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Khasi Waterlore by Margaret Lyngdoh

Water among the Khasis has divine/ordinary forms. In ordinary form, it is called Um, its secret name in ritual is Ñiaring- although this is not the complete name & I cannot reveal it here. In Khasi war cosmology, rivers carry the "seeds" of ancestors, while the megaliths represent the "bones" of the ancestors

Ha ki Khasi, ka um ka don ka jingkyntang kaba na u Blei bad ka don ruh ka jinglong kum kiwei kiwei ki jingthaw ha ka pyrthei. La khot ïa ka, ka "um" bad la khot ruh ïa ka ha ki jingleh niam kum ka 'Ñiaring”. Ha ki Khasi, ïa ka jingbatai shaphang ka jingpynlong ïa ka pyrthei la ngeit ba ki wah ki dei ki symbai jong ki longshuwa bad ki mawbynna ki dei ki shyieng jong ki longshuwa.

Among the Nongtrai, Lyngngam, & Muliang Khasi, the divine form of water is Ñiangriang. Among Khynriam Khasi, U Sangriang Um is said to be the father of Thlen. But in northern Khasi hills, in Jhare name magic, water is Ñiaring. The following narrative is recorded from deceased hare practitioner Marcus Lapang.

"In the olden days, the true name of water was Ñiaring. The older sister of air, Ñiaring was confined to one place by the supreme being. In her place of confinement, her sorrowful cries could be heard.

The Council of the Supreme Being was convened and there it was decided that Ñiaring should be freed to flow into all the earth. So the Riew Ramhah, or Pantia, appointed by the gods began to clear the earth thereby making channels for Ñiaring to flow into the world. They were created solely for this task. Neither human, nor spirit, the supreme being never made any other use of them and we don't know where they are today. The Khasi lands as we know them today are so hilly & uneven because Ñiaring had to be allowed to flow out into the world. After she was freed, Ñiaring tied a Jutang or a covenant, whereby she agreed to help mankind in any way that she could and she could go where she was needed in Khasi lands.

Ñiaring made the promise that she would cleanse and purify from illnesses, that may be caused by beings whom she contains & nurtures. In return, mankind agreed not to be cruel or violate her. Water came before Lukhmi, the spirit of paddy (rice grain). When Ñiaring became free, the sounds of her sorrow turned into music & joy as she flowed over the rocks & mountains, which then became her musical instruments. Every water body is the road, the pathway of the Ryngkew (guardian deity of a place in nature) and Basa (the deity of water). We see the water flowing by, but we never see it return. But it returns & it goes back. Ñiaring has 30 kinds of entities, including fish, which live inside her and she offered to cleanse any human being afflicted by any of the entities who live inside her.

The Puri, or water nymph/ spirit is one of the entities belonging to Ñiaring. Ñiaring also harbours inside her, evil spirits, & other non-human entities (ki ksuid ki khrei). This is the reason why Jhare magical practioners, using Ñiaring to heal illness caught from water. It is necessary to sacrifice to Ñiaring, a female white chicken, or white she-goat in times of necessity. But this sacrifice should never be performed continuously, but only when the Jhare practitioner tells you to do so.

"Khasi Waterlore" by Dr. Margaret Lyngdoh @lieng_makaw. Thank you so much for sending an in-depth and insightful entry! 🙏🙏😃😃
This entry is contributed by Dr. Margaret Lyngdoh, University of Tartu. Design and layout has been done by Talilula @thelazyscribbler
Khasi translation by @speakyourroots
No part of this material may be reproduced in any form without the consent of the author. All material for this content has been collected through primary fieldwork.


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