Umiam (Meghalaya): Thousands of people climbed the sacred U Lum Sohpetbneng mountain here Sunday as part of an indigenous tribal pilgrimage to the "navel of heaven".
U Lum Sohpetbneng, popularly known as "umbilical heavenly peak", is situated by the scenic Umiam Lake (Barapani), 17 km north of state capital Shillong.
Thousands of Khasi-Jaintia tribesmen make this annual pilgrimage to the top the 1,344-metre peak to offer their obeisance to god.
"It is a firm and deep rooted belief of the people, Ri Hynniewtrep (the Seven Huts people, inhabiting the West Khasi Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi and Jaintia Hills districts in eastern Meghalaya) descended to earth from a golden bridge atop the sacred U Lum Sohpetbneng," said Sumar Sing Sawian, one of the Seng Khasi elders.
The sub-tribes of the Hynniewtrep race - U Khynriam, U Pnar, U Bhoi, U War, Maram, Lyngngam and the now-extinct Diko of Meghalaya - are collectively known as Ki Hynniewtrep, which literally means 'Seven Huts' referring to the seven families which were the first settlers on earth, according to a tribal legend.
The annual obeisance is accompanied by traditional rituals and rites, dances and songs. Rice grain and water are distributed on the occasion to gain spiritual contentment and good health.
U Lum Sohpetbneng is shrouded in an aura of sacredness and sanctity, being the repository of ancient wisdom and values of the Hynniewtrep.
"According to ancient Khasi faith, you can approach god only with a golden heart full of virtue and humility. God is like a mother with whom her children are linked through the umbilical cord," said Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, poet and author of several books on the Khasis.