Culture of Meghalaya
The state of Meghalaya is rich in culture and tradition. The state has many art and craft forms. Different tribes of the state celebrate different festivals with much joy and valour. The people of the region are very much fond of dance and music.Meghalaya is a land of diverse tribes and races of people living in harmony.
Art and Craft of Meghalaya
Meghalaya is a land of unique culture and traditions. Meghalaya is one of the seven north eastern states known for its exquisite bamboo and cane products, weaving and wood carving. The people of Meghalaya consisting of three ancient hill communities - the Garos, Khasis and the Jaintias have a special skill of crafting and making traditional bamboo and cane products. Most of the tribes are engaged in different types of handicraft making including bamboo and cane products.
The art and craft of Meghalaya has a uniqueness of its own. They are very intricately made and beautiful to look at. Tourist coming to this northeastern part are mesmerized to see the sheer wonder of art and craft of Meghalaya. The abundance of bamboo makes it possible for the artists to make the bamboo and cane products. The three tribes of Meghalaya the Garos, the Khasis and the Jaintias are apt in making different kinds of cane and bamboo products and in weaving. These products have now received recognition not only in the national market but also in the international market and are much in demand.
and bamboo product making is one of the prime occupations of the tribal
people of Meghalaya. Cane and bamboo products like different household
items, furniture, accessories and musical instruments are made by the
Both the Khasis and the Garos are known for their skill
in cane and bamboo product making. The significant items of cane and
bamboo in Meghalaya are baskets, mats, hats, moorahs, headgear, trays
and fans, bamboo comb, bamboo pipes, chairs, utensils, knives and Khasi
umbrellas among many others. Baskets like "Meghum Khoks" are made in
the Garo hills. Khasi people are very fond of baskets. They are skilled
in making Khasi pig basket, Khasi fruit basket, Khasi Shallo basket,
small Khasi storage basket, coiled cane containers and so on.
Musical instruments like mouth organ, tobacco pipe, flute, cup violin, tribal weapons and so on are made of cane and bamboo. Also Read: Culture of Shillong
Bamboo Weaving in Meghalaya
is an ancient craft of the tribal of Meghalaya. The Khasis are famous
for weaving cane mat, stools and baskets. They make a special kind of
cane mat called 'Tlieng', which guarantees good utility of around 20-30
years. The Garos weave the material used for their costumes called the
'Dakmanda'. Weaving is also done of bed sheets and table covers.
Tribes of Meghalaya
A tribe is a social group which possesses certain qualities and characteristics that make it a unique cultural, social, and political entity. A single tribe has common languages, customs, rituals, social organizations, and religious beliefs. They were often composed of generally autonomous and independent bands and villages. Meghalaya has some notable tribes and races which have their own characteristics.
Khasi is a tribe living in Meghalaya. A small population of Khasi people also lives in Bangladesh. According to the Khasi mythology, the tribe's original abode to Hynniewtrep, means ‘seven huts’ in Khasi. They speak the Khasi language, which is the nethermost Austro-Asiatic language. According to 2001 India census, over 1.1 million Khasi people lived in Meghalaya. The Khasi people produce betel leaf, areca nut and oranges and they built the living root bridges. In several states of India, Khasis have been granted the status of Scheduled Tribes. Jymphong is the traditional Khasi male dress and Jainsem or Dhara is the traditional Khasi female dress.
Garo is a tribe of Meghalaya and neighboring areas of Bangladesh. It is the second largest tribe in Meghalaya. They call themselves A-Chick Mande, which means ‘hill people’. They are mainly Christians. They pray their numerous deities and sacrifice animals to ensure welfare of the tribe. The Garos are mainly distributed over Kamrup, Goalpara and Karbi Anglong districts. They also form a minority in Kooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Dinajpur as well as in Nagaland. According to 2001 India census, about 2 million Garos lives in India and Bangladesh together. The Garo language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. The Garos are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. Wangla, Gal-mak Doa, Agalmaka and Christmas are the festivals celebrated by the Garos.
Hajong is a tribal ethnic group and the fourth majority tribe in Meghalaya. They are also spread across northeast India and Bangladesh. About 130,000 people live in India and Bangladesh both. The Hajong language is an Eastern Indo-Aryan language. ‘Pathin’ and ‘Phula Agon’ is the traditional female dress of the Hajong. They celebrate Durga Puja and some other festival like Nongtang, Chormaga and some others. Some animistic worship and beliefs are still seen among the tribe.
Pnar or Jaintia People
The Pnar, also known as Jaintia or Synteng are a tribe in Meghalaya. The name Jaintia derived from the Jaintia kingdom, whose rulers were Syntengs. The Pnar people also claim descent from Ki Hynniew Trep, which means seven mothers or seven families. In 1835, the Jaintia kingdom was annexed by the British East India Company. In 1972, the Jaintia Hills District was established. The original tribal religion of the Jaintias is known as Niamtre.
