‘Rang O’ – The heavenly Sun God

The background with blue sky and sun represents ‘Rang-O’ heavenly God/being in Nocte dialect and the herbs in the foreground represents various medicinal herbs of Arunachal Pradesh. The Artists feeling says… Hills and valleys are our home and also the source of energy where the ‘Rang O’ provides abundantly. We offer our prayers O ‘Rang O’ who is high above the sky. And we offer you same things that you bestow upon us as your blessing. May you be propitious and grant us health and happiness through these herbs.

Chatham Boi is an Artist from Arunachal who specializes in watercolor and pencil shade. Her artistic acumen was bloomed and nurtured when she was at Ramakrishna Sarada Mission School. She presently lives at Lowang. She brushes colors to create realistic items on her canvas that she picks from nature. When she pushes her pencil away to create incredible portraits, one often wonders to feel if that is a black and white photograph. Her Works find a place at Rajbhavan of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar.

Stability, Unity and Progress

If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed punyabhumi (sacred land) … the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality it is India

-Swami Vivekananda

India has a unique culture and civilization which we should preserve with utmost commitment. Though
many civilizations have dwindled with the passage of time, our culture and civilization have been resilient.
Despite facing rough weather, they remained solid for several thousand years. This is because there is
something unique about our culture and civilization.
Ideas that influenced Indian culture the most– truth, justice, love, peace, harmony, and so on. Swami
Vivekananda believed that social changes should uphold Indian traditions and not hurt them. So long as India remained true to those traditions, she is safe.
As India celebrates Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, 75 years of independence under the yoke of British rule,
perhaps we may look at the past. Among the south Asian countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last 75 years, ours is a country that has maintained stability.
As the future is built on the foundations of the past, the successes and failures of post-independence has
provided an impetus to address the challenges of the days to come. There is no better time than today to
remember the brave heroes who sacrificed their everything for the nation. In the present issue, we offer the episodes of U Tirot Singh, U Sib Charan Roy and Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Golakganj.
As we read about Khasi traditional home remedies (Khasi), Traditional Medicine: its importance and
protection (English). we feel that not only our history but even the customs and rites can instill the spirit of patriotism in us.
Hindi Articles display an array of authors, most of whom hail from a non-Hindi-speaking part of our
country. Again Hindi writing of North East India ‘Khwahishon Ka Asma’ is held in esteem by an author of
Gujarat Tulika Shree. Srutimala Duara in her compelling narrative takes us to the village of Arunachal.
Dr Jeffery D Long’s personal account featured in the Across boundaries section will leave a lasting effect
on the readers.
Let us accept and admire our past and create. Create bridges that bind past and future, bridges that bond
heritage and innovation

The Golden Casket

Melban Lyngdoh
The Golden Casket
Bloom of a new light,
Gold - as precious as diamond.
Box full of new mystery.
Open it and you will be swallowed,
Ignore it and you will be chased.
Wonders that were never seen
Time and day will fail to cease.
Dark as the starry sky you see,
Feelings that were never heard or felt to spell
You may see it but fail to be felt
You cannot get out until you answer it,
You cannot hear it until you question it.
Once you answer it day will come
You will forget it all, and it will vanish.
You won’t find it,
You won’t see it.
The secret will be revealed for once and forever,
Days will start again from where it stopped.


Manphika Surong
She hides herself, when she’s most beautiful.
She clothes herself, with luminous grace.
Her lustrous desires never ceases,
As she peeks on every face.
She hears the young ones cry,
And the soft moans of the sky.
To her,
Every secret is known.
Every pain unveiled.
She sees the wounds of the little women;
The romantic dates of young lovers.
Some days, it’s murderous attempts.
She can save, not a single soul.
She hears the silence of the city,
And the roar of a man’s heart.
To her,
Every desire is revealed.
Every soul is uncovered.
As she clothes herself with luminous grace.

आजादी अमृत महोत्सव


हेमलता गोलछा, गुवाहाटी
आजादी की उमंग दिलों में जगाने को
नव स्वर्णिम युग का उत्थान हुआ।
बिगुल बजा विकास का भारत में
चहुँमुखी उन्नति का सूत्रपात हुआ।
तोड़ पराधीनता की बेड़ियों को
जीवंत लोकतंत्र का निर्माण हुआ।
ग्रामीण विकास योजना की नींव रखी
संविधान के आदर्श स्वरूप का निर्माण हुआ।
शिक्षा को मिला आधार स्तंभ
‘बेटी बचाओ, बेटी पढ़ाओ’ की धारा का प्रवाह हुआ।
खंड खंड में बंटे भारत को अखंड बना
370 धारा का सफाया कश्मीर से हुआ।
आतंकी हमलों का मुँहतोड़ जवाब दिया
सर्जिकल स्ट्राइक का कीर्तिमान नाम हुआ।
मिटाने को भ्रष्टाचार उठाए ठोस कदम
नोट, वोट और खोट में नव चमत्कार हुआ।
सैन्य का सीना चौड़ा, महाशक्ति मिसाइल से
अंतरिक्ष में छलांग से प्रगति क्षेत्र को मकाम मिला।
स्वच्छ भारत अभियान है जोरों पर
‘नमामि गंगे’ से नदियों का जीर्णोद्धार हुआ।
देश विनिर्माण में कड़ियाँ जोड़ दी लाखों
आत्मनिर्भर भारत के स्वप्न का संचार हुआ।
पारदर्शिता है चुनौतिशील है राष्ट्रीय नायक
तीन तलाक मिटा ‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः’ का आग़ाज़ हुआ।

