Traditional Costumes of the Khasis. (MEGHALAYA)



Handloom weaving with unique and traditional techniques has been an old age process of the Khasis .The traditional costume of the Khasis is known to be ‘i shongkun bad i Don burom” which translates to being grand/respectful and modest, however over the years with the coming of Christianity and globalisation, the lifestyle of the present generation has shifted the attention to extensive westernized form of clothing and apparel. 

The Khasis inhabit the eastern part of Meghalaya, in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Khasis residing in Jaintia hills are now better known as Jaintias. They are also called Pnars. The Khasis occupying the northern lowlands and foothills are generally called Bhois. Those who live in the southern tracts are termed Wars. Again among the Wars, those living in the Khasi Hills are called War-Khasis and those in the Jaintia Hills, War-Pnars or War-Jaintias. In the Jaintia Hills we have Khyrwangs, Labangs, Nangphylluts, Nangtungs in the north-eastern part and in the east.  In the Khasi Hills the Lyngngams live in the north-western part. But all of them claim to have descended from the ‘Ki HynniewTrep’ and are now known by the generic name of Khasi-Pnars or simply Khasis.  They have the same traditions, customs and usage with a little variation owing to geographical divisions. (P. L. Sanjeeva Reddy, ‎P.C. Shekar Reddy, 2007)

Khasi costume can be classified into two groups namely ancient and modern attire (P. R. T. Gurdon, 1907). The change in clothing mirrors the demands of time and predominant worldview of personal representation. Mainstream culture is one more significant impact which produces critical adjustment in dress. A significant amount of inspiration comes from western music and film that has grown to be extensively popular in Northeast India. Relocation and urbanization are other reasons which add to the modernisation in cultural ensembles. The Khasi ensemble is known to be rich and grand, decorated and adorned with heavy ornaments of gold and silver along with a symbolic silver crown.

Ceremonial Khasi dance costume.

Male ceremonial dress


  1. Jymphong

During big festivals, the Khasi males wear the sleeveless coat which is locally known as Jymphong or Putoi; a garment which looks similar to a western waistcoat, leaving the neck and arms exposed. It is decorated with yellow lines, floral motifs as well as the symbolic red cock motif with a v- shaped neck (opening) It is usually deep blue in colour, attached at the front using chinese frog fasteners and decorated with golden or silver tassels at the bottom end of the waistcoat. This coat is still seen being worn today during important ceremonies and festivals. 

  1. Boh Khaila /Jainboh 

The Khasi men wear the Jymphong paired with a red coloured dhoti called Jainboh from the waist downwards. The Dhoti is skillfully draped on the lower body, is made of silk and bordered with golden threads.  White jainboh is also worn while performing rituals.


  1. Jainteh Syngkai 

Jainteh Syngkai is a waistband which is tied on top of the Jymphong, knotted on the left side of the waist and then left projecting  downwards following the left leg below the knee. It is usually made of mulberry silk with motifs as seen on the Dhara as well as having tassels at one end.

  1. Jainspong 

The Jainspong is a  head-dress or turban especially designed for the Khasi men. The textile is known as Khor and is presently seen to be popularly worn during big occasions among Khasi women as well. The khor is usually yellow and red or maroon in colour. These are worn during dance festivals, wedding ceremonies and on other festive occasions. The textile was previously worn by kings, queens and others of noble families . A 'Thuia' or a plume which is about 18 inches long is attached to the turbans during important occasions.  


 Male Ornaments 

  1. Siar Shynrang : These small hoop shaped earrings are worn on both ears and are made of solid gold with a variety of designs.

  2. Shanryndang : Khasi men wear a 24k gold necklace around their neck or two rows of gold and red/ orange coral paila necklace.

  3. Kynjri tabah Shynrang : These ornaments are a bunch of silver chains purposely made for the male khasi dancer. It is draped across his body at the front and back with a big square piece of silver ornament attached at the front. The silver ornament is beautifully decorated with filigree/ lattice work and gemstones.

  4. Kynjri Syngkai : These silver chains are similar to the above mentioned but are worn around the waist.

  5. Ka Ryngkap : This is a beautifully designed silver quiver, consisting of three silver arrows worn on the left side back of the male dancer. The arrows signify blessings from God and blessings of the ancestors and clans .It is adorned with colourful feathers and at the end of which hangs a small bunch of horse's tail.

  6. U Kpieng paila : This necklace is a single row of gold and red/orange coral which is very popular among the Khasis. The beads are plain, round and large. The coral would usually be imported from Calcutta (now Kolkata). The real gold beads were made of solid gold but the mass produced pailas have spheres filled with lac and covered with gold sheets. The gold is prepared locally by Khasi as well as by goldsmiths from outside the region. Velvet pieces of fabric are inserted between the gold and coral beads.

