One of the essential elements of Meghalaya’s culture is the Folk dances of Meghalaya.
However, Celebrations in Meghalaya are impossible without music and dance.
Dancing is an important part of the Meghalaya community.
As the majority tribe of the Meghalaya, the Khasi celebrate their native festivals with traditional music and joy.
Some of their music mainly contains natural sounds like waterfalls, birds chirping, insects, buzzing bees, etc.
Niam Khasi, the pre-Christian Khasi religion is of a month nature.
There is no fixed place of worship such as a church, temple, or mosque.
According to Niam Khasi, every element of nature contains God.
No particular part can be more sacred than another.
The Khasi’s closeness to nature is evident in their belief that man should not pollute Mother Nature through his actions.
There is no fixed day of worship like Friday for Muslims or Sunday for Christians, instead, Khasi people can worship at home or outside because God lives everywhere in nature.
After the Welsh missionaries came to Christianity, almost 85% of the Khasi were Christian, but a significant minority still revere Niam Khasi.
The Garo and Jaintia tribal religions are also monotheistic, believing that God is omnipresent in all elements of nature.
However, the Garo religion is specifically “animism” and believes in a supreme deity commonly known as “Tatara Rabuga”.
The Garos believe that after death, humans live in a spiritual form and inhabit a particular place until reincarnation occurs.
The customs, music, and costumes that take place at festivals in Meghalaya represent each of these belief systems.
Traditional Meghalaya festival music is played in Tangmuri, Shaw Shaw, Nakra, Ksing Padiah, and Besli.
Here are the most famous folk dances of Meghalaya:
Behdienkhlam –Folk dances of Meghalaya
Behdienkhlam is the main dance of the festival “Jaintias” held every July in Jоwai, Jaintia Hills. This festival mainly invokes the Creator’s blessings for a bountiful harvest and wards off diseases and pests.
The most famous festival celebrated by the Panar tribe of Meghalaya is the Behdienkhlam festival. Behdinkhalam festival is one of the major festivals celebrated in Meghalaya, held for 3 days in a year. The festival is held in Jowai town, Jaintia Hills district in Meghalaya. This beautiful city is a small plateau surrounded by Jaintia hills.
Meaning of Behdinkhlam
The meaning of Behdinkhlam is to ward off evil spirits. It is a Hindu festival celebrated by the Panar tribe, who follow the Nimtre tradition.
Religious Folklore and the History of the Festival
There are many interesting stories from this festival. It is believed that all Jowai towns were once deserted and uninhabited places. The only inhabitants of this region are five gods, four stones, and a river girl. All five of them prayed to God to turn this lonely forest into a prosperous and human home. Their prayers are heard, then the greatest deity, U Mokhai, is appeased by dancing and singing.
This festival is held in the city of Jowai
It means eliminating and ending epidemics or any kind of infection and during this festival the devotees of Sein Jaintia led by their leaders will bow before the almighty U Tre Kirot and beg his divine protection and blessing in various forms. To be.
One of the most famous folk tales about this festival is the curse of the plague.
According to a mythical prophecy, the city of Jowai will be attacked by a terrible plague.
Then fear spread among the natives and they flocked to their revered deities – U Mukai, Mulong, Moorlong, and Masanang.
The gods advised him to worship the divine elements to prevent disasters.
Since then, the Behdinkhlam festival started to be celebrated.
This festival banishes evil forces like a plague.
What happens on the last day of the four-day festival?
On the last day of the festival, Vasan and the youths of the village visit each house, climb to the roof, and tie the roof with a thin bamboo, a symbol of warding off evil spirits. The ‘Simbad Khanong’ erected while awaiting the final procession for the culmination of the sacred Madan Aitnar was then dismantled. The climax of the festival is the struggle for Khanong Blai or Ka Dinkhlam, the main sacred log. Loud splashes and cheers of joy filled the sacred lake and people kept throwing mud at each other as they scrambled for the sacred and coveted beam, which they believed would bring happiness and joy. more prosperous in the future. will start. harvest festival
The festival is definitely organized by farmers. It is considered an important way to pray to the gods for a good harvest. According to locals, Behdinkhalam also has regional significance. The meaning of Behdinkhlam lies in its name itself – ‘beh din’, beating something with a stick and ‘khal’ meaning deadly plague. Climb and smash the roof. The people of Jowai are aware of environmental protection. He adopted a new objective for the festival, in which a campaign was launched to raise awareness about environmental protection through the various programs of the festival. The cultural traditions of the Jowai resonate through the colorful festival. People carry colorful structures called “rats” or floats and gather at the festival site. These rotten things give out different social messages and were developed as a sincere attempt to combat social evils.
