As the Pnar community in Jaintia Hills,Meghalaya prepares to celebrate their annual cultural festival,one of the biggest festivals in Meghalaya, here is a reminder of what this festival means and why is it so important to the faithful of the indigenous faith of the Pnars –Niam Tre.
Here are five facts u should know about Behdienkhlam:
Behdienkhlam (chasing away the Demon of Cholera) is celebrated annually in July after the sowing period, the most important dance festival of the Jaintia tribes. This festival Tour is also an invocation to God, seeking his blessings for a bumper 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 forefathers.
A series of religious rites is being performed by the Daloi (chief). During the Behdienkhlam Cultural Festival Tour, young men make a symbolic gesture of driving away of the evil spirit, plague and disease by beating of the roof of every house with bamboo poles.
The climax of the celebration is the fight for a large undressed beam by two groups of people in opposition to each other. This leads to the heavy beam get across a muddy ditch called Wah-eit-nar. A lot of horse play enters into this part of the event, when mud is smeared by the participants on each other.
The ceremony and ritual is carried out three days and on the last day, in the afternoon people would gather in a place called Aitnar and both young and old would dance to the tunes of the pipes and drums. The dancers are highly emotional when tall-decorated structures called “Raths” and a wooden post-called “Khnongs” would be brought into the pool. It is desirable that there should be rain on the day of the festival.
Feature Image courtesy: Kamtre Sumer