keep observing..keep writing..

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