आजादी अमृत महोत्सव

मुझे बोनसाई नहीं होना



To The Awakened India

Swami Vivekananda
Once more awake!
For sleep it was, not death, to bring thee life
Anew, and rest to lotus-eyes for visions
Daring yet. The world in need awaits, O Truth!
No death for thee!
Resume thy march,
With gentle feet that would not break the
Peaceful rest even of the roadside dust
That lies so low. Yet strong and steady,
Blissful, bold, and free. Awakener, ever
Forward! Speak thy stirring words.
Thy home is gone,
Where loving hearts had brought thee up and
Watched with joy thy growth. But Fate is strong—
This is the law—all things come back to the source
They sprung, their strength to renew.
Then start afresh
From the land of thy birth, where vast cloud-belted
Snows do bless and put their strength in thee,
For working wonders new. The heavenly
River tune thy voice to her own immortal song ;
Deodar shades give thee eternal peace.
And all above,
Himala’s daughter Umâ, gentle, pure,
The Mother that resides in all as Power
And Life, who works all works and
Makes of One the world, whose mercy
Opens the gate to Truth and shows
The One in All, give thee untiring
Strength, which is Infinite Love.
They bless thee all,
The seers great, whom age nor clime
Can claim their own, the fathers of the
Race, who felt the heart of Truth the same,
And bravely taught to man ill-voiced or
Well. Their servant, thou hast got
The secret—’tis but One.
Then speak, O Love!
Before thy gentle voice serene, behold how
Visions melt and fold on fold of dreams
Departs to void, till Truth and Truth alone
In all its glory shines—
And tell the world—
Awake, arise, and dream no more!
This is the land of dreams, where Karma
Weaves unthreaded garlands with our thoughts
Of flowers sweet or noxious, and none
Has root or stem, being born in naught, which
The softest breath of Truth drives back to
Primal nothingness. Be bold, and face
The Truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease,
Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams,
Which are Eternal Love and Service Free.

