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Tales of Darkness and Light

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Soso Tham

4. Ki Symboh Ksiar—Grains of Gold

Texte intégral

1The opening lines of Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep explain why Soso Tham decided to compose his magnum opus. Saddened by the fact that his people continued to look elsewhere for inspiration while failing to appreciate the cultural wealth into which they are born, he set out to reclaim and record the past — ki sngi barim — that survives in myth. He tells of a time now lost to us when the Khasi and Pnar people, who call themselves U Hynñiew Trep, came to be here on earth. This is the “Once upon a time” section of that story referring to legends and tales told and shared, of a common heritage of the imagination that has held a people together.

Grains of Gold

  • 1 “The Seven Original Ancestors”. See Chapter 3, pp. 19–20.
  • 2 The Giant Snake which promised wealth to his worshippers, and had to be kept happy by human sacrifi (...)

We scour the world in search of light
Know not the light within our land
How long ago far back in time
Our ancients did new worlds create
For then the
Seven lived apart1
Impenetrable heavy was the dark
Among the Stars the Sun and Moon
On hills and forests, spirits roamed,
Man and Beast, the Tiger,
Thlen2
United by a common tongue
Before the grim macabre took hold
They worshipped then the One True God

  • 3 Munia, Spotted Munia, Red Munia etc. A little wren-like bird, which helped mankind. See Chapter 3, (...)
  • 4 Khasis believe they lost their script in a great flood. The Khasi thought his precious script would (...)

The Spoken Word was then revered
The humble
Phreit was honoured, fed,3
Hard they toiled from dawn to dusk
Knowledge cached within the womb
4
From where our legends sprang to life
And wingéd sprites sung into being

  • 5 The hill on which stood the monstrous tree (Ka Diengïei) that covered the earth — a sign of God’s d (...)
  • 6 “The Navel of Heaven” (See Chapter 3, pp. 19–20).

Of signs and symbols some did speak,
“From here,” some said, “Came forth the
Thlen;”
“Sin and Taboo? Whence that flood?”
“From here”, they cried, “From
Lum Diengïei:”5
But of the One, no one had doubts
Why He was called “
U Sohpet Bneng”6

  • 7 Ka” denotes the feminine (as “U” denotes the masculine). “Rngai” is a word with shadowy connotatio (...)

Of God and Sin, so too of Truth
In parables as one they spoke
Old voices tell of visions draped
By
Ka Rngai for all mankind7
Some stars live on in scattered gardens
The rest have drowned in forests deep

  • 8 The sacred cave into which the sun retreated, angered by the aspersions cast on her by those who at (...)

To banish Sin, to bear the yoke
In the
Sacred Cave far back in time8
The fearless Cockerel rose upright
“I wait the word from God above.”
A Creed was born — its rites revered
By children of the
Hynñiew Trep

  • 9 This is a reference to what is known as “The Khasi Lament” — a song of grief pouring out from a mot (...)

Tears from a mother’s pain-wracked heart
Shadow the bier which bears her son,
Fingers strum, recall the tale
The legend of the noble Stag
The rusted Arrow piercing deep
The rushing flood of bitter tears
9

Signs once clear on boulder rock
Remain unread, obscured, weed-choked,
Where Orators Thinkers once declaimed
Spoke in tongue unknown to us,
Yet hilltop stark and sheltered shade
Wood and Stone still speak to man

Ancient race — Khasi and Pnar
Ranged across the earth’s arm span
Hidden light waits to be found
In modest thatch and humble roost
To help us peel, push back the dark
Restore the light from days of old

Around the world we search for Light
Yet scorn the light that shines at home
The glorious past will dawn again
When seams of lustre-lost we mine
The seed of light his vibrant root
Into the Past he pierces deep

Gleam of sky on rock we’ ll see
When sun-showers stop and fade away
Dark dense clouds retreat in fear
As the rainbow rises in the sky;
Libations pour, O Golden Pen
Emblazon with colour the blinding dark!

Listen to an audio recording of the poem at
https://doi.org/​10.11647/​OBP.0137.16

Notes

1 “The Seven Original Ancestors”. See Chapter 3, pp. 19–20.

2 The Giant Snake which promised wealth to his worshippers, and had to be kept happy by human sacrifices.

3 Munia, Spotted Munia, Red Munia etc. A little wren-like bird, which helped mankind. See Chapter 3, pp. 20–21.

4 Khasis believe they lost their script in a great flood. The Khasi thought his precious script would be safe in his mouth but he swallowed it as he battled the raging waters.

5 The hill on which stood the monstrous tree (Ka Diengïei) that covered the earth — a sign of God’s displeasure (See Chapter 3, pp. 20–21).

6 “The Navel of Heaven” (See Chapter 3, pp. 19–20).

7 Ka” denotes the feminine (as “U” denotes the masculine). “Rngai” is a word with shadowy connotations pointing to spectres, phantoms, the unreal yet powerfully real in the potency of its effect. So here “Ka Rngai” is a powerful female force.

8 The sacred cave into which the sun retreated, angered by the aspersions cast on her by those who attended the Dance of Thanksgiving (See Chapter 3, pp. 21–22).

9 This is a reference to what is known as “The Khasi Lament” — a song of grief pouring out from a mother’s heart when she discovers the body of her wayward son who, against her wishes, had strayed too far from home. He dies from the wound inflicted by an arrow. Archery is still a common pastime in the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills where the Khasi and Pnar (Jaiñtia) people live.

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