Country: India

Behdienkhlam is a major festival of the tribal Pnar people in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills district. This festival is celebrated after the sowing period and is the most important dance festival of the Jaintias. This festival is celebrated with great religious fervour and enthusiasm during the month of July.

Behdienkhlam Significance

Legend has it that this festival is celebrated to pay homage to the Gods of the Seven Huts who descended to earth from heaven to establish a kingdom in the region. According to the beliefs once there was there was a prophecy that the people of the place would suffer from a severe plague. So fearing the worst Jowai people went to the shrine of their protector deities - Mulong, Mooralong U Mukhai and Musniang to seek their advice to ward off the misfortune. The deities advised the people to worship the divine elements in the form of the festival of Behdienkhlam. Thus festival of Behdienkhlam came to be celebrated as an occasion to please the gods to drive away all illness and bad luck. Today this festival also is a means to offer prayer seeking divine blessings for a rich harvest in the coming year.

How is Behdienkhlam Celebrated?

During the festival ceremony and rituals are carried out three days and on the last day during the festival a series of religious rites are performed by the doloi or the chief. On the first day a symbolic gesture of driving the evil forces out of the houses is performed by the young men. They do so by beating the roof tops of the houses with bamboo sticks. The major attraction of the festival is when two groups of men on opposite sides try to get a beam across a muddy pool called Wah-eit-nar and mud is smeared on all participants. Another highlight is the tall-decorated structures called "Raths" and a wooden post-called Khnongs that are displayed at the Aitnar on the concluding day by villagers from their respective villages and localities. On the final day of the festival a faithful dancing in the Aitnar takes place. The climax of the festival is the game played between the Southerners and Northerners. This game is similar to football but a wooden ball is used and this game is called dad-lawakor. The side succeeds by putting a wooden ball on the other side. The success of a side signifies that in the coming year there would be good harvest in that specific region. The festival comes to an end with women offering sacrificial food meant for the gods.