Mahatma Gandhi at Golakganj, Assam

Before 1901 there was no place called Golakganj. The place was known as Tokrerchara and was in fact pretty insignificant. It was not even a proper market but largely for the chhara or the water body. Other than paddy, the place also used to produce jute and that was one of the major attractions of the small-time merchants to sail upward in their boats from the downstream of the river Gangadhar and buy jute from the farmers. Till the late nineteenth century many sailors used to come to this place to do their trade in the nearby haats of Materjhar and Pratapganj which were the major markets in the western part of the zamindar of Gauripur, who used to be called by the laity as the Raja Bahadur. As typical of the markets, Pratapganj and Materjhar attracted many merchants including the Marwaris. The Marwaris used to come to the district of Goalpara since the mid-18th century. Among the early Marwaris to Pratapganj were the Kanhailals of Pratapganj. Kanhailal had first arrived at the Dhubri port which was the district headquarters of Goalpara, but the main place was Gauripur which was the capital of the Raja Bahadur of Gauripur. In fact, it was Raja Pratap Chandra Barua who had donated the land to the British to set up their district headquarters at Dhubri. Raja Pratap Chandra Barua shifted their capital from Rangamati to Gauripur in 1850. Pratap Chandra was the descendent of Kabindra Patra who was the first zamindar of Gauripur and was one of the trusted generals of Chilarai, the legendary Koch warrior. His son Raja Prabhat Chandra Barua was an illustrious ruler. Golok Barua was one of the sons-in-law of the Gauripur Rajbari who was given the western part of the estate to look after which which comprised some of the major haats like Materjhar, Pratapganj, Tamarhat, Harirhat, Paglahat, Agomani and others.
Assam Railway and Trading Company under the British had introduced the railways in Assam in 1881 in upper Assam between Dibrugarh and Margherita. The purpose of the track was primarily to ferry timber and other forest resources and coal. Assam was not yet connected to the rest of country by railways. It happened in 1901 when they had opened a line to Assam through Golakganj. As per the railway plan to take the line from Lalmonirhat, Gitaldaha, Bhurungamari in Rangpur subdivision (now in Bangladesh) to Assam they had chosen the small village Torerchara as the Gateway to Assam. But then to lay the line they needed a considerable amount of land. At that it was Golok Barua who had agreed to offer land with the conditions that the railway track would be laid on the land he would provide and the railway station at the Tokrerchara village must be named after him. The British Railway company had agreed and named the station as Golokganj junction as it became the point for the track to divert to Dhubri and towards Fakiragram. In 1901, with the coming up of the station, the place came to be known as Golokganj and the otherwise insignificant village began to grow as an important place. That was the time when many Marwaris too began to come to Golakganj as it grew as a major trading centre as communication became easy to reach markets at Bhurungamari Lalmonir Hat and other places in Rangpur district, and more importantly Calcutta came closer to Golakganj. Under the Gauripur estate, the Golokganj became an important part of which Jogomohan Prodhani was the jotedar who was locally called the zamindar.
There were many stories about Golokganj railway station. The famous Bengali author, Bimal Mitra, they say, was here at Golokganj as the Station Master for some years. Golokganj gained importance because it turned out to be the first railway station of Assam through which trains entered the Assam territory. But the station has became famous for the arrival of two major figures of India’s freedom struggle- Netaji Sbhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi.
Netaji Subhash came to Assam in 1938 after he became the President of Indian National Congress. He had come on the invitation of Bishnuram Medhi and Gopinath Bardoloi to Assam to save Assam from being a part of Pakistan as the Muslim League had carried out a massive campaign for that purpose. Sir Sadulla, a Muslim Leage leader from Assam was to become the chief of Assam at that time. He went to Guwahati and met the Congress leaders and came to Dhubri. On October 31, 1938 Subhash had arrived at Golakganj at around 7am to a big crowd gathered there to welcome him. From he had proceeded towards Dhubri to stay there for the next two days.
One of the most significant events in the context of the Freedom Struggle was the visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Assam. He had come to Assam thrice- 1921, 1926 and 1934. Since he came by train, every time he had to travel through Golakganj Junction. The train to Guwahati would invariably wait about an hour at Golakganj railway station.
Mahatma Gandhi’s visits to Assam were well recorded. During his first visit to Assam his train, Darjeeling Mail, reached Golakganj on 18 January, 1921. He was received by Nabin Chandra Bardoloi, who later became the General Secretary of the first Assam Pradesh Congress Committee. In1920 following the resolutions at the Nagpur session of Congress, Gandhi had launched the non-cooperation movement. Assam too became a part of the movement after the annual session of Assam Association held in 1920 at Tezpur. In March Gandhi had set a target to raise rupees one crore for the ‘Tilak Swaraj Fund’ and enroll at least one crore new members for Congress for four anna each. Accordingly the target set for Assam was Rs. 1, 30, 000 when the population of of Assam at time was around 4 crores 70 lakh (excluding the Surma valley). On 17 January 2021 Mahatma Gandhi came to Assam and reached Golakganj in the morning by train from Calcutta by Darjeeling mail. There was a huge crowd to have a glimpse of the Mahatma as though they had heard so much about Mahatma Gandhi, they never saw him. Besides, there were many tales doing the round among the common masses about his supernatural power turning him into a kind of a mythic figure for the general people. Nabin Chandra Bardoloi was among the major leaders from Assam to have welcomed him at that the station.
In 1926 Gandhi had come to Assam to attend the Congress Session held at Guwahati when the population of Guwahati was just about 16000 only. He began his journey from Calcutta to Assam on 23 December 1926. This time too he had stopped at Golakganj station to receive the warm welcome of a mammoth crowd. His last visit to Assam was in the year 1934 when he had come to Assam to raise funds for his movement against untouchability. On the morning of 10 April, 1934 Mahatama had arrived at Golakganj who was greeted by the Congress leaders like Omeo Kumar Das, Devendranath Sarma, Garhmuria Goswami, Kailash Chandra Prodhani, Bhuban Chandra Prodhani and others. On that day Mahatma went to the Kachari Ghar of zamindar Kailash Chandra Prodhani to take rest and address a gathering. Kailash Chandra Prodhani was the eldest son of Jagomahan Prodhani who was a major jotedar under the Raja of Gauripur. In the meeting Kailash Chandra Prodhnai had donated a pouch of gold coins to the Mahatma. In the evening Mahatma Gandhi along with other Congress workers went to Rupshi and spent his night there at the zamindar of Rupshi where the people had donated an amount of Rs. 1000 to Gandhi. He then went to Gauripur and Dhubri where zamindar Kumar Jagadindra Narayan Choudhury had delivered the welcome address.
These episodes were significant historical events which are reflective on how the general multitudes actively took part in India’s freedom struggle. This is part of the micro-history which has immense value to know and discover many untold stories of India’s freedom struggle which had made tremendous impacts even in the small, nondescript places like Golakganj

