Where Lies the Soul of Khasi Music

Often when we think about indigenous culture, amongst the first things that come to mind are indigenous music and dance forms. Every community has its own distinct sounds and melodies, rhythms and beats, words and poetry which preserve: Identity and Essence. So, where should we look, if we wish to find the answers to these questions: What is the foundation of Khasi music? Where lies its Soul?

The late Rangbah Rojet Buhphang, who was an exceptional musician and master craftsman, would tell his students at the Sieng Riti Institute in Wahkhen, “Ka Tem ka Put ka ïaid ryngkat ryngkat bad ka Akor ka Burom” which can be translated as “Music goes side by side with good conduct”. This wisdom is a window into understanding the mind and soul of a Khasi. He left us much too early, but his knowledge and contributions will live on forever. His words help us realise that ‘Respect’ is one of the strongest foundations of Khasi music… Respect for oneself and one’s ‘Way of Life’.

The world today is more connected than ever before. Every style of music is at our fingertips. The world we live in offers infinite possibilities. However, there will always be a flip side. As we grow more connected, so too does homogeneity, putting at risk the vibrant diversity that exists. Fortunately, the world is also looking within, more than ever before. The need to connect and grow with the world is being counterbalanced by an innate sense of responsibility to preserve sacred roots and ancient inheritance. Staying rooted is imperative to progress in the churn of globalisation. A positive realisation has dawned. A fine balance must be found. The search and the solutions must come from within.

Shad: Dance,  Suk: Peace,  Mynsiem: Soul

It has been said that to understand the Khasi, one must go deep into the root of his religion. Similarly, to understand and find the soul of Khasi Music, one must dive deep into the sacred rhythms and melodies of the land. One must immerse oneself in the Dance of the Peaceful Heart, Shad Suk Mynsiem.

The traditional Khasi dance has existed since time immemorial. It is an integral part of the culture. The dance is a celebration and it is also a unique form of community worship. Several forms and names exist for the dance. However, the dance held by the Seng Khasi at the historic dance arena – Lympung Shad Weiking – in Jaiaw, Shillong is the most well known. Held annually in the month of April, the dance is a beautiful showcase of the depth of Khasi thought and belief and the richness of the culture that is born from this consciousness.


The Khasi word for rhythm is Skit and there are Seven that are integral to the dance held at Weiking. The seven skits or “Ki Hynñiewskit” of the Shad Suk Mynsiem are:

Lumpaid, Ksing Lynti, Mastieh, Padiah, Dum Dum, Nalai, Klang.

These rhythms are also called by alternate names in different parts of the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, India. Not only do they have different names, these beats are even played with slight variations, from traditional state to state and even, village to village. This diversity and depth flourishing in tandem within such a small area is rare to find in the world today. There are four types of traditional drums used to play the rhythms:

Ksing Shynrang, Ksing Kynthei, Padiah, Ka Bom, Kynshaw. The only melodic instrument is the wind instrument, Ka Tangmuri. The traditional musicians are known as Ki Duhalia.


The musicians who play at the dance are usually from the same village, town or region but sometimes they are brought together from different parts, assembled like a supergroup. All these factors influence the style of play and the sound produced. Every musician has a special touch or feel of their own. The Shad Suk Mynsiem held in Weiking, Shillong was for an initial period, the only dance organised by the Seng Khasi, but now the dance is held at over a hundred locations, across the Khasi hills by units of Seng Khasi. You will find the rhythms and sounds and even the style of dancing varies from dance to dance. The Khasi religion – Niam Khasi – is often described as “Ka Niam bad Ki Rukom”, which means “The Religion and its Ways”. The same truth applies to the music of the dance: One Foundation, Several Ways. At the dance in Weiking, the seven skits listed above must all be performed. In four out of the seven skits, a specific and essential rhythmic layer must be performed on the Ksing Kynthei (Female Drum).


The first skit performed is the Lumpaid and it is played to assemble people together in the front courtyard of the Seng Khasi headquarters in Mawkhar, Shillong. The skit has a commanding mid tempo waltz like beat. The pattern played on Ka Bom (large drum) and the Ksing Shynrang (male drum) may appear identical at first but there are slight embellishments on the latter that fill the spaces in between subtly. The Tangmuri melody that flows in veers into musical territory that even the most avant garde musicians in the world could never dream of writing. After the short ceremony conducted in the courtyard has concluded, the gathering which includes leaders of Seng Khasi, dancers, flag bearers, men and women of all ages then proceed to walk towards the historic dance arena, a few kilometers away.


The musicians play their instruments as they walk. The skit they play is the most recognisable and popular Khasi beat: Ka Ksing Lynti. When one thinks of the quintessential Khasi rhythm, this is it. You can’t help but move along to its gallop powered by the Bom and propelled by the energetic patterns of the Ksing Shynrang. The Tangmuri melody twirls around the beat, restraining itself at first before launching into some of the most primordial yet futuristic sonic expressions in the world. Its range and frequencies cannot be transcribed. The Tangmuri – the Queen of instruments – exists in her own “Melodic Universe”.

On arriving at the arena, prayers are offered by an elder of Seng Khasi – U Tymmen U San – following which the gathering disperses briefly. A short breather taken, the musicians move to their positions on their platform and then unleash the most exciting and invigorating of all Khasi beats: Ka Mastieh. The sacred ground – Lympung Shad Weiking – comes to life. The dance to this rhythm is intricate and difficult to perform, but that doesnt stop even the youngest of dancers from attempting it. Immense pride and joy is felt by all. Participation means everything. It takes years and years to find unison. The dance when performed by seasoned dancers and musicians feels deep rooted, powerful, elegant and distinct. It deserves to be included in the list of Indian Classical Art forms.


For many, the dance truly begins when the sixteenth note stride of the skit Padiah takes off, supported by the high and deep notes of the Ksing Kynthei (female drum) which syncopate and displace the measures over a rhythmic bed played with light sticks, on a small circular drum from which the skit gets it name. The female dancers enter the ground and begin their minimal yet mesmerizing dance in the inner section. The hypnotic Tangmuri melody swirls in and out, inspiring the dancers into focus. The dancers begin to appear like waves in a sea of colours. Moving and adjusting to each others movements to keep the flow constant.


The Padiah is followed by the Dum Dum rhythm which feels slower than the rest but in actuality the tempo does not drop much.The dancers subtly adjust their steps and movements. It has a soothing groove that pulls ones shoulders and head into a synchronized bounce. You will find your feet automatically tapping along. The tangmuri melody played is the same as the one for Ksing Lynti. The inherent nature of the female drum and the way it is played allows for melodic and sonic tones to be created, which bounce alongside the melodies of the Tangmuri.


The third rhythm introduced on the female drum is the Nalai. A rhythm unlike any other. It skips and stutters, ricochets and bounces, deceiving the listener into thinking it keeps falling out of time, but on the contrary the pattern played on the small circular drum – Ka Padiah – is actually very consistent and must be played with focus. This rhythm has always drawn my interest the most, especially since it is not played very often, perhaps owing to its complexity. To execute this rhythm well, one requires skill, practice and an inherent talent and deep connection to the music. The accompanying melody on the Tangmuri makes the Nalai even more unusual and intriguing.


