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  • Writer's pictureDavid Connolly

Blacksmiths of East Khasi Hills

The history of blacksmithing in the East Khasi Hills dates back to around the 19th century — a time of war, when the demand was for weapons. Pride stokes the fire within the hearts of the blacksmiths who narrate how their forefathers built knives and swords held by the Khasi army under the leadership of freedom fighter Tirot Sing.

Today, Meghalaya is a land of peace and the expert blacksmiths of Mylliem use their skills to mainly create agricultural tools, such as spades, which are sold at the markets of Shillong. Their craft relies on knowledge passed down centuries as they continue using traditional equipment, including heavy hammers, open clay furnaces and bellows made of leather and wood that have to be operated by hand.

Where once entire villages were occupied by blacksmith families, only a handful of the original centuries-old workshops survive today. Faced with the possibility of their children abandoning a life of intense labour for alternative jobs, the generational blacksmiths believe that one day the children will use their education to break into a bigger market and employ others from the community to keep the tradition alive.

Watch this story of grit, resilience, and a craft that has stood the test of time.

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