|Culture of Meghalaya
Meghalaya’s main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are theKhasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother’s side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly.
The Garos believe in one supreme Creator, Rabuga, who is the sustainer and commander of the world. The other spirits are the representatives of the supreme Creator. The spirits connected to the Garo’s agricultural life, are appeased by sacrifices but never worshipped. The headman is an integral part of the village and acts as religious head. The Jaintias and Khasis have the same religion, although the Jaintias are more influenced by Hinduism. They have a superstition that the Jam, like the Khasi Thlen, is an evil spirit bringing riches to its owner and disease or death to its enemies or victims.
The principal languages in Meghalaya are Khasi and Garo with English as the official language of the State.
Khasi is one of the chief languages of Meghalaya. Khasi, which is also spelled Khasia, Khassee, Cossyah and Kyi, is a branch of the Mon-Khmer family of the Austroasiatic stock; and is spoken by about 900,000 people residing in Meghalaya. Garo language has a close affinity with the koch and Bodo language. Garo, spoken by the majority of the population, is spoken in many dialects such as Abeng or Ambeng, Atong, Akawe (or Awe), Matchi Dual, Chibok, Chisak Megam or Lyngngam, Ruga, Gara-Ganching and Matabeng.
Fairs and Festivals
The Khasis, Jaintias and Garos of Meghalaya celebrate several festivals which are directly and indirectly connected with religion. They are full of joy and happiness which is expressed outwardly in the form of dance, feast and worship.
Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance: In every religious ritual of Khasi tribe, the grand finale is the performance of a dance, a Thanks Giving Dance called ‘Shad Phur’, which is now called “Shad Suk Mynsiem.” The religious rituals or ceremonies might concern certain families, clans, villages, raijs, or the state (Hima).
Nongkrem Dance: It is one of the most important festivals of the Khasi tribe and is celebrated with pomp and gaiety and It is held every year at Smit which is 15 Kilometers from Shillong.
Behdeinkhlam Festival: One of Meghalaya’s most colourful religious festivals, Behdeinkhlam, is celebrated for three days during July at Jowai. The word literally means ‘driving away of evil (plague) by wooden sticks’. This Festival is connected with a series of religious rites. People dance on the street to the accompaniment of drum beating and pipe playing. The women do not participate in the dancing but have an important role to play at home by offering sacrificial food to the spirits of the ancestors. Each locality prepares a decorative tower-like structure called a rath. These are carried by 30 to 40 strong people to a small lake at Aitnar for immersion. The festival climaxes when the khnong (the most sacred tree) is brought to the centre of each locality. In the afternoon datlawakor is played between two teams from the upper and lower valleys of the Myntdu River. It is a kind of soccer with a wooden ball. Those who win are believed to be blessed with a good harvest.
Laho Dance: The Jaintia People have another dance festival for entertainment. It is called the Laho dance. Members of both the sexes participate in this dance festival, attired in their best finery, usually two young men on either side of a girl, linking arms together, dance in step. In place of the usual drums and pipe, there is a cheer leader, usually a man gifted with the talent of spontaneous recitation. He recites ribald couplets to the merriment of the audience.
Chad Sukra: The annual Chad Sukra (sowing festival) is celebrated during the middle of April or early May every year by the Pnar people. Pnar people believe that a farmer could start sowing the seeds on his land only after the festival is over. The festival is observe to invoke God, the Creator, to protect their crops from all forms of natural calamities besides ushering in peace and harmony among the people.
Ranikor Festival: The Mawkyrwat Sub Divisional Officers Welfare Association, (MSDOWA) Mawkyrwat organized the first Beach Festival at Ranikor on the 23 and 24 February 2007. The various activities organized on the two days of the festival were:
- Display of the rich cultural diversity of Ranikor by various groups, like Khasis, Garos, Hajong, Assameese etc., through dance and music.
- Beach soccer and beach volleyball
- Boat ride to the Jadukata Bridge
- Trekking to the International Border with the assistance of BSF
- Boat riding
- Archery competition with participants from all across Khasi Hills
- Kite flying
- Performance by live band
- Disco on the Beach with DJ
- Ethnic cuisine
Source: Megalaya tourism