Kongthong Village in Meghalaya, located in the East Khasi Hills district is about 60 km from Meghalaya’s capital city Shillong, where people do not call each other by their regular names but by a distinct melody or special tune, due to which the area is known as ‘Whistling Village’.
People also use whistling to communicate their messages to their fellow villagers. The villagers of Kongthong have called this tune ‘Jingrwai Lawbei’, which means mother’s love song.
The villagers have two names: one regular name and one song name. The song names come in two varieties: a long song and a short song, with the short song being used at home. Kongthong has approximately 700 villagers and 700 different tunes.
Phiwstar Khongsit, a Khasi tribe member and resident of Kongthong village, told ANI that the ‘tune’ used to address a person is composed by mothers after childbirth.
“If a villager dies, the tune of that person dies with him or her. We have our own songs, which were written by our mother. The tunes were used in two ways: long tune and short tune. The short tune has been used in our village or at home. My mother wrote the music for my song. This system has been passed down from generation to generation in our village. We’re not sure when it started. “However, everyone in the village is overjoyed,” Phiwstar Khongsit stated.
Another local from Kongthong village, Jipson Sohkhlet, stated that the villagers use tunes or melodies to communicate with one another.
Jipson Sohkhlet explained, “Our village has about 700 people, so we have about 700 different tunes. These songs were only used for communication, not to address him or her by name. We used the full song or tune to communicate with other villagers in the jungle or field. Although there is only one song, which can be heard in two ways: as a full song or tune and as a short tune. When a new baby is born, the mother writes a song about it. A new song is born with the birth of a new baby. If a person dies, his or her song or tune dies with him or her; it will never be used again. This system has been passed down through generations. These practises will be maintained”.
He claimed that people in other villages in Meghalaya are now following suit.
Kongthong village, along with two other villages in the country, received the UNWTO’s (World Tourism Organization) ‘Best Tourism Villages’ award last year. Rakesh Sinha, a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar, adopted the village in 2019 and proposed that it be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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