Hazarika, Sanjoy. “Subhas Bose and the ‘special’ case of Assam” , The Sunday Guardian, http://www. sunday-guardian. com/analysis/subhas-bose-and-the-special- case-of-assam. Accessed on 19 March 2022
Passah, Wandell. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Shillong (June 12, 1927) in The Shillong Times. 28 January 2022
Saikia, Chandra Prasad. Ed. Asomot Mahatma. Guwahati: Asom Prakashan Parishad. 2007 (First edition, 1969)
Special correspondent. “Netaji’s visit to Dhubri remembered on his 120th birth anniversary” in The Assam Tribune 15 Sep 2010 5:30 AM https://assamtribune. com/netajis-visit- to-dhubri-remembered-on-his-120th-birth-anniversaray. Accessed on 21 April 2020
Dr Jyotirmoy Prodhani, a professor at English Department, NEHU he writes on different areas ranging from short stories to ethnicity of North East India. On the literary front he is a member of North East Writers Society and Asom Sahitya Sabha. He also is the president of North India East Association for Human Sciences (NEIAHS), Life Member of the forum on Contemporary Theory (FCT), Baroda. Hauthored several books that are both immersive and informative

Traditional Medicine: its importance and protection

Indigenous knowledge has no single definition, however, it may be defined as knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society and provides the infrastructure for agriculture, health care, food preparation, training, environmental conservation, and other life processes at the local level. It is part of the identity of indigenous tribes. It has been regarded as an important commodity in global health development. World Health Organisation (WHO) in its recommendations on Health for All Declaration (1978) highlighted the need to include local people, their traditions, and practices in Primary Health Care (PHC).

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as ‘the health practices, approaches, knowledge, and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques, and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being

Herbal medicine in traditional medical practice is an important resource that can be mobilized for the attainment of the common goal of health for all. These herbal medicines have contributed significantly to man’s struggle against diseases and the maintenance of health. In recent years, interest in the use of herbal preparations has increased. Herbal medicines are used in most countries within the state health care system or in communities and private practices outside the state system.

Traditional and indigenous knowledge is unique to a given culture or society and the Jaintias who adhere to the traditional belief system are no exception to this knowledge, particularly in health care.
The Jaintias have a rich variety of traditional healing systems. One common healing practice is known as ‘Prem ya ka Tiar”, where an elder with extraordinary folk knowledge use ginger and chant a spiritual song or mantra. The chanting goes like this, “Ko Syiem Synchar Biskorom Blai, ko jaid ko Thakur ko chanbnein ko chankhyndaw, lurmiet luchai soodong i pyrthai. . . . . ” This practice is used to cure intestinal gas, belching, bloating, and flatulence. There are different types of ‘Prem’ for different ailments. Back in the old days, when one is traveling by train outside the State, our parents would give us ‘Syin Prem’ to be used during our journey for healing different ailments like diarrhea, fever, toothache, etc. This healing process is prevalent in the niamtre community.
Let me narrate the story of when I was a child, regularly I would have ringworm all over my neck. And the infection worsens during the winter months. No matter how frequently I visited a dermatologist and applied antifungal cream, there is no sign of a cure. In 1986, in the winter month, my maternal uncle, took me to my hometown, Jowai to visit a traditional healer by the name Late Waheh Kento Sumer. Early in the morning, he took us to the paddy field at Dulong Poh Hali, Jowai. Here, he pick from the soil a tiny red insect, and with chanting, he rubbed the insect all around my neck. I was advised to sort of plaster my neck with a cloth for a week. After a week, the rashes which had become dry just fell off my neck and since then I never have had the problem of ringworm again to date.
Then in our hills we often heard of a tree we called Deiñ Kaiñ – a type of tree that causes skin allergy. Any person with less charm, if one happens to be in the proximity of the tree; one’s will experience rashes all over the body. We were warned by our elders not even to point the finger at the tree because it will also cause a rash or skin allergy. My friend’s father, Late Rev. P. L. Wann while at Sutnga was supposedly under the influence of the Deiñ Kaiñ, while strolling around. In a few minutes, he experienced an unbearable rash and his right arm was swollen. When he reached Shillong, luckily one student who study at St. Anthony’s College, Waheh Bal Pakma hailing from Kyndong Tuber (Six kilometers from 8th Mile Jaintia Hill) who came to heal him. The healing process was that he presses the palm with his fingernails. Within a week the swelling and the rashes disappeared and were cured.
Snakebite is a significant public health problem in many developing countries. Farmers are particularly exposed to snakes. There are more than 3000 known species of snakes of which around 300 are poisonous. In India out of 216 species, approximately 53 are poisonous. Traditional healers of snake bites are a vanishing breed. In Jowai, Waheh Tingboi Thma of Loomkyrwiang is a famous healer. Waheh Tingboi Thma has saved many lives over the years. Unlike traditional healing methods, such as local incision, herb ingestion, application of snake stones, and tattooing, Thma’s healing process involves some rites and rituals.
Since man first learned to make fire 1. 7 to 2. 0 million years ago, burns and scalds have been one of the most common of his injuries. Remedies for burn wound healing are practiced to date by the Pnar. One of the prominent traditional healers of burn injuries is Late Litis Kyndiah. The process of healing is called ‘Slu iñ diñ’, where the healer would use mustard oil and chant on it, which will be used as an ointment and applied to the burn wound. This practice is still in operation in Khasi and Jaintia Hills
However, the advent of western cultures has had a great impact on the traditional healing system. Today, the survival of many indigenous/traditional knowledge systems is at stake because of rapidly changing natural environments and fast pacing economic, political, and cultural changes on a global scale. Traditional knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation, often in oral form or by way of example, whereas written sources may not exist at all or only in local languages. Thus, it is imperative to preserve the knowledge held by our forefathers. It is in this context, that the Traditional Knowledge should be afforded effective protection.
Throughout the world, indigenous peoples and local communities have developed a wealth of traditional knowledge that they wish to protect and promote. Yet few have to use the intellectual property system to do so. Article 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (2007) is an important reference in this regard: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect, and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their science, technologies, and culture, including human and genetics resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of properties of flora and fauna, oral traditions, literature, designs, sports, and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect, and developed their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expression. It’s further declared that “In conjunction with the indigenous people, States shall take effective measures to recognise and protect the exercise of their rights”.
This valuable asset is at risk. Since traditional knowledge practices have ancient roots and are often oral – are not protected by conventional intellectual property (IP) systems. In recognition of the value and preservation and promotion of the traditional knowledge system, in recent years, the protection of TK has received increased attention in various international forums, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Commission on Human Rights
The African proverb says “When an elder dies, a library burns down”. This clearly sums up the importance of traditional knowledge preservation and cultural continuity.