The fourth rhythm which requires the Ksing Kynthei that we are introduced to is the Klang, also known as Skit Mareh. The small drum leads this one too. It sets the foundation, with a repetitive and driving triplet pattern pushing against, while simultaneously locking in with the pulse of a four four meter. Gradually the tempo lifts. The change in the movements of the male dancers is most evident. They tune themselves into the rhythm and find a balance between a brisk walk and a run. Once a round of each skit has been played, the four rhythms that must feature the Ksing Kynthei are all performed again, in the same order, until the dance reaches its last segment.


Evening approaches and a beautiful sight is often witnessed: The Sun – Ka Mei Syiem Sngi – casts a soft golden light over the dancers, before slowly beginning her retreat behind the majestic silhouette of the Lum Diengiei mountain range. A surreal atmosphere engulfs the entire arena.

In the final section of this unique form of showing gratitude through dance – Ka Shad Ai Nguh Ai Dem – the male dancers hold Ka Waitlam (Khasi sword) in their right hand, switching the Symphiah (Whisk) over to their left. The musicians feed off the energy of the dancers and deliver their rhythms with more passion and commitment. The large drums power the arena while the Kynshaw (hand cymbal) serves as a timekeeper, adding a crucial layer of brightness to the sonic scape. The rhythm section is then joined by a wailing Tangmuri that drifts between an otherworldly tone and the most organic of sounds. When all the instruments are locked in tight and flow together the feeling transmitted is transcendental. Ksing Lynti has transformed into Shad Wait. This energy is reciprocated by the dancers who wave their whisks higher and raise their swords above in sync, taking turns to move faster, criss-crossing, switching sides in beautiful motion. The foundation of each group is the same, but there are slight adjustments and embellishments found within each group. This is a supremely beautiful aspect of the dance.

The Shad Wait comes to an end. The female dancers leave the dance ground, but not before offering a prayer at the centre of the ground. The male dancers prepare for the last dance that wil performed at Lympung Weiking. During this second and final round of the Shad Mastieh at the arena, the ground is filled with dancers. The sound of the Tangmuri soars and cuts across the arenạ̣. The drums roll with thunder and boom. More zeal and poetry can be felt as several pairs and groups launch into their dance at different moments, bodies bouncing, turning and adjusting with more determination, pride and joy! The drummers embellish their parts, adding extra slaps and hits, watching the dancers as they play. It is a mesmerising site. Each movement adds to the sanctity. The last sequence of the Shad Mastieh at the arena sees the dancers on opposite ends rushing towards each other with their swords twirling, as if preparing to strike an opponent. They chant as they draw closer and then stop a close distance apart. They bring their swords and whisks together, like hands in folded prayer. Lifting gently and then lowering them down again. They bow to each other three times, chanting:“Hoi Kiw”.

A deep sense of spirituality flows in this last moment and we are reminded that this dance is a form of Worship and Thanksgiving to the Almighty – U Blei Trai Kynrad Nongthaw Nongbuh – for all he has bestowed on us. It brings peace to the heart. It brings pride to the people. The dance is a way of connecting with Divinity within. The Soul of Khasi music lives in the “Shad Suk Mynsiem”.

Sensitive graces!

the sound of footsteps,
which curl up my toes
the distant worlds,
that make fresh tears roll

when each and every well in this form
becomes deserted,
drier than the autumn leaves but wailing,
 retching, howling with the wind
cannot long for a summer shower
so i beg for a typhoon.

it may completely rip me out but then i can
grip this truth for a little longer
tick and tok

with winter i have the typhoon i begged for,
breath of relief and a some more hope
i like the storm and how better it feels like home
even when all this time long I’ve been living on the shore

Mandavi Sharma


Heart Sutra

Chinese Ink on Nepali Paper
The artwork centers around the “Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra)” , presented through Archaic Chinese ideograms arranged in a circular form. The arrangement purposefully leaves the central space open, allowing it to embody the essence of “sunyata” – the core theme of this sacred sutra.
Inspired by the deep wisdom of the Heart Sutra, this artwork aims to evoke a contemplative journey for the viewer, inviting them to explore the boundless “sunyata” of all existence.

Reiko Shimizu
Born in Japan as a grand daughter of a Buddhist monk she studied art in New York, built a family in Brazil, and living in India since 2012. Her cross-culture background spanning three remarkable different cultures (Japan/Brazil/India) has given her a unique set of conceptual tools to connect and give meaning to the environment around her. Continuously drawing from her knowledge of and belief in Indian and Japanese spiritual mythology, her multi-disciplinary practice is a delightful chaotic mix of visual, sculptural, conceptual, performative, spiritual and musical expression. Her sensibilities as a visual artist are strong and poetic, however her real strength is her performance work.

The Idiot and the Hyndet Bread

Long, long ago, on the Khasi Hills, there lived a widow and her only son, a young man of great beauty but who was mentally impeded and was known throughout the community as “U Bieit” (the idiot).
As she was very poor and had none to call her own, she was forced to work every day to provide for herself and her helpless child. So, the son was left to his own ways and roamed freely throughout the hamlet. Naturally, he became a very bothersome child to his neighbors since he frequently broke into their homes to look for food, causing much harm and loss.

U Bieit, like most people of weak intellect, displayed wonderful cunning in some directions, especially in procuring some good thing to eat, and the way he succeeded in duping some of his more shrewd comrades in order to obtain some dainty tit-bits of food was a source of great amusement and merriment. However, there were so many bad situations that people were afraid to leave their homes, and things eventually became so serious that the widow was obliged to leave the hamlet .

She sought admission into many of the surrounding villages, but the fame of U Bieit had travelled before him and no one was willing to let them dwell in their midst. So in great distress she took him down to the plains, where there was a big river along which many boats used to sail. Here she determined to abandon him, hoping that some of the wealthy merchants who often passed that way might be attracted by his good looks and take him into their company.

She gave him some rice cakes to eat when he should be hungry, and told him to be a good boy and stay by the river-side, and she would bring him more cakes next day. A boy, feeling lonely and uncomfortable in his new surroundings, hides from boats.

A wealthy merchant was returning from a journey when he landed to eat food. The servants were traveling back and forth in the boat while preparing their master’s food. He instructed them to carry his chest of gold nuggets ashore and bury it in the sands near where he sat, as he was worried that some of the servants may tamper with it.

A strong shower fell just as he finished his meal, and the merchant rushed to take refuge in his boat; in his haste, he forgot about the box of gold buried in the sand dunes and the boat sailed away without it.
The dumb boy had been watching the activities with keen interest and a desire to enjoy the tempting supper, but fear of the boat with white sails kept him from revealing himself. However, as the boat was out of sight, he emerged from the bush and began unearthing the concealed chest. When he spotted the gold nuggets, he believed they were cakes and tried to eat one by putting it in his mouth. Finding it so difficult, he assumed that it had to be unbaked.
His sad mind immediately flew to his mother, who always baked meals for him at home, and, bearing the heavy chest on his back, he started through the forest to seek her, and his instinct, like that of a homing pigeon, brought him safely to his mother’s door.
Nobody saw him because it was fairly dark when he arrived at the village. The boy’s mother was grieving for her abandonment and regret for leaving her child. She wished she had money to earn neighbors’ goodwill and live with her son. She heard a shuffling sound at the door and was delighted to find him alive and well.
She was surprised to see him carrying a large chest on his shoulders, and while his silly statements gave no clue into how he had obtained hold of it, her eyes sparkled with excitement when she noticed it was filled of gold nuggets. She let the boy continue to believe they were cakes, and to appease him, she got some rice and baked some savory cakes for him, claiming she was baking the cakes from the chest. He went to bed content and delighted after eating these. Now, the widow had long desired wealth, arguing that she wanted it to provide better comforts for her son, who could not care for himself, but as soon as the gold reached her grasp, her heart was filled with greed. She was not only unwilling to part with any of the nuggets to secure the favor of the people for her son, but she plans to send him abroad to search for more gold, even if he faces danger. She summons him and urges him to return to the riverbank to bring more cakes for her.