The Tiwa also known as the Lalung is another tribe living in the states of Assam and Meghalaya. They are recognized as a scheduled tribe within the state of Assam. They are divided in two groups- Hill Tiwa and Plain Tiwas. Hill Tiwas live in the western areas of Karbi-Anglong as well as in the northern corner of Ri-Bhoi district in Meghalaya. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language of the Bodo-Garo group. Their descent system is matrilineal. Plain Tiwas live on the flat lands of the southern bank of the Brahmaputra valley and the vast majority speaks Assamese. According to 2001 India census, about 171000 Tiwas lives in the plain region.
Jewellery and Costumes of Meghalaya
The tribes of Meghalaya have distinct jewellery and costumes of their own. The costumes of the Khasis include Jainsem, and Tapmohkhlieh. The costumes of the Jaintiasare the same as the Khasis with the addition of the Kyrshah, Thoh Khyrwang, Dakmanda and so on. The Garos wear Rigitok. The costumes are made by the tribes in a unique way that is very beautiful in traditional design.
The jewellery of the Khasis and the Jaintias are also mostly the same. The pendent is called Kynjri Ksiar and Palia.
Cuisines of Meghalaya
The staple food of Meghalaya is rice taken with spicy meat and fish preparations. The people of Meghalaya rear goats, pigs, fowl, ducks and cows and savor their meat. The food types differ among different communities of the people. The Khasi and Jaintia people have their popular dishes like Jadoh, Ki Kpu, Tung Rymbai and pickled bamboo shoots.
The Garos on the other hand have their dishes like rice cooked with Kapa (cooked with special ingredient filtered with ash water), steaming foods like Minil Songa, Sakkin Gata, Nakam and dry meat among others. Some of these foods are prepared by keeping them on bamboo shoots. The Garos eat almost any animals besides domesticated. They also ferment rice beer which is a traditional beer consumed during ceremonies and celebrations. The staple food of Meghalaya is Pork. This north eastern state basically has all the non-vegetarians dishes in the cuisine.
Khasi people have got different preferences of food in comparison to the Garo tribe. Khasi delicacies are largely dependent on rice. Rice is prepared either plain or mixed with ginger, turmeric and onion which is called ‘jastem’. The fermented soyabean in this region is 'Tungrymbai'. It has a strong odour and is very popular especially during the winter season as an integral part of Khasi food. Different types of rice 'pancakes' are also popular. 'Pumaloi' is powdered rice which is steamed in earthern pots called 'Khiew Ranei'. 'Pukhlein' is powdered rice mixed with jaggery which is then deep fried. 'Pudoh' is plain powdered rice stuffed with small pieces of pork and steamed. 'Putharo' is again plain powdered rice steamed.
Some special cuisines of Khasi people
- Jadoh: It is red hill rice cooked with pork and is something similar to biryani, 'Jastem' is plain hill rice cooked with pork gravy, onions, ginger and turmeric thus giving it a characteristic yellow colour.
- Mylliem chicken: It is famous in these parts and gets its name from the village where it was first prepared. The chicken is cooked with different condiments, most notably, the small round Khasi peppers which give distinctive taste and flavour.
- Dohkhlieh: It is a type of pork salad made with boiled pork and onions with a sprinkling of chillies as desired.
- Dohneiiong: It is another pork dish. This dish has gravy and is made with black sesame seeds to give it its dark texture.
The Garo cuisine is simple to cook with small variations that bring in a rich flavor. One of the important ingredients in preparing 'Nakham Bitchi' (a hot spicy soup) is the special dry fish (Nakham).Preserved fish or meat is widely used in a variety of cooking methods. Fish or meat is preserved either by drying in the sun or smoked over the fire. A typical Garo meal would consist of rice, one or two meat/fish dishes and of course the relishing dry fish soup. The Khasi taste buds are different from the traditional Garo way of cooking. To begin with, there are different varieties of rice to choose from.
Some special cuisines of Garo people
- Khapa: a chicken preparation.
- Nakham Bitchi: a hot spicy soup made using dry fish (Nakham)
- Na’kam Baring belati Chutney: Dry Fish Chutney with Roasted Tomatoes
- Gal’da Na’kam: Dry Fish with a tangy green vegetable
- Wak Jo.krapa: Pork Fried with Tomatoes
The cuisine of Jaintia people consists comprises of tasty mushroom dishes. The Jaintia people make lots of indigenous and unique dishes prepared from various mushrooms available. Mushrooms are commonly known as Tit Tung in this part of the country. The locals prepare mushroom mixed with pork and add black sesame seeds in the dish to give the preparation a distinct touch and flavor.Also Read: Food in Shillong
Dance and Music of Meghalaya
The state of Meghalaya has many tribes and race living together in harmony. As such, there is a myriad of traditional dances and music of Meghalaya. The music of Meghalaya is characterized by folk songs and music accentuated by traditional instruments. These folk songs relate tales of birth, marriage, love and other issues. The state of Meghalaya also has a flair for western music with many rock bands from this part of the country taking part in rock concerts. The state has also hosted some of the major rock concerts of popular national and international bands.