  7. U Symphiah : The Khasi men have on their left hand a ceremonial wisp while performing traditional dances. It is  made of white 'Yak's hair although yaks are not locally present in Meghalaya. Old stories say that the tradition started as a result of an ancient trade route from Dhaka to Tibet that went through the Khasi hills. 

  8. Ka Waitlam : Ka Waitlam is a long sword made of iron. Today, it is used during the cultural dance and is usually held on the right hand indicating the duty he has for safeguarding the family.

Female ceremonial dress

Source: www.

  1. Jainpien/ Jympien shad : Jainpien/ Jympien is a single piece wraparound skirt  worn from the waist downwards upto the ankle and  is usually deep in colour. It is worn to maintain the modesty of the lower body.

  2. Ka Sopti-Kit /Sopti Mukmor. : This is a long sleeve velvet blouse usually made in deep colours. with a row of buttons on the front and white lace decoration around the tip of the neck. The colours of the blouse are usually red ,maroon, black, purple, green and violet.

  3. Sem Poh : This is a  Jainsem of any colour worn under the arms and over the right shoulder and attached with pins or brooches.

  4. Dhara shad / Nara : A Dhara shad / Nara is a yellow or saffron coloured mulberry silk cloth especially designed for the khasi woman. It has borders of geometric motifs on both sides as well as towards the bottom. These motifs are usually woven in red, maroon, green, white and black. A dhara also has yellow/ saffron tassels on the ends to set the woven textile in place. It is worn under the right side covering the Sempoh and fastened over the left shoulders with pins or brooches giving the body a cylindrical shape. Today, Dharas come in various colours and border patterns for contemporary wear.

Female Khasi Ornaments:

  1. Pansngiat (Ka Pansngiat Theisotti): A pansngiat is a crown in pure gold or silver with filigree work, adorning the head. It rests on the upper part of the hair bun which is intentionally styled to level the head of the dancer for placing the crown. At the back; behind the crown is a projection which stands some six inches above the crown. It is called “u tiew Lasubon", which is a silver ornament attached with a bunch of flowers in red, yellow and sometimes white. It is tied to the hair bun at the back of the head. This crown is worn by the young women at dances, such as the annual Nongkrem dance. The crown shows how women are held in high esteem in the society and are significant individuals within the family. 

  2. Saikhyllong: Long ropes or chains of silver with three silver bells attached to the ends and hanging from the crown down to the back. It is called "Saikhyllong '' and falls upto the waist of the female dancer

  3. Siar Kynthei : During big ceremonies, the females wear earrings on both sides of the ears. These earrings have a variety of designs. They wear ear drops made of solid 24k gold with enhanced support in chains of gold around each earlobe. 

  4. Wahdong – round earrings of pure gold with chains, the top most ends converging with the upper portions of the ear.

  5. U Shanryndang/Kenopad : This ornament grandly adorns the neck of the female dancer. It is made of pure gold and beautifully decorated with filigree/ lattice work and gemstones. The necklace is attached and locked at the back of the neck.

  6. Ki kpieng Paila: The female dancers are also decked with three rows of gold and red coral necklaces draped around the neck down to the chest as well as tightly around the neck. These necklaces are called Paila. Initially the red beads were made of genuine coral. Presently, they are made of Mawpleit which is a marble  stone which is then painted red. The paila is held together using Muga silk strings. The rows of necklaces are of different sizes and are usually arranged from smallest, going down to the biggest. 

  7. Kynjri tabah Kynthei: Along with the Pailas, A bunch of silver chains are also placed around the neck of a female dancer.

  8. Taj Rupa Ksangkti: Taj Rupa are silver armlets adoring both arms of the female dancer.

  9. Mahu Rupa : These are silver fore-armlets worn on both fore-arms of the female dancer.

  10. Rupa-Tylli ; silver, broad collar/ flat silver band which hangs down the neck at the front and is secured from behind. 

  11. Khadu syngkha : These are very thick and heavy wristlets/ bracelets of pure 24k gold worn on both wrists,  signifying a liberal, kindhearted and open-minded woman.

