After a good six days of Shillong and the Khasi regions, it was an off beat day and so I decided to go in search of the memories of the Jaintia Kings in Nartiang. The drive through the winding mountain roads was spectacular, one of the best in Meghalaya. The gorgeous valley was by our side through the 2 hour drive offering some of the best views in spite of clouds.
Monolith Gardens in Nartiang
We stopped by at the Monolith Garden which places Nartiang on the History Map. The Jaintia Kingdom was active between 1500 AD until they acceded to the British Empire in 1835AD. The area under their rule extended from present day Jaintia Hills region in Meghalaya to Sylhet in Bangladesh. Infact, after partition Jaintiapur believed to be their capital is now in Bangladesh and the summer capital of Nartiang is in India. The dilapidated Jaintiapur Palace and a temple dedicated to Jainteswari can be still seen in Sylhet as well as monolithic structures.The monoliths in the park remind of similar structure seen in Mawphlang Sacred Grove and the adjoining Heritage Park which demonstrated Khasi culture. The similarity in structure endorsed the proximity of the Khasis and Jaintias culturally; the languages spoken also have similar roots in the Mon-Khmer language group prevalent in South East Asia
Ancient Durga Temple in Nartiang
After about half an hour around the park; we went to the ancient Durga Temple. The temple has been recently renovated, painted striking red. The goddess here may or may not be Jainteshwari but revered never the less. The current priest recounted that his forefathers migrated from somewhere in the North some 25 generations ago and they have been here ever since; which is roughly around 1500 AD at the begining of Jaintia kingdom
The temple is quaint; set between small houses in the village. Even after renovation, the old wooden log pillars still support the frontal porch of the temple. There is a place for animal sacrifice facing the sanctum. The Jaintias also known as Pnars are essentially of tribal origin but the names of the 20-21 rulers during their 300 year old reign is primarily Hindu. I am wondering whether the royalty embraced Hinduism with Jainteshwari as their Kul Devi or family deity and hence Jaintia which is similar to the stories I heard in Manipur about the royalty embracing Vaishnavism and the rest of the Meiteis followed
I ambled around, playing with the village children and watching young boys kicking around in a soccer game. When the lure of the online entertainment is limited, we all spend greater time outdoors; lesson for us city dwellers seeking comfort on the couch with our gadgets
Shiva Temple in Nartiang
I followed little Panditayan (little priestess) to the Shiva Temple close by since I was in no hurry. A very handsome Lord Shiva carved out of black stone was wrapped in white with his trident in hand and a 10 armed Brass Durga by his side. The armory of shooting equipment stacked neatly behind caught my attention and am sure these are dated by a couple of centuries.
On my way back towards Smit and Laitlum, I stopped by at the Meghalaya Tourism Resort next to Thadlaskein Lake for lunch. It was windy, cold and dull but the occassional splash of color from the orange laden trees was a welcome sight. I mentally noted how beautiful it will be during monsoon and planning for another trip was seeded.
- Nartiang is about 60 kms from Shillong and the drive is the main attraction. The sights will primarily attract history buffs
- Combine it with Laitlum if you have a day to spare
- Contact North East Explorers for planning this trip or write to them at email@example.com or tweet @northeastexplrs . They did a great job with mine and the young entrepreneur from north east will surely make you comfortable.