Even if the festivals of Meghalaya carry
much of a local affair still the festive fervour is one of the most
colourful aspects of this small state. Without the boundations of any
particular religious faith, the festive celebrations are held in order to
signify occasions where ancestral spirits are appeased, following
activities of sowing and harvesting.
FESTIVALS IN THE GARO HILLS
Wangala or Dance of Hundred Drum festival is an important event of the Garos. This festival marks the end of a period of toil, heralding a yield of good harvest. It is performed in honour of 'Satyong', the God of fertility. People, young and old dressed in their in their colourful costumes and feathered head dress, dance to the beat of long cylindrical drums. Held annually in November, the festival may last for a week.
Doregata Dance festival is another interesting dance where, while dancing the women try to knock off the turbans of their male partner using their head. If the women succeed, it is followed by peals of laughter.
Chambil Mesara Or Pomelo Dance
The Chambil Mesara or Pomelo Dance is a solo dance-form, which requires skill. The performer dangles a 'Pomelo' on a cord tied to his waist and then hurls it around without any perceptible movement of the hips. Expert dancers can hurl two separate fruits hung on a cord.
FESTIVALS IN THE KHASI HILLS
Nongkrem Dance is a religious festival in thanksgiving to God Almighty for good harvest, peace and prosperity of the community. It is held annually during October/ November, at Smit, the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship near Shillong.
Young men, both bachelors and married, perform the dance in the open. The women dressed in expensive silk costumes with heavy gold, silver and coral ornaments dance in the inner circle of the arena. The men form an outer circle and dance to the accompaniment of music of flutes and drums.
An important feature of the festival is the 'Pomblang' or goat sacrifice offered by the subjects to the 'Syiem' of Khyrim, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi State). "Ka Syiem Sad", the eldest sister of the king is the chief priest and caretaker of all ceremonies. The festival is conducted along with the 'Myntries' (Ministers), priests and high priest where offerings are made to ancestors of the ruling clan and the deity of Shillong.
Shad Suk Mynsiem
One of the most important festivals of the Khasis is "Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem" or Dance of the joyful heart. It is an annual thanksgiving dance held in Shillong in April. Men and women, dressed in traditional fineries dance to the accompaniment of drums and the flute. The festival lasts for three days.
FESTIVALS IN JAINTIA HILLS
Behdienkhlam celebrated annually in July after the sowing period is the most important dance festival of the Jaintias. Young men make a symbolic gesture of driving away of the evil spirit, plague and pestilence by beating of the roof of every house with bamboo poles. Also poles of great length are held across the stream Wah-Ait-Nar. People jump on the poles and break them while dancing in the muddy pool of water. A large pole is placed across the stream and two groups contend for the possession of the pole.
This festival is also an invocation to God seeking his blessings for a good harvest. The women however do not participate in the dancing, as they have an important function of offering sacrificial food to the spirits of the ancestors.
Both male and female for entertainment perform the Lahoo Dance. Attired in their best finery, usually two young men on either side of a woman, holding arms together dance in step. In place of the usual drum and pipe, a cheerleader, usually a man gifted with the talent of impromptu recitation, recites couplets to the merriment of the audience.