“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”
I couldn’t agree more when I heard the sweet sound of whistles by which people address each other in the village of Kongthong in Meghalaya.
Why Visit Kongthong in Meghalaya?
As unreal as it may sound, what is unique about Kongthong is that for generations people have been named with lullabies. Each person in the village has a unique lullaby with which he or she is identified with.
If you want an offbeat, culture immersive experience in India then I would highly recommend you visit and stay at least one night in Kongthong in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.
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The tradition of naming kids with lullabies
A tradition which is carried on since time immemorial, each child at the time of birth in Kongthong is given a unique tune by his mother.
This ‘jingrwai lawbei’ (lullaby) becomes their name.
The custom is known as “jingrwai lawbei”, meaning “song of the clan’s first woman” –a reference to the Khasi people’s mythical original mother. They consider her a goddess who looks after the family and inheritance, passed on by their ancestors (Source).
The Lady in the video is a resident of Kongthong. She has 5 kids. In the video she sings or rather calls out to all 5 of her kids.
Inspired by the sounds of nature, villagers use a long tune lasting around 30 seconds, to call each other while in the forest. The shorter version of the same tune is used in the village.
how to reach kongthong from Shillong?
Kongthong, the village of tunes and whistles is 55 km from Shillong. Shared sumo’s run every day from Badabazar in Shillong. You can even hire an exclusive taxi to Konghthong. We had a dedicated car to ourselves.
It took us around 3 hours to reach Kongthong from Shillong as the roads were not in good condition. It takes around the same time to reach Kongthong from Cherrapunji as well.
Kongthong got electricity in 2000 and the dirt road in 2013. The condition of the both warrants attention.
Contrary to what many blogs claim this village is approachable by a 4 wheeler. You don’t need to trek to this place.
Apparently Kongthong is not a very touristy place. Neither are many tourists aware of this place nor are the villagers used to many tourists.
As can be seen from the above image when we arrived at the village (in-spite of rains) many villagers came out of their houses to have a look at us.
From the parking, an uphill road (say around 200 meters) took us to our Village Home Stay.
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Where to Stay & Eat:
The Rural Tourism under the Cooperative Sector was known as “Explore Exotic Meghalaya” (Travellers Nest).
Nestled between the Sohra and Pynursla ridges is the Kongthong Travellers Nestwhich is promoted by the Indigenous Agro Tourism Cooperative Society.
The Kongthong Traveller’s Nest houses two cottages, built entirely of bamboo and wood, designed in a way that is traditional to the area.
The beautiful traditional bamboo house in the middle of the cloud covered mountains will take your breath away.
Stay pre warned there is no bell service and so travel light. This is a village homestay kind of arrangement where there is no room service.
If you can not do away with those comforts then the Travellers Nest is not a place for you.
The cottages can be accessed with logs with notches.
The fire place inside the cottage to keep you warm on rainy days and cold nights.
There are one double and two single beds inside the cottage.
The toilets are behind the cottages. So when there is no electricity and it’s raining it does become little uneasy to walk around the cottage to reach the toilets.
A flight of stairs takes you to a small bamboo kitchen with dinning area.
If you place the order on time (say at least 6 hours early) the cook will buy resources and make food preparations (Indian cuisine) accordingly. The Homely delicious local food is cooked by the caretaker.
The food is Simple and yet amazingly tasty. You can even request for a Khasi food speciality if you like experimenting with local food types.
Don’t forget to ask Rothel to play Duitara” ( a double string musical instrument). My kids, nephew and niece went gaga over the Duitara.
People of the Kongthong Village
As you take a walk, sounds of melodious tunes echo around this serene village.
Locals are very shy. They understand neither Hindi nor English. Sachin and Rothel (the caretakers at the Traveler’s Nest) can speak both the languages. They act as mediators when guests interact with the locals.
Don’t forget to try the local Betel Nut (supari).
When is the best time to visit Kongthong Whistling Village?
The best time to visit Kongthong is from October until the end of May.
We visited Kongthong around the first week of June and monsoon was just setting in. As you can see in the above picture the roads had become muddier.
Meghalaya gets heavy rainfall during the monsoon. It is, therefore, advisable to avoid visiting Kongthong from July until September.
The beauty of Kongthong village can best be enjoyed from October till May. The entire area is lush green and serene. The winter months (November to February) can get very cold (the night-time temperature drops to around 3°C during the winters.)
You can see in the image on the right where the kids are enjoying the pre-monsoon showers in Kongthong.
Treks near Kongthong
Long forgotten Living Root Bridges can be visited in Kongthong after a trek of around 2-3 hours from this place. Since we had already visited living Root Bridge at Nohwet and done a thrilling trek on the bamboo bridge (not for the faint-hearted) we skipped visiting root bridges here.
- The Sun sets early in Meghalaya and so it starts getting dark around 4:30 pm. Since the road to Kongthong is not good, it is advisable to reach this place well before 4:30 pm.
- If you are visiting Meghalaya during pre monsoons and monsoons remember to carry umbrellas or thin sheets of rain ponchos. I found rain poncho sheets on Amazon. They were very light to carry. For the 4 of us, I carried 6 ponchos as these ponchos are susceptible to wear and tear.
- For the same reasons above wear waterproof footwear.
- Kongthong faces power cuts from two hours to 20 hours a day. So be prepared for a romantic ‘Candle Light’ dinner 🙂 For Mobiles remember to keep Power Bank. If you don’t have one you can check out this one by Lenovo on Amazon.
- Mobile Connectivity is very poor and so if you need to make any important phone calls or intimate your family members do so much before reaching Konghthong. Due to poor network connectivity, it is very difficult to reach Sachin and Rothel (the caretakers at the Traveler’s Nest). Call them in advance and let them know your expected time of arrival.
- Remember to intimate the caretakers about your food preferences much in advance as they do no stalk eatables and most of the ingredients need to be purchased from a market which is almost 10kms away.
- There is a small shop at the entrance selling tidbits.
- Bugs and pests may be a problem, so be sure to carry your trusted mosquito repellent. For my kids I usually mix rose water, citronella oil, lemongrass oil and put them in a (travel sized) spray bottle. I spray this on their clothes. If you want to buy a mosquito repellant for your baby, you can check out Mamaearth Natural Insect Baby Repellent on Amazon.