Saturday, June 6, 2009

Nature Spirituality vis-à-vis Khasi traditional wisdom and insight

Spirituality is a word which is used liberally now. My opinion is that the words connotes a different meaning for different people with various faith back ground at a different point in time, and that is precisely why no one has the right to claim that only their interpretation of the term is true and correct. Therefore in this write-up, Alan Jones; dean of San Francisco Cathedral definition’s “that spirituality is the art of making connections” and David Ariel Jewish Scholar’s definition that “spirituality is the heart knowledge” are relevant in the context of this thesis.

Very often it was instill in our mind that traditional Khasi wisdom are old and redundant, we are even make to undervalue our own culture and tradition as archaic; superstitious and hence has no place in the modern world.

The Khasi’s traditional wisdom and understanding of the nature is not only unique but it is also proves that the Khasi’s understanding of the nature is both profound and relevant. In contemporary society, the world over; people make hue and cry against human greed which let to the destruction of the environment, the Khasis like any of the first nation, lives and has been living in harmony with the nature. Before the world has even start talking about the equality of human being not to mention the interdependent web of existence, the Khasi’s already has it in their myths and legends that all creations are equal. The Khasi traditionally believed that in the day of the yore, the golden era of the Khasi or the virgin age, human and animals were not only talking to each other, but they even lived as one equal creation of God.

The Mythology of the moon, the sun and the rooster is one example. The story have it that long long time ago; it came to pass one day, that the moon who is the younger brother of the sun, fell in love with his own beautiful sister, this is not only an incest but by Khasi culture and tradition; it is a taboo. The angered sun shower ashes on the moon and then out of embarrassment went to hid herself in the pitch dark cave known as ‘krem lamet, krem latang.’ The world was in complete darkness because the sun rises no more and there was complete chaos everywhere because the whole creation was literarily left in the dark. A grand council of the whole creation was summoned to find out ways and means to request the sun to comeback again. The council send the ryngkoh-kit-knor; the hornbill to woo the sun back, instead the sun hit him on his beak because he too was trying to seduce this beautiful damsel. Finally the grand council of all creation agreed to send the rooster a humble animal who humbly agreed to the proposal of the council. The rooster was able to convince the sun to come shine again on the earth but with one condition, that the rooster will have to crow three times every day for the sun to come back again. Since then the rooster has earned itself the right to be the mediator, the interlocutor for the people not only with the sun but even with the creator. The inter-dependent web of existence in the Khasi context is not only among earthly creation namely animals; but it is even inter-planetary. The other folk story of the Khasi with a similar inter-planetary connection is the tragic love story of the sun and the peacock and how the tear drops of the sun crying for her loved one became the beautiful mark and patterns in the peacock’s feather. The story of how the thunder was attracted by the glittering sword of one animal called Kui in the warrior dance organized by both human and animals that he came down and asked kui to let him hold and sword and dance with it for few moment, but the Thunder while dancing and holding the dazzling sword upright like any warrior dancer, he flew to the sky and took along the Kui sword with him to the sky. So the lightning and the thunder that follows Thunder performing his warrior dance in the sky.

The world has only recently talk about common stewardship of the planet earth, the Khasi believe that animal kingdom of 30 types are people’s equal partner in the earthly lives. The genesis of the Khasi has it that; the beginning of the Khasis and the story of how their first ancestors descend down to the earth will be incomplete without the involvement of animals. The seven huts live happily in peace among themselves without jealousy, hatred and prejudices. Human succumbed to the ill-advised of the demon in the garb of a dragon who convinced them of the need to cut the tree which is also the only ladder that connects the people with their creator. After human start cutting the tree; it was the tiger that lick back the tree to its usual form and size hoping to save the tree and safe human from its imminent fall. But that was never to happen it was the wee bird which informed human that every day after they have cut the huge tree which connects heaven and earth in the hill of the heavenly navel, it was the tiger which lick back the tree to its usual form and size again.

Khasi Pnar’s immense reverence for the nature is also obvious from the fact that people seldom put their feet on the filed to sow seeds unless certain religious rituals in performed. The same is with consumption of the first fruit of harvest; people seldom eat any harvest without offering the same to the gods first. Many rituals and festivals were woven around the two important seasons in the people’s way of life.

