Glancing through books in the charity shop, I spotted a gem which turned my world a little upside down for a week or so ‘Around the hearth – Khasi Legends’ by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih. The Author has translated 20 stories told for centuries by the Khasi people. The Khasis live in Meghalaya, North East India and is a tribe made up of seven sub-tribes(Khynriam, Pnar, Bhoi, War, Maram, Lyngngam and Diko). Dr Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih is a poet, writer and translator, he belongs to the Khasi tribe and writes in both Khasi and English.
I was hooked from the second page of prelude or induction from a simple few sentences; ‘theirs was a culture that worshipped god through respect for both man and nature, and indeed all animals and animated things, as creations of god that were equal to each other. That’s why the Khasi stories always begin with “when man and beasts and stones and trees spoke as one..” This shows the Khasi world view, that sees the universe as a cosmic whole that receives its animation and force from the one living truth, their God, U Blei.’
Before reading any of the myths spoke about in the book I immediately done some research on the Khasi people and Meghalaya.
I stumbled across the most magnificent, enchanting and mysterious photographs of the Mawlynnong root bridges. Some up to 500 years old, the bridges made of the roots from the rubber tree grow stronger everyday as they are still alive and growing.
They speak for themselves, I am in love.
Mawlynnong is home to around 500 villagers, not only has it broke records for being the wettest place on the planet, but also classed “the cleanest village in Asia” and nicknamed “God’s Own Garden” With stunning waterfalls, tropical gardens, outstanding scenery and not forgetting the incredible root bridges!
Upon more research on the tribe, I found out more and more amazing and beautiful things about the Khasi culture, Including; that it is one of the world’s rare matrilineal societies. So basically GIRLS RULE!
Women and girls have a special standing in the society In Khasi culture, the youngest girl in a family inherits its wealth and property, and children take their mother’s surname. Having only boys is hard luck. Khasi women marry whom they want — no arranged marriages and divorce or choice to remain single with no stigma.
The girls do work at an early age. Despite the tourism, Mawlynnong is still a farm town, which means everyone works. The girls do household chores and take care of younger siblings. But Khasi girls are quiet content. So are boys, until they reach manhood and experience an imbalance of power in the household.
Karolin Klüppel, a German photographer stayed with 9 different families of the Khasi tribe across a year, she photographed the girls in their homes and on the land. These images are magnificent , they capture real beauty, And give an insight to the girls lives or just a simple reminder of what it is like to be a child. Many of the photographs capture the girls playing, using their imaginations and just being. Something many of us forget to do. Just be.
I hope one day I get to vistit Mawlynnong and the Khasi tibes for myself, for now i will read the book, the ledends, starting with ‘The seven Clans’.