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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

RICHARD FREEMAN: THE YETI IN ASSAM

Whilst in Tura on the trail of the Indian yeti we visited local surgeon, Dr Lao. Dr Lao believed that the mande-barung existed but he thought that it was now very rare. He had a collection of books on Indian wildlife. Among them was a book entitled A Naturalist in Karbi Anglong by Awaruddin Choudry, first published in 1993. The book, by one of India’s best known naturalists, records his time in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam, the Indian state to the north of Meghalaya.

One chapter of Chourdy’s book is given over to the Khenglong-po, a yeti-like creature seen in the area and unheard of in the west. As Assam borders onto Bhutan there is a link, or corridor if you will, directly from the Himalayas down to the Garo Hills along which yetis are reported and along which they could travel at will.

He writes:

'Singhason peak and some nearby areas are sacred to the Karbis. Here in the dense forest lives the Khenglong-po, the legendary ‘hairy wild-man’. The Khenglong-po is an important figure in the Karbi folk tale. Whenever I used to get reports of its existence, I dismissed them as fable or mistaken identification of an ordinary animal. But when the much experienced Sarsing Rongphar gave me a fresh report, I had to re-think. Sarsing had been my guide in parts of the Dhansiri Reserved Forest, and I found him to be an accurate and reliable observer.'

Sarsing was a hunter who used dogs to sniff out game such as muntjac and porcupine, which he then dispatched with a long hunting knife. Even before his arrival a Karbi Along Awaruddin Choudry had heard of sightings of a large, bipedal ape. At first he asked witnesses if they might be mistaking a stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides) or a hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) but the witnesses rejected this as they were familiar with both species, but when his trusted guide told him of an encounter with the beast, Choudry was forced to change his mind.

It was on May 13th 1992 that Sarsing Rongphar and his friend Buraso Terang and his hunting dogs ventured into Dhansiri Reserved Forest. In the afternoon they came upon large man-like footprints that were around 18 inches long and 6-7 inches wide. The pair followed the tracks for 3 kilometres until their usually brave dogs began to panic. Fearing an elephant or tiger was close by they crept cautiously forward. Soon a loud breathing sound became audible as ‘khhr-khhhr’ sound. From 80-90 metres away they saw an ape-like creature leaning against a tree, apparently asleep. The witnesses were at a higher elevation than the creature and had a clear view due to the fact there was no dense undergrowth obscuring their view. The creature was jet-black like a male hoolock gibbon with thick bear-like hair on the body. The hair on the head was long and curly. The creature was a female with visible breasts. Its mouth was open and large, human-like teeth apparent. The face, hands and feet were black and ape-like. In front of the creature was a broken tree and the hunters thought the creature had been feeding on it. They observed the sleeping animal for around one hour. Sarsing likened it to a giant hoolock gibbon but with much shorter fore-arms.

On reaching their village they told tribal elders of what they had seen and were informed that it was a Khenglong-po, a kind of hairy wildman that was thought to be dangerous.

Choudry took Sarsing to his camp and showed him pictures of the Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) standing on its hind legs and the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). The hunter identified the latter creatures as being a Khenglong-po whilst recognizing the former for exactly what it was. Choudry interviewed Buraso Terang separately and got the same answers.

A Khenglong-po was once supposed to have wandered up the railway track from Langcholiet to Nailalung.

On another occasion Choudry talked to some hunters from Karbi Anglong in central Assam. They spoke of a large, herbivorous, ground-dwelling ape that they called Gammi. According to them two Gammis were seen together in 1982 feeding on reeds on the eastern slope of the Karbi Plateau in the upper Deopani area. An elderly hunter had encountered one in the Intanki Reserved Forest in Nagaland in 1977-78. The creatures are said to be covered in grey hair and to be man-like in appearance. The name Gammi means ‘wild-man’.

Choudry concludes…

“It seems possible to me that a terrestrial ape, larger than the gibbons existed in some remote parts of Karbi Anglong and adjacent areas of Nagaland. The creature was always rare and preffered the remotest corner of the jungle, and, hence, evaded discovery by the scientific world. Now with the forests vanishing everywhere, this ape perhaps faces extinction. Expeditions to the heart of the Dhansiri Reserved Forest and Singhason area may well produce some result. But for now, I am looking for any fossil evidence including skull, bone or part thereof. This will at least put the Khenglong-po at its right place, even if it is extinct. Lastly, if a large mammal like the Javan or smaller one horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) can be discovered in recent years in a small pocket of the war-ravaged Vietnam, outside its known locality in Indonesia and beyond anybody’s expectation, one cannot rule out a Khenglong-po in the forests of Karbi Anglong.”

We can see then an unbroken link of yeti sightings from Bhutan down into India.

3 comments:

Dale Drinnon said...

There are several different names used for Yeti-like creatures in Assam. One is the word "Gorilla", the English common-usage term. One of my co-workers at the Indiana University Library system was an Indian woman, Shyamali Chackravarti: The subject came up and she gave me an overall description of "Gorllas" in Assam and showed me some Indian artwork. The artwork was in the porm of painted magazine illustrations and showed conventional gorillas. Another name used is "Mahalangur" for Big Monkey, the same name used to name the mountainous area around mount everest: and I have stood in the presence of an Indian man I did not know looking at a gorilla cage at the zoo, and the man named the creature to his young daughter as "Mahalangur". The term is common Hindi. Heuvelmans in his checklist mentions a few others such as Olo-Banda, which apparantly also mean "Big Monkey," as terms in use for Assam.

At one point the discovereer of Homo erectus fossils in Java recented their human nature and said they belonged to a ten-foot-tall gibbon. That may sound very odd, but Gigantopithecus might also be described as being like a ten-foot-tall gibbon. Giganto diverged from the common ape stock at a time when brachiation was just starting and before knuckle-walking became necessary. Knuckle-walking is a comparatively recent adaptation and the chimps (and gorillas) do it one way while the orangutans do it in a different way entirely. The adaptation must be parallel-evolved along separate lines some time after their divergence from the common (Sivapithecine) stock to which Gigantopithecus belonged.

Incidentally, the "Bigmonkeys" would not be Gigantopithecus but WOULD be knuckle-walkers. Both the Gigantopithecus AND the Bigmonkeys are commonly called "Yetis" generically by outsiders.

Dale Drinnon said...

My information from people from India (residing in the USA, including my former co-workers at Indiana University libraries)is that the common name for the "Yeti" in Assam is the English name "Gorilla" with the Hindi equivalent "Mahalangur" or Big Monkey. Heuvelmans lists other names on his checklist including Olo-Banda, which seems to mean once again, "Big Monkey"

I have some good descriptions of it and I have been shown illustrations of it in Indian magazines, and the creature is basically represented as being exactly like an African gorilla. It is said to be a nuisance for raiding Banana plantations and is strong enough to be highly dangerous and destructive when roused to fury. The creatures are said to travel in small family bands and sometimes mated pairs or a lone mother and child. The usual colour cited for them is black or very dark brown.

"Mahalangur Himal" or "Mountains of the Big Monkeys" is of course the name of the Mount Everest area, and this fact is regularly cited as independant evidence for the Yeti.

Subhash Medhi said...

I am from Assam and i would like to clarify something i found in the above posts. It's not 'Olo Banda'. It's ,Holou Bandor' and it is used for the Hoolock Gibbon, the only ape found in India. It's a lesser ape. And yes, i have heard from friends from Karbi-Anglong about the 'Kenglek-bo' known as 'Mande-Burung' in the Garo Hills of Mehgalaya.