Meghalaya Festivals That You Must Experience in Your Next Visit!
Meghalaya a small State in the North Eastern part of India is where you'll find more than just thunderclouds and a vast green landscape. Its people are the soul, and its song and dance the vital source of joy. This ancient people have perfected the art of life and is being passed on to its young. In Modern times though the people are engaged in secondary and tertiary activities, the festivals are always celebrated with great pomp and gaiety.
1. Shad Suk Mynsiem
The Shad Suk Mynsiem is celebrated in April. The rituals or ceremonies are conducted by individual family clans or the Khasi state (Hima). The dance is performed to signify the matrilineal and patrilineal structure of the Khasi society. The dance is performed by unmarried girls dressed in their traditional best, dancing in slow painful steps with coyness; while the man circles the women in their lashing out swords and whips. The significance of the dance is that a man is the protector of a woman's honour. The Dance is performed at the Weiking Grounds near the capital city of Shillong and other places.
2. Nongkrem Festival
The most important of festivals among the Khasis, the Nongkrem Festival is celebrated every year at Smit, 15 kms away from Shillong. It is an essential seat of the Hima Khyriem (Chief of Khyriem). The rituals are performed by the Syiem, the head of the Khasi state and ka Syiem Sad (head priestess) who is revered as the caretaker of the ceremonies and the people. The festival is celebrated for good harvest, peace and prosperity. People from all over the country and the world come to witness the celebration that is accompanied by young women performing the Shad Kynthei and the men circling them performing the Shad Mystieh, as a symbol of male power and protection over the women.
3. Behdeinkhlam Festival
One of the most important festivals of the Jaintia people is the Behdeinkhlam Festival. It is celebrated by the people of the Niamtre religion. It is celebrated in July before the seed sowing season. The literal meaning of Behdeinkhlam is 'Chasing away the Plague'. Rituals and sacrifices are made by the priest accompanied by the beating of drums and flutes. Tall minarets are paraded to the holy ground and are then submerged in a river. Men, both old and young accompany the drums and flutes with dance while the women stand watch in their finest traditional and heavily decked in gold. The main event is the wrestling of a tree trunk that is chosen with care it is said to bring good luck to whoever touches it. The festival is celebrated every year at Jowai Town and other villages of the Jaintia hills. People from all over the country and the world come to witness this colourful and bewitching festival.
4. Shad Sukra
The Shad Sukra is celebrated by the Jaintia people every year in the month of April or May. It is a celebration before the sowing season. Every Jaintia farmer waits for this festival before he can begin the sowing of seeds. Rituals and dance are accompanied by the drums and the flute to pray for a bountiful and fruitful season. Men and Women take part in the festivals in their traditional best, heavily decked in gold ornaments. One can go and witness this opulence of culture at Jowai Town, West Jaintia Hills. The town is situated 64 kms away from the capital city of Shillong.
5. Wangala Festival
The Wangala festival is one of the most important festivals of the Garo people. It is a post-harvest festival celebrated to mark the end of the agricultural year. It is a thanksgiving festival to the god of fertility, known as Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa. Today it is popularly known as The Hundred Drums festival. Accompanied by the cries of the leading warrior, he leads the boys and girls to synchronised dance steps with hand and heads gesturing movements. The festival is celebrated from September and December at popular places across Garo Hills. If one wishes to witness the true traditional way of celebration by the Garo people who are still practising the old religion, they can be found at 'Songsarek' (animistic) villages like Sadolpara in West Garo Hills. The modern more commercialised version of the festival is celebrated at Asasang village in West Garo Hills. The state-sponsored festivals attract local, national and foreign tourists who come to be entertained by the dances competitions, gorge themselves on local food and drinks made from fermented rice popularly called Rice Beer.
While the cultural and traditional festivals are the main attractions of Meghalaya, there are also other various modern day festivals advertised and sponsored by the State Government to attract a more varied group of visitors looking for more.
6. Strawberry Festival
Meghalaya has been hosting the Strawberry festival every year to promote farmers and food production from the fruit. The climate of the state is perfectly fit for the much-loved fruit. People throng to Umsning and Sohliya village in Ri-Bhoi district every February on Valentine's Day to enjoy lush and sweet strawberries. The festival is not only for families and loved ones to come and enjoy but to contribute to the growth of the local farmers and support their economy.
7. Bacardi NH7 Weekender
Meghalaya is not complete without its music scene. The capital city of Shillong is dubbed as the Rock Capital of India for a reason. With the pleasant climate and a laid-back attitude of everyday life, the youth and the old indulge in music. The Bacardi NH7 Weekender is a yearly event that is much awaited by the music-loving crowd of the state. With the scenic beauty and immense hospitality of the local people, the festival is indeed a happy one. The active part of the festival by offering food and drink stalls offering the best of the local cuisine. It is a must visit by music lovers from all over the country and abroad.
There is much to see and experience in the beautiful state of Meghalaya. Every day there is a reason to celebrate and give thanks for the beauty of living in such proximity to nature; her generosity is revered and celebrated by all who are dependant on her.