2. Nongkrem dance –Folk dances of Meghalaya
Often called “Ka Pamblang Nongkrem”.
So, this is the most important dance of “Khasis”.
It is basically a thank you to God.
Usually, in November every year, this dance is done.
The dance is in Smit, the cultural center of Khasi Hills in Meghalaya, India, about 11 km from Shillong.
Know Nongkrem Dance Festival
The Nongkrem dance festival is in autumn in Smit.
A five-day religious festival of the Khasis people, the Ka Pomblang Nongkrem dance is commonly known as the Nongkrem dance.
Similar to all other festivals in Meghalaya, Nongkrem Dance Festival is held to appease the almighty Goddess Ka Blei Synshar for a bountiful harvest and prosperity of the people.
Nongkrem Dance Festival Rituals
Khyrim’s Syiem and the high priest perform the Pomblang ritual. He made an offering to Lei Shillong; The culmination of the god Shyllong was the sacrifice of a rooster. An important part of this festival is Pomblang (goat sacrifice). Then, offerings were made to the ancestors and ancestors of the ruling clan to the first uncle of the god Shillong Peak.
Nongkrem Dance Festival activities
The religious part of the festival precedes dances in which single girls participate in all their exotic costumes. The male dance is naturally stronger and more energetic. They hold a sword in their right hand and often a white yak whip in their left hand, keeping up with the changing rhythms of the drums and how the tangmuri or flute is played.
Shad Suk Mynsiem –Folk dances of Meghalaya
Shad Suk Mynsiem is an annual spring dance to celebrate the harvest and sowing seasons. It is made to celebrate the agricultural cycle. The dancers are girls and boys dressed in colorful dresses and jewelry, accompanied by drums and flutes known as “Tangmuri”, the queen of musical instruments. However, only unmarried virgin girls can perform this dance. It’s a colorful Thanksgiving that takes place in the spring in the hills of Khasi.
Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem, also known as the Weiking Dance, is a Thanksgiving dance festival celebrated by the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya. This dance festival is held every year at the end of the harvest season in April. During this festival, they sow seeds for the next season symbolizing the beginning of a new season.
Dance Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem
Meghalaya’s Khasi hills are known as the land of dance and song along with a variety of unique musical instruments and music. The Khasi people believe that God exists within everyone, be it animals, people or things. They celebrate Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem festival with the same meaning.
The term Shad Suk Mynsiem literally means to dance for peace and spirit. This is called the Festival of a lucky soul. The iconic festival where women represent the seed and men are metaphors for the growers. Although every village holds this festival every year, a very elaborate and grand celebration takes place in Shillong. The leaders of Seng Khasi organize this dance every year.
This three-day Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem festival begins with “Shad Nahkjat”. This is a brief opening dance. It begins with a vigil at Seng Hall Wankhar. Then, from this venue, the drummers, flute players, and some male members came to the dance venue. They were followed by an enthusiastic and cheerful crowd.
The real dance begins in the evening. There is also `Shad Wait`. This part is very beautiful because men and women participate equally. The actors danced with swords in their right hand and white flying wings in their left hand while the actresses danced in large circles. After `Shad Wait` comes `Shad Masich` which means warrior dance. Here men and women dance in pairs. On the third and final day, all the performers and attendees say goodbye to the festival by going around the floor three times and then back to dancing happily.
The performers dress elegantly in their traditional costumes with beautiful jewels. The actresses wore a pure silver tiara with a white flower called Tiewlasuban attached to the back of the crown. This flower is a symbol of purity and beauty.
The dancer, on the other hand, carries a silver quiver with silver arrows on her back. It is a symbol of pride, bravery, and courage shown by their ancestors to protect the earth and the virginity of women. The whole earth looks like a beautiful oil painting with red and yellow colors.
Dance Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem
On the vast ground, dancers dance in a circle surrounded by men on all four sides. This represents men as guardians. But the irony of the Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem festival is that it is also known as the Weiking dance where the dancers wear a white handkerchief, which symbolizes their chastity and virginity. But conversely, there is no such restriction or custom for men.
In this dance festival, the music changes over time. According to its rhythm and chords, the steps or patterns of the dance change. The women danced barefoot while dragging, moving gracefully back and forth as they crouched. This reflects their feminine nature as the dancing men move quickly with swift, powerful steps around the women. This reflects the masculinity that portrays men as saviors and protectors of the earth and its inhabitants.
