THE KHASI PEOPLE
The Khasi are an ancient people dwelling mainly in the Indian state of Meghalaya with smaller populations in the neighboring state of Assam and regions of Bangladesh. They have a long history and rich culture and many ancient traditions and festivals are still practiced. There are still those who remember many of their old myths and stories which give an explanation of where they came from and the world around them.
According to their traditional lore, the original home of the Khasi people was known as “Ki Hynñiewtrep” or “The Seven Huts” in English. Their supreme deity was called, “U Blei Trai Kynrad” or “God the Lord Master,” who had ordered humanity into sixteen divine families known as “Khadhynriew Trep.” In those days families could move freely between Heaven and Earth because a physical connection between the two realms was located on their sacred hill of Lum Sohpet bneng, which means “Navel of Heaven.” Today it is a place of festival and pilgrimage for those Khasis who continue to remember and respect the old religion keeping alive the ancient traditions and lore of their people.
The following folktale of the Khasi people is called The Legend of Mount Sophet Bneng from a collection of tales, legends and myths titled, “Folk-Tales of the Khasis” by Mrs. Rafy. This tells that on top of the great hill of Lum Sohpet Bneng there once grew tree so tall it reached from Earth up to Heaven.
THE LEGEND OF MOUNT SOPHET BNENG
The tree was called the Jingkieng ksiar and sometimes referred to as the Golden Bridge or Golden Ladder, because the people of Heaven used it to climb up and down between Heaven and Earth. At the time the Earth was not inhabited by people because they would visit and return to Heaven to live.
During this time all of humanity lived in Heaven but the Earth was inhibited by all manner of different animals, birds, reptile, insects, and a multitude of other different lifeforms. There was a great variety of plants, some large, some small, many with luscious fruits, beautiful flowers, and vibrant foliage. It was a very beautiful and wonderful world, and the humans would visit Earth by climbing down the tree where they could roam in wonder and delight and return at their leisure by climbing back up the tree.
In those blessed days there was only one language spoken and sang and all of creation communicated freely together. Trees, flowers, birds, animals, fishes, insects even rocks and stones and the sixteen families used it to commune among themselves and with nature.
When they discovered the soil around Lum Sohpet Bneng was rich and fertile they began to cultivate crops for profit planting many gardens and fields. U Blei Trai Kynrad, their supreme divinity granted this but decreed that they must return to Heaven every night and only be on Earth during the day. The sixteen human families of Heaven followed this practice rigidly.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, there was a single malevolent one among them who lusted power and resented divine authority. Furthermore, he grew loathe to follow the will of the Creator and sought to rule over his fellow human beings. He was always seeking ways to further and attain his ambitions and gain control over the people.
One day seven families climbed down the tree to work upon their gardens and fields on Earth, leaving the other nine to go about their business in Heaven.
SEVERING THE CONNECTION
When all the seven families were hard at work the malevolent one saw his chance.Thinking that without the tree to move between Heaven and Earth those seven families would be easier to bring under his control without the interference of God the Lord Master. Therefore, he took an axe and cut down the tree that connected Heaven and Earth. The seven families working their crops were stranded on Earth, and those nine families in Heaven severed completely from Earth.
This is how humans came to live permanently upon the Earth. Those seven families were called “Ki Hinniew Skum” which means the “seven roots”, or “seven nests” and it is from these that the rest of humanity living on Earth is descended.
Ever since the people of Heaven and Earth have been separated from each other. Furthermore, as the seven families spread over the Earth the language became splintered into many different tongues. The ability of the people to communicate with one another was damaged and the ability to converse with nature was lost or severely impaired. This all happened thousands of years ago through the act of one evil man who craved power and control over the people.
Another version of the myth tells that in the early days of the world there was no separation between Heaven and Earth and people obeyed God’s laws and lived in harmony with the natural world. Heaven and Earth were connected by the Jingkieng ksiar,andpeople began living on Earth. Overtime they forgot or disobeyed the rules of the creator and made their own laws. Where there had been one language in Heaven and on Earth a multitude of tongues evolved. People could no longer talk to nature or among themselves and they came into conflict with Heaven. Because of this the tree withered and died and the connection between the two realms was lost.
The loss of the tree is often viewed as an allegory warning of the consequences of the severing of connections between humans on Earth and God in Heaven.
©08/06/2022 zteve t evans
REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING
Copyright June 8th, 2022 zteve t evans
- Folk-Tales of the Khasis by Mrs Rafy
- Sajal Nag.pdf (vidyasagar.ac.in)
- Colourful & Vibrant Khasi Tribes of Meghalaya in the North East of India – The Cultural Heritage of India (cultureandheritage.org)
- A Golden Age and the Fall of Man Myths (solarmythology.com)
- Ka Jingshai- An e-zine of Ramakrishna Mission, Shillong (rkmshillong.org)
- If you think the ‘Hynniewtrep’ is a mere oral narrative,think again! (thenortheasttoday.com)
- The Materiality of the Sign in Khasi Oral Tradition: Derrida’s Linguistic Materialism | SpringerLink
- The Khasis by P. R. T. Gurdon – Full Text Free Book (Part 4/5) (fullbooks.com)
- Clipart Tree from – Family Tree Mural Ideas On Pinterest – Cliparts.co