Dr Omarlin Kyndiah teaches Biochemistry at St. Edmund’s College, Shillong. Known for his insightful writing he also is the General Secretary of Sein Raij Niamtre Shillong

U Sib Charan Roy: A True Khasi Nationalist and Indian Freedom Fighter

On 19th December 1929, the Indian National Congress voted for ‘Purna Swaraj’ – total independence from British rule. Several prominent national leaders of the time were at that historic session held in Lahore. From the Khasi hills there was only one gentleman present – U Sib Charan Roy Jaitdkhar Sawian.
U Sib Charan Roy, born on 4th April 1862 in Sohra, was the eldest son of the legendary Babu Jeebon Roy Mairom. Like his father, he too endeavoured to instill pride in his people, for what was their own, and dedicated his entire life to this cause. He wrote extensively on the philosophy of Niam Khasi (the indigenous faith), translated important Indian religious texts to Khasi, published comparative studies, gave influential lectures in the early formative years of Seng Khasi, wrote patriotic songs that are still sung today, and even battled the agents of the East India Company in a trade war. The famous ‘Shad Suk Mynsiem’ (Dance of the Peaceful Hearts) was initially known as ‘Ka Shad U Sib’ (Sib’s Dance). These are just a few glimpses into his life and contributions.
He was a staunch Khasi who believed in and subscribed to the idea of “India”. For him, there was no conflict between Khasi Nationalism and Indian Nationalism, as he was very clear with the following – the Khasi Way of Life and Worship was an integral part of the great cultural and spiritual heritage of the sub-continent, and British rule was a clear threat to its survival. He fought the British, at the height of their powers, using his intellect and his unshakable belief in himself and his faith.
This clarity led him to support the Swadeshi movement from very early on. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1920. Although he never held an official post at Seng Khasi, he was an icon, and his work greatly helped the organization grow in strength. He propagated the traditional Khasi systems of administration and governance and said that the Khasis were not a conquered people, but he saw how they were rapidly losing their identity. He wanted a Khasi state with its values intact within the “New India”. In his newspaper ‘U Nongphira’ (The Watchman) he shared information and articles about the freedom struggle, created awareness and clarity about the treaties that the Khasi states had signed and was never afraid to expose the propaganda and lies of the colonial machine. The paper was banned in 1915 but he returned with ‘U Nongpynim’ (The Reviver) which was also ultimately banned in 1940.
The British authorities attempted to suppress and silence him multiple times, but he never backed down. He won a very important case maliciously filed against him, known as the Weiking case, where he had been accused of trampling on cemetery grounds on the way to the traditional Khasi dance arena (Lympung Weiking) in Jaiaw, Shillong. This was proven to be false and today the public road that runs down the middle of the hill stands as evidence. Books misinterpreting what he said, to discredit him, are still in publication, an ugly inheritance of the colonial legacy. However, due recognition without bias is also coming to light.
He was a supporter of the non-cooperation movement and adhered to Mahatma Gandhi’s
‘Satyagraha’ -quest into truth. He admired Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and spoke highly of him, while sections of Khasi society were plotting to protest and pelt stones at the great revolutionary. The poison injected by the British into the psyche of the local populace had sunk in deep. This anti fellow Indian and anti self mentality, tantamounting to self – denigration sadly continues till today. The greatest and most dangerous lie the British and their hounds planted in our minds was that the Khasis had no links with the rest of the country. This sinister divide and ruin policy still weakens us, but I am certain newer generations will not fall prey as easily.
When U Tirot Sing Syiem was battling David Scott and the East India Company, in the early to mid-19th century, the idea of a single independent nation had not fully crystallized. Revolts had spread across the land, but they were largely unconnected. Princely states and small communities began to take up arms on their own. However, by the time U Sib Charan began to write and publish material against the British in ‘U Nongphira’ the idea of an independent and united nation was becoming clearer, although the boundaries would drastically change as demands for a separate Islamic state in the western and the eastern corners of Bharat gained ground. Natural barriers, like rivers and mountain ranges, overnight became the new international borders. Khasis lost vast tracts of land to the newly created East Pakistan, today known as Bangladesh. Communities were split apart on this side of the subcontinent too.
