Evolution of Riangsih Sirdarship


By P.S. Nianglang

The essence and efficacy of myths, folktales, legends, stories and other oral traditions in the Khasi literature can neither be derecognised nor set aside. Like a phoenix who rejuvenates from its own ashes every 500 years they represent the antiquity of the Khasi culture in their quaint and fascinating forms by withstanding themselves against the test of time. They contain in them the elements of truth wherein full truth and axioms can be extracted. They throw a Drummon light and beckon the progeny to carry out further investigations and research works in all aspects of the society. We can boldly say so, in view of the absence of chronicles and literary frameworks during the pre-British era, to show how the Khasis establish their polity. But through them, we comprehend the basic, socio-economic fabric of our society. They are like conduits through which water flows uniformly to quench the thirst of the panting deer. They act as the panacea to heal the wounds of the researcher. Therefore, Mrs. N. Natarajan (1977)1 strongly advocates their role wherein she says, "Mythology, folklore, legends, poetry, the court language, political expressions - all form early oral Khasi literature. The essence is on the divine origin of the Khasi race, for the Khasis considered themselves the chosen people of God. The oral literature contains past economic undertakings the evolution of the state, society and institutions, migration of clans, wars and victories and historical incidents covering the activities of the ancestors". Another stalwart of Khasi authors namely Dr. H,B. Ngapkynta (1985)2 fully appreciates their importance and authenticity in the field of Khasi literature wherein he emphasizes "the absence of the literary evidence from the early period is a conspicuous problem with which we are confronted in the task of historical reconstruction and we will have, therefore, to depend mainly on both the oral traditions and foreign evidence which is preserved in diplomatic documents maintained between Khasi rulers and their neighbours. The importance of oral traditions called Ki Parom handed from generation to generation and the legends throwing light on the history of the people cannot be neglected." In his latest treatise on the Khasi people in Khasi vernacular, Dr. Hamlet B. Ngapkynta3 (2000) provides a special attachment of their role in reinforcing our social fabric wherein he further elucidates "Kawei pat ka bhah jong ka parom ka long ban pynneh ia ka dak ka shin jong ka mynnor; ka ialam ia ngi ban sngewthuh ia ka jingkylla badonbor, shaphang ka jingkhie bad ka jingkyllon jong ki Hima bakhrawbor bad ki new radbah kiba la pynkylla khongpong ia ka Ri ha ki lyngkha bapher na ka jingringmraw sha ka jingksan, na ka jinglong lyngki sha ka jingseisoh.......," Finally, the prominent Khasi poet U Soso Tham4 (1960) nicely puts the lines of his poem:

  • Mynmiet mynstep M trei minot
  • Hapoh ka kpoh ki thep ka kot
  • Nangta ki kha ki puriskam,
  • Nangta ki mih ki purinam.

During the Anglo Khasi war that took place in between the years 1829-1832 Riangsih Syiemship appeared as a state and U Dima Syiem was the ruling chief who actively took part and joined the federation of U Tirot Singh Syiem during their insurrection against the British people as can be seen from the writings of Dr. H.B. Ngapkynta5 (1984). This, therefore, points out the fact that before the advent of the British people, Riangsih Sirdarship had already existed as a state. However, the theory which states that Riangsih is one of the erstwhile composite state of Muliang as advocated by Mr. L.G. Shuliai6 (1975) is still a debatable subject. The author7 (1994) had a chance to meet Shri Rosclean Nongbri (who is now dead) the youngest son of (Late) Mrs. Samei Nongbri and (late) Mr. Amur Syiem of Riangsih Sirdarship and Shri Shondro Diengngan(who is now dead), residents of Mawlein and Nongkyndang villages respectively and kept in black and white about the story of the evolution of this so petty princely state. It smoothy goes : In its antiquity once upon a time there was a rogue elephant lived in the Northern Ri Nongtrai. The said elephant was very ferocious and cruel in nature. It used to destroy the jhum lands, crops, cattle and even human beings who lived therein as the subjects of the Syiem of Hima Nongstoin and the Syiem of Hima Jyrngam, or Hima Muliang at that time. The inhabitants of Hima Muliang or Hima Jyrngam and Hima Nongstoin were in great trouble and there was nobody who would kill the rogue elephant aforesaid. So they appealed to the Syiems of Nongstoin and Jyrngam state to kill the said ferocious and rogue elephant.

One day the Syiems of both the Him as convened a joint state council (Durbar Hima) and summoned the warriors and armed men of both the states to kiil the elephant. Though the Durbar Hima had resolved in that manner, but there was no one among the armed men who dared to combat and kill the rogue elephant. So they were at their wits' end. At last they have found one tactic i.e. to decide that they would part some portion of their state and would allow to establish a new state to be ruled by that native person who would be able to kill that el ephant. The resolution was notified and an offer was made to the subjects of both the states but there was no one who would accomplish this great and noble mission.

