Continuation from: https://highlandpost.com/democracy-of-khasi-dorbar-5/
The other major community festivals and ceremonies of Shillong province or Hima Shyllong are the ‘Nguh Lei Shyllong’ ceremony and the ‘Pomblang Hima’ ceremony. The ceremony of offering obeisance to the Shyllong deity or the ‘Nguh Lei Shillong’ is being performed at the altar at the summit of Shyllong peak after the sowing season and before the harvest season. The ceremony started with the sacred abode or ‘Ïingsad Lyngdoh’ of the high priestess or Lyngdohsad at Manarian near Pomlakrai village, which is handed over to her brother, the priest or Lyngdoh Raij Mylliem, who performs the rituals in the courtyard of the sacred abode at Mawnarian. Thereafter, the procession is held towards the Shyllong peak, with rituals being performed at certain stations related to preservation of water catchment areas, enhancement of soil properties for cultivation, prevention of impending danger from pestilence and other demonic interference and ultimately at the sacred grove atop the Shillong peak. The ceremony at Shillong peak is distributed among the other nobles of various clans with specific purposes. They include the Myntri of Nongkhlaw, Sohtun, Kharkongor and other clans assigned with respective duties, while the priest belongs to the Marbañiang clan. The rituals are performed at an altar facing towards the sacred grove and the elaborate ceremony is always followed by the folk dance festival.
The ‘Pomblang Hima’ is the largest ceremony and festival of Hima Shyllong performed at the sacred mansion or ‘Ïingsad’ under the aegis of the royal family and conducted by the folk musicians or ‘Duhalia’. It is the post-harvest festival hosted by the royal family and the main celebrants are the queen mother or ‘Syiemsad’ and her son or brother, the reigning chieftain or ‘Syiem Hima’. The queen mother supervised the domestic rituals in the hearth, while the chieftain oversaw the rituals at the main chamber and in the courtyard of the sacred mansion. It may be noted that the idea of a palace is not appropriate for the Khasi perception of the official home of the royal family, because it is considered the sacred place for every activity of the royal family for the well-being of the citizens. The ‘Ïingsad’ is the inclusive shelter home for the people of the province and never the exclusive castle for the regency. The rituals at the courtyard and at the altar of Shyllong deity are being performed by the priests’ clans or ‘Lyngdoh Raij Nongkrem’ and ‘Sohblei Rumnong’, while the other nobles of the Mylliemngap, Nongbri, Nongkynrih and a few other clans are designated with different roles during the ceremony, including the chieftain or ‘Syiem’. The elaborate preparation of a few months for the festival and ceremony are being participated by everybody from all over the territories with specific assignments. The elders of respective territories brought their agricultural and farming products as a contribution along with the goats for sacrificial purpose in the ceremony. The contribution of the citizens and the subjects from all over the territories is the homage bestowed upon the chieftain for the successful conduct of the ceremony, which is being observed with religious fervour and gaiety. Every ceremony is followed by the folk dance initiated by the princess and escorted by the nobles, which culminates with the enthusiastic participation of virgin maidens and young men from the different territories of the province.
In all the three major ceremonies, there is democratic conduct and behaviour by the entire public and dignitaries without any special treatment for anybody, although due respect is reciprocated with each other. The chieftain and the nobles are mere observers to the ceremony, when the main performers participate in their respective duties, and each one is in control of his action without any intervention or interference from any quarter. For instance, when the priest is engaged in communication with the spiritual beings, neither the chieftain nor the nobles would dare to interrupt; when the sign in the entrails of the fowl is observed by the priest, none of the nobles or chieftain would intervene, until the outcome is revealed; when the folk musicians are in devotion to the sacred rhythm of the ritual music, not a single soul would make any sound including the dignitaries. It is heartening to witness a pin drop silence during the performances at the main chamber of the royal sacred mansion, even when the crowd of adults and children are packed inside the room. The precise coordination of performers and the strict discipline of the spectators are of spectacular ethical atmosphere.
