Shillong: Meghalaya’s whistling village Kongthong in East Khasi Hills district has been selected as one of three India entries for the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) ‘Best Tourism Village’ contest, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said.

Kongthong, a small village nestled in the Khat-ar Shnong area about 60 km to the south of Shillong, is famous for its panoramic view, unique culture and virgin beauty.

“#Meghalaya’s whistling village Kongthong is selected for entry to the @UNWTO ‘Best Tourism Village’ along with 2 other villages in the country,” the chief minister tweeted.

The UNWTO is looking for the best examples of rural villages which harness the power of tourism to safeguard communities, local traditions and heritage, an official here told PTI.

He said the UNWTO wants to identify villages taking innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

‘Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO’ aims to maximise contribution of the sector to reducing regional inequalities and fighting against rural depopulation.

It also seeks to advance the role of tourism in valuing and safeguarding rural villages along with their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities, including gastronomy, he added.

Kongthong, one of the 12 `shnong’ (villages) have a unique practice of assigning a tune to a baby at birth. The tune remains with the baby until his death and this practice is gaining popularity now, Rothel Khongsit, a youth leader from Kongthong said.

Although Kongthong is now popularly known as whistling village , a term coined by few reporters, Khongsit said it does not depict the real practice which is called rwai sur iaw-bei’.

Meghalaya Rural Tourism Forum chairman Alan West said the tradition is in no way associated with whistling.

While appreciating the Government of India for proposing Kongthong village as the best tourism village before the UNWTO, I would urge the Meghalaya government to correct the mistake of calling Kongthong a whistling village.

The unique tradition of the people of 12 shnong (not only Kongthong) by assigning a song as a name to a newborn child in no way is associated with whistling, he said, adding that the tradition of villagers of 12 shnong is an act where the individual actually produce verbal utterance of words in the form of a song when naming a child which is totally different from someone who is producing a sound from their mouth in the form of whistling.

Finance Minister N Sitharaman and Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha who has adopted the village since 2019 have congratulated the state and the chief minister on this achievement.

Congratulations Meghalaya on Kongthong being selected best tourism village. The village in which people compose a tune for calling a person in place of names, Sitharaman tweeted.

Sinha on the other hand said, Whistling village Kongthong, adopted by me since 2019, has been selected for entry into the UNTWO best tourism village in the world. Thanks to PM Sh @narendramodi ji for promoting village tourism. Thanks @sangmaConrad for his help.

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