So the child set out on his pointless errand, but soon became lost in the jungle; he couldn’t find the road to the river or his mother’s house, so he wandered around in the deep woods, despairing and hungry, looking for hidden chests and unbaked cakes.
Fairies in a woodland had haunts, but were invisible to humans. They knew about the foolish kid’s sad history and sympathized with his mother’s greed. They decided to take him to the fairies’ country, where he would be safe and receive care from willing hands.
So they said they didn’t have anything else to offer in that location, but if he wanted to accompany them to the country of the fairies beyond the Blue Realm, he could enjoy an abundance of good food and Hyndet cakes. He declared his willingness to leave right away and inquired as to how he should get there. They ordered him to grab their wings, cling tightly, and not speak on the way; so he grabbed the fairies’ wings and the ascent to fairyland began.

As they ascended higher, they saw lovely vistas that delighted the fairies as they passed. They saw the glory of the tallest mountains, and the limitless expanse of forest and river, and the fleeting shadows of the clouds, and the vivid colors of the rainbow, dazzling in their transitory beauty. But the youngster saw none of this since his basic mind was preoccupied with one thought—food. He could no longer suppress his interest as they soared to a great height and the limits of fairyland came into view, and, forgetting everything about the advice not to talk, he enthusiastically questioned the fairies, “Will the Hyndet cakes be big?” He lost his grip on the fairies as soon as he said the words he lost his hold on the fairies’ wings and, falling to the earth with great velocity, he died.

दोहों में गीतों के अक्षय अंकुर : ज्यों कुहरे में धूप

पुस्तक: ज्यों कुहरे में धूप
लेखन: श्री शिव मोहन सिंह
प्रकाशन: विनसर पब्लिशिंग कं देहरादून

“देखन में छोटा लगे, घाव करे गंभीर” वाली सटीक पंक्ति कविवर बिहारी की सतसई के संदर्भ में कही गई थी। सतसई वह दोहा-संग्रह है जिसे विश्व स्तरीय ख्याति मिली है। संत कवि कबीरदास, आचार्य तुलसीदास, नीति निपुण रहीम जी, जायसी जी आदि कवि दोहों की बदौलत अब तक जनमानस में जीवित हैं।  इससे दोहा की महत्ता और जन स्वीकार्यता सिद्ध होती है। दोहा चार चरणों में कुल 48 मात्राओं का व्यवस्थित छंद मात्र नहीं है अपितु कथ्य और प्रभाव की दृष्टि से युगबोध का सबसे लघु प्रतिनिधि दस्तावेज भी है। इसलिए दोहा का कलापक्ष सबसे आसान है तो भावपक्ष का प्रतिमान सबसे ऊपर। अतएव दोहाकार को स्थापित होने के लिए बहुत बड़ी सतत साधना की आवश्यकता होती है। ससम्मान सेवानिवृत्त अभियंता श्री शिव मोहन सिंह जी देहरादून की धवल धरती से सरस गीत, प्रेरक मुक्तक के बाद अब दोहाकार के रूप में “ज्यों  कुहरे में धूप” के साथ उपस्थित हैं।

15 अध्यायों में विभक्त किंतु अखंड 108 पृष्ठीय तकरीबन 600 दोहों से सुसज्जित है ज्यों कुहरे में धूप। यद्यपि दोहे मुक्त होते हैं तथापि कुछ लेखक विविध विषयों या उपविषयों में बाँधकर श्रृंखलाबद्ध सृजन भी करते हैं। इस पुस्तक के लेखक के मन में जब भी विचारों का अर्णव उदित हुआ, मन वांछित विधा में लिपिबद्ध कर लिए। जब पुस्तक प्रकाशन का विचार आया, विषयों-उपविषयों में संग्रहित कर लिए। इस सम्बंध में लेखक ने “अपनी बात” में बताया भी है कि-

“भाव-भाव आते रहे, पथ में जैसे मीत।

शब्द-शब्द बनते रहे, कुछ दोहे कुछ गीत।।”

इस संग्रह में शतकाधिक दोहे ऐसे हैं जिन्हें लोकोत्तियों का नव कलेवर कहा जा सकता है। द्विरुक्ति का अधिकाधिक प्रयोग हुआ है जो दोष होते हुए भी श्रृंगार वर्द्धक है। एक या दो चरण का कई दोहों में ज्यों का त्यों जुड़ जाना खलता है किंतु लेखक की पूर्व स्वीकारोक्ति कि दोहों का सृजन काल व्यापक रहा है, दोष क्षीण हो जाता है। पुस्तक को त्रुटिरहित रखने में लेखक को बहुतायत सफलता मिली है। प्रायः दोहा में प्रथम व द्वितीय चरणों में किसी तथ्य को कहा जाता है और तृतीय व चतुर्थ चरण में उदाहरण द्वारा पुष्टि की जाती है। यही कारण है कि मात्र 48 मात्राओं में एक विषय का पूर्ण निष्पादन हो जाता है। दृष्टांत या उदाहरण के संदर्भ में सर्वाधिक प्रचलित दोहे ही हैं। इस मानक पर कुछ दोहे कुछ कमजोर प्रतीत होते हैं किंतु वे एक स्वतंत्र काव्य बनकर स्थापित हो जाते हैं।

 दोहों के परिधान में गीत सँजोना इस दोहाकार की प्रमुखं विशेषता है। इसका कारण इनके पूर्व रचित गीत हैं जो किसी भी काव्यिक साँचे में स्वयं को ढाल लेते हैं। लेखक महोदय वर्तमान की दशा और भविष्य की दिशा के प्रति भी पूर्णतः सजग हैं। विरासत, परिवर्तन और प्रगति के पक्षधर हैं। कुछ दोहे द्रष्टव्य हैं जो प्रबुद्ध पाठक को कुहरे में धूप की अनुभूति कराकर ही दम लेते हैं।

“आज अधूरे ज्ञान की, सत्ता हुई समर्थ।

बनते पावन शब्द के, नित्य अपावन अर्थ।।

पक्की होती क्यारियाँ, कच्चा घर बुनियाद।

खेती होती सड़क पर, धरना संग फसाद।।

नफ़रत के बाजार में, घुला प्रीति का रंग।

मुदित हुआ मन झूमता, उर में भरी उमंग।।”


डॉ अवधेश कुमार अवध: वाराणसी (चन्दौली), उत्तर प्रदेश के मूल निवासी डॉ अवध मेघालय में सिविल अभियांत्रिकी मेंं सेवारत हैं। बहुआयामी लेखन के साथ समीक्षा में भी रुचि रखते हैं।  देश-विदेश की पत्र-पत्रिकाओं में इनकी रचनाएँ नियमित रूप से प्रकाशित होती रहती हैं। इनके द्वारा संपादित “इनसे हैं हम” उल्लेखनीय पुस्तक है।


Beloved Sundori
Yesterday one of my people
Killed one of your people
And one of your people
Killed one of my people.
Today they have both sworn
To kill on sight.
But this is neither you nor I
Shall we meet by the Umkhrah River
And empty this madness
Into its angry summer floods?
I send this message
Through a fearful night breeze
Please leave your window open.


