Meghalaya tribals take part in traditional mud dance

Shillong (Meghalaya), July 14 (ANI): Thousands of tribals in one of India's most popular tourist attractions, the Jaintia Hills, which are famous for their tribal culture, in Meghalaya, generously smeared mud on each other and danced during a religious ceremony in an indigenous festival to drive away evil spirits and offered prayers for peace and prosperity.

The four-day-long festival called Behdiengkhlam, which means to drive away pestilence, began on July 10 and was celebrated with great pomp and joy.

This festival signifies fighting against all kinds of social evil and protects the members of the clan from any some of disease.

Legend has it, the Behdienkhlam Festival is celebrated by the Pnars as a form of homage paid to gods of the Seven Huts who arrived in the region from heaven and established a kingdom. A prediction claimed that the region would suffer a violent plague that would wipe off the entire tribe.

The Jowai people travelled to the shrine of their protector deities Mulong, Mooralong U Mukhai and Musniang who advised them to worship the divine elements in the form of the festival of Behdienkhlam. Therefore, the festival is also known as the festival for chasing away the demon of cholera.

Pemie Pasa, a local dressed in traditional clothes and enjoying the festivities, said she really looked forward to this time of the year when they also meet their near and dear ones praying for prosperity for all.

"Basically, Behdiengkhlam (name of the indigenous tribal festival) means to drive away anything that is evil, that is not right and bring good health and prosperity to the people in this place. For us religion is like you know it about family, it may be a clan religion. So for us it is meeting with every family member, having a lot of fun and having a lot of contact because most of us nowadays live everywhere else, and then this is the only time hen we all come back to our roots and then we meet," said Pasa.

The festival of Behdienkhlam begins with a ritual in which the Daloi or the chief of the tribe opens the proceedings with a ceremonial invocation to the gods of the tribes through a series of religious rituals. It is followed by one of the most popular rituals where young men symbolize the flight of the evil spirit by beating the roof of every house in the village with bamboo poles called the "rot". However, the main attraction of the festival takes place when young men fight for the possession of a huge wooden log, a fight which is characterized by smearing of mud on all the participants.

The tribe's men also decorate their rots in different intricate traditional designs and write social message indicate the win over evil forces.

This year there were eleven "Rot" that where brought from different places telling the world about human ways and his daily life.

"Logs which mean a special one, this one we have to cut it from any forest. Before we cut that spiritual log, we have to pray and while cutting that spiritual log, if there is no sign there, no sign of trunk, then it means good for the particular locality. Spiritual log stands as the sign of unity," said Oar Sylem, the president and organiser of the festival, while talking on the significance of these 'rot'.

The festival of Behdienkhlam reaches its conclusion with the Dad-lawakor, a ceremony in which groups of men jostle for the possession of a wooden ball, a game which is remotely similar to football. The festival ends with a final salutation to the divine powers when the women of the tribe offer sacrificial food to the gods.

The tribal women prepare special dishes and invite guests to their homes.

Women wear traditional jewellery especially gold ornaments during the festival. (ANI)