In the midst of such perplexity, there came out one person who was strong, brave, full of manly stature and whose height was about 10 feet. It was further narrated that the size of his shirt's sleeve was so big so that a boy of 18 years can enter and crawl through it from one end to another end. This man was nobody but Shri Shilibri Sohmad, one of the subjects of Nongstoin Syiemsnip who lived at Mawlein village. Some said that he lived at Mawnar village.This is one of the villages that situates in Northern Ri Nongtrai. While abiding by the promise and covenant that were spoken by the Syiems of the two states, this brave man, one day, early in the morning before the cock's crow left his village with the sword and the packed rice (Jasong) in his hands. He travelled through the bottom of the hillock called Mawirang and he passed through the village of Mawpamblang and then proceeded further to the areas where the present Langja village exists and he found the rogue elephant who lived in those thick jungles. As soon as he saw the elephant, he jumped into it and caught hold the trunk hose empty handed without using any tying rope. He returned to his village taking along with him the rogue el ephant by holding its trunk hose and walked through the village of Nongmawriat and arrived at Nongrynnniaw then he took rest there. From Nongmawriat to Nongrynniaw, he passed through the source of Baiu river and he collected two stones fromiyrsung river. The bigger one was used as a chair and the smaller one as dining table. He carried these two stones by insertng each to his right and left armpits, and then the packed lunch, the sword as he was driving the elephant all along by holding from its trunk hose. At Nongrynniaw, he rested and took his lunch by making the bigger stone as his chair and the smaller stone as his dining table. Hitherto, this stone at Nongrynniaw is still known as "Maw Thaw Shilibri*. After taking his lunch, he proceeded to Nongmawlein with the rogue elephant and the sword in his hands. At Mawlein village he tied the elephant and he informed the Chiefs of Nongstoin and Jyrngam states to present there at the time when he would kill the atrocious elephant. The subjects of both the states were gathered wherein the Syiems, the councillors, the priests and the nobles were also present on that day. He held the sword in his right hand and firmly held the trunk hose with his left hand. He then chopped the elephant's neck off and the elephant died there instantaneously.Thus peace and tranquility were restored in that area. It was on that very day itself, while fulfilling the covenant, the Syiem of Nongstoin State, had handed over in perpetuity the villages of Mawlein, Nongrynnniaw, Nongum-sohpieng, Nongkyndang and other adjoining areas to Shri Shilibri Sohmad. Similarly, the Syiem of Jyrngam state handed over in perpetuity the areas of Rongjiangdap, Hahim and other low lying areas to Shri Shilibri Sohmad. So, the villages and areas which were handed over by the Syiem of Nongstoin and Jyrngam states formed a new state with its own defined boundaries under the rule of Shri Shilibri Syiem Sohmad. It was further narrated that at the time of handing over of the aforementioned areas, by the Syiems, all ritual performances were carried out and a vow was made before the fowl's blood the fire and sword that the succeessors should not interfere at all costs and cannot take back the areas and villages already handed over and they would be fully under the administrative control of Shilibri Syiem Sohmad within his newly created state (Hima). This was the good luck of the Sohmad clan. Till date the sword still exists in the house of Mrs. Philin Sohmad of Myndo village though its size is reduced due to rust, etc.

On that very day itself they made a great feast at Mawlein village because a new state was formed. They killed cocks, pigs, cows and goats and they drank undistilled liquor from the jars and resorted to merrymaking and other forms of amusements. It happened that one woman of that village delivered a child in her house. This was one of the feast houses. As soon as a child was born, the relatives of that woman was still keeping the placenta (sih) in one of the corners of the house thinking that they would hang the placenta on the bamboo trunks in the morning of the following day. One of the elderly men who was present in that house, was inebriated he thought and mistaken that placenta (sih) to be the beef. He then took it and dried (Riang) on the raised platform (tyngir) over the hearth, so that he could cook and eat it. At that very moment when his friend and relatives found that he did the jestful job, they laughed at him because he had instead dried (Riang) the placenta (Sih). Since that time they declared that the name of the newly formed state would be called Riangsih and the first Syiem who ruled the state was Shri Shilibri Syiem Sohmad. This is the evolution of formation of Riangsih state or presently known as Riangsih Sirdarship.

References:

  1. Natarajan N. (1977) The Missionary Among the Khasis, Sterling Publishers PuL Limited New Delhi, P.24
  2. Bareh H. Dr. (1985). The History and Culture of the Khasi People. Spectrum Publication, Quwahati P.2
  3. Ngapkynta B.H. Dr. (2000). Ka Spah Bad Ka Jingshai Thaba Jong Ka Ri, Self Publication P. 75
  4. Thorn Sosofl 960) :KiSngiBarim U Hynniew TVep P. 1
  5. Celebration of 150th Death Anniversary of U Tirot Singh Syiem ofNongkhlatu (1984) published by K.C.S. p. 32
  6. Shullai L.G. (1975) Ki Hima Khasi, p. 3
  7. The Author has conducted a fact-finding trip and personally met ShrL A. Rosclean Nongbn at his residence at Mawlein Village Riangsih Sirdarship on 14.5.94 and ShrL Shondro Diengngan at his residence at Nongkyndangf Jyrngam Sirdarship on 14.8.1994