U Sib Charan was confrontational, and fiery at times, but he was always guided by Truth and the search for it. While most Khasis only talk of ‘U Hynñiewtrep’, the Seven Huts, he is one of the few who has ever invoked ‘U Khyndaitrep’, the Nine who remained in the celestial abode of the Divine Creator, U Blei. Not only did he protect the indigenous faith, he also strengthened it. No one can deny that the Khasi identity has been kept intact largely due to efforts of leaders such as him – for the greatest form of preservation is through practice.
He wanted us to grow with and from the power of being part of a deep and vast ocean of spiritual bonds and traditions. It is up to us to derive strength from our similarities, rather than retreat further into the suffocating walls of gloom, desperation, blame and confusion. U Sib Charan believed strongly in the need for reforms, but he was vehemently opposed to outside interference and foreign ideas determining the path forward. His vision was clear – we must progress from our own Roots and understanding of Divinity and Fellow Man.
U Tirot Sing, Kiang Nangbah, U Mit, U Hon, U Dur, U Sib Charan Roy and many more fought not just to protect the land. . They fought for the dignity and soul of the people. Today that soul is growing stronger and clearer, with prideand peace in the garden of our Mother Goddess – Ka Mei Ri India (Bharat Mata). May we and many more continue to bloom in the years to come. Happy 75th year of Independence!
Ïai Minot! Khublei! Jai Hind!

Hammarsing L Kharhmar, President of ‘Ka Tbian Ki Sur Hara’, a Performing Arts School of Seng Khasi (Kmie).

Singpho Royal Family of Bisagaon

Image: Cottonbro(Pexels)

Margherita, a small town in Upper Asom, where tea-gardens roll up and down spreading lush greenery, takes one’s breath away. Hiten Bora, the then SDO had a lovely bungalow, in the midst of a tea-garden. We were there on his invitation, enjoying his hospitality, when he asked us if we were interested in going to a Singpho village. I jumped at the chance of visiting a tribal village. I have this fascination for villages, meeting different people, perhaps it’s the blood of my anthropologist father in me.
Bisagaon is a Singpho village. I had heard about tribal villages from my father, Bhuban Mohan Das. I was translating my father’s articles to be compiled into a book “The Diary of an Anthropologist” and in its process I got to know about different villages and different communities. I had also gathered some second hand knowledge about the Singphos. So, when I got the chance to visit a Singpho village, I was thrilled.
Just opposite Ledo coal mines a narrow path ran down. Our car followed that track. A big tea-garden loomed ahead. We steered along the passage through the green tea shrubs. Wherever we cast our eyes there were just green tea bushes, the looming sirish trees and the smell of the tea leaves. A never-ending field of tea bushes, as if we were lost amidst the greenery. At one point of time the car halted. A narrow river blocked our path. We got down from the car. We found some men waiting for us on the opposite bank of the river. The Singpho king was informed of our visit and so he had sent men to guide us. One of them was the Gaonburha, the village head of Bisagaon.
We crossed the river on a boat. Two men walked ahead leading us to the royal palace while Gaonburha walked behind us. We were to cover some distance on foot to the royal house. The fields were bare with only the stubbles sticking out of what were at one time green meadows. Harvest been over the crops were now stored safe in the granaries. Walking over the barren ground for some time we reached the king’s house.
A big chang-ghar, a house on bamboo stilts greeted us. A wide green field with ranges of hills all around and in front of us the big chang-ghar. The house seemed to merge in that natural surrounding. We walked up the wooden ladder. The verandah was made of dried leaves. Bare-footed we walked into a big room. The floor was of wood. Horns of a deer adorned the wall. The house seemed to speak of a past history. But modern possessions too were accommodatef. At one corner of the room was a television set.
We walked into another room. A long mattress was laid on the floor. Covering it was a Jaipuri bed sheet. We sat on it. A dwarfed table was laid before us and before each seat was a brass pot, a flat bowl and an empty glass. The pot was filled with water. We could pour water from the pot and wash our hands and faces into the big flat bowl.
The king sat opposite us. There was no mattress under him, only a rectangular piece of cloth. Above him was a rack on the wall where some English books found their place of importance.
When we asked him about his children he said he had five sons and seven daughters of which two were dead.