Sundori bathiang,
Hynnin ka sngi uwei na ki para jait jong nga
U la pynïap ïa uwei na ki para jait jong phi
Bad uwei na ki para jait jong phi
U la pynïap ïa uwei na ki para jait jong nga.
Mynta baroh ar ki la ïa byrngem
Ban ïa pynïap tang mar shu ïashem.
Hynrei kine kim dei ma nga ne ma phi,
Hato ngin ïakynduh harud ka Umkhrah
Ban bret ïa kane ka lamwir
Sha ki lat lat lyiur jong ka wah?
Lyngba ka lyer miet rit mynsiem
Nga phah ïa kane ka pathai,
Sngewbha wat khang ïa la ka pongshai.

Dr Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, poet, writer, and translator, and writes in both Khasi and English. Nongkynrih works as Reader in the Department of English, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. He ws awarded a ‘Fellowship for Outstanding Artists 2000’ by the Government of India. He also received the first North-East Poetry Award in 2004 from the North-East India Poetry Council, Tripura.

Tales of Ancient Shillong: the eerie earthquake

The glamourous city Shillong, capital of Meghalaya today, was completely in wilderness till 1866. There was no proper residential area even, other than some temporary huts made of stones and branches of trees in the present upper Laban area. Some plain paddy fields were there in the present upper Laban and Pynthorumkhrah area, where the Khasi people from nearby villages would plant paddy during summer time.

Due to excessive cold and dense forestry people did not find comfortable and safe to stay in the hill.

 The story of Shillong actually started at Cherrapunji, the first Headquarters of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills District under the Assam Division of the province of Bengal.

 But the British Officers found Cherrapunji quite damp and unhealthy due to heavy rainfall; and a good number of the officers died of enteric fever, including David Scott, the founder of British suzerainity in the hills. The remaning officers started hue and cry for their safety to shift the head quarter from Cherrapunji to a healthier place.

 Meanwhile, as early as 14th October, 1856, J . Allen, Member of the Board of Revenue of the Bengal government, apparently responding to the grievances of the officers, recommended shifting of the district headquarters from Cherrapunji to a more suitable place. The area, known today as Upper Shillong, lying at the foot of the Shillong Peak, was selected as the site of the next district headquarters and sanatorium, but the site had to be abandoned mainly because there was no source of adequate water supply for the people of the projected town. The choice ultimately fell on Iewduh, (Present Barabazar area) as the area was known then.


Col. Henry Hopkinson, then commissioner of Assam Division and Agent to the Governor General, who actually fathered the town of Shillong, took up measures for building up the town and shifting the district headquarters from Cherrapunji. In 1861, he directed Capt. Rowlat, the Deputy Commissioner of the district to proceed to Iewduh accordingly.

  Capt. Rowlat built a cottage for his stay at Iewduh, and made a detailed survey of the area for the projected town. Col. Hopkinson also sanctioned Rs. 35,000 for the improvement of the Guwahati – Iewduh cart road. The final selection of Iewduh as the site for the new town was communicated by a letter dated December 18, 1863, to the Bengal Government, which in its turn, approved purchase of land for the purpose. Col. Hopkinson purchased 2499 acres of land at a cost of Rs. 8,433, including Rs. 1,000 paid to the Syiem of Mylliem for renouncing all claims to the purchased land. This was the area on which Government buildings began to be constructed. Col. Hopkinson named the town ‘Shillong’.

[Ref:- ‘Birth of Shillong’ by Prof. Dr. B. Dutta Roy. The Assam Tribune 7th October 1976.]  

It was only on April 28, 1866, that the Deputy Commissioner’s office, Treasury, Jail and Police started functioning at Shillong, the new born town.

No other State capital in the country has undergone such changes of status and fortune as Shillong since its foundation.

In February 1874, on the formation of Assam as a separate province, Shillong was chosen as capital of the new province on account of its salubrious climate and conveniently central situation between the Brahmaputra Valley and the Surma valley. The site of the present Raj Bhavan was then purchased from Mr. Bivar, former D.C. of the district who owned this property, at a cost of Rs. 26,000 for the construction of the official residence of the Chief Commissioner of the province. The road below the present Raj Bhavan along the lake still bears the name of Mr. Bivar. [Bivar Road]

 A big catastrophe came down upon the new city Shillong on 12th June 1897, to crush the beautiful resort to dust, swept away many valuable lives and properties to turn the place into debrises. It was a horrifying and tragic episode of 19th century Shillong.

Before 1897

1897 Aftermath

Let us hear the eeric discription from an eye-witness (L) Sarada Manjuri Dutta, as described in her published work, (Maha Jatrar Pothey):-

‘12th June 1897, was an inauspicious and doomy Saturday. It was evening, being a Half holiday in the offices and schools, people were relaxing at home, and it was a bolt from the blue! All on a sudden a very strong tremor jerked the whole region, with a horrible underground sound and it was continuing! Houses were collapsing with residents inside! People lost their control in movement for the constant tremoring and big fissures on ground. Only helpless shouting and cry of the children and women grasped the whole environment! The first tremour continued for three minutes and then with intervals continuing for long three days, levelling the hill city to the ground. It was a tremendously dreadful condition, recorded in the century old history of Shillong. The then newly built hill city turned into debrises within a few seconds. A big catestrophy! Many children were buried alive due to the big fissures in the floors, but could not be rescued as there was no way out! The helpless mothers would hear their faint piteous cry from underground but could not help! An unbearable heart breaking condition! A big tradegy’!

The earthquake of June 12, 1897, reduced them in a heap of ruins in the space of few seconds, wrecked the water supply and destroyed the stone masonry embankment that dammed up the water of the artificial Ward’s Lake built by the Chief Commissioner Sir William Ward in 1893-94 below the Government house. The pent up water of the lake rushing through the breached embankment down the nullah towards the Polo Ground washed away a wooden bridge over it, creating scarcity of drinking water in the whole town.

  There were 29 deaths in Shillong, 10 of which occurred in the Secretariat press. Two Europeans killed were Mr. Mc. Cabe, the Inspector General of Police, and Mr. Rossen Rode, a pensioner of the Survey Department. Mr. Mc. Cabe was sick in bed and was found crushed after an hour’s digging of his collapsed bungalow. The total number of lives lost in the Khasi Hills District was 916, maximum of which died due to the falling of hill, which buried them.

 The Govt. report goes as:-

 The Assam earthquake of 1897 occurred on 12 June 1897, Saturday in Assam, British India at UTC, and had an estimated moment magnitude of it resulted in approximate 1,542 human casualties and caused catastrophic damage to infrastructures.

