The main tribes in Meghalaya are the Jaintias, the Khasis and the Garos. One of the unique features of the State is that a majority of the tribal population in Meghalaya follows a matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. The Khasi and Jaintia tribesmen follow the traditional matrilineal norm, wherein the “Kha Khadduh” (or the youngest daughter) inherits all the property and acts as the caretaker of aged parents and any unmarried siblings. However, the male line, particularly the mother’s brother, may indirectly control the ancestral property since he may be involved in important decisions relating to property including its sale and disposal. In the Garo lineage system, the youngest daughter inherits the family property by default; unless another daughter is so named by the parents. She then becomes designated as ‘nokna’ meaning ‘for the house or home’.In case there are no daughters, then a chosen daughter-in -law (bohari) or an adopted child (deragata)comes to stay in the house as well as inherits the property. The tribal people of Meghalaya are therefore a part of what may be the world’s largest surviving matrilineal culture. According to India’s National Family Health Survey, Meghalaya is the state where parents have shown the least interest to have a male child—73% less than the national average.
According to legend, from the 13th century, a Shivalinga (called “Hatakeswarat”) has existed in the Jaintia Hills under the reign of Ranee Singa. Several members of the Jaintia tribe even participate in the Hindu festival of Shivratri (Night of Lord Shiva).
The ancient Meghalayans mixed their spiritual beliefs of Animism and ancestor-worship with Hinduism. In caves, the images of Shiva and Durga are visible.