Garo and Khasi people participate in the festival regardless of class, creed, and gender with gratitude and respect. The hills are filled with the sound of drums and pipes. Music echoed throughout the valley. The life of the Khasi people would not be complete without this festival.
If you plan to visit Meghalaya, choose April. Otherwise, you will miss out on this amazing dance festival. Without attending this beautiful festival, your Meghalaya trip is incomplete.
Wangala dance -Folk dances of Meghalaya
Wangala, also known as the White Drum Festival.
It is with various forms of dancing to the tune of folk songs played on primitive flutes and drums from buffalo horns.
This is in honor of the sun god and marks the end of a long harvest.
The celebration also marks the end of a long period of hard work for the Garo tribe in the fields before the onset of winter.
For the Garo tribe of Meghalaya, festivals are a way to preserve and promote their cultural identity and showcase their traditions in their celebrations.
The Wangala dance is basically a part of the Wangala festival.
This festival includes rituals to appease the deity “Patigipa Rarongipa”, which takes place in all villages.
The four days and nights of the festival are completed with dancing and fun.
The highlight was the Dance of the Warriors – “Dance of the Hundred Drums” – on the last day it was a wonderful sight.
Dorsegata dance -Folk dances of Meghalaya
The Dorsegata Dance Festival is also a dance in which women attempt to take off their male friend’s turban while dancing. If the women do this, laughter will follow.
Loho Dance or Chipiah Dance
The loho dance is actually part of the Behdienkhlam festival.
Basically, dance by men and women for entertainment.
While wearing colorful clothes, both men and women actively participate in this form of dance.
A girl does this dance by putting two boys’ arms on either side.
Note that instead of a musical instrument, a man with a natural talent for playing the instrument would recite verses while performing the dance.
Kashad Shingwiang -Folk dances of Meghalaya
This dance is mainly by people of the Khasi tribe.
Instead of experiencing days of grief after someone passes away, the Khasi people prefer to remember the death by celebrating until the end of the deceased’s final ritual.
It is a ritual dance to express grief.
It begins on the day of death, outside on the kitchen floor, and ends when the person’s final rites.
The dancers also get support from men who play music on flutes, drums, and bamboo poles.
Pomelo or Chambil Mesara -Folk dances of Meghalaya
Musical instrument use in the folk dance of Meghalaya
Meghalaya, a state in northeastern India, is known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant folk traditions. Folk dances in Meghalaya are an integral part of the state’s cultural identity, and musical instruments play a crucial role in accompanying and enhancing the performances. Here are some of the musical instruments commonly used in the folk dances of Meghalaya:
The Duitara is a traditional stringed instrument similar to a guitar, and it is widely used in the folk music of Meghalaya. It is played with a plectrum and is known for its melodious tunes that accompany many folk dances.
Flutes of various sizes and materials are used in Meghalayan folk music. These flutes produce enchanting melodies that complement the dance performances.
Drums are an essential component of Meghalaya’s folk music and dance. The most commonly used drums are the “Khasi drum” and the “War drum.” These drums provide rhythm and energy to the dance performances.
The Tangmuri is a traditional Meghalayan stringed instrument, somewhat like a mandolin. It is played with a pick and produces lively and rhythmic sounds, making it a great accompaniment for dance performances.
Bamboo plays a significant role in Meghalaya’s folk culture. flutes and other bamboo percussion instruments are used to create unique sounds and rhythms in the folk music and dances.
Shawms are traditional wind instruments with a double reed. They produce loud and distinctive sounds and are often used in Meghalayan folk music, particularly during festivals and celebrations.
Cymbals, such as the hand-held Manjira, are used to add a rhythmic element to folk dance performances. They are often played by the dancers themselves or by accompanying musicians.
In some folk music ensembles, the harmonium is used to provide harmony and melodic support to the singers and dancers.
Various traditional percussion instruments, such as hand drums and tambourines, are used to maintain the beat and rhythm of the dances.
These musical instruments are an integral part of Meghalaya’s rich cultural heritage and are used to create a captivating and lively atmosphere during folk dance performances. Each instrument contributes to the unique soundscape of Meghalayan folk dances, which often tell stories of the region’s history, traditions, and way of life.
Now that we explore some of Meghalaya’s famous folk dance forms, we have an idea of their rich culture and traditions.
People love to incorporate dance and music into everything they do, whether it’s the harvest season or the post-harvest season, to give thanks, enjoy and have fun, celebrate, and even express grief.
It shows the people of Meghalaya are active in everything to keep their culture and heritage alive and rich.