 In Shillong, the earthquake took place at about 5:11pm June 12th. The shock was preceded by a rumbling underground noise which lasted for about 3 minutes. The actual earthquake lasted about two and a half minutes in Shillong. This noise was compared with the tremendous rumbling noise like a thousand ships’ engines thumping away in the midst of a storm at sea. The shocks were so severe and prolonged that everything was leveled to the ground. Mr. F. Smith of Geological Survey of India who was stationed in Shillong at the time, opined that the earthquake was so violent that the whole of the damage was done in the first 10 or 15 seconds of the shock. He reported that all stone buildings collapsed, and about half ikrabuilt houses were ruined, but plank houses (wooden frames covered with plank walls, resting unattached on the ground) were untouched. Many people lost their lives at the Secretariat, the military lines and the bazaar’. The London Times reported the death of 27 people in Shillong, 13 of them crushed to death in the Government Press. However, a year later, Luttman-Johnson reported the loss of ten lives at the Printing Press. The London Times also mentioned an unnamed district town of 750 perishing. This town probably was Cherrapunji where a landslide wrecked the Cherrapunji Railway and caused 600 deaths.

 On August 10, 1897, the Times published letters from residents of Shillong. Rev. G.M. Davis was quoted saying that his church became a heap of stones in less than one minute. The water burst the bounds of the lakes making them absolutely dry within seconds. There was sulphury smell in the air coming out of fissures in the ground. He saw huge stones in the steps of his house literally bubbling up and down. Mr. M’ Cabe, the Inspector-General of Police, who was sick and in bed was found crushed on his bed after an hour’s digging of his collapsed bungalow. [Ref:- 1897 Assam earthquake From Wikipedia]

(L) Sushila Dutta, mother of Prof. Suprava Dutta Lady Keane College Shillong in her old age expressed her terrible experience of that furious moments of earthquake which she personally witnessed and miraculously survived, as:-

 ‘It was 12th June 1897, Saturday 5pm. All schools and officess had half holiday; and so, my husband was at home I had high fever and Doctor Kamala Charan Dutta was called at home who examined me and prescribed medicine. Prasanna Babu, a very close friend of my husband was also present there. My little girl of one year was playing on the floor in my bedroom. Suddenly a violent tremour! A stupendous jerk with a tremendous rumbling sound! Our house was moving and collapsing! I was so panicked to get my little daughter to me but within winkling of an eye, the house collapsed and I discovered myself thrown outside in the compound, and Dr. Kamal Babu grasping my little daughter was helplessly crying for rescue from half underground. It was an unbearable scene! The tremour was continuing with full intensity I was crying to rescue my child. My husband and our servants, with spade and axe cleared the debris and rescued them very tactfully from a very critical condition. We had to take shelter in the Jailroad field. The tremour continued for almost three days with intervals. Many mothers lost their children underground, heard their cry but despite all attempts failed to rescue! That tremounds destructive incident of that deadly earthquake left an indelible mark in my memory’! [Translated from ‘Shillong er smriti’ By Sushila Sundari Dutta. Ref. ‘Netaji Pathagar Golden Jubilee Souvenir’]

  There were also several reports from Shillong in Luttman-Johnson’s paper, where it was reported that that there were aftershocks almost every ten minutes on the night of the 12th and during the day of the 13th.

Today it is a history, a mere episode only but that disastrous earthquake of Shillong moved the whole world; and many global seismologists visited then Shillong to research on the subject. They observed that the light constructions of wood and clay etc remained unhurt despite the strongest jerks of the earthquake whereas the RCC buildings were crushed to dust.

 Prof. Asuri, an expert from Japan, detected that being a bumpy hilly place with rocky soil, Shillong was not fit for heavy concrete buildings, but light buildings with wooden frame and Ickra walls etc could be sustaniable here.

  Accordingly the city was rebuilt with light constructions of buildings and houses which were named as ‘Assam type buildings’.  

  So, since 1897, the Assam type constructions started in Shillong very popularly.

 In this big span of hundred and twentyfive years, of the catastrophe Shillong faced many ups and downs, many political changes and natural calamities at the same time; but braving all evils Shillong is still shining!

Uma Purkayastha, a well-known author, is a retired principal of the Govt. Girls’ Higher Secondary School in Shillong and an academic by training. She started writing at an early age and has written a significant number of poems, short tales, novels, and plays. She is an ardent reader with keen insights. Some of her significant books are “Tagore and Pineland Shillong,” “Uttaran,” “Golpo Sambhar,” and “Beacon Light of the Khasi Hills.”

Vedanta in The West: an interview with Swami Chetanananda

Swami Chetanananda, a monk in the Ramakrishna Order, has been serving as the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri since 1950. He previously held positions in Advaita Ashrama’s publication and editorial departments.

He served as the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California’s Vice President and is currently a cabinet member of the Interfaith Partnership of St. Louis. In 1978, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked as the Assistant Minister for the Vedanta Society. After Swami Satprakashananda’s death, he became the Society’s Minister in 1980. He also serves as the minister of the Kansas City Vedanta Society. His extensive spiritual experience inspired Kajingshai to interview him for publication in the Across Boundaries section.

KJ: Could you please share your experiences as a minister at the Vedanta Society of St. Louis and the activities of the centre?
SC: The Vedanta Society of St. Louis was started by Swami Satprakashananda, a disciple of Swami Brahmananda, in 1938. He was a very learned monk, and he met Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda, and several direct disciples. The swami passed away in 1979.
I came to Hollywood in 1971 and worked with Swami Prabhavananda for five years. I was transferred to St. Louis in 1978 to assist Swami Satprakashananda, who was then bedridden. I lived with him for nearly two years.

