One of the most vibrant celebrations that Meghalaya has to offer, the Behdeinkhlam festival of the Jaintia community is soon to be held- as it is anually- in the month of July. The name 'Behdeinkhlam' literally translates to 'driving away evil using sticks'. The festival is a three-day event and consists of numerous elaborate rituals. Celebrated after the sowing season in the Jowai district, the festival is deep-rooted in religious and customary beliefs. In an attempt to promote and enhance tourism in the North-Eastern region, the central government has been funding this festival in the recent years.
The pre-ceremonious events start a week prior to the function, when a pig is sacrificed to the Knia Pyrthat (Thunder), believing it ward off the demons. The opening ceremony is then held by the chief of the tribe, also known as Daloi. During the main event, the youth of every locality construct an ornamental towered structure called a 'rath'. The bamboo rath is then hauled by 30-40 people to be immersed in a lake at Aitnar.
Another unique fete is the custom of building Khnongs. Tree trunks are axed, polished and then left in the woods for a couple of days. Eventually, these Khnongs are brought into town amongst the sound of beating drums and pipes. Upon entering town, these trunks are then adorned and erected.
On the 4th day of the festival, the men and youth along with the priest of the village carry bamboo sticks and beat them on the roof of the houses under the belief that this practice would keep the evil at a distance. At the end of this, freshly brewed rice beer is served to the men by the housewives.
While these rituals are fascinating in themselves, the most enjoyable is the friendly game of Dat Lawakor amongst the residents of the upper and lower valley. Similar to the game of football, the sport is played using a wooden ball. In a pool of water, the objective of the game is to land the ball on the opposite side. The winners of the game are believed to expect a more bountiful crop that the other team.
As entertaining as the whole ordeal may seem, it is rather unfortunate that the women of the locality as not a part of the celebration. Instead they are expected to stay at home and prepare specialty dishes for the guests they invite.
What Behdeinkhlam Festival
Where Meghalaya, India
When July 14th to 16th 2019