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In Meghalaya, Christians care for Shivalingams

Devotees from Assam offering prayers at the Nokat Shivalingams in Meghalaya after almost a decade.

Devotees from Assam offering prayers at the Nokat Shivalingams in Meghalaya after almost a decade.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The park is drawing Garo, Rabha tribes together

An hour after Amal Chandra Rabha had finished praying before a 5-foot Shivalingam – the most rectangular among the many phallus-shaped monoliths jutting out of a 3-acre enclosure in Nokat village of Meghalaya’s North Garo Hills district – church elder Jemthinath B. Marak recited his prayers.

Mr. Rabha, a Rabha tribal from Assam’s Rabhabelpara village, had little knowledge of Garo — Mr. Marak’s tongue. But he sensed the church elder had thanked the Lord for guiding him through a tricky jungle track to the Hindu site on a hillock and wished for his safe return home 3 km away.

The Garos and Rabhas coexisted across the inter-State boundary until the ethnic clashes of December 2010 drove a wedge between them. The newly developed park maintained by some 300 Christian residents of Nokat, including the village’s Baptist Church pastor Sempolar B. Marak, is drawing the two communities together.

But local MLA and Meghalaya Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Timothy D. Shira has further plans. He wants the Nokat Shivalingams to be a prime Hindu pilgrimage site, seeking archaeological studies besides a Kartarpur-like “safe corridor” for devotees.

The Shivalingams are near Resubelpara, the North Garo Hills district headquarters about 135 km southwest of Guwahati.

“Work on a 6 km road under PMGSY connecting the site to a highway in Assam should begin by next year and I have proposed security for visitors,” Mr. Shira told The Hindu.

“Apart from a profusion of phalluses, there are female reproductive organs and hooded cobras in stone, chairs and a scimitar carved in rocks as well as scripts and a design that resembles the map of India," he said.

People in the region believe the site also has underground acidic water oozing perennially. They also claim the milk poured over the central (rectangular) Shivalingam reaches another 50 metres away.

There’s no clear historical account of the granite Shivalingams that, local authority says, could be either naturally shaped or carved by some ancient civilisation. The latter is more likely, said Manash Marak of Bakrapara village, the nokma (chieftain) of 58 villages, including Nokat.

The place was hidden in wild bushes until over a decade ago when the villagers, in search of more farmland, cleared the area but found the area too rocky to cultivate. A local legend about the Hindu god Shiva meditating at the site began attracting devotees from Assam.

“We believe that a childless man or woman who hugs the Shivalingam in faith, his or her wishes are fulfilled,” said Mr Rabha, who visited the site with about 30 others from his village on November 6.

Kanchan Rabha, one of his companions, said she was surprised by the change the site has underground because of the maintenance by the local Garo villagers. “This is so different from nine years ago. The place now has a boundary wall, resting sheds and helpful locals,” she said.

Among those responsible for clearing the bushes, landscaping and maintaining the pathways among the clusters of phallic stones are Nokat villagers Benjamin B. Marak and Kumar G. Momin.

“We provided them training and a trip to tourist sites. We are now roping in the local youth to package the Nokat Shivalingams with other natural sites for offering transportation, accommodation and other facilities toward sustainable tourism,” said D.D. Laloo of the non-governmental Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum.

The forum has also sought a study of the Shivalingams by the Archaeological Survey of India

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 9:12:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-meghalaya-christians-care-for-shivalingams/article29939614.ece

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