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Sacred Forests of Khasi Hills

KA KNIA PHODSOHLANG

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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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      It is in this prohibited forest (Law Lyngdoh Khun-literally means small Lyngdoh forest), that the Hima's rituals and sacrifice  called Ka Knia Phodsohlang. is held and called Ka Knia Phodsohlang. 'The Phodsohlang stream sacrifice'. But the preliminary rituals begin at Lum Ryngkew Mawiong (Ryngkewmawiong Hill) which is about a Kilometer away. This Hima sacrifice used to be held in the eleventh Khasi month which is equivalent to the months of September or October. The Dorbar Hima (General Council) of the Hima fixes the dates and also collects 'U Syniang u bynhei' (Subscriptions) from the 12 clans whether or not the clan practices this traditional and ancestral ceremony. The purpose of holding this Hima sacrifice is to pray to God, to ward off plague and pestilence or any natural calamity by prayers and sacrifice when news reases the Hima that such misfortunes have struck a neighbouring Hima.

           Prior to this, it is necessary to consult eggs devination to reeive God's order to hold the event and ask for his instructions (hukum). This they do by consulting in the egg breaking devinations. The signs should tally with results desired. This is followed by a general ritual at Lum Ryngkew Mawiong. There is an altar atop the Hill, and all the sacrificial paraphernalia having been prepared, the priest sets about the task of his various rituals. The Head priest is from the Iang Blah Clan who also acts as a Master of ceremony (nongialam/nongbatai). The first animal to be sacrificed is a cock. The priest takes the cock and bathes the legs and body three times in a brass vessel. Incantations and prayers are offered after which the cock is slit by the throat. The cock is disemboweled, signs in the intestines are deciphered which should show whether the prayer is well received. This is the second stage of the ritual.

         The formal sacrifice is by the spotless ram. The Iangblah priest invokes blessings through incantations and then directs an elder from the Lyngwa clan to cut by a single blow to server the head of the animal. At this time, care is taken to see that if the ram emits urine which is regarded as a good sigh. The stomach is then disemboweled and the lungs and intestines are examined and the signs deciphered. A good sign is that the lungs when blown up swell like a pink flower. The sacrifice of this ram is for the Ryngkew Basa (village diety).

         The sacrifice of the ram is followed immediately by the sacrifice of a sow. After elaborate incantations, the sow is pierced by a sharp stick from the side nearest to the heart. The sow is disembowlled, the heart and spleen examined and signs deciphered. This sacrifice is offered to Ramew Shnong (Earth's diety) to the Lyngdoh Clan and especially to the ancient Lyngdoh.

          When these ceremonies have been completed at Lum Ryngkew Mawiong, the Lyngdoh, the 12 clans and all of able body make their way to Law Lyngdoh khun for a grand finale. At a previously prepared altar together with the necessary articles like pure water, a brass plate, plantain and oak leaves etc., a white goat is brought for sacrifice. The elder from Iangblah clan will say the incantation and offer a thanks-giving to God and then direct an elder from the Lyngwa clan to cut of the goat's head. The blood that comes out from the goat is poured on to the plantain and oakleaves which are fixed in a well of about 15 square meters. The 12 clans are the first to draw the water in a bamboo container to drink and also to be taken to those who are unable to come to Law Lyngdoh khun, especially the sick.

          Different portions of the goats are taken for the rituals of 'noh dkhot' (a collection of portions of different parts of the animal). Meat (cereal) is also equally distributed at this prohibited forest. The sacrificial meal is boiled without spices and salt for all to eat again at Lum Ryngkew Mawiong. Such is the significance of this Law Lyngdoh Khun (Prohibited Lyngdoh Forest).

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