on Festivities and Amusements

The greatest festivities of the people are funeral; either at the burning of the dead, or when a Khasia collects the ashes of his family, and erects a monument in their honor. On great occasions of this kind they hold a public dance for several successive days. The numerous performers are recompensed by an ample feast of pork and whisky. The dance is performed either with fans or swords. In the former, the men dance round and round in circle in the market place, or other open space, somewhat monotonously, attitudinizing and brandishing fans or swords. They are all clad in the most brilliant finery that they possess, or can hire; richly embroidered outer shirts of broadcloth, silken turbans and dhotis, large bangles, heavy silver chains, and gold necklaces with plumes of down or peacock’s feathers, and ornamental quivers. In the centre are the village maidens, they form in twos and threes, and set to one another with a comical pas of exceeding simplicity, which seems to be performed by raising the heels, and twisting from side to side, on the fore part of both feet, which never leave the ground. Their eyes are demurely cast to the earth, or on their own finery, and never raised for a moment. They too are loaded with silver chains, tassels, and armlets and all wear on the head a peculiar circlet of silver, having a tall spear head ornament rising behind. They are swaddled in a long petticoat as tight as the clothing of a mummy, with an upper garment like a handkerchief passing tight under the right arm, and tied in a knot on the left shoulder. Waist they exhibit none, the figure being perfect parallelogram. In the sword dance, the men accompanied by music and musquetry, dance and bound, clashing sword and shield, and uttering in chorus a chaunt, at first seemingly distant and sepulchral, but gradually becoming louder and louder, till it bursts into a tremendous unearthly howl; then sinking to a doleful chaunt, again and again rising to wake the echoes. The sword, a strange weapon, is composed of one piece of the coarsest iron, about four feet long, of which one third is handle, the rest blade. The latter has its edge slightly convex, handle has two guards, and is grasped at the lower, the hilt passing between the two middle fingers. Yet with this uncouth weapon, so uncouthly held, I have seen a goat in sacrifice cleanly beheaded at a blow.

The village children have a curious gymnastic amusement. The trunk of a young tree, by a cut in the centre is fixed on a pivot at the top of a post about four feet high. Two urchins seizing opposite ends of the pole, run round in the same direction till they have got a proper impetus, and then whirl rapidly, in turn leaping and descending in a very light and graceful manner. The children also spin a regular pegtop, and it is indigenous, and not an importation. Another of their recreations is an old acquaintance also, which we are surprised to meet with in the Far East. A very tall thick bamboo is planted in the ground and well oiled. A silver ornament, or a few rupees, placed at the top reward the successful climber.
But their favourite amusement in the cold weather is archery. In the trial of skill each village has from time immemorial its established competitor, and with this alone is the contest carried on. The Toxophilite meeting is held at each village on alternate market days. The target is held at each village on alternate market days. The target is pitched at about sixty yards. It is made of an oblong piece of bark, about three feet and a half high by one broad. Four or five persons generally shoot at once, they draw the arrow to the ear, and the attitudes are often striking, though to say the truth, they are no Robin Hoods. The bow, the bowstring, the arrow, and the quiver are all made from various species of the all-useful bamboo. When all have shot, the arrows in the target are taken out, and the villagers crowd round the umpire as he distributes them. As each arrow is recognized, the party to which its owner belongs dance and leap about, fencing with their bows, spinning them high in air, and shouting together in a wild cadence. The villager whose arrows are in a minority pays a trifling forfeit of a few cowries

Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort

Village Laitkynsew, Sohra, Cherrapunjee 793108, Meghalaya, India