  12. Mahu armlet: It is vertically extended and circular in outline having a diameter of 1 and 3/4" Constituent material: Silver Description: The terminal ends of the circular ornament do not meet together. There is a gap approximately 1/2" between the two terminal ends. The ends are provided with elongated hook-like structures. One end is fitted to the middle. while in the other, where there are two such structures, they are fitted one in the upper and the other in the lower end leaving the central part vacant. The ornament is slightly constricted in the middle. But the upper and the lower free margins are more or less same in diameter. The upper surface is beautifully decorated with straight circular lines, ( in the middle of the constricted part) and minute dotted lines above and below the straight lines, Larger dotted circular lines are there along the upper and the lower margins. Leafy designs have been executed on the margin of the two free lateral ends. (Williamson Sangma Museum, Shillong).

  13. Kynjri ksiar : These are additional gold chains with gemstones which are worn around the neck.


Ceremonial Jaintia dance costume.

Jaintia Female costume:


  1. Jainpien/Ryndia Kyrwang : Jainpien/Ryndia Kyrwang is a vertically striped wraparound cloth either black and white or black and maroon in colour.

  2. Jainsem Muga : Muga silk cloth worn as jainsem attached on the shoulder and on the waist

  3. Sopti Mukmor : A velvet blouse which is predominantly seen in red.

  4. Dhara : Mulberry Silk textile worn attached on the shoulder and on the waist

  5. Thoh Saru :A Wrap around skirt worn during festive seasons. This is made of Eri silk.

Jaintia Female Ornaments:

  1. Kanopad : Golden Necklace

  2. Kpieng Ksiar/Kynjiri Ksiar : Golden Chain & Locket

  3. Khadu Ksiar : Golden Bangles

  4. Pansngiat : Crown worn by the lead.

  5. Khasu Ksiar : Golden Bracelet

  6. Tiaw Lasubon/Thuia : Flowers worn on the head.

Jaintia Male Costume:


  1. Jainboh: Maroon dhoti

  2. Tupia Jain: Black fabric Cap

  3. Soptipohlieh: White Shirt similar to western shirts

  4. Putoi: Waist Coat

  5. Ryndia: Undyed Eri silk shawl worn by men during occasions

  6. Jainspenglieh: Turbans are draped using hand woven silk shawls made of undyed Eri silk and are worn while performing rituals during festivals like the Behdeinkhlam festival. The same material is draped around the neck as a shawl during funerals and other occasions.

  7. Canvas Sawbthuh: Reddish Brown Canvas

Jaintia Male Ornaments:

  1. Kynjri Rupa : Silver

  2. Kpieng Paila : Red coral and Gold bead necklace


Traditional attire according to groups.


The women of this community can be distinguished from others by their dress, which is referred to as jainsem. It consists of two unstitched pieces of fabric, each draped below the armpit and attached at both the shoulders. Under it the women wear a blouse specifically tailored to their size paired with a petticoat skirt. The fabric of the petticoat depends upon the temperature. The tapmohkhlieh or jaintapmoh is worn on top of the jainsem, which are shawls of various coloured cheques covering the head as well. This is knotted at the front of the neck and hangs loose over the shoulders or at present, draped on top of the jainsem; according to one's taste.

Presently, the length of jainsem and jaintapmoh can also be worn shorter. Women can be seen wearing Jainsems below the knee or above the ankle. Traditionally, it was worn at or below the ankles. 

The women wear a Jainkyrshah at home which was originally meant to cover the head and the shoulders. It is now used as an apron worn when working around the house. It is made of a thick cotton cheque cloth. The jainkyrshah is a piece of checkered fabric draped under the  armpit and attached or knotted over the other shoulder. 


Pnar/ Jaintia

                                  Source:RwL designs

The Khasi and Jaintia male dress is a similar kind. Jaintia women can be differentiated from that of a khasi woman because her dress is somehow different. With them the jain khrywang  is worn in the place of the Khasi solid Jainpien. It is worn by them in the following manner:

The fabric is passed under one armpit and its two corners are knotted on the opposite shoulder. The Jain Kyrwang is then wrapped around and fastened at the waist, from which it hangs down, maintaining a cylindrical shape.  This is paired with a tailored blouse.



The traditional dress of the male war khasi consists of the sleeveless coat, (jymphong) a small piece of cloth wrapped around the waist and a cap or a turban. The women wear an inner wraparound (jainpien) , an unstitched piece of muga dhara draped over their shoulders and knotted at the front and a checkered mustard and maroon Eri silk shawl embroidered with Khneng embroidery. Khneng embroidery is a traditional art of the region. This has been practiced for around 200 years and is embroidered onto the woven Eri silk fabric. Inspired by a local insect that resembles a centipede, it is stitched entirely by hand and relies heavily on the artisans thread count to produce even sized motifs.  The women are fond of the traditional Khasi gold ornaments for neck, ears and wrists. 








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