Meghalaya Festivals

Meghalaya Festivals

Wangala Festival in Meghalaya
Wangala Festival, Meghalaya

Ka Rongkhli Festival of Jaintia (Jan-Feb-Mar)

The most important festival of the War Jaintia and is performed at Nongtalang village of Meghalaya. Rong means festival and Khli means tiger which means Tiger festival. This festival is held whenever a tiger is killed accidentally or by the villagers on an organized hunting. In whatever manner the tiger is killed, God is to be worshipped and the festival is to be held. It is believed that if God is not worshipped, certain calamities or misfortunes like epidemic diseases, starvation, and blindness will befall on the people. The festival is usually held in the month of January, February or March after the harvesting work is over.

Shad Suk Mynsiem (April)

This Khasi festival is also known as the Dance of the Joyful Heart. The festival is performed to celebrate harvesting and sowing in relation to the agricultural cycle (i.e. the harvesting period and the beginning of the sowing period). It symbolizes the fertility cult: it represents women as the bearer of seeds and men as cultivators, who cultivates and nourishes the yield, as well as protects the nurse. It also paying obeisance to God, the creator for the blessings that he has showered.Men and women dress in their traditional costumes of gold and silver ornaments dance to the beats of the Nakra (drum) and the tunes of the Tangmuri (flute). The girls always hold a white handkerchief in their hands, this symbolizes that the girls are unmarried and are virgins.The beautiful maidens dance at the centre while the men circle the women and dance around them. This beautiful dance sequence represents the men being protective of their women and their kingdom. The dance also depicts the matrilineal society, where the male is the maternal uncle and father of a family where as the woman is the custodian of the ancestral property.

Bob Dylan’s birthday celebrations (24th May)

The brainchild of Lou Majaw, the Bob Dylan concert has become an annual ritual of sorts for this city of Shillong. Majaw: a singer and songwriter extraordinaire, along with other musicians have been belting out Dylan’s songs for 35 years! In times when every piece of art (read music) comes with a price tag, the Bob Dylan concert has been a constant effort to keep the spirit of good music alive since 1972. From being a small, almost private celebration three decades ago the Bob Dylan concert today attracts audiences from across the country and even from overseas. “It gets better every time. More and more people are writing songs and poetry. Poetry is otherwise underrated; no one gives a damn about it. So this is a very good thing. And more so because Dylan’s efforts are not wasted,” says Majaw. Getting Dylan to Shillong remains a long unfulfilled dream for Majaw. According to him numerous attempts have been made to bring the master himself to Shillong, but they have so far been unsuccessful. However, unfulfilled dreams are no stranger to Majaw. “I am looking for a big, day – long celebration in schools and colleges in Shillong. A day which will be declared a holiday! I would like to invite students from various schools and colleges, and ask one representative from each institution to sing a Dylan song or recite one of his poems. It should all be a beautiful spirit of participation,” he says.

Behdienkhlam (July)

This is one of the popular festivals of the region of Jaintia hills. Based on the socio – economic life of the Jaintias and prayers for the prosperity and good health of the people, this festival is celebrated at Jowai, the district headquarters of Jaintia Hills. The festival is celebrated to invoke the blessings of the Gods for a bountiful harvest and keep people off diseases and plague. The main highlight of Behdienkhlam is the making of the colourful decorative Rots (Rath) by different localities spreading social messages. During this festival a traditional game of wooden football called Datlawakor is played between the farmers of the upper & lower paddy fields in the street of Jowai and belief is that the winner of the game will be blessed with bountiful harvest to their field.

The Shillong Blues & Jazz Festival (Sept)

The Shillong Blues & Jazz Festival is not just a festival of musicians and singers but a tribute to the music of Shillong.

Wangala Festival – Hundred Drums Festival (Oct)

100 Drums Wangala Festival is an annual cultural festival of the Garos, held every year at Asanang, 18 km from Tura the headquarters of West Garo Hills district, Meghalaya.

Wangala is the most significant post-harvest festival of the Garos, who live in Meghalaya, India, Assam and Greater Mymensingh in Bangladesh. It is a thanksgiving ceremony to the God “Misi Saljong”, also known as“Pattigipa Ra’rongipa” (the Great Giver) for having blessed the human beings with rich harvest of the season. Offerings of rice beer are made to her and incense is burnt in her honour during the Rugala and the Sa’sat So’a ceremonies prior to the weeklong Wangala festival.

