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The Nongkrem Dance Festival

The Nongkrem Dance Festival

A cultural extravaganza!

A five days long religious festival devoted to appease the Goddess Ka Blei Synshar for a rich bumper harvest and prosperity of the people, the Nongkrem dance festival takes place in Meghalaya every year.

Nongkram Dance is mainly celebrated with tremendous zeal and fervor by the inhabitants of the Khasi Hills. In Khasi Hills this festival is also known as Shad Nongkrem and is performed every year at Smit, which is the capital of Khyrem Syiemship near Shillong. There is an important event that is integrally linked to this festival; it is the execution of goats.

During the festival, dances are performed by unmarried men & women dressed in exotic costumes. The  dance of the men 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. The Nongkram Dance is celebrated in the month of May, and often in November. This is due to the shifting of lunar position which determines the time for the next Nongkram Carnival.

Another major festival celebrated in the state is Behdienkhlam, which is celebrated by the Pnar community in the Janitia Hills. It is generally celebrated in the month of July for good health, property and bumper harvest. Although Behdienkhlam is celebrated all over the Jaintia hills, the main spectacle happens in the town of Jowai, about 64 km away from Shillong. The festival begins with sacrificing pig to 'Knia Pyrthat' (Thunder) followed by the 'Wasan' (Priest) ringing the brass bell along the main road of the town to the point where the forest begins. Rounded, polished and tall trunks of tree are cut and felled in the sacred forest; post which they are left there for a few days. The trunks are then brought to the town with great fanfare, which includes dancing and singing. On the fourth day, the youth of the town led by the priest visit each and every home, climb to the roof and beat it with a bamboo stick to chase away any evil spirits. The people also display their artistic skills by installing 'rots' (tall bamboo structures decorated with colour paper and tinsel). The rots are then carried to the 'Aitnar site', where the entire tribe gather together. The rots arrive and are then polished, before they are finally thrown into the river. The dancing men rush and try to balance themselves on the rolling and slippery logs. At the end, 'Dad-Lawakor', a type of football is played with a wooden ball.

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