The Whistling Village of Khongtong

The Khongtong village, remotely located in the eastern Khasi Hills of Meghalaya has a unique phenomenon which has given this place a special recognition. The inhabitants here follow a unique system of communicating with each other i.e. by giving each person a whistled tune instead of names. Popularly known as the whistling village’, this tradition of assigning tunes instead of names has been in vogue since time immemorial. Every time a baby is born in Khongthong village, a tune or sort of lullaby composed by the mother is assigned to the child that is marked as his special identifier for life.

These forested hamlets are inhabited by farmers who live a peaceful and centred life. These farmers reside in simple huts and their farms are tassled along with betel nut trees. This age-old practice of having musical identities is much more than another peculiar feature of tribal culture. Each lullaby – or jingrwai lawbei in the tribe’s dialect, is anything from half-a-minute to a minute long and becomes a permanent identity marker of the person. The whistling tradition has attracted many scholars to study this unique custom. However, it still remains a mystery when other Khasi tribesmen did not inherit this unique practice, how could only Khongtong village carry on with this tradition.

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