Smit (Meghalaya): The annual Nongkrem dance festival was celebrated here amid fanfare and gaiety with young Khasi men and women swaying to traditional folk music to appease goddess Ka Blei Synshar, in the hope of a rich bumper harvest.
Nongkrem Dance or Ka Pomblang Syiem which is the annual dance festival of the