Grand Carnival of the Khasis

Most of the people residing in Shillong belong to the Khasi tribe who are Christians by faith. There are other communities also in Shillong which include Nepalis and Bengalis along with tribes such as Garo and Jaintia tribes.

Most of the festivals in Meghalaya state revolve around agriculture yield and Nongkrem dance festival is one of them. Prayers are offered to Goddess 'Ka Blei Synshar' to seek her blessings for a good harvest.

Dance in Shillong

Significance of Nongkrem Dance Festival in Smit near Shillong

The Nongkrem dance festival is a sacred festival of Khasis. It is meant to show gratitude towards God for a bumper harvest and also for peace and prosperity. The dance festival is organized during October/November in Smit, a place about 11 kms. from Shillong. Smit is the Capital of the Syiem of Khyrim (administrative head of the Khasi State)  near Shillong.

Nongkrem dance festival is a five-day festival. On the fourth day, young maidens perform dance in a ring in front of the priestess's house. Girls are dressed in silk costumes and heavy gold, silver and coral ornaments. Young male folks --- bachelor and married, gather around in a circle in the open. They all dance to the beats of drums and music coming from the flute, pipes (or Tangmuri).

Men are their energetic self and provide verve and energy to the dance. Girls make subtle movements while dancing.

Where is the Nongkrem Dance Festival held

Smit is the central place for cultural festivals held in Khasi Hills in Shillong. The festival was earlier called as Ka Pemblang Nongrem but later it became famous as Nongrem dance festival. Smit lies on National Highway 44, just 4 kms. off Jowai road near Shillong. The Nongrem dance festival is celebrated in Smit during Autumn season.

Rites Performed During Nongkrem Dance Festival

The High Priest executes the 'Pemblang Ceremony' which is the most significant part of this dance festival. He is accompanied by the Syiem of Khyrim, the administrative head of the Khasi State (Hima).  Pemblang ceremony includes sacrificing of goat or cock to appease the forefathers of the ruling tribe/clan and the deity of Shillong Shad Suk Mynsiem. Ka Syiem Sad is the eldest sister of the king and is the caretaker of all the ceremonies during this festival.

Sacrifice of animals like cock is offered to Lei Shillong --- the God of Shillong Peak and also to the ancestors of the ruling clan. Apart from these religious practices, many cultural programmes are also organized during this festival.

Males Dance

Dance Performance during the Festival

The males are clad with swords on the right hand and fluffy white hair of yak on their left hand. The maidens show elegant movements dancing to the tune of traditional pipes. This is the most popular festival of the Khasi tribe. The maximum number of visitors arrive on the fourth day of the festival to witness the dance performance. Young girls dance the 'Ka Shad Kynthei' in the inner circle of the arena and men wearing dhoti, shirt, a sleeveless coat and turban perform the 'Ka Shad Mastieh' in the outer circle.

Wangala Festival

Other Similar Festivals in Shillong

You must be knowing about 'Wangala festival' of the Garo tribe in which they perform dances like Katta Dokka, Dani Dokka, Chambil Mesa (Pomelo dance) and Ajea. Jantia festivals include Behdeinkhlam festival, Laho Dance festival, Pnar festival, Chad Sukra and Autumn festival organized by state Tourism department in Shillong sometime in Oct-Nov. every year.

The main purpose of the Nongkrem dance festival is to offer prayers to Goddess 'Ka Blei Synshar' and seek her blessings for an excellent yield of crops. May the blessings of  the Goddess bring prosperity and happiness in the lives of all denizens in Shillong!
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