Celebrating the vibrant festival Behdienkhlam of the Jaintia community of Meghalaya

The Northeast Dialogue
The Behdienkhlam Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated in the state of Meghalaya. This is a harvest festival that is observed as an appeasement to the gods to ensure that the harvest will be bountiful. It is also observed as an appeal to the gods to ward off any diseases. It is celebrated annually in the month of July by the Indigenous Pnar people of Jaintia Hills. Behdienkhlam literally means to drive away evils and plague. In many parts of the world, a successful harvest is always a time to celebrate or appease the gods to ensure a bountiful crop.

A series of religious rites is being performed by the chief also known as Daloi. Probably the most striking feature of this colorful festival are the tall bamboo structures brightly decorated with a paper called 'Rots' or 'Raths'. Each village will create a rot with its own symbols and messages. About 30 men will carry the rot to a sacred pool called 'Aitnar', where the rots are immersed to bring good fortune. A lot of horseplay enters into this part of the event when mud is smeared by the participants on each other.

Both young and old would dance to the tunes of the pipes and drums.  The dancers are highly emotional when tall-decorated structures would be brought into the pool. It is desirable that there should be rain on the day of the festival. The climax of this famous festival of North East India is when people dressed up in their best attire would converge to a place called Mynthong to witness a game played similar to football, called dad-lawakor. The side that wins the match by putting the ball on the other side would signify that in the following year, there would be a bumper harvest in that particular region. 

In the evening there would be a lot of funfair and merry-making. The Behdienkhlam festival is a symbol of the joyous connection between nature and humans that is celebrated with great fanfare to this day, year after year, by the people of Jaintia in Meghalaya. The festival lasts for four days

Warm and heartfelt greetings to our brothers and sisters of the Jaintia community of Meghalaya, on the auspicious occasion of Behdienkhlam Festival.

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