During the British imperial regime, there was constant social uncertainty and occasional political turmoil that ultimately led to the bifurcation of the Shillong province or Hima Shyllong into ‘Hima Khyrim’ and ‘Hima Mylliem’ at the behest of the colonial policy of divide and rule. Thereafter, the ‘Kñia Ïewduh’ and the ‘Nguh Lei Shyllong’ ceremony are under the guardianship of Hima Mylliem and the ‘Pomblang Hima’ is in the religious custody of Hima Khyrim. The turbulent period during the colonial occupation has brought about radical transformation of the socio-cultural and political scenario in the region. Contrary to the traditional customary practices, there have been tremendous changes in the course of time, particularly in the management of the market and the commercial transactions with strangers. The post colonial period witnessed drastic deviation from the ancient customs and tradition that are imperative of the aggressive intrusion of the shrewd merchants from across the borders into the areas earmarked for the wellbeing of the citizens. It all began with the discreet negotiation of prospective traders and merchants with certain devious elders in the traditional authority of the Dorbar Hima.
Generally, the human heart owes allegiance to the family, the clan and the community, but the minds of the few are hardly adverse to the probable potential of gathering ample amounts of wealth. The enormity of persuasion led to the culpability for breach of trust, which was difficult to resist the minor infringement in the customary laws. In the process, a little irresponsible violation by any respectable elderly person could deprive the legitimate rights of several ordinary citizens. It takes one tiny mistake to devastate the fate of the entire community and gradually becomes the normal procedure, especially when ignorance and negligence was either deliberate or inadvertent. Presently, the sanctity of the Ïewduh market is being contaminated with sacrilege, nepotism and fraud. There was a time when the sacred enclosure for the performance of ceremony was turned into a dumping yard for garbage, because encroachment for commercial activities was prohibited; and that is the mockery of the traditional institution. The high profile traders and business enterprises are being favoured for construction of huge commercial establishments, the illicit trade of prohibited stuff and immoral activities is being tolerated and protected through bribery of the enforcement personnel; while the genuine citizens with authentic local products and legitimate rights over the area became the street vendors and hawkers at the waysides of the imposing showrooms of affluent migrant or even a few immigrant merchants and traders.
In the Khasi concept, the mother earth is in possession of every creation of the natural forces of nature. Literally, the soil is the owner of the people and all the natural habitats that are earmarked separately, specifically and ideally for every animate and inanimate, mobile and immobile object, plants, creature and being, while coexistence is liable to prevail at the bosom of mother nature. Even the harmful or harmless spirits, benevolent patrons or parasites have their due share of living space on earth. The land is of the people and for the people to utilise its resources, but it does not belong to the people. It is blatantly misunderstood by every human being to claim ownership over any portion of land, because everything else actually belongs to the land, the mother earth. In Khasi culture, the land tenure system rests with the collective care of the people. In the past the community regulated the distribution of the land with the supervision entrusted to the elected leader to assess the necessity of sharing a certain portion of land to any beneficiary to be endorsed and justified by the collective decision and consensus of the entire community.
Therefore, the beneficiary utilises the land for the elementary purpose of livelihood and sustenance of the family. Every resource generated by the beneficiary is the collective property of the family or the clan, but the land is retained with the care and authority of the community. The maternal uncle within the family is the supervisor of every property and the mother or youngest sister is the custodian of the ancestral and household properties. However, the land is under the control of the clan council or Dorbar Kur composed of all the maternal uncles delegated by each and every family. As long as the land is utilised for basic livelihood, the beneficiary is entitled to continue the usage with the responsibility to sustain and enrich the soil, and it is a sacrilege to explore and exploit beyond its organic content. In this regard, for every purpose it requires consultation with the community for necessary intervention of the deities or ‘Ryngkew Basa’. Actually, it is not the belief system but a self regulated conscientiousness towards nature. However, the ancestors have imbibed a sense of reverence towards mother earth and mother nature, which the ordinary citizens observed as a religious belief system.