Kongthong in Meghalaya is nominated for UNWTO’s ‘Best Tourism Village’ title

Living up to its sobriquet of the ‘whistling village of Meghalaya’, Kongthong is famous for its ancient tradition of mothers calling their newborns by unique tunes, instead of names! 

The little hamlet of Kongthong in Meghalaya recently made headlines for getting nominated for World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) ‘Best Tourism Village’ award. The Ministry of Tourism selected Kongthong, along with two other villages—Pochampally in Telangana and Ladhpura Khas in Madhya Pradesh—for the revered nomination from India.   

The Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO aims at maximising the contribution of the tourism sector in reducing regional inequalities, promoting rural development and community well-being, and fighting against rural depopulation. It also focusses on adding value to and safeguarding these villages and their respective landscapes, knowledge systems, and cultural diversities. 

Nestled in the heart of East Khasi Hills district, Kongthong is one of the 12 idyllic villages of the lush Khat-ar-Shnong cluster. Dotted by quaint bamboo huts and lush farms fringed with betel nut groves, it is inhabited by nearly 700 villagers, who cultivate the land, hunt in the forests, and live a peaceful pastoral life. But this isn’t the first time that this northeastern wonder has grabbed the spotlight. It is also famous for a unique ancient tradition.  

Each of the residents in the ‘whistling village of Meghalaya’ is identified by a tune. They do have regular names but for generations, locals here have communicated with each other using their ‘song names’. Every time a baby is born, the mother composes a minute-long lullaby and assigns its title to her child, which is in the form of a tune or whistle and becomes their unique identity for life. Typically inspired by nature’s sounds, each song name or jingrwai lawbei (in the tribe’s dialect) further has two versions—a short tune and a long tune. The shorter version is normally used at home, while the longer ones are meant to be used during hunting expeditions in the forest to keep away evil spirits! 

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