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Sacred Forests of Khasi Hills

SACRED FOREST AND OTHER RESTRICTED FORESTS

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KA KNIA PHODSOHLANG
THE PROHIBITED FOREST OF SWER
THE KHASI SOCIETY
HIMA MAWPHLANG
LAND TENURE SYSTEM
OTHER PROHIBITED FORESTS IN THE HIMA MAWPHLANG
FOLKLORE CONNECTED WITH THE FORESTS
TREES AND PLANTS OF THE SACRED GROVE
SACRED FOREST AND OTHER RESTRICTED FORESTS

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The Sacred forest and other regulated forests of Hima Mawphlang fall under category 10, 11 & 12 of the white paper explained by the Khasi National Dorbar in November 1929 and also the report of the Land Reform Commission in 1974 regarding classification of lands as cited above. These forests are explained in greater details as follows :

These forests fall under the category, Ri Law Kyntang, Ri Law Lyngdoh, Ri law adong as described. Hima Mawphlang can be boasted of having the only sacred forest, or law kyntang near the capital city, Shillong which is only 22 km south westwards. Now the feeder road connects the forest from the main PWD road. There are 7(seven) different types of forest at Hima Mawphlang.

They are :

1. Khlaw raid - A forest of the Raid

2. Khlaw adong - Prohibited forest.

3. Khlaw Lyngdoh - Sacred forest.

4. Khlaw Lyngdoh Khun - A small prohibited forest.

5. Khlaw Laittyrkhang - The Laittyrkhang forest.

6. Khlaw ri kynti ne ri sumar - A private forest.

7. Khlaw ri Kur - A forest of the clan.

 

1. Khlaw raid  - These are the forests of the Hima which are looked after by the Hima. They  are located within the land of the Hima. The trees are grown and nurtured alongwith other plants for the benefits of the inhabitants of the Hima. The timber grass and small bamboos can be used for the construction of houses, sheds  and other domestic purposes. However the manner of cutting those produces should be in accordance with the terms, conditions and directions laid down by the Dorbar Hima.

 

2. Khlaw Adong  - These are also the forests of the Hima. They are looked after by the Hima itself. These 'Khlaw Adong' were created on the land of the Hima in order to plant, protect the various types of trees for water sources of the Hima. There are strict prohibitions in this forest. No one is allowed to cut the trees or any other produces of the forests without the permission of the Hima. The Dorbar Hima however, may allow the trees to be used for general interest of people like construction of school buildings, churches, clubs houses, bridges etc. The Dorbar may also allow in its discretion the people who are actually in need of big trees for their requirement when there are no more big trees from 'Khlaw Raid'. The Dorbar may as a special case, allow trees to be cut from this forest especially when people are actually rendered homeless due to fire in their homesteads.

 

3. Khlaw Lyngdoh Ne Khlaw Kyntang  : This forest was created as preserved by the Hima from time immemorial and it is perhaps the first one created at Hima Mawphlang. This forest was created and preserved for the use of 'Iing Sad' (Ancestral house of the Syiem/Chief/King) where the Chief's mother stay and where the state sacrifice are offered for the state/Hima. It is the prime duties and responsibilities of the Lyngdoh Mawphlang to oversee and protect the forest. Traditions has it that the Lyngdoh along with the Myntri had consecreted the forest and had put it to a Ryngkew/Basa (a sylvan diety, a village diety) the task of protecting the forest from any harm. But oral prohibitions are there against anyone cutting trees or take away any type of produces of the forest except when used within the precincts of the forest except when used within the precincts of the forest. The Hima has no police force or law enforcing personnel to enforce these prohibitions, but the Basa is himself a natural and unseen law enforcing power of the forests. People who still adhere the traditional beliefs and customs amongst the Khasi, still believe in this enforcing power which may sound strange to many.

 

4. Khlaw  Lyngdoh  Khun : This is also the forest of the Hima which is preserved at a place called Phod-Sohlang. This forest is protected to preserve the water sources in the area for the purpose of the Hima ritual known as Knia Phod Sohlang. There is a total prohibition to cut any type of tree from this forest.It is in this prohibited forest (Law Lyngdoh Khun-literally means small Lyngdoh forest), that the Hima's rituals and sacrifice are held and called Ka Knia Phodsohlang. 'The Phodsohlang stream sacrifice'.

 

5. Ka Khlaw Lait-tyrkhang : It is a part of a sacred forest created by the Hima from ancient times for the purpose of local religious rituals or religious rituals or religious rites of the Hima in the event of any plague or cholera, or when there is a danger of war. This forest has its own boundaries e.g.,

East  : Nongktem & Synrang-la-kud

North  : Raij land, Madan Mawlyngktop, Umsaitsning Stream,

West  : Khlaw Nongkynrih & Umsaitsnier stream

South  : Mawsyrwait.

The task of overseeing this forest lies with the Iangblah clan, but this does not mean that this clan can claim their rights or ownership for the purpose of a sacrifice known as Knia Kyrthong in the sacred forest. The people and the priest should set foot first in this forest and then proceed to the sacred forest, a portion known as Law Phe Phandi. The Dorbar of the 12 clans will elect anyone from the 12 clans to conduct the religious rituals here whenever necessary. There is a total ban on the cutting of any type of trees from this forest.

 

6.  Ki Khlaw Ri-Kynti ne Ri Sumar : These are smaller forest which are recognised by the Hima to anyone who would like to plant these types of forest. The entire ownership, protection and preservation lies entirely with those who raise them. The general public has no say on these forest.

 

7.  Ki Khlaw Ri Kur : The name of this category of private forest is different, but the idea is the same since the forest was planted nurtured and protected by a certain clan. These forests are small, but sufficient for use of the clan, which is recognised by the Hima and the inhabitants have no say in this matter.

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