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Festivals

Wangala | Shad Nongkrem | Shad Suk Mynsiem | Beh-Dien-Khlam


The people of Meghalaya observe some important festivals throughout the year. These celebrations usually take the form of dances, when people can forget the drudgery of life. Many of these festivals have religious associations but a few of the celebrations are plainly secular.  

A very important festival among the Garos is the Wangala- a harvest festival held in honour of Saljong, the Sun-god of fertility. This marks the end of a period of toil, which brings good yield of the fields.  It is the time to relax and for days the hills and valleys resound with the distinctive beat of drums. The dance itself has certain subtle variations, the main motif being a queue of two parallel lines- one of men and other of women clad in their festive regalia. Young and and old join the festivities with equal gaiety. While the men beat drums, the line moves forward in rhythmic unison. The 'orchestra' of men consists of drums, gong and flutes punctuated by the sonorous music of an indigenous flute made of buffalo horn. There is a noticeable sense of rhythm in the participants, young and old, and the vigorous dance leaves a lasting impression upon the beholder.  

The Khasis and Pnars have religious festivals as well as secular celebrations. A very important and elaborate festival among the Khasis is the Shad Nongkrem (Nongkrem dance) held annually at Smit, the capital of the Khyrem Syiemship near Shillong. This is used to be held in the past in the month of May but for some years the date has been shifted to November. An important part of this festival is Pomblang (decapitation of goats), at which goats offered by subjects of the Syiem of Khyrem are sacrificed and offerings are made to the ancestor and ancestress of the ruling clan to the first uncle to the deity of Shillong peak. Religious part of the festival precedes dances, in which unmarried girls in all their finery participate. The men's dancing is naturally more vigorous and energetic. They hold a sword in their right hand and usually a white Yak hair whisk in their left hand, keeping time to the changing  beats of drums and playing of the tangmuri or pipes.

A counterpart of the Garo harvest festival is the Shad Suk Mynsiem or the 'dance of Contentment' celebrated in April at the Wecking grounds near Shillong and at other places.

Among the Pnars, the most celebrated religious festival is the Beh-dien-Khlam. (chasing away the Demon of Cholera). Early on the first day, young men go round the village beating on gate post of individual houses. The climax of the celebration is the tussle for a large undressed beam by two groups of people in opposition to each other. This involves getting this heavy beam across a muddy ditch called Wah-eit-nar. A lot of horse play enters into this part of the proceedings when mud is generously smeared by the participants on each other. This celebration held at Jowai is one of the most well known festival in Meghalaya.

 

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