The Whistling Village of India
Our name is one of our primary identities. It is our name that connects us to our family and roots. But why is it that when we think about a name, the only thing that comes to our mind is a set of alphabets, that can be written down or verbally uttered for everyone’s convenience? Can’t a name be, let’s say, a tune or a song? Unimaginable and quite unrealistic, isn’t it? But what if there actually exists such a community of people, who use this kind of naming system?
There’s music everywhere. Unheard, unique melodies, carried by the wind and echoing off the hills, dominate this place. This is how people describe the tiny, remote village of Kongthong in Meghalaya.
The Kongthong village is located in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. The community residing in the village lives by their ancient traditions and remains fairly untouched by the modern traditions of mainstream society. It is this indigenous set of traditions that make this village so unique.
The people of Kongthong are almost similar to hummingbirds. They live and breathe in songs.
The tradition of Jingrwai Lawbei is a distinctive folk culture that is associated only with the Kongthong community.
The term Jingrwai Lawbei loosely translates to ‘a song (Jingrwai) in honour of the root ancestress (Lawei)’.
After a child is born in Kongthong, a mother composes a unique melody or tune and this tune becomes an inherent part of the child’s identity for their life. Everyone around the newborn baby regularly sings the tune so that the child learns to respond to it when they grow up.
The Jingrwai Lawei lives only as long as a person lives and dies when the person passes away.
This means that every tune is unique and never recreated again.
The tune is most often inspired by the sounds from nature. The song itself carries no meaning because it does not contain any proper words or lyrics and, is solely based on a unique tune.
According to the local people, the Jingrwai Lawbei is the purest way in which a mother can express her love for her children. This makes Jingrwai Lawei somewhat of a matriarchal tradition as it is upheld only by the mothers of the family.
Culture is a fascinating concept. Mostly because it comes with a certain essence of freedom; the freedom to identify oneself with a set of beliefs and traditions that set one apart from others. What may be an unimaginable set of traditions for us, may be an inherent part of some other cultures. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the case of Kongthong—the singing/whistling village of India.