Swami Vivekananda brought Vedanta (or Hinduism) to the West in 1893; later, five disciples of Ramakrishna came to the West to preach Vedanta. The teachings of Vedanta are very appealing to the American people, especially for two reasons. First, they love democracy, and the Vedantic concept of God is a democratic concept of God: each soul is divine. Second, they love freedom. It is as if the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbour is their chosen deity. The goal of Vedanta philosophy is jivan-mukti (“free while living”). Freedom is the song of the soul.
Ramakrishna monks have been spreading the messages of Vedanta and Ramakrishna in the West for the last 130 years. I have been working in this country for 52 years. Our St. Louis centre has various activities, such as daily worship and arati, lectures and classes, publications and a bookshop, interfaith meetings and interviews with students, and a spiritual ministry.
KJ: What are the Indian values that you believe should drive the 21st-century world? With technological advancements and Westernization, people seem to be drifting away from their culture, food, and traditions.
SC: India was under foreign rule for 1,000 years – Muslims ruled for 700 years; and the British, French, and Portuguese for a total of 300 years. Now India is a free nation and making tremendous progress in the fields of Economy and Technology. Behind all this spectacular progress, India should not forget her eternal values, which Swamiji reminded us of in his Lectures from Colombo to Almora. Material prosperity cannot bring peace and bliss in life; one cannot buy them in the market either. They come from spiritual life. Ramakrishna said that kamini-kanchan (lust and gold) cannot give happiness. This truth has been tested by many nations of the world, and some are now experimenting with it. India demonstrated the eternal values of renunciation and service in a changing society. Swamiji said that these are our national ideals: Renounce your ego and selfishness, and serve human beings as God. This is the religion of this age and the way one can find fulfillment in life. Swamiji said: They only live who live for others. I hope Indian people will listen to Swamiji and eventually will move in that direction.
When we study religion in the world, we find that the main focus in the 19th century was reasoning. People tried to understand God through reasoning. In the 20th century, the main focus of religion was humanism. People asked: If religion cannot bring happiness, what good is that religion? In the 21st century, I believe that the main focus of religion will be mysticism. People say that we have read enough, heard enough, and seen enough – now we want experience. In this context, Ramakrishna and our age-old Vedantic tradition will play an important role.
In 1992, I was invited by the School of Contemporary Mysticism in Avila, Spain, St. Teresa’s birthplace. I spoke on Ramakrishna’s spiritual experiences.
KJ: In the context of the Harmony of Religions, what universal moral ethics should every religion stress to maintain harmony in society?
SC: The seed of the harmony of religions is in the Rig Veda, Bhagavad Gita, and Shivamahimnah Stotra. But Sri Ramakrishna demonstrated that wonderful ideal in his life by practising Christianity and Islam along with Hinduism. He realized God in the Hindu way and then through other religions. No one, except for Sri Ramakrishna, has ever done that in the religious history of the world. His unique message was Jato mat tato path – as many faiths, so many paths. Do not quarrel about religion. Nowadays, we find that “Inter-religious Councils,” “Interfaith Partnerships,” and similar organizations are springing up in many cities in the Western world. This phenomenon started after the advent of Ramakrishna and after the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893. In America, Swamiji gave a few lectures on ‘The Ideals of Universal Religion.’
I remember an incident that took place in St. Louis in 1980s. The local TV station interviewed me on Vedanta religion. The interviewer was Catholic. He asked me: “Swami, are the Hindu God, Christian God, Muslim God, and Jewish God different?”
I answered: “When the sun rises, can you say it a Hindu sun, Christian sun, Muslim sun, or Jewish sun? Can you put any stamp on the sun?”
The interviewer replied: “Swami, I have my answer.”
Swamiji spoke of universal moral ethics in his last lecture in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893:
The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.”
KJ: With growing wealth and prosperity in the middle class, many young people are skeptical about spiritual messages. They believe that unlike science, spiritual truths cannot be verified. How can they be convinced otherwise?
SC: It is true that nowadays the young generation are less interested in religion. In the West also, very few people go to church. Atheists, agnostics, and skeptics are not enemies of religion. They keep religion alive. They are true enemies of religion who are apathetic toward religion. Anyhow, when they are in trouble, they look upward and ask for help from God.
You see, Vedanta is a scientific religion. The method of science is experimentation, verification, and conclusion. Vedantic truths have been tested, verified, and then accepted. I think that those who complain against the Vedantic religion have never practised it.
There are two complains against Vedanta: first, it is dry; and second, it is difficult. You see, the subject matter of Vedanta is Satchidanada – existence, knowledge, and bliss. It is hard to believe that the blissful Brahman is dry. Those who complain that Vedanta is difficult, they never sincerely tried to understand this wonderful philosophy. If you want to get milk and kernel of the coconut, you will have to break the shell.
KJ: : RKM Shillong is fortunate to have had Revered Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj as the First Secretary, and several other great monks (such as Rev. Gahananandaji, Prameyanandaji and others) have contributed to the growth of the Shillong ashrama. Please share any reminiscences about RKM Shillong and your association with these monks.
SC: I have nothing to say at present.
KJ: Can you mention one incident from the recent discoveries about Swamiji’s travels/works?
SC: Some years ago, I got the script of Swamiji’s reminiscences by Mrs. Hansbrough from the Vedanta Society of San Francisco. I edited it and sent it to Prabuddha Bharata for publication. Then I translated it into Bengali, and this was published in Udbodhan magazine and later incorporated into Bahurupe Vivekananda. I found many interesting episodes concerning Swamiji in it, especially his human aspect. Let me tell you one incident.
Ralph was a son of Mrs. Wycoff, one of the Mead sisters who were devoted to Swamiji. He lived in their house in Pasadena for a few weeks in 1900. Ralph was then a teenaged boy and devoted to Swamiji.
One day Swamiji said: “Ralph, God is so near to us, but people do not see Him.”
Ralph: “Why, Swamiji?”
Swamiji: “You see everything with your eyes. Can you see your own eyes?”
Ralph: “No, Swamiji.” (After a pause) “But I can see my eyes in a mirror.”
Swamiji: “Ralph, that is the answer. If you have a pure, clean mind, you can see God right now.”
It is amazing that Swamiji did not quote any scripture or give a long talk to this American boy. He just convinced a young American by using a common example. Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” It was said 2000 years ago and still it is a gospel truth. Our Upanishadic teachings are four to five thousand years old, still they are true. Truth never becomes old
Thank you,
Swami Chetanananda, Laguna Beach, California, 26. 8. 23

Folklore and Media Perspectives

Folklore and Media Perspective is the way in which the contested definition of folklore is being presented. At the outset, I would like to reiterate the refreshing observations made by Dan Ben-Amos and would like to quote it as a guiding mode for my thesis in trying to address the issue:

To define folklore, it is necessary to examine the phenomena as they exist. It is cultural context; folklore is not an aggregate of things, but a process-a communicative process, to be exact.

While this conception about folklore clearly delineates the collection that folklore was purported to represent, it lays stress on the contextual aspect of transmission, which in turn allows us to see folklore as a communicative process involving the producer of an item of folklore to share her or his product with an end-user. Thus, it follows that a storyteller can entertain an audience with a story, and while the three are distinctive entities, they are related to each other as components of a single continuum and it is in this way that folklore exhibits a splendid trait of the communicative process. Folklore should be understood as a social interaction which makes use of various modes of communication including the art forms and significantly, mass media.

Recognizing communication as the common denominator of folklore and media, it can be affirmed that no society exists without the activities attributed to it – surveillance of the environment to call attention to threats and opportunities, correlation of the various part of society in making a response of the environment and transmission of the social milieu to succeeding generations. In addition, modern media modes provide entertainment and even an escape from the tedium and grind of everyday life.

This conception of folklore also facilitates the much-needed academic debate on folklore the subject matter and folkloristics the study of that subject matter. If we are to grapple with the realities of our technology-driven civilization as significantly reflected in and perpetuated by information technology and mass communication, we need to be clear in dealing with the scholarship of folkloristics and its very demanding applications.

The identification of communication as the criterion of both folklore and media is the critical point which will illustrate the exciting intersections that occur between the two seemingly autonomous and disparate disciplines. As stated above, folkloristics is the scientific study of folklore and a great part of it is related to the study of contemporary society which generates and sustains its own tradition through media at its disposal. At one point of time, it was widely held that technological media was detrimental to folklore but I feel that this is a naive assertion as the study of contemporary culture implies the use of a range of expressive and communication system which cannot exclude technological media.

Folkloristics is an inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary subject embracing the social sciences, humanities and the arts. Mass media, likewise, is an indiscriminate consumer of raw material, making use of anything and everything to achieve its objective of successful communication. In this, it has been observed that the material or products that folklore provides are adroitly used by the media and presented through its various modes.  Mass culture or folklorismus is the industrial renewal of folklore. It is the process of channeling the traditional folk themes, metaphors, motifs, ideas and beliefs into the mass-produced industrial-commercial products, mass media and other forms of modern communication. Indian society, as we are aware, is not strictly speaking an industrial society at the present moment. However, as a developing country, industrialization is an important aspect of our growth and progress.

The marchen or fairytale has been used times out of number as advertisement material in the print as well as electronic media and again, while the fairytale have been serialized and moulded in comics and cartoon formats, legends  and myths have been presented as news or human interest stories in papers and magazines. These latter examples have often been sensationalized to which accusation Henry G. Gray, a pioneer newspaperman was quick to defend saying “The purpose of a newspaper is to print the truth and make a profit, not necessarily in that order”. I have observed that the tendency of newspapers and magazines to sensationalize has been when there is a “discovery syndrome” story involved.