The Garos generally sing folk songs relating to birth, marriage, festivals, love and heroic deeds. The songs are sung on the music of drums and flutes. The Khasis and Jaintias are particularly fond of songs which praise the nature like lakes, waterfalls, hills etc. and also express love for their land. They use different types of musical instruments like drums, duitara and instruments similar to guitar, flutes, pipes and cymbals.There are also many different dance forms in Meghalaya. Some of these are:
This is a religious dance form performed as a thanksgiving to God for good harvest, peace and prosperity among the community. This dance is generally held during months of October and November.
Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem
It is an annual spring dance that is performed celebrating the harvest and sowing seasons. The girls and boys put on colorful clothes and jewelry during the dance performance. However, only unmarried-virgin girls have the permission to take part in the dance.
Doregata Dance is an interesting dance in which while dancing the women try to knock off the turbans of their male partner using their head. If the women succeed, it is followed by laughter.
The Chambil Mesara or Pomelo Dance
It is a solo dance-form which requires skill. The performer hangs down from a pomelo on a cord tied to his waist and then throws it around without any perceptible movement of the hips. The dancers who are expert in this can throw two separate fruits which are hanging on the cord.
The Lahoo Dance is performed by both male and female for entertainment. The people are dressed in their best dresses. In the Lahoo dance usually two young men on either side of a woman, hold arms while dancing. In place of the usual drum and pipe, a cheerleader, usually a man gifted with the talent of unplanned recitation, recites couplets to the merriment of the audience.Also Read: Music in Shillong
Festivals of Meghalaya
Dance and Music is an integral part of the people of Meghalaya. Every festival and ceremony in Meghalaya from birth to death is enriched with dance and music. The state of Meghalaya celebrates many festivals among different races and tribal groups. Other than Christmas, New Year, Independence Day, tribal festivals are celebrated across the state with much festivity and gaiety. Some of the festivals celebrated in Meghalaya are:
Khasi Festivals in Meghalaya
Khasi people are very fond of Dance and music. The Khasi people perform dances at the level of individual villages known as Shnong or a group of villages called Raid or a conglomeration of Raids known as Hima. Regional and local colours and flavours bring variations to the basic Khasi dance form, which is universal in their folk culture. Some of the festivals celebrated among the Khasi people are:
Shad Suk Mynsiem
Shad Suk Mynsiem is an important festival of the people of Khasi Hills. This festival is also known as the dance of the joyful heart. The festival lasts for three days. In the festival an annual thanksgiving dance takes place. The festival is held in Shillong in the month of April. Men and women, dressed in traditional clothes and costumes dance to the accompaniment of drums and the flute.
Ka Pom-Blang Nongkrem
This festival is celebrated for five days. It is a thanks giving
festival to the Lord Almighty for the seasons good harvest. The
participants of the festival pray for peace and prosperity of the
community. It was one of the major festivals celebrated by the Khasi
people. Earlier, the festival was celebrated in mid-summer, but in
recent times it is held either in October or November every year, in
conformity with other cultures and for convenience.
It is dance festival mainly organized to commemorate "house-warming" or when someone moves into a new-built home. Once the ritual ceremonies are over, the dance performance is held in three stages Ka Shad Khalai Miaw, Ka Shad Kyuntui and Ka Shad Brap. The dance lasts through the night till dawn of the next day.
Jaintia Festivals in Meghalaya
Like others, the festivals of the Jaintia Hills, significantly contribute to maintaining a balance between man and his culture and also his eco-system or natural environment. Festival celebrated in the Jaintia hills include:
Behdienkhlam is an important festival of the people of Jaintia Hills. The festival is celebrated annually in the month of July after the sowing period. Young men make a representative sign of driving away of the evil spirit, disease and virus by beating of the roof of every house with bamboo poles. Also poles of great length are held across the stream of Wah-Ait-Nar. People jump on the poles and break them while dancing in the muddy pool of water. A large pole is placed across the stream and two groups contend for the possession of the pole. In the festival people pray God and seek his blessings for a good 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 ancestors.
Another very important festival of the Jaintia people is the Laho dance
festival. Both boys and girls take part in these dance festival dresses
in their best finery. Usually two men on either side of a young girl,
dance in step, linking arms together. There is a cheer leader, usually a
man gifted with the talent of spontaneous recitation in place of the
usual drums and pipe. The man recites ribald couplets to the merriment
of the audience.
Garo Festival in Meghalaya
The Garo tribe also celebrates different festivals. Some of the Garo Festivals are:
Wangala is also known as Dance of Hundred Drum festival. It is an important festival of the people of Garo hills. The festival takes place annually in November. This is a week long festival. This festival marks the end of a period of work, indicating a yield of good harvest. The festival is celebrated in an honour of 'Satyong', the God of fertility. Young and old people dressed in their colourful costumes and feathered head dress, dance to the beat of long cylindrical drums.
Mangona or Chugana
It is a post-funeral ceremony of the Garo People. After the last rites of the dead are over, the guests are served with pork and beef. During the performance of the last rites for the "Spirit" of the dead person, singing and dancing continue the whole night with the chanting of funeral dirge known as " Kalee or Mangtata (Grapme chia)”.