History of movemnets - 21

Persons who come forward to join the Brahma Samaj have to pass through the initiation ceremonywhich, it was thought advisable to make binding on all owing to there being no caste system in the hills. Approximately speaking there are at present nearly five hundred Brahmas in the Hills, not to speak of those, who died in and after the earthquake of 1897. The number of Brahma families nearly amounts to fifty. The increase of Brahmas and Brahma families brought to the mind of Babu Nilmani Chakravarti the question of the introduction of Brahma rites and ceremonies amongst them. But the task was not an easy one. The Khasis perform the Namkaran ceremony of their children the next day after the birth. The interval is very short; and it sometimes happened that some relatives of the child’s mother had the cere­mony performed peremptorily in their own supersti­tious way, even before the news of its birth came to his knowledge. After the death of a Brahma, it sometimes came to pass, that all his relatives assem­bled to quarrel over the disposal of his last remains. The Christian relatives insisting on burying him, and the Khasi ones trying to burn him according to their own rites. But the greatest difficulty was experienc­ed in introducing the system of Brahma marriage and that of its registration under Act III of 1872. The marriage bond is so brittle amongst the Khasis, that a husband or a wife can leave each other at any moment, without any serious reasons ;—the burden of supporting the children always falling on the mother and hence is the necessity for registration. Babu Nilmani Chakravarti has been able to register a considerable number of marriages within the last few years.

But studying the Khasi religion, Babu Nilmani Chakravarti was convinced that he should open a dis­pensary, to distribute medicines amongst the people at large. Although the Khasis believe in the existence of the Creator, they have no religion in the pro­per sense of the word. They have neither a form of worship, nor any system of religious ceremonies. They perform certain ceremonies in times of illness and other troubles, which they call “Niam”, being a corruption of the Sanskrit word “ Niyam They be­lieve that all the dales and vallies, rivers and moun­tains, are invested by various evil spirits, who on the least cause of provocation send diseases and other misfortunes on the offenders. So when any one falls ill, his parents and relatives cause eggs to be broken, and certain ceremonies to be performed by a person or persons well versed in the tactics, with the view of finding out, by means of omen, the particular spirit who has been offended, and the cause of his anger; and as soon as they have been ascertained, eggs are broken again, and fowls, goats or swine are sacrificed for propitiating him. All these ceremonies are a mere mercenary affair, and are resorted to either for the sake of gaining health or prosperity. To propa­gate Brahmanism among these people required on the one hand, to develop their inherent idea of mono­theism; and on the other, to replace their practice of devil worship with medical treatment in times ofillness. Otherwise in an extreme case of trial, even a worshipper of God may fall back on his old way of superstitions. So side by side with his preaching duties, he has been carrying on the work of distribut­ing Homeopathic medicine from a dispensary opened at his head quarters at Cherrapoonji; and two others located respectively at Laitkynsen and Shillong, are under the charge of two mission workers, one of whom Babu Bausa Bhusan Roy has been duly trained up at the Calcutta Homeopathio School, founded by the late Dr. M. M. Bose. The work was first commenced on a small scale, but as patients began to pour in from all sides, it had to be extended, and each of the mis­sion workers has been trained up, more or less, in the work.

The Welsh Calvinistic Mission had formerly a monopoly of education in the Khasi Hills. It main­tains a large number of small schools, in different villages through-out the hills under the charge of its mission workers. Previously it had the exclusive right of supplying to the Government School-books, school—masters, school sub-inspectors and the examiners, and had to a great extent the option of distributing the scholarships. The books that were taught in the lower classes of these schools, and also as the text books for both the Lower and Upper Primary and the Middle Class Scholarship examinations were those, written by missionaries be­longing to the above mentioned mission, and were full of Christian doctrines of the Calvinistic Sohool.These books were notorious for their bad Khasi, as the Bible and the Christian tracts published by the Christian Missionaries were in Bengal, for their bad Bengali. At first Babu Nilmani Chakravarti had not a mind to open any school in connection with the mission, and thus add to his already heavy burden of work. But some of the Brahmas urged, that some­thing ought to be done for their children, who, they said, when sent to Welsh Mission Schools were treat­ed indifferently, sometimes detained in the same class without any reason, and compelled to attend church meetings on Sundays. So he ultimately felt compel­led to start schools for the Brahma children at two different centres, under the charge of two native workers, in which practical morality is taught along with educational readers. But he had to fight hard on behalf of the public at large, and was in the long run successfnl to a great extent in drawing the at­tention of the Government to the defective system of education in the hills. The evils have been generally remedied, the books greatly improved and the public granted certain privileges. At his suggestion and with the help of certain friends, including a retired Khasi Extra Assistant Commissioner a series of educational readers have been published, which have also been made optional by the Government, ln the ‘mean­time the Khasi literature has been much enriched; some non-Christian Khasis having entered the field. Two monthly news papers are being conducted in­dependently, and even a translation of the Bhagvat Gita has seen the light.