The Khasi have hundreds of stories which portray of an equal and mutual partnership between human and animals. The folk story of the ‘Iew luri lura’ market of chaos, where the whole creation including human did their marketing in the same market is another legends which points toward the Khasi wisdom of the inter-dependent web of existence. According to this Khasi legend it was after fellow animals trampled with their feet on the fermented soya beans that the dog brought to sell in the market and condemned the dog of selling excretion that the dog came to live with human and gain the ability to smell animal scent; there by help his master during hunting.

The two major Khasi Pnar Royal families also has a divine origin, the story of the Jaintia monarch begin with Lo Ryndi caught a fish from the river Waikhyrwi, by divine intervention he forgot to cook the fish and left it on the tier over his hearth where people traditionally dried their food so that it won’t get spoiled. As time goes the fish became a beautiful woman to whom he married and the children of the fish-turned-human became the first royal family of Jaintia Kingdom . The royal family of the Khynriem and Mylliem state of the Khasi hills is also believed to have a divine origin, the legends have it that u Lei Shillong or Shillong god has three children, ka Ngot, ka Iew and ka Pahsyntiew, the two elder sister become river and are known as Umngot and Umiew, while the youngest sister became a beautiful girl and lived all by herself in the Marai cave and she is known as ka Pahsyntiew. Pahsyntiew or court by using flowers became the great grand mother of the Royal family of Shillong. The Khasi believed that the rivers are not mere rivers but they too have a persona, the story of the Lukha river, the Lunar and the Lynju river that they were sisters like any human being is one example of this fundamental believe. The Passah of Jaintia hills till now would not cross the Kupli without giving the river some offering because the Kupli is the great great grandmother of the Passah clan and Yale Kupli’s husband who was represented by a beautiful waterfall that was lost forever in the Kupli hydro project is their great great grand father. In the Jaintia hills, the Myntdu and Myntang river not only have personality but in the case of Myntdu which flow around Jowai, the river was worship as the guardian angel and sacrifice was offered to the goddess every now and then and it is a taboo for anybody to defecate or pass urine in the river. The Khasi also believe that water is divine (umksiar um rupa) which is God’s gift and all the rivers are sacred.

Sacred groves, is another illustration of the Khasi Pnar’s respect and reverence for the nature, sacred forest as the name implies are considered sacred in the sense that the entire area is protected and the forest is kept untouched by any human hands. The sacred groves in many cases are believed to be the places where the god u Ryngkew u Basa dwells. Traditionally the Khasi Pnar would not cut any tree at random or at one’s own whims and fancy, before cutting a tree Khasi Pnar use to pray paying obeisance to God and asking forgiveness for cutting the tree for his own needs.

Speaking about the tiger, the Khasis were not only fascinated by this majestic animal but also shared close relationship with the animal that most of the time when they address the tiger, they would lovingly called the tiger ‘um la’ brother in law. The Rymbai clan also has a story related with Tiger that once when their great great grandmother was to cross the river to return to her village, the river was overflow and she cannot cross the river, it was the tiger which came to her rescue by carrying her on his back across the river. The Khasi, particularly the Pnar of Jaintias also shares the legend of men who can change themselves to tiger.

The Khasi not only has names for all the plants, animals, fishes, birds and even blades of grass which exist in their land, they also have stories about most of these fellow creation that they share their home with. To a Khasi who still respect and adhere to one’s culture and traditions, the Khasi way of life in relation with the nature is one that is very unique, because the nature is his mother and everything in the nature and in the sky are related to him someway or the other because we share a common story and a common. The Khasi way of life vis-à-vis in relationship with the nature is pious to say the least, and one profoundly respects this connection and lives this way of life religiously. I was asked recently how Khasi is a Khasi? Or what is so Khasi about the modern Khasis? Or specifically are Khasis still tribal or are they just people and no more a tribe? The answer to this vital question is related to how one answers these questions, because they have to do with our roots. The strength of Khasi way life depends solely many connections prescribed in the tradition, the connection among relatives, connection with one’s creation and when one lost these connections like the connection with the nature, one is no more a Khasi and when all the Khasis lost their culture and traditions, then Khasi is no more a Khasi, - Khasi is lost forever.


anne said...

Your traditions keep the forest a living forest and the water a clean resource. Congratulations!

Sajeki said...

weileh wa kiaw ne? dang mut O wa kat nang lai ki sngi nang boon chooh chooh ki> kamtae nga iow suk o cu u chim tae chon kot na kini kiwa da thooh phi>>>>. tae katwa kamtae kyrmen o wa neini chaphrang i thoh iong phi u nang boon chooh chooh ki>>>>>>>.