Meghalaya society is the only matrilineal society in the northeastern region of India. The other tribal states near by have patrilineal type of society. In the former type, women lead the society and has more status than the men whereas in the later one, it is completely the opposite scenario.
The people in Meghalaya have their forefathers as Mongoloids. It is this Mongloid community that has divided its society into two parts – patrilineal and matrilineal. The matrilineal society of Meghalaya consists of Garos, Khasis and Pnars. In these tribal communities, women have the freedom to work freely for themselves. Though they do not have a say in the community matters but they enjoy great respect in their respective families.
The society within Meghalaya also do not allow customs where bride has to pay the price for getting marriage which in other words is also referred to as dowry. Women are held high for they give birth to the new generation. But since they have to fulfill all their household duties, the men are responsible for regulating the family. Hence the men makes most of the decisions for the family though they might consult with the women in the household.
The society around Meghalaya has some special rules regarding inheritance of property. Among the Khasis, the maternal property always goes to the youngest daughter, while the rest of her sisters would be provided with some portions from it during their parents lifetime. While among the Garos, the children from birth belong to the mothers family.
Even the law of inheritance in the Meghalaya society describes the status of men and women. When a tribal chief is to retire or he dies, he is to be followed by the eldest son of his eldest sister. But if she does not have any son, then the chief is followed by the eldest son of his next sister. Hence it shows that women are held very high in family but in social activities it is the men who takes over everything.
Meghalaya people can be classified into three main groups i.e., Garos, Khasis, and Jaintias. The Garos inhabit in the western side of the Meghalaya, Khasis reside in the central region while Jaintias can be traced down in the eastern part of Meghalaya. The Khasi and Jaintia tribes have the traits of Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race whereas the Garos have come from Bodo family of the Tibeto-Burmar race.
The Khasis along with the Pnars form a group named Khasi-Pnar. The Khasis can be traced down in the Khasi hills whereas Pnars are mainly located in Jaintia hills. Collectively, Jaintia, War, Khasi and Bhoi people are known as Hynniewtrep.
Other than those mentioned above, there are many other tribes in Meghalaya. Two of them being the Bhoi and the War who reside generally in the southern and northern part of the central highland. Another tribe is Lyngams in the west of the Khasi and Jaintia hills.