Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Folktales are Stories to give Meaning to Natural Phenomenon

In almost every Khasi Pnar folktales there are elements in the stories which have some connection with nature in it and in almost every tale; nature is a part of the story. In most cases folktales are stories which our ancestors tries to explain the uniqueness of certain part of the nature. One of the very prominent examples was the story of the Shillong peak. Our ancestors were amazed by the majestic Shillong peak, so they weaved a story around the peak. We have scores of stories like this and in fact in the Khasi Pnar context, all folktales were created because people tried to understand and then define the phenomenon which prevailed around them and that which fascinated them. The story of the Krem Lamet krem latang was partly to try to give meaning why the rooster crow every morning before the sunrises, again in the same myth, the story have it that the grand council sent the hornbill (ryngkoh-kit-knor) to woo the sun back. Instead the sun hit hornbill on his beak with a tiny wooden Stool (lyngknot) because he too was trying to seduce this beautiful damsel. Hence the hornbill beak was dented and disfigured as it is now because of this incident of it being hit by the sun so the story goes. 
In the Khasi Pnar culture all the hills, the rivers, the caves and the unique stone formation some way or the other have a story to tell. These are just two examples that we have in the Khasi Pnar own Genesis story, but my paper deals with similar stories from Jaintia Hills District some of which are common and some of these folktales are still in oral traditions and perhaps this is the first time that the tales has been documented.
Lets us start by embarking on an imaginary journey from Shillong to Jowai, and the first village on the Jaintia hills District side of the border is “Mookyndur” obviously the village derived its name from a rock (moo) which was rests in an peculiar position (kyndur). But there is another stone situated on the right side of the road and on the left side of the office of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, the stone is known as “Moo Kule” and it being left unattended and neglected by the present generation. The name of the stone when translated to English literarily means “Horse stone” and this is precisely the reason why this story has a connection to the subject matter of this paper. The legends have it that there was once a tiny kingdom in between the Jaintia kingdom and the Khyriem syiemship and the name of the small country was “ka hima Malngiang” but unfortunately not much is being heard about this kingdom in the folktales of the area except for the event when this kingdom was ruled by a king whose name is u Mailong Raja. Small though his kingdom may be, Mailong Raja was the only King who dared to challenge the might of the then great Jaintia Monarch. The legend has it that Mailong Raja has a unique supernatural power that he cannot be killed, so the great Jaintia king was at his wits end when he cannot defeat Mailong Raja. It was said that the Jaintia King has once captured Mailong Raja and severed his head from his body and asked his men to throw the heads towards the west and the body on the opposite direction far from one another, hoping that by doing so he will be able to do away with Mailong Raja once and for all. It was at Mookyndur that the Jaintia king’s men were able to capture Mailong Raja and mysteriously the horse on which he rides when he was captured turned to a stone. Hence the stone at Mookyndur was called Mookule but that was not the end of the story because Mailong Raja mysteriously was able to come back to life and resurface again in his beloved Malngiang kingdom.  
Then we continue on our journey to Ummulong and on reaching Ummulong we take left and travel to Nartiang and this village is one of the very the few village which still has cultures and traditions. Before entering the famous Nartiang Monolith Park, there is a huge stone slap to the left of the road and the story tells us that the flat stone is the one that Mar Phalangki used as his knup to protect himself from the torrential rain. The story has it that it was raining cats and dogs and Mar Phalangki who married a woman in Raliang was prepared to leave Raliang for Nartiang his birth palce. He was looking for something to protect himself from the rain when he saw a small hut close by and went to ask the owner of the house if he can borrow her knup. The old woman who lives in the hut all by herself look at him and said “how can a giant like you ask for a knup from me? You see that stone slap over there, go take that stone and use it to protect yourself from rain.” Mar Phalangki too took the stone and put it over his head and walked towards Nartiang, it is believed that the stone slap remain where it is since Mar Phalangki put it.
In the famous Monolith Park, the many monoliths have their one common story to tell, but it is the largest and the tallest monolith of them all which has a story unique of its own.  The largest and the tallest monolith in the park and perhaps in the entire Khasi Pnar is again believed to be put up by u Mar Phalangki. The giant tried to erect the monolith several times but failed to do so, finally they decided to seek gods’ intervention by performing egg divination. The sign from the egg divination implies that the gods require human head; human has to be sacrificed for the stone to stand tall was the clear message from the gods. It was a market day and people were gathered to watch the show of strength and finally Mar Phalangki came up with the idea to appease the gods. He dropped a lime and tobacco container made of gold (khnown locally as dabi) making it appear like it was not purposely done. Without any suspicion; one of the spectator immediately went down the pit dug to put the monolith to collect the golden container. Mar Phalangki instantly lifted the huge monolith and put it on the pit over the man’s body and a human was sacrificed and the stone stand tall as it is till now.