The king spoke about a lot of things. He was not a king now. There was no kingdom, hence no king too. But his grandfather was the king of that region called Bisagaon. They were Singpho people, their original home being Burma. To this date there were still relatives and friends in Burma. At one point of time there were no boundaries between Burma and India. They crossed hills and valleys and entered India from Burma to settle in Bisagaon. Till the days of his grandfather there were constant visits to and from Burma. But no one needed any pass to visit Burma, he said somewhat regretfully. “We may live in the plains, but we all are people of the hills. No matter how long one cuts ways to make roads, it will lead to the hills. ” The king said philosophically, “There is no other way. Hence, it’s no use showing our backs to the hills. ”
“Have you noticed one thing?” the king asked with a twinkle in his eyes. “There is no crow in this area. ”
True, this place had no crows. It was only when the king pointed out that we realised that there were no crows. He gave the reason too. “Tipam mountains are very powerful. If any crow crosses that hill then it is sure to fall sick and die. The mountain God does not allow any crow to cross the range. ”
They seemed to have a kind of fear and respect for the mountains.
“If you happen to show the rice filled bamboos towards the mountain god he gets very angry. He sends down rain and thunder in his fury. ” He meant the bamboos that were being used to steam rice.
When we discussed the problem of drugs among the present generation, and asked if his youths were falling into such troubles, the king smiled and said, “There is a story here too. There was a king. He had a daughter. She was Kani, i. e. blind. So, no youth came forth to marry her. She was very sad and cursed before dying – ‘No one was attracted towards me when I was alive, but after my death every one will fall for me. No one will be able to resist me. ’ When Kani died, she turned into a beautiful flower. Whosoever gets attracted towards her can never leave her. ”
Poppy flowers are called Kani in Assamese. We couldn’t help laughing at the way he narrated the story in reply to our curiosity regarding the youths of Bisagaon and their attraction towards drugs. It was quite a diplomatic response too.
Meanwhile, his daughters came out and put before each of us a bottle of Xaspani, i. e. home-made liquor, and a plate of pork. The king said, “This white xaspani is not at all strong. Very good for health. ” We were given some chutney to have with the pork. This cuts down the adverse effects of the pork fats.
The Singhphos eat their food before sunrise and after sunset. “There is a reason behind this, ” said one of the king’s men. He went on to explain the reason. Long time ago, when people used to live a different kind of a life, when they were more intent in gaining territories for themselves and their clan, at that time whenever they would cook and the smoke was seen from far, the enemies would get to know that there were settlers in that area and they would invade. In order that the enemies could not see from far the smoke rising out from the chang-ghar, they never cooked anything when there was light. This tradition continued to date.
It was time for our lunch. The girls put two bundles of rice wrapped in leaves on each of our plates. Then came the small bowls for each of us with chicken curry, fish curry, mashed fish, three or four types of vegetables. On opening the leafy bundles an appetizing aroma arose. However, one bundle contained so much of rice that we couldn’t even finish it. How were we to eat two bundles? When I said that one bundle would have been more than enough one of the girls said, “We are not supposed to serve just one pack. Even if you don’t eat from the other pack we have to serve two. This is our custom. ”
The girls who served us wore cloths tightly round their heads so as to cover their hair. One of the girls said, “When we cook and also when we serve we have to tie our head in this manner so that no hair falls into the food. ”
After lunch I went to see their kitchen. It was a big room with a cooking fireplace in the middle. A very big chang, i. e. a hanging platform, was over the fireplace with provisions to store things on it. A wooden staircase ran down from one side of the kitchen to a neat vegetable plot. Till the eyes could go there was a stretch of paddy field, now only with the stubbles sticking out.
When we were about to take our leave I stood below the house staring at the structure. A beautifully built large chang-ghar. At one time the king had ruled his kingdom from this very place. The king came out with his wife and said that she did everything, right from cooking to working in the paddy fields. My mind clouded as I looked at the queen. She did all her work silently. But she was the queen, even though there was no kingdom today. She was in the same position as the queen of yesteryears. Then why did she have to work so hard? When I voiced my thoughts, the king said, “I brought her with my money. I have paid for her. I have not brought her empty-handed. If I had brought her without giving anything I would be damned in hell. I have bought her and so she is mine. She has to work. ”
I thought of the dowry system in the other parts of India. There is no dowry system in Asom and the rest of the northeast, at least it was not heard of till recent times when people got to know about the system through media. Even then there are just stray cases in this region. But in the rest of India the bride’s family has to pay quite a lot to the groom’s family as dowry. When one ponders over what the Singpho king had said, then the boy actually belongs to the girl’s family, being bought with money. So, the boy should work under the girl. But things do not happen that way.
Once again we walked along the stubble field. This time the king, one of his daughters, two sons, Gaonburha and the two men who had come to fetch us from the riverside walked with us.
At a distance was a temple. The daughter pointed at it and said, “It’s a Buddhist temple. During Bihu festival, the idol of Buddha is taken out and put on a high place. The people pour water over the idol and also throw water on each other. Hence, this Bihu is known as Pani (Water) Bihu. There’s a lot of merry-making on this occasion. ”

