Meghalaya’s Pre-historic site, Sohpetbneng Peak dying a slow death!

Meghalaya’s Pre-historic site, Sohpetbneng Peak dying a slow death!

June 17, 2017: Sohpetbneng Peak is an ideal site for solitude seekers that stands at an altitude of 1,343 metre from the sea level. The location provides a mesmerising bird’s eye view of the dense forest and the city of Shillong. Sohpetbneng, meaning the ‘navel of heaven’, is known for divine essence and is transformed to tourist’s site. Tourists can reach the heavenly peak point which is 20 km from Shillong.

The archaeological artefacts that dot the pilgrimage spot of the Khasis, the Sohpetbneng peak in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi, are now crumbling because of lack of maintenance. Archaeologists and historians are pitching for proper conservation of these 11th century B.C. sites that offer a peek into the history of Meghalaya in particular and the northeast in general.

Associate professor of archaeology at UC College in Barapani, Meghalaya, Marco Mitri, said the peak, meaning the navel string of heaven, and its adjoining areas are in urgent need of conservation to keep the archaeological sites intact for the future generation.

“The structures are crumbling. In the northeast, there are very few pre-historic sites and this one in Meghalaya is an archaeologically-rich site which has shaped the cultural landscape and identity,” said the professor.

Mitri, whose team conducted an archaeological excavation about two years back in that area, delivered a lecture on “From Profane to Sacred Landscape: The Archaeology of Sohpetbneng Hill” at the Indian Council of Historical Research’s North East Regional Centre here on Thursday.

He explained that the “cultural embodiment of the peak’s landscape” is manifested through an annual thanks-giving pilgrimage at the summit. He added that this is a festival recently revived by the Seng Khasi, a socio-cultural organization, to recapitulate the “ancient aura and ideals” of their ancestors which is preserved in the oral narrative of the mythological Khathynriew Trep (Khasis believe that human beings originated with 16 huts in heaven).

According to folk narrative, in ancient times the earth was “ideal and peaceful” said Mitri.

“The Khasis were in the beginning composed of U Hynniewtrep and Khyndai-skum (seven huts and nine nests or huts) and lived in the abode of God. Gradually, seven of the 16 huts began to learn how to cultivate crops and came down to earth for cultivation after which they would returned to their dwellings through the tree which served as a ladder to heaven,” he explained. Mitri said archaeological evidences of different cultural periods are observed at the site which stretch to almost a km along the ridge.
 “The archaeological findings from this area revealed the continuous occupation of the entire ridge at different cultural periods. According to living ethnographic sources, the last occupants of the site abandoned the ridge about 200 years ago and the site was again re-occupied only 30 years ago by new settlers who came at different times from other parts of Khasi hills to established the present village named Lawnongthroh,” Mitri added.