A couple of years ago, The Telegraph did a story on the practice of name-giving and calling through tunes employed by people living in the remote villages of Khatar Shnong. The reports bordered on exoticizing the place, people and the practice. Admittedly, the tradition is of great interest to readers but to say that the practice is unique is rather far-fetched. Name-calling through tunes is a system of traditional utterance employed by folk groups in different ways. The tradition is widely practiced by some ethnic communities living in the Andean heights of South America and the Tyrolean Mountains of Europe.

The comic book, as a genre of mass communication emerged sometime in the 1930s and the portrayal of the exploits of comic-book heroes completely absorbed the attention of the young and old alike, selling something like 600 million copies yearly and that too during the periods of the Great Depression in the United States. A discerning reader of comic books would easily detect Superman, Flash Gordon, Batman and assorted other comic book characters as spin-offs from mythic and legendary figures. I am tempted here to cite the example of our own folk hero, U Adadak, who is presented as the ideal comic hero in that he, along with his friends forming an alliance and going out to the world in search of adventure. His friends comprise of U Puh Shilum or Hill-plougher, Khwai Shynreh or Buffalo-fisher and Kynting Mawsan or Boulder-thrower. These Herculean figures are accompanied by a dwarf riding a cat. In the hands of a comic book artist or film animation artist, the exploits of these mythic figures would make for very interesting reading or viewing.

When Marconi equipped two US ships to report back to newspapers on the America’s Cup Race in 1899, few thought that the wireless would dominate world airwaves for the next eighty years and bring to people’s  home news, music, stories and the market. The systematic development of commercial radio broadcasting was started by David Sarnoff who became famous for two reasons – one, he was the first person to have heard the distress signal from the sinking Titanic while being stationed on the East Coast of the United States. Second, David Sarnoff became the guiding spirit of Radio Corporation of America. Sarnoff’s plan was to make radio a “household utility” and since then, radio has never looked back.* What followed was a frenzied scramble for frequencies and churning out of programmes of which cultural productions such as radio plays, and songs formed a heavy component. The regeneration in folk music especially was largely sustained by radio stations all over the world. All India Radio Shillong commissioned in 1948 is a case in point. The huge collections of spools in its holdings represent one of the best repositories of folk music in the country.

Allow me to say that the first tentative steps I took in the field of folklore research was encouraged by All India Radio in the mid-1980s. I was working on a part-time basis and under the supervision of the talented late A.N. Kharkongor, we produced substantial programmes by recording live ceremonies and performances. When the North Eastern Service of All India Radio started in the early 1990s, there used to be a slotted weekly programme called folklore retold hosted by Dr. Soumen Sen, a veteran folklorist of North-East India. It was a hugely successful programme and it did a tremendous job to generate interest among listeners.

Film has a pervasive influence on our culture. It shares certain principal elements with literature, another discourse that dominates our culture. The youngest of the art forms, film draws on techniques and conventions from theatre and music yet, all that being said, it has evolved its own narrative method by harnessing the support of technology.

Films are an important part of mass culture everywhere and more so in India where these films play a very important role in the society. This is substantiated by the fact that India produces more films in a year than any other country in the world. In the first place, popular films in India, irrespective of the language they are produced in, are more or less like “modern fairy tales.”  Scholars have recognized that popular Indian films follow the same structural patterns as one notices in fairy tales and folktales. Popular films .with love themes (boy meets girl plots) seem to fantasize love and adventure with themes of the hero winning against great odds through the strength of individual desire which are classified motifs in the celebrated Aarni-Thompson Index of Tale Types. The magic of the myth and the fairy tale has not died out completely- it survives in changed forms in the Indian popular cinema. While Jawaharlal Handoo  talks of four broad categories in popular Indian cinema which seem to operate on folklore, there are more sub-categories which I shall discuss here:

i)             Full Myth Films in which traditional myths or folktales or their national or regional variants are incorporated without changing the basic plot structure.

ii)            Half Myth Films in which the myth or the traditional narrative is imposed on a non-traditional plot-structure or vice-versa. This form is also more appealing both to the city and the village people as it very appropriately establishes the relevance of the mythic metaphors in the modern context.

iii)           Mythic Theme Films represent such films which borrow one or many mythic motifs and use them according to the needs of the plot-structure, which may otherwise be completely non-mythic and non-traditional.

iv)           Fairy Tale Pattern Films are those popular films which exhibit a deep structure-pattern comparable to fairy tales. For example, the hero in such films, just like the fairy tale has to pass numerous tests before being able to trace his heroine, liquidate the villain, win back the heroine and marry her. The donor’s and villain’s actions, just like the fairy tale, are crucial in such films. The logic of the fairy tale pattern: from disequilibrium to equilibrium is an essential feature of such films.

v)            Fairy Tale Reversal films are those that employ folk motifs in a completely reversed format. The best example of this kind is Shrek, where we find the ogre cast in the role of a hero and the stereotyped prince is thoroughly undermined.

vi)           Urban legends with touches of the horrific are doing very well as Hollywood productions and there are a proliferation of films, made in Hollywood and Bollywood, which cater to the consumption fever of the young for the gothic. 

Thus, the fairy tale, if not in its entirety, but in terms of structural frame and action patterns seems alive and thriving in one form or the other in the modern Indian celluloid industry. The cinematic jargon used to describe actors as celestial objects reveal a happy coincidence of folk speech and functional nomenclature. The Khasis refer to handsome males as Nai khatsaw synnia or the full moon which shares the firmaments with ki khlur or stars. Both the celestial objects are considered   males and in both are fitting examples of luminosity.

The use of folklore in media is not only confined to borrowings from narratives and other performative genres but can also be detected in the structures and practices used in mass media. The cultural expressions of people’s everyday life is the core area of folklore studies and folklorists are seriously studying how folk narratives, metaphors, customs and usages are integrated into community life. A very strong reflection of the process of integration of folk nuances with patterns in communication systems of society is found in television. The rise and spread of the T.V. phenomenon in India have been very fast. It has made a strong impact on Indian society and mass culture. Besides direct telecasting of great Indian epics (Ramayana and Mahabharala were great hits) and myths, and other forms of oral narrative including “frozen” forms such as, “Vikram aur Baital” (Vikram and the Baital) and living folktales in serials like “Dada-Dadi ki Kahaniyan” (tales of grandfather arid grandmother), there are numerous indirect forms in which T.V. as a strong medium of mass culture plays the role of renewing folklore and other forms of oral tradition in modern Indian society.

The modernization of the society led many scholars to believe that folklore was dying or would die out very soon. In fact, some genres did disappear from oral tradition due to the impact of the modernization, but they continued to live on in other forms of modern media. For example the television superheroes in many countries have taken some of the roles that traditional folk heroes have always had. Interestingly, this kind of change and continuity of tradition is more visible in modern mass culture and the heroes of this culture which have the same characteristics as the traditional animal tale heroes.5 Similarly, in many countries the magic folktale is no longer transmitted orally, but through books, videos and television and now in¬ternet and e. mail etc. “Television,” writes Gary Alan Fine,  “has apparently changed the temporal boundaries of entertainment, possibly more than it has altered the con¬tent of the stories.” Parents more often than not use all these modem media and read or retell them to their children. The professional storytellers too adapt them from printed or oral sources. These storytellers are not bound by regional or national folk traditions, but feel free to use stories from any culture.