The Singphos are Buddhist. Though they eat meat they do not kill any animal themselves. But the son informed us that at one time down history an elephant was sacrificed every year from the royal house. During the passage of time the elephant was replaced by a lamb and finally by a hen. While talking about hen, they said that the head of the hen should always be offered to the most respectable person. And for the Singphos their maternal uncle was the most highly regarded person. During feasts the heads of the chicken should be given to the maternal uncle of the family.
The king’s daughter told me that girls and boys worked equally hard in the fields as well as in the house. I asked, “Can your brothers cook?” to which the daughter said, “My brothers have to work in the kitchen in the same way as we the girls of the house do. ”
Today, we are talking about the equality of men and women, demanding that men should do the same work as the women do in the house. But the Singpho men and women have been working hand in hand in every field of life through centuries. The sons of the king were studying in English medium schools, getting their education like their counterparts in the rest of the country. Yet they had not forgotten their customs, their tradition. They talked with us in Assamese without any flaw. But among themselves they talked in their own Singpho language.
Pointing toward the distant mountain range, the king’s son said, “Through the passes of those mountains our forefathers had walked to Burma. At night they used to take shelter in the villages. The villagers offered all kinds of hospitality. They took days to reach Burma. Who can walk for such long distances today? It’s no point even if one can. You must have some kind of permit to enter. ”
It appeared that the youth of today too felt sad that the link between the mountains and the valleys had snapped. One cannot cross the political boundaries. These people still mourned their lost relationship due to the political rules.

Another interesting fact was revealed to me as I walked along with the king’s son and daughter. They did not take any food in some houses though they are on friendly terms with the family members. The reason was that their forefather had some quarrel with those families in the long past and had vowed by touching the dao (sword) that they would never take any food or water in their houses. The following generations kept that vow and the king’s family did not eat in some houses in order to stick to the pledge of their forefathers.

The history of the Singphos is not to be found in a written form. Their history had come down orally from one generation to the next. The king enlightened us with the story that their history was written on a piece of leather. But one day they were very hungry and could not find anything to eat; they made smoked leather out of the piece and ate it up. History went into their tummies. But the Singphos had to know their family tree up to the seventh generation. If they happened to visit another village they must be able to recount the names of their seven forefathers; if they couldn’t they were not allowed to enter the village or was not allowed to meet the person they were looking for. In the past when they had to travel to Burma, it was very essential that they knew the names of their forefathers up to the seventh generation. If they couldn’t, they were not permitted to stay in the village for the night. Even today the Singphos know the names of their forefathers to the seventh generation; the custom is still prevalent. It’s a nice custom; at least the people know their roots.
Once again we crossed the river by boat. I looked back at the Bisagaon we had left behind. I could never forget the people who still clung to their traditional beliefs and customs and took pride in working hand in hand, be it the royal family or the commoner of the Singpho community.
Srutimala Duara a lecturer in Handique college, Guwahati is an established writer who writes in English and Assamese. She has published a number of novels, collections of short stories and articles both in English as well as in Assamese
Her acclaimed works include ‘Autumn poems’ , ‘Ashes in seas’, ‘Steet Dogs Club’ and ‘Along my routes’