Meghalaya : Behdeinkhlam fest kicks off in Jaintia Hills

A Khnong being brought from Riatturiem to Jowai during the Behdeinkhlam festival that began on Thursday. Image : Highland Post

Jowai(Meghalaya) ,July 13: The Behdeinkhlam festival which is one of the most vibrant festivals of the Pnar people kicked off at Jowai town , amidst heavy rainfall.

The excitement of this annual festival reverberated with the sounds of the traditional musical instruments – the bom and the tangmuri amidst revelry seen along the streets of the town.

Organized annually by the Seinraij Jowai, this unique festival is held after the sowing season is over so as to overcome any destructive forces of nature including diseases by invoking the God for a good harvest.

The Behdienkhlam literally means driving away the plague as “Khlam” means ‘Plague’ and “Beh Dein” means to drive away the plague.

The unique and ancient festival of Behdienkhlam, celebrated by Jaintia or Pnar tribal community, is the ritualistic expression of the relentless struggle of mankind to overcome the destructive forces of nature, including diseases, since the dawn of civilization.

This festival is also an invocation to God seeking blessings for a good harvest. Women offer sacrificial food to the spirits of the ancestors.

The main feature of the festival is the making of the “dein khlam”, “symlend” and “khnong”, which are rounded, polished and tall tree trunks, felled in a reserved forest.

After letting them lie in the woods for a couple of nights, the trunks are brought to the town with great fanfare. Later, these trunks are erected in each locality and in front of individual homes.

On the fourth day, young men, led by priests, carry bamboo sticks and visit each home beating roof-tops to chase away evil spirits, especially the demon of plague to the accompaniment of drums, cymbals and chanting in Pnar. The erected “khnong” is pulled down, broken and discarded. The group is offered home-brewed rice beer by the lady of the house.
Besides the bringing of the colourful rots made by different localities to Aitnar, one of the most anticipated moments of this festival is when the Symbud Khnong’-a log of great length is brought to Aitnar. It is believed that those touching the Khnong will be protected from all sorts of sickness besides and will be prosperous.

After this the people will unite at Mynthong in their best attire to witness a ceremony synonymous to football. This game is also known as the Dad-Lawakor. The contest is generally held between the Northern and the Southern Groups of people and it is believed that the group that wins will get a bumper harvest on the following year.

By special arrangement with Highland Post

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