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KONGTHONG, THE WHISTLING VILLAGE OF INDIA


 

When you are identified by a particular music

 

Gunjan Sharma

Media Student, Royal Global University

What if you are identified by a particular musical note? A tune meant only for you which will stay with you throughout your life and even when you’re gone. A song which is your identity even though you have a name. If you have a song as your name you must have been born in Kongthong, the Whistling village of India. Kongthong is a calm, peaceful and beautiful village dwelling in the remote area of Khasi Hills. It is located in Khat-ar-shnong Laitkroh Tehsil of East Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya, India. It is situated 29km away from sub-district headquarter Khat-ar-shnong Laitkroh and 54km away from district headquarter Shillong. Earlier one had to trek in order to reach the village but now one can reach the village directly by car but its time taking as the roads are small and not properly constructed. 

In an era when people generally communicate through mobile phones, video chats, text messages the people of Kongthong communicate among themselves through whistling and using different musical tunes to call each other.This is a tradition that has been alive since time immemorial. This unique method of communication makes this isolated village renowned in the world.

When a child is born the mother or the parents compose a song or a small tune which becomes the child’s official tune. They have their official names too but this tune is their identity in the village. All the villagers call each other by the tune assigned to them, said Rothell Ksongsit, Community leader of Kongthong . Ksongsit said that these tunes are unique as they come straight from mother’s heart for her newborn child. Each tune is different from the other and represents different people.  Each lullaby or jingrwai lawbei in their language becomes a permanent one only after ensuring that it is different from all others. Presently there are around 700 people in the village and each one is different from the other.“This practice has been going on since generations. Each tune is of thirty seconds to one minute long. One may not call out the whole tune but just its title which is enough to be recognised”, said Ksongsit. The tunes or Jingrwai lawbei are generally inspired by nature and birds and other living beings. People of the village are not sure how the practice started, but there is a belief among the villagers that there are unseen ghosts and spirits in the dense forests or in the rivers, and if they hear somebody’s name being called out then that makes the person sick. So, the songs are used to call out to them, as a way of protecting them. In the hills sound echoes and travels far and wide which helps in calling people even if they are physically away. One’s name may not be audible but the tune is easily audible.

Not only is this practice unique but it also sounds helpful. Some folk tales tell about how people were being saved from thugs because of the unique method of communication used in the village. As the village is surrounded by forests if any fellow villager was stuck with the thugs he would inform his mates by humming the unique tune assigned to them and his mates could rescue him.

Even though the village has this unique practice yet the village has not been in the spotlight. The roads connecting the village didn’t exist until 2013. After the visits of several researchers and journalists the villagers saw the potential of tourism advancement in their village. The villagers along with the heads started making small guest house so that the tourists who would visit could stay in the village and enjoy the beautiful view of the village. They want to turn this village into a tourist hub as it will help in giving employment to the villagers and would also help in improving their living standard.

The major crops of the village are betel nuts, bay leaves, oranges, jack fruit etc. Most of the people engage in making broom grass cultivation. There are schools in the village only up to class 8 so children go to the other parts of Meghalaya for further studies.

The youth of the village are trying to continue this practice. One of them is Paiastar Khongee who runs a page on Facebook called ‘The beauty of Kongthong village’. Through his page he wants the people of the world to know about this beautiful village.

The village has a picturesque beauty. It is surrounded by water falls, small ponds, and beautiful surroundings. The village even has a root bridge. People can go and camp in the village or even stay in the guest house in order to enjoy the beauty of Kongthong.

The mesmerising natural beauty and the unique culture of whistling have made the village of Khongthong special in its own way. The village deserves  to be known worldwide and not just be limited to Meghalaya for this unique culture.

 

PIC COURTESY: The Beauty of Konthong Village(FB Page)
#kongthong, #thewhistlingvillageofindia

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