The charming whistling village of Kongthong, located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, has been awarded the 'Best Tourism Village (Bronze)' at the National Tourism Awards 2023 by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. It is a great recognition for this picturesque village known for its unique whistling language and breathtaking scenery.
Kongthong, with a population of approximately 750 inhabitants, is a Meghalayan gem that has managed to preserve a unique tradition known as “Jingrwai Iawbei.” This tradition roughly translates to the “song of the first clan lady” and involves the practice of creating a unique melody for each individual in the community. This melody, or jingrwai lawbei, is used to call out to the person and is believed to be so distinctive that it can even be heard by the spirits of the ancestors.
The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation and is still very much alive today, making Kongthong a truly special and culturally rich destination. The tradition of whistling in Kongthong dates back to several generations. It is believed that the practice was started as a way for mothers to call their children who were playing in the forests and hills surrounding the village. Over time, the whistling sounds became a unique form of communication that was used by everyone in the village.
Each person in Kongthong has a unique whistling tune that is given to them at birth by their mother. The tune, which is usually a short and simple melody, becomes the person's name and is used to call them throughout their life. The whistling sounds are so distinct and recognizable that every person in the village can identify each other just by their tunes.
Mawlynnong - Known as the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong is located about 50 km from Kongthong and is famous for its well-maintained gardens and eco-friendly initiatives.
Cherrapunji - Located about 70 km from Kongthong, Cherrapunji is known for its breathtaking waterfalls, profuse green hills, and unique root bridges.
Dawki - Located about 100 km from Kongthong, Dawki is known for its crystal-clear river and stunning natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy boating, camping, and other outdoor activities here.
Shillong - The capital city of Meghalaya, Shillong is located about 70 km from Kongthong and is known for its scenic beauty and vibrant culture. Visitors can explore the local markets, museums, and other attractions in the city.
When it comes to homestays in Kongthong, there are a few options available. One popular choice is the Kongthong Village Homestay, which are typically hundreds of traditional huts that offers comfortable accommodation with basic amenities. It is the most popular way of staying in the village for it gives an authentic feel for cheap prices to the tourists. Other options are Mawlynnong Homestay and Mepa Homestay located in nearby villages known for their beautiful gardens and scenic views.
Kongthong is known for its unique and delicious cuisine, which is a blend of traditional Khasi and Garo dishes.
Pukhlein is a sweet dish that is made from rice flour, jaggery, and sesame seeds. The mixture is shaped into small balls and then deep-fried, resulting in a crispy and sweet treat that is perfect for snacking on. Dohneiiong is a traditional pork dish that is made with black sesame seeds, ginger, and onion. The pork is slow-cooked until it is tender and then mixed with a blend of spices and seasonings, resulting in a rich and flavourful dish that is a favourite among locals.
Tungrymbai is a fermented soybean dish that is cooked with bamboo shoots, onions, and other spices. The soybeans are soaked overnight and then mixed with the other ingredients, resulting in a tangy and flavorful dish that is perfect for pairing with rice. Pumaloi is a traditional Khasi dish that is made with rice, vegetables, and meat. The dish is cooked with a blend of spices and seasonings, resulting in a flavorful and hearty meal that is a staple in the region. Nakham Bitchi is a dry fish chutney that is made with onion, garlic, and other spices.
By Air: You can take a flight from New Delhi to Umroi airport in Shillong, which is the nearest airport to Kongthong. It is about 65 km away from the village. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a shared taxi to reach Kongthong.
By Train: You can take a train from New Delhi to Guwahati, which is the nearest railway station to Kongthong. It is about 147 km away from the village. From Guwahati, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to Shillong, and then another taxi or shared taxi to Kongthong.
By Road: You can drive from New Delhi to Kongthong by taking the NH27 route. It is about 2099 km long and will take you around 37 hours to reach the village. You can also hire a private taxi from Shillong to Kongthong.
The ideal time to visit Kongthong is from October to the end of May when the weather remains stable and cool. During this time, visitors can explore the rolling hills, dense forests, and stunning waterfalls that surround Kongthong without being hindered by extreme weather conditions. Additionally, this time of year offers the opportunity to witness traditional festivals and cultural events that take place in the region like the Nongkrem Dance Festival, which is a popular cultural festival of the Khasi tribe, takes place in November in nearby Shillong.
If you're planning a trip to Meghalaya, keep in mind that you will need an Inner Line Permit as per the amended Meghalaya Residents, Safety and Security Act, 2016. This applies to anyone who intends to stay in the state for more than 24 hours, including tourists, labourers, or business visitors. It's important to note that you will need to apply for the permit in advance, even before booking your flights, as you will be denied entry to the state without it.