Behdeinkhlam Festival

As the monsoon arrives, the Pnars of Meghalaya celebrate Behdeinkhlam, which is their most important holiday of the year. The phrase Behdeinkhlam refers to a rite in which evil spirits are driven away. The celebration has a lot more levels to it and allows visitors to express their indigenous customs, history, and folklore through various activities and ceremonies.

The Behdeinkhlam Festival is the most important celebration in the Niam Tre religion, dedicated to a good harvest and a year of plenty. The major Behdeinkhlam celebrations can be witnessed in Jowai (West Jaintia Hills) and Tuberkmai (East Jaintia Hills).

The final Behdeinkhlam ‘procession' is preceded by a number of ceremonies and rituals for many days. The smashing of houses with long bamboo sticks - as evil spirits that bring disease and misery are driven away - is one of them. Ancestors and families are worshipped as well.

The Daloi, or religious leaders of the community, lead prayers and rituals as the crowd swells and the excitement builds. Polished wood logs and artfully designed rots (bamboo structures) are carried through the areas before being immersed in a central pool or pond - Ka Aitnar (located in Longpiah) - before the final Behdeinkhlam procession. The rituals and the streets are jam-packed with celebration. The holy pool in the Tuber Behdeinkhlam festival is located in the village of Tuberkmai Shnong.

It's a very joyous and boisterous festival, generally linked with the weather. It's when the traditional games get all of the attention, making it enjoyable for both players and spectators. During the annual Behdeinkhlam ceremony, visitors from across the world try to push a log across the holy pool. During Dat-lawakor, teams compete in an amusing football-like game using a wooden ball. The Iatan-Bhang tug of war is a competition between people from the north and south of the province, with the winners being said to be blessed with a prosperous year and more.

The sounds, energy and optimism of the festival combined with the sights of the people and intricately carved rots towering above them make Behdeinkhlam one of Meghalaya's most stunning cultural experiences.