T.V. advertising is another area in which folklore metaphors, symbols, designs, motifs, and ideas are transformed to popularize or boost modern industrial products, and as such become an important part of mass culture. In the past FIFA World Cup, the Sports giant, Addidas, used an inverted proverb to promote its products. The visual showed a small boy playing football with many world cup football stars, past and present.  When the boy scored a goal, the catch-line came as follows: Impossible is Nothing which is the inverted form of Nothing is Impossible.

A couple of years ago, my students and I did a survey of magazine advertisements (using Time and India Today as source material) with the intention of locating folklore metaphors and symbolism used in the advertisement visuals and texts. We discovered that forty percent of the material making use of easily recognized folk metaphors in products such as Bacardi rum where the bat is a central figure to Visa card, Singapore Airlines and the Allianz Insurance which some feminist group in South India, I think, felt was incestuous. There is even a computer virus named Trojan Horse which has affected my computer system.

Television portrays salient aspects of cultural life and though many programmes are created outside everyday life (News, Sitcoms etc.), they are patterned after experiences and impressions of real-life situations: Mie Berg on the introduction of television describes the phenomenon thus: “Television suddenly brought the whole world into the living room. One switched it on – and the living pictures flowed into the family’s circle…”

Through a mass-mediated production, we become part of a larger world whose influences work their way into our lives and altering our perspectives. As a cultural being, humans are obsessed with routines and rituals and as communication consumers, we structure our everyday lives on a necessity which we customize. I have observed that TV constitutes a very significant marker as far as domesticity is concerned. In a family, members will vie for viewing time and the remote becomes an object of authority even hegemony. Television is consciously anointed as the symbolic order we create out of and for our everyday culture. The invasion of our domestic and mental domain by television can best be illustrated by Michael Marsden  who says: “the television receiver has quietly and smoothly assumed the role of household god, becoming the focal point for interior designer and homeowner alike”

During the early nineteen eighties, very few families in Shillong had television sets and during important events such as Republic Day parades and I remember specifically, that during the Asian Games played in New Delhi, people used to congregate in homes that had TV sets and sometimes, the sets were placed outside to facilitate wider viewership. Naturally, TV was pronounced TB that is substituted by a voiced bilabial stop because the voiced labio-dental is not present in Khasi. That TB is a short form for tubercolosis is common enough knowledge and some wit would exhibit his familiarity with both the disease as well as the gadget by saying that TB is nowadays curable; the thing is when someone has colour TB meaning colour television, implying advanced stage of TB, then there is a real cause for concern! By a skillful twist of language, the wit has added to the store of colloquial speech. Another example of integration of a folk aphorism with contemporary lifestyle that I have heard is when a person dies, she or he is referred to as having gone to God’s house to watch TV, deviating from the traditional practice of referring to such occurrences as having gone to God’s house to eat betel nuts.

The intersections between folklore and the media cannot be underrated. The two domains are, by academic definition, autonomous yet they display an inter-connectedness that will open up more exciting work in this brave new century.

Prof Desmond Kharmawphlang: A Professor of Cultural and Creative Studies. Desmond L. Kharmawphlang has published a number of books. A poet and a folklorist; he has published books of poetry and collections of theoretical essays on folkloristics pertaining to North East India. He has represented the country in numerous conferences outside the country notably in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Norway, the United States, Finland and Greece.


In this world we find that all happiness is followed by misery as its shadow. Life has its shadow, death. They must go together, because they are not contradictory, not two separate existences, but different manifestations of the same unit, life and death, sorrow and happiness, good and evil.                                                                                                                                                        –Swami Vivekananda

In the age of global connectivity, the wisdom of ancient traditions transcends borders, capturing the attention and admiration of seekers worldwide. Among these profound legacies, the teachings of Vedanta have emerged as a beacon of spiritual enlightenment. As we delve into the depths of this ageless philosophy, we uncover the essence that has captivated not only the East but also the West.

With the arrival of Swami Vivekananda, the luminous message of Vedanta began to resonate beyond the shores of India. The question arises: what draws the Western world toward India in this neo-modern Vedantic era? The answer, undoubtedly, lies in the compelling lives and teachings of figures like Swami Vivekananda and his mentor Sri Ramakrishna. Yet, it’s also the profound insights offered by Vedanta itself that magnetize minds—a philosophy that unveils the full spectrum of human potential.

Vedanta, at its core, asserts that truth can be perceived from myriad perspectives. It maintains that this truth is not an abstract concept but a tangible reality that can be directly experienced in the present moment. This revelation, when attained, signifies spiritual liberation, encompassing humanity’s aspirations and dreams to an immeasurable extent. Within the tapestry of Vedanta lies the understanding of a singular reality—Brahman—an existence encapsulated in the timeless utterance of the Upanishads: “You are that.”

This edition of Ka Jingshai is adorned with insights from prominent Vedantins in the West. Revered Swami Yogatmanandaji, minister-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of Providence and well-known to the readers of Ka Jingshai, graces these pages with his wisdom. Additionally, Revered Swami Chetanandaji shares his profound knowledge, addressing questions related to Vedanta, Indian values, and interfaith harmony while highlighting the endeavours of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis in the “Across Boundaries” section.

This time the magazine also presents a historical narrative titled “Tales of Ancient Shillong: The Eerie Earthquake” by Uma Purkayastha. The article unveils the transformation of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, from a wilderness to a thriving city. The account vividly describes the devastating earthquake that shook the town on June 12, 1897, resulting in destruction and loss of life. This catastrophe prompted a shift towards more resilient construction methods, highlighting Shillong’s ability to endure amidst adversities.

In the Hindi section, Dr. Rajiv Ranjan Prasad sheds light on “अरुणाचल प्रदेश की ज्ञान-संस्कृति और संकटग्रस्त भाषाएँ”. He underscores the importance of comprehending the sociology and folklore of Arunachal Pradesh’s tribal communities. Dr. Prasad voices concern over the erosion of tribal culture, a concern exemplified through an interview with an elderly village elder. The article delves into the diverse tribal communities of Arunachal Pradesh, their rich linguistic heritage, oral folk traditions, and the profound connection they share with their mountainous environment.

Additionally, the Hindi section features an article titled “त्याग और बलिदान की जाग्रत प्रतिमूर्ति – सती जयमती” by Smt Kalpana Devi Atreya. The article resonates with Swami Vivekananda’s vision of women as embodiments of strength, blending saintliness with heroism. The narrative highlights the inspiring tale of Veerangana Jayamati, an extraordinary woman from Northeast India. Enduring torture and refusing to betray her husband’s location, she sacrificed her life to liberate her people from unjust rulers. Her legacy continues to shine as “Jaymati Diwas,” celebrating courage, sacrifice, and women’s empowerment.

Turning our attention to the Khasi section, Wanjoplang Kurbah explores the intricate marriage customs of Wahkhen Village. This section emphasizes the sanctity of inter-clan unions and underscores the role of upbringing in shaping these revered traditions.

As we traverse the realms of Vedanta, the pages of this magazine come alive with the symphony of ancient wisdom, contemporary insights, and timeless narratives. Vedanta’s allure lies not merely in its philosophies, but in its ability to inspire a harmonious unity among diverse cultures and thoughts. In embracing Vedanta, we embrace a bridge that unites the past, present, and future—a bridge that guides us toward self-realization and universal understanding