people living in Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya are called 'Pnar';
they are ethno linguistic group of people and the word Pnar encompasses an
ethno linguistic and geographical area within the administrative
boundaries of Jaintia Hills District.
The Pnars are believed to be of Indo-Mongoloid race although speaking a
distinct Austric language belonging to the Mon-Khmer group.
With regard to the social origin of the Jaintia people there is an indigenous theory according to which they belonged to a common race, which occupied a large area of Northern India, Burma, Indo-China and parts of South China in the Neolithic period. The people inhabiting the District are Pnars, Wars, Bhoi (Karbis) and Biates.
The people are often been described to be fond of amusements and happy-going. The cheerful disposition of the people was an attraction to the strangers. In general, they were simple, open hearted, honest people with a very good sense of obligations and capable of sincere gratitude. The bond of blood relationship is very strong among them.
In the Pnar society the family is the core of social organization. Though it is mother-centred, the authority of the house or "Iung" lies with the eldest maternal uncle, he is the head of the clan and represents the same in any village matters. But Marital and other institutional affairs are based on the Matrilineal system.
Matriarchy in its true sense does not exists in the Pnar society. Inspite of the female ownership of property the woman's elder brother is the actual head of the household and when the husband, after the initial matrilocal residence, establishes independent house, he is the undisputed lord of the family. In the case where there is no female child, the mother is succeeded by her son. Thus the system is called matraichal only by courtesy.
Nowadyas there has been tremendous change in the way of life of the Jaintia people and it is not uncommon case for a man to live together with his wife and children in separate houses and the house is solely run by the father of the house and not by the uncles. Matriliny in Jaintia Hills does not mean that the female are more supreme than the males but it is that tracing of descent is done through a female side. The father no doubt is the head and occupies an honoured position in a family.
In Jaintia Hills traditionally, inheritance of real property passes from mother to the youngest daughter called as 'khadduh'. Other sisters also share the property but the youngest one shares more because of her responsibility to the family. No man in the uplands of the Jaintia Hills can possess landed property, unless it is self acquired, if a man dies and leaves behind acquired property, his heiress will be his mother, if alive, excluding wife, sons and daughters.
If the wife however, undertakes not to remarry, she will inherit half of her husband property, which at her death will descend to her youngest daughter by him. The youngest daughter who inherits the property has the obligation, that she must look after the family idols and bear all its Puja offerings out of her own pocket, if the youngest daughter changes her religion she loses her position in the family and is succeeded by her next youngest sister as in the case of death.