Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The peak of legends - part 1

The Garo Hills is a mysterious and forbidding place. There is no dearth of myths, legends and 'spirits' here. Virtually every natural object has a story and most times these stories can scare the shit out of you. I'm just starting to discover the place and its amazing cultural and mythological richness in addition to discovering the amazing wildlife in the forests. One prominent landmark here in the South Garo Hills is the Chutmang peak (1032 m.a.s.l) inside the Balpakram National Park. This is one peak that is the subject of so many legends that it takes on an aura of its own and is no more just a small wrinkle in the earth.

It is also called Kylas (in obvious reference to the famous Mt. Kailas of
Hindu mythology in southwestern Tibet), maybe for the similarity in shape or the perpetuation of a legend by the local Garo's who are believed to have come from Tibet at some time in the past. Another legend relates the huge plateau within the national park (the 'Balpakram' from which the National Park gets its name) to the remnant of the mountain of medicinal herbs that the mythical Hanuman of Hindu legends carried back to save Lakshman's life. But my favourite story relates to the grandmother of Goera (the deity of strength who makes thunder and lightning). One night she decided she wanted to block the Simsang river and set off with a mountain which she uprooted from the place where the plateau stands now. But before she could reach her destination, a cock crowed. She panicked, thinking that morning was coming as was Goera's wrath if he discovered her deed. She left the mountain right where she was. That is where Chutmang stands.

The Garo people believe that after death, all spirits go to the Balpakram plateau. But before they can do that, they need to pass through the Chutmang peak. I figured it was appropriate enough for me. I still hadn't been to the Balpakram plateau, so maybe I should visit Chutmang first. Admittedly my interests were a bit different from all the spirits who preceded me. The peak, although located within the National Park, can be easily (well if you count a six hour uphill walk as easy) accessed from the Gongrot and Hansapal akings. Hansapal aking had long been on my priority visit list because of the amazingly rich community forests that still existed there. Our contact in Hansapal too, was a character. He was an ojha, a medicine man dealing with herbs and with the best stories on all the mythical creatures of the area !

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow this place sounds really interesting! =]