From Nartiang one can move further and take right to travel to Barato, here too there are stones which have stories to tell. Stone images of the two oxen tilling at Pynthor Latuba are those made popular by the tragic love story of u Miat Rynsut and the beautiful princess ka Latympang.  On the way from Barato to Saba and Mukroh there is another location where there are stones which looks like goats and cattle believed to belong to the Princess which freezes and turned to stones like the two oxen when the tragic story draw to a close.
In Jowai there are many stones and monolith with stories to tell, the foremost of all are the “soo duar soo luti,” or the four guardian angels of the town which are situated in all the four directions of the town. These are Moo-ralong, Moo-khai, Moo-tong and Moo-sniang. Legends have it that whenever enemies marched to attack on the village,  like faithful sentinels the guardian angels shouted to alert villager and enable them prepare for the imminent danger.
From Jowai if one travel south and on reaching Amlarem one can either take left to travel further to Syndai or one can take right and travel to Nongtalang. If we chose the latter option in Nongtalang in a locality knows as Khlachympa, there is another huge stone slap. The huge flat stone have a similar story to that of u Mar Phalangki of Nartiang that a certain giant was without any protection when rain started pouring down heavily in plain where he was, so he took the flat stone and used it to protect himself from rain. On reaching Nongtalang the rainfall too subsides and he has no use of the stone and put it down where it is till now. The parallel story of Mar Phalangki belongs to another giant in the War Jaintia folklore whose name is Bir Nongpoh. Adjacent to the stone slap, there is another huge stone called in local parlance “shmia dhurai” which is believed to be one of the three stone Bir Nongpoh plan to use as trivet for his hearth. In Nongtalang there is a huge stone near the Amtyrngui River, the shape of the stone is very distinct and it looks like it has been chopped right in the middle with a huge sword. The legend has it that certain ghost which dwelled in the stone caused undue harassment to the people by causing them sickness.  The people complained to the Thunder god and the god strike the stone right in the middle and cut it into halves, but the two pieces of the stone mysteriously joined together again. The Thunder god strike again once more to rid the ghost from the stone and before the stone could joined together again, another stone was placed right in the middle to prevent the two pieces from uniting with each other. Since then the stone is called in a local War Jaintia dialect as “Shmia Psha” ‘shmia’ means stone and ‘psha’ is Thunder.
If one would take left and travel towards Syndai, in Pdengchakap village there is a place quite far from the village where the people of the village believed that it was the place where the legendary “Iew luri lura” was held in the days of the yore. On the huge rock there are marks which looks like animals footprints believe to belong to the animals who rudely stomped their feet on the Dogs fermented beans as legend have it. Then in Syndai near the cave at the Pubon River there is a sculpture of an elephant which the local believe to be the image of earthquake and this sculpture too has its own story.  
So much about stones and rocks but there are also stories about hills, mountain range, river and lakes and one of the famous lake that has a story to tell is the Thadlaskein lake dug by Sajar Nangi and his followers by using just the edge of their bows. In Jowai the river Myntdu is also believed to be another guardian angel of the people of Jowai and Myntdu itself has lot of story to tell as every portion of the river has a name and every name has a meaning or a story to tell. Kupli too has its own story and Lum Iakor Sing from where the river and two other rivers, ka Lukha and ka Lynju shared their source of origin has its own story. Kupli is not just a river but ka Iawbei of the Passah clan, as it is believed that the Passah clan and the Shadap Passah share their divined origin from the Kupli. It is our common Khasi Pnar belief that the rivers are not mere rivers but they too have a persona. It is also said that the Lukha River which was formed by the two tributaries ka Lunar and the ka Lynju were sisters and only when the two meet at a confluence and river is called ka Lukha.
The Lukha flow by the foothills of Lum Bah-Boo Bah-kong of the Narpuh Reserved Forest and Lum Bah-boo Bah-kong too has its own story. Bah-boo bah-kong in Pnar parlance literarily means one who carries both his elder and younger sister in law.

In a way the folktales were created by people out of sheer curiosity to give meaning to what is happening around them. Amazed by both natural and manmade phenomenon, people ask question why is it so? And the answer to the question came in a form of story. The folktales are our ancestors’ ways of answering the myriad questions that puzzled their curious minds; it is their efforts to answer and give meaning to whys, the whats, hows that bewildered them during their time.  The entire natural or manmade phenomenons have names and stories, it is therefore the call of the day for all of us to protect and preserve the natural phenomenon because they not only link us with the past but more importantly they connect us with the ways of the nature which are both unique and profound.  

1 comment:

Roaming Hawks said...

Sir, thank you so much for bringing these stories into the digital space. These are all so interesting and intriguing. Thanks to your initiative, we can learn more about these regions.

I visited the Nartiang monoliths inspired by one of your articles in Shillong Times. But now, I feel, I need to visit it again! There are so many little details that I missed the first time around. Hopefully will be able to, soon :)

Thanks again!