Thursday, July 7, 2022

The People

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Most of the houses are constructed in accordance with the people's tastes. There is a great variation which ranges from the old Khasi type to the modern types found in Shillong and other important towns of the state.

Each dwelling structure has a compound and in some cases cattle sheds are occupied by each household irrespective of the number of members and income. The old type of houses are oval shaped. The foundation as well as the roof are oval shaped. These buildings are usually raised on the plinths. The house is usually divided into three rooms. A porch, a centre room and a sleeping room. The floor of the centre room and sleeping room are covered with planks. The floor of these rooms are much higher than that of the porch. The walls of such buildings in this area are generally made of wooden planks. The roofs are covered with thatch. 

In such houses, there is only one door in front and a window or a small opening on one side.  The fireplace made of earth and stones is always in the middle of the centre floor.  Now-a-days, most of the houses are much improved except those in very interior part of Khasi and Jaintia hills.  Thatch and wooden planks are replaced by flattened kerosene oil tins, plain sheets, and conjugated iron sheets (plate numbers).

In the old Khasi types, the porch is used as the store room in which the inmates keep their agricultural tools and implements and firewood.  The centre room serves as the kitchen as well as the sitting room.  Two sides of the building are usually separated from the centre to serve as sleeping compartments while part of the remaining sides is used as the washing place where water containers are kept and the remaining wall in this side is converted into a shelf for hanging the utensils.  The hearth of the room in these houses is in the middle of the room.  It is an open one with no arrangement for the smoke to leave the room.  Above the hearth is a swinging frame where articles are put to be dried up such as firewood, crops, dry fish and cane or bamboo articles.  The improved Assam type of houses are usually divided into two or more rooms.  One is used as a kitchen and others are used as sleeping compartments.

The centre room is furnished with short wooden stools and higher cane or bamboo stools (Mula).  The sleeping compartments are always provided with wooden bed steeds and boxes where clothes are kept. In the modern type, the arrangement of the kitchen is more or less like that of the centre room of the old Khasi type houses.  In some of these type of houses, a separate room is attached where water container are kept and washing is performed.  The other rooms are furnished with bed stead's, boxes both steel and wooden  almirahs.  Benches, stools, tables, and chairs are properly arranged side by side.  The Khasis prefer to entertain their friends in their kitchen, even in cases where a separate sitting room is provided.  In this case, the sitting room is meant only for strangers.

Each house is attached with a compound.  Generally, houses are in front of the compound.  The chicken-shed and the pig-sty are always at the back of the building. The sty consists of a small shed and open space and fenced by strong wooden poles or planks.  The cow-shed is also behind the building at the far end of the compound. The remaining part of the compound is used as the kitchen garden where fruit trees, maize and other vegetables are grown.  When people realized that the old Khasi type of houses are uncomfortable and unhygienic, they replaced the old building by modern type, which consists of more windows and doors.