The Khasi-Jaintia people through history have faced several turbulent periods, including the Mughal invasion, the invasion of the Koch Kingdom -- not David and Charles!, but the rulers who left the name "Cooch Bihar" in Bengal.
Their conflict with the British began when a king of the Khasis resisted the British effort to exert control over the area in 1829, and thus began the Khasi-Anglo War, which lasted until 1833, with the British succeeding in their control until Indian Independence. There were Khasi heroes of the Indian Independence Movement as well.
The Seng Khasi Association was founded on November 23, 1899 to preserve and foster the traditional religion of the Khasis in the face of British colonial forces and Christian missionizing influences. (The day is a day of celebration every year since.)
The first ever formal Khasi-Jaintia school was started by the Khasis themselves in 1823, imparting instruction in Sanskrit and Bengali (Khasi as yet was not written). The first high school was started by a Khasi gentleman in 1880. But other forces were at work -- some deliberately and some quite unconsciously -- to weaken Khasi culture. The British banned all celebrations in which weapons were used, and that included the traditional Khasi spring celebration. This was one of the early specific causes taken up by the new Seng Khasi Association. By 1910 they had given a new form and a new location to the celebration, and have been able to celebrate it ever since.
In time some of the more liberal Christian elements -- especially among some Catholic priests -- came to appreciate the Khasi ethical culture, and even wrote sympathetic books on the subject. However, the streams of influence from the modern world, the media, and the less liberal elements of Christianity have had a growing effect.
The basic principles of the Khasi religion, which they see as non-distinct from their culture, are as follows:
Tip briew Tip blei -- "self-realization and God-consciousness"
Tipkur Tipkha -- "to know the matrilineal and patrilineal lineage"
Kamai ia Ka Hok -- "to earn righteousness"
The flag of the Seng Khasi is a cyan rooster on a white circle, against a red background. It comes from one of their ancient myths. The sun to them is female, and so one day She was offended by humanity's growing immorality -- Ka siar ka lait kylla or "extreme indulgence against self consciousness" -- and hid Herself in the depths of darkness. This was a desperate situation for the world, so the leaders tried at first to send as their emissaries the great and impressive figures like the elephant and tiger, but the Sun drove them away. Finally they had no one but the rooster, whom they cajoled out of his cave. They dressed him in the finest feathers and headdress and sent him to the Sun. The rooster bowed his head all the way to the Sun (the natural bobbing of the rooster as he walks); and because he is straight forward, he just told the Sun the situation. She was impressed with his humility, his straightforward account, and his magnificent appearance, and came back to illumine the world. (The white circle in the flag is the world.) The rooster is to remind the Khasi (and us) to live with truth, honor, and dignity, and to earn righteousness through every thought, word, and deed. evening garments of the formal style
Finally, for today, I mentioned the two "right hands" of the ashram here: Babu Master as he is called, and Gitavali. Both are Seng Khasi, and both are lifelong devotees of the Ramakrishna Mission. Both are initiated by Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj, like me. One of Babu Master's sons and daughter-in-law run our school and hostels in the village of Sohbar, which I've visited several times. Another son teaches in one of our schools. Babu Master himself is here every day, all day, and is perhaps in his 60s. Gitavali is also here everyday, and comes to arati every evening. She's the head of our primary school at Maraikaphon, a neighborhood here in Sohra itself -- we have several little feeder schools here, plus our larger primary school on campus. Actually, they are not just primary schools but pre-nursery, nursery, kindergarten, and classes 1-4.
Gita's father wrote a number of the lovely Khasi songs that the kids in our hostels sing. Others were written by Swami Chandikanandaji whom I knew well from my first trip to India in 1971; he was a disciple of Holy Mother, and lived the last years of his life in Belur Math. Though Bengali, he spoke Khasi and wrote beautiful and very lively songs in the language. So between his songs and those of Gita's father, plus a few other contributions, we have wonderful Khasi music for our kids. I tried to record two of the songs on my phone tonight, but it came out absolutely horrible -- not the singing, which was very spirited as always, but the recording, so I can't upload it.
Now to photos, and I'll close for tonight.