U Ryngkew and Khlaphuli
The following has been quoted and summarised from Essays in Khasi Folkloristics by Dr. Desmond L. Kharmawphlang (2016).
In Khasi belief, the sacred forests are protected by a "spiritual tutelary deity called U Ryngkew U Basa" who makes himself visible in the form of a tiger. Thus, 'U Ryngkew' is the tiger spirit who safeguards the sacred forest. After the chaos that ensued in the felling of the 'Diengiei' the gods sent 'U Ryngkew' to "stay forever in forests, mountain tops and places of wilderness revealing himself, whenever he does, as a tiger."
Related to the significance of the tiger in Khasi myth and folklore, is the belief in "Khlaphuli" or the Weretiger. The Khlaphuli is a man or a woman who has the ability to change into a tiger with "this power being an attribute of their 'rngiew'…The Khasi belief in the 'ka rngiew' is so strong that it is regarded as an essence, a power which shapes and determines most of man's actions, thoughts and motivation, it gives shapes to his dreams and visions and charts the course of his life. It is imperishable and immutable. In the Weretiger tradition, it is the 'rngiew' that is directly responsible for men and women to possess the power to become weretigers or 'khlaphuli' as it is known in local parlance. This transformation from human to tiger is closely associated with aspects of religious and social practices."
The belief in "U Ryngkew" and "Khlaphuli" form intrinsic aspects of Khasi spirituality and religion. They are also necessary to understand the effort to conserve our sacred groves and forests. 🏞️🏞️🌄🌄