Kongthong: Meghalaya’s whistling village nominated as ‘Best Tourism Village’

Kongthong village in Meghalaya is popular for its ancient tradition, where a mother calls her child by a tune instead of a name. The small village is nestled in the Khat-ar Shnong area on the way to Sohra in East Khasi Hills, about 60 km to the south from Shillong. 

Kongthong village in Meghalaya
Kongthong village in Meghalaya

Meghalaya’s Whistling village, Kongthong, has been nominated by the Ministry of Tourism for the UNWTO (World Tourism Organisation) ‘Best Tourism Villages’ award.

The two other villages in India that have also been nominated for UNWTO ‘Best Tourism Villages’ award are- Ladhpura Khas in Madhya Pradesh and Pochampally in Telangana.

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman extended her congratulations to Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma for the achievement. The minister informed that in Kongthong village, people compose a tune for calling a person instead of a name.

Kongthong in Meghalaya is popular among tourists for its ancient tradition, where a mother calls her child by a tune instead of a name. In January 2021, Chief Minister Sangma had assured to release Rs. 1 crore to develop tourism infrastructure at Kongthong.

Kongthong: Meghalaya’s whistling village

•  Kongthong is a small village which is nestled in the Khat-ar Shnong area on the way to Sohra in East Khasi Hills, about 60 km to the south from Shillong. The place is famous for its unique culture, panoramic view, and virgin beauty.

•  The village in Meghalaya more than its natural surroundings is talked about its unique tradition known as ‘Jingrwai Iawbei’. In this, a mother assigns a tune or lullaby to a child within a week of birth, which becomes his or her unique identity, instead of a name.

•  The mother has to make the tune different than the already existing ones in order to ensure that the child’s identity remains unique. People of the village are also used to communicate through tunes.

•  Kongthong with a population of about 700 people, has one school which is up to class 8th and the secondary school which is at 3 km. For higher studies, the villages have to go to Shillong.

•  In 2019, Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar Rakesh Sinha had adopted the village and had also suggested the UNESCO tag.

‘Best Tourism Villages’ award by UNWTO: What is the objective?

•  The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has been looking for the best example of rural villages harnessing the power of tourism in order to provide opportunities and also safeguard their traditions, communities, and heritage.

•  The initiative by UNWTO aims at identifying villages taking transformative and innovative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

•  The Best Tourism Villages Award also aims at maximizing the contribution of the sector to reducing regional inequalities and fighting against rural depopulation.

•  The award also seeks to advance the role of tourism in safeguarding and valuing the rural villages along with their associated landscapes, biological and cultural diversity, knowledge systems, local values, and activities.

Other ‘whistling villages’ in Meghalaya:

Khat-ar Shnong, a valley region in Meghalaya has other villages as well where people call other each by a tune and talk through whistling, apart from Kongthong.

As per the Meghalaya tourism site, other prominent sports and villages in Khat-ar Shnong include Khrang Village, Mawrah Viewpoint, Dewlieh among others.

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