Khasi: Largest Matrilineal Culture

Khasi People’; Largest Surviving Matrilineal Culture In
The World

In a world seemingly dominated by patrilineal societies, the existence,
endurance, and vibrancy of matrilineal communities stand out as
captivating and thought-provoking. Despite the contemporary intrigue they
evoke, matrilineal societies have quietly persisted across generations on
our planet.

These societies haven’t just managed to survive; they have thrived. In ages
past, they once flourished across the global landscape, spanning from the
far east to the western reaches. However, over time, many of these
societies underwent conversion or were gradually assimilated into
patrilineal structures. In the present day, fewer than 500 such communities
endure. Notable examples include the Mosuo of China, the Picti of
Scotland, the Basques of Spain and France, the Ainu of Japan, as well as
African groups like the Akwamu and Fante of Ghana. In India, the
matrilineal tradition persists among the Khasi, Pnar/Jaintia, and Garo in the
hilly terrains of Meghalaya, as well as the traditional Nayar community in

Amidst India’s rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and enigmas, the
northeastern region stands as a reservoir of mysteries. In this context,
Meghalaya claims prominence as the home of India’s most substantial
surviving matrilineal society. Nestled within the districts of Khasi and Jaintia
Hills, the Khasi, Pnar/Jaintia, and Garo communities thrive. The term
“Khasi” itself signifies being born of the mother, whereas “Kha” means
“born” and “si” alludes to the “ancient mother.”

Conventional wisdom traces the origins of the Khasi people to a migration
from the Cambodian region and the expansive plains of the Mekong River.
According to Hamlet Bareh, the Khasi belong to one of the earliest ethnic
groups to journey to the northeastern expanse of India. They ventured
along the traditional migration path from Southeast Asia to the fertile valley of the Brahmaputra.

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