Although the Wangala has been traditionally practiced from times immemorial, however with the advent of Christianity and modern culture, this cultural identity of the Garos was seen to be fast disappearing. Therefore, in order to protect, preserve and promote the festival. The first Hundred Drums Wangala Festival was organised on December 6 and 7, 1976. Since then, the festival is being organized every year in the second week of November and has grown over the years under the patronage of Meghalaya Government and nurtured by the Hundred Drums Wangala Festival Organisation.
The festival extends from two days to a week, with the first day focusing on the ceremony of “Ragula”. On the second day the ceremony of “Kakkat” is performed. People of all age groups young and old dress in colorful attractive costumes with feathered head gears dance to the tune of music played on long  oval-shaped drums.

A group of 30 dancers with 10 drums would form a dancing troupe or a contingent; and 10 such groups tallied to form 300 dancers. That’s how the festival got its name “Hundred Drums Wangala Festival”.

The main attraction of the festival is the music and orchestra being played by men in a rhythmic fashion. The ‘orchestra’ of men includes drums, gong and flutes, punctuated by the sonorous music of a primitive flute made of buffalo horn. There is a notable sense of tempo in the performers, young and old, and the energetic dance leaves a lasting impression upon the beholder. Other activities includes Indigenous games and sports (Wa’pong Sika, An’ding Oka, Jakpong Pe’a, Makkre Wa’gong Maldoa and Rong’ma Chilsusaa for the men folk while the women will compete in the Rong’ma Chilsusaa and Rong’ma Gosusaa events), Indigenous vocal and instrumental competitions, Wangala dance competition, Religious ceremonies, Industrial Exhibition, Painting and crafts Exhibition etc.

Shillong Autumn Festival (Oct-Nov)

The Autumn Festival is a massive cultural event held in the month of October – November in the state of Meghalaya organized by the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum with an objective to showcase the rich and colourful culture of the North East and Meghalaya in particular. The first Autumn Festival was held in the year 2005 and due to its tremendous success it has been continued since. It is aimed at mobilizing various communities into action and participation in one common event which in turn allows the people of the area to see the benefits of tourism to their communities.

The festival is a weeklong celebration in various venues in Meghalaya such as Shillong, Jowai, Cherrapunjee and Ri Bhoi. Local communities are involved in various capacities wherever the festivals are being held so that these communities see the benefits of being involved in the efforts to bring about sustainable development in the form of tourism. The festival also showcases cultural songs and dances from Meghalaya and the North Eastern region as well as traditional sports and traditional massage therapies. There are food courts serving delicious and traditional and world cuisines, Arts and Handicraft stalls, Modern music and Dance entertainment, Competitive activities like kite flying, fishing, boat races, classic car pageants, international performers, tattoo huts, family activities and so on.

Shillong Wine Festival (Nov)

Wine connoisseurs from across India and abroad and the young and the old Saturday raised a toast at the Shillong Wine Festival with homemade wines made from exotic fruits. Dozens of tribal Khasi wine-makers brisk business at the fest, organised by a local group called the Forever Young Club of Shillong. There are wines made from banana, mulberry, strawberry, litchi, pineapple, plum, jackfruit among others.

Nongkrem Dance Festival (Nov)

The Ka Pomblang Nongkrem Festival is one of the most significant festivals of the Khasi community of Meghalaya. Popularly known as Nongkrem Dance festival it is celebrated at Smit, nearly 20 Km from Shillong. It starts in the first week of November to commemorate the harvest season.An important part of this festival is Pomblang (sacrifice of goats). People offer goats to the ‘Syiem’ of Khyrem, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi State). Later the goats are sacrificed and offerings are made to the ancestor and ancestress of the ruling clan and the deity of Shillong peak (ULei Shillong).On the fourth day, the rituals get over and the Khasi men and women dress themselves up in their traditional attire to perform the beautiful Nongkrem Dance. The women dressed in expensive silk costumes with heavy gold, silver and coral ornaments dance in the inner circle of the arena. The men dressed up in multi hued silk dhotis, coat and a plumed turban form an outer circle and dance to the accompaniment of music of Tangmuri (pipes) and drums. The festival comes to an end on the fifth day with a thanksgiving prayer offered to the almighty by the Syiem.

