Did you know the black magic story behind the Dainthlen falls? Or that Meghalaya follows a matriarchal system where women are the breadwinners of the family? Or the numerous stories linked to the sacred forests?
Grab a cuppa, and read on to find out more about these enchanting stories from the abode of clouds, Meghalaya.
The Matrilineal way of living in Meghalaya
Evidently, the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya follows the matrilineal system of descent and inheritance. In a sense, it almost entirely contrasts the society that almost all of us live in.
It seems the rightful owner of the property is the youngest daughter in the family since the men actually move to their wife’s house after marriage. And the children derive their last names from their mothers. The women go to work and men can work if they choose to, but it is not mandatory. To be clear, women are the breadwinners of the family. And at times, they do give pocket money to their well-behaving husbands.
Yeah. Seriously! Opens up a whole new way of thinking about society, doesn’t it?
It enraptured and startled me at the same time!
Fun fact – The Khasi people, as they are called, are an indigenous ethnic group of Meghalaya and Assam and are responsible for building the famous living root bridges in the Cherrapunji region.
Mawphlang Sacred forest stories
One of the most remarkable features of the Khasi Hills are the sacred forests. They are preserved by traditional religious sanction since ancient days. Most noteworthy among them is the Sacred forest in Mawphlang, about 25kms from Shillong.
“There are certain rules in the forest. If you disrespect the diety in any way, you might fall sick or even result in death!”, Arnoldson, our friendly young guide warned us. The legend goes that the army once tried to take dead logs out of the forest but they couldn’t leave as the jeep refused to start.
The Lyngdoh clan protect the Sacred Forest. And, whenever there is a serious problem like drought or famine in the village, the clan prays here and offers sacrifices. Inside the forest, you will see wishing altars to perform rituals, one for each sacrifice. The clan members touch the pledge stone as part of the prayer. The Lyngdoh tribe offers only virgin brownish bulls as sacrifices. Any animal except a snake passing by is considered a good omen while the ritual is going on.
Our guide showed us a well-defined path the tribes take for the entire process. A group of people carry the heavy bull and stop at a designated place for rest. Another group comes in and carries the bull through the remainder of the journey to the feasting place. They finally reach an open ground near a stream where they feast on the beast.
There is also a place in the forest where they conduct meetings during war or any other serious problems. Ministers gather around this place and take their respective positions in the stones nearby. The chief called Lyngdoh heads the Durbaar(meeting). The Durbaar is a very auspicious one. In all likelihood, only men aged 45 and above are allowed. Any suspicious or handicapped people are totally off-limits.
The legend of Dainthlen
I heard this version of the legend of Dainthlen falls from our cab driver.
Once upon a time, a huge snake was killed in a dense jungle and it was cut into pieces. The snake came in a lady’s dream and told her to find the head of the snake and fix it to its body. In turn, the snake promised to make her rich beyond her wildest dreams. Once she attached the head to its body as per the instructions in the dream, the snake came alive and went away. The snake asked her to take a piece of someone’s clothes or hair and place it as an offering for worship. It instructed the lady to place some money in a designated spot. And to just take money from that spot whenever needed but not to open it. Thus, there was always money on the spot and it never ran out.
The word spread about the abundance of money and soon there was a gang of dacoits. And they were called Dainthlen. The gang became even more notorious as the days passed by. And, it went on for years.
Supposedly, the snake whenever hungry used to suck the blood out of that person to whom the torn cloth or hair belonged to by just smelling the offering. And, this, in turn, made the person feeble and weak.
After a few years, the villagers realized what was going on and then they fought with the dacoits and possibly killed them. Apparently, there are still a couple of dacoits left but are hard to find!
What an unusual story about Dainthlen falls, isn’t it?!
As the legend goes, a young single mother called Likai lived in Rangjyrteh village upstream of the waterfalls. She worked as a porter, ferrying iron from Rangjyrteh to Mawmluh village to make ends meet. Ka( identifies the feminine gender in Khasi) Likai worked long hours staying away from home leaving her infant daughter in the care of others. She then married a second time. But as it turns out her husband was resentful of the attention his newly-wed wife was showering on the infant. This is when it took a ghastly turn.
On a drunken day with a friend, out of pure jealousy, the husband killed the infant. He cooked her meat and threw away the head and bones.
On returning home from a long day’s work, Likai couldn’t find her baby. However, she was so famished that she ate the cooked meat. Afterward, while she was sitting around to slice the betel leaves like most locals, she saw a tiny finger that she recognized. Putting together what just happened, Likai was horrified at what she had done. Grief and fury drove Likai to the edge of the waterfall from where she threw herself off the cliff. Noh in Khasi means jump. As a consequence of this heartrending story, the falls is now known as Noh-ka-likai falls.
Located in Cherrapunji, Nohkalikai falls has the tallest plunge in India.
So how did you find these stories from the abode of clouds? Have you come across any interesting stories during your travels in Meghalaya or North East India? Let me know in the comments below.
In addition, check out this travel video to know more Meghalaya!
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