Winter festival (Dec)

Winter Festival starts with the carol singing revelry as people of the city gear up to celebrate Christmas and culminates with mass New Year Celebrations at the City Center (Khyndailad). For the last two years, over 30,000 people collectively ushered in the New Year dancing and singing along with Shillong & Kolkata’s finest bands at Khyndailad. Taking a leaf out of New Year celebrations in New York’s Times Square, Shillongites bid adieu to the old year and welcomed the New Year in grand style and fanfare. Organised by the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum (MTDF), the dazzling lights, fiber sparking betel nuts trees and fireworks lit up the night sky as New Year revelers in Khyndailad danced to the tunes of their favourite local bands and singers that were playing well past mid-night.

Mei Ram-ew (Dec)

Mei Ram-ew (or Terra Madre, meaning mother earth) held in Meghalaya in December, gets its inspiration from the Slow Food movement and is modelled on the lines of the global Terra Madre festivals. Here, forest-foraged and locally grown foods are displayed, cooked and served by indigenous communities of the northeast. Workshops and demonstrations include tasting workshops of indigenous food varieties, cooking demos, and talks on culinary aspects of foods like millets. The first fest was held in 2010, with each progressive year showcasing different things like – the unique traditional cuisines of Meghalaya’s tribes in 2010; over 200 edible plant species and their recipes in 2012; and last year’s quirky sounding Disco Soup, a delicious concoction made by chefs and volunteers who chopped, danced, and cooked to music. The idea was built on a concept originating in Europe where young people collected and cooked discarded vegetables and fruits from supermarkets, thereby, urging people to stop wastage of food. Dates for the festival are yet to be decided.

Ka Sajer Ka Raid Nonglyngdoh Festival of Khasi-Jaintiya (Dec-Jan)

A popular festival among the Bhoi of Khasi-Jaintia hills held in the month of December, January or February after the harvesting is done and before the sowing of seeds for the coming year. It is a religious celebration of the whole raid Nonglyngdoh connected with agriculture and cultivation rites of the people for the prosperity of crops. The people also thank God the Creator for all the blessings that he has showered upon them during the festival.

Orange Festival (Dec)

The one-day orange festival, organized as part of celebrating the year of Horticulture, attracted fruit lovers who wanted to get the taste of the delicious varieties of local oranges eminently known as the ‘Khasi Mandarin’.

Varieties of local oranges brought from different parts of the state were on display at the festival. Hundreds of teams and participants from different parts of the state took part at the festival which had an inflow of more than 25,000 oranges. The so-called ‘Soh Sohra’ or ‘Cherra Orange’ grown in orchards from the sub-tropical Ri-War region in the southern slopes of Sohra has derived its credibility of being the best oranges at the festival.
Apart from showcasing a distinction of Khasi mandarin oranges, some agro products with emphasis on citrus fruits were also on display.
To enlighten the spirit of the visitors and fruit lovers, folk and modern musical extravaganzas featuring various local artists added to the beauty of the festival.

It may be mentioned here that the aim of the festival is to promote and showcase to the world the famous local oranges known as the Khasi Mandarin grown abundantly in Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The festival also targeted the idea of capacity building and empowerment to farmers and local leaders on the tremendous benefits that can be acquired through orange farming.

Cherrapunji Festival (Dec)

The Cherrapunjee Festival is organized at Sa-I-Mika Park, Sohra. The Festival was organized with the objective of promoting livelihoods, eco and adventure Tourism and highlighting the rich indigenous art and culture of the people of Sohra and Shella. The Festival witnessed the participation of over Thirty Self Help Groups engaged in various activities which include api-culture, Orchid Farming, Weavers and preparation of indigenous food. The various items particularly oranges from village of Mawphu, Nongsteng and Laitiam, the bananas and handicraft items from Nongpriang Village, the honey from Nongsteng, Mawphu and Laitiam and the indigenous food like Shrew, Phandieng and locally grown vegetables from far-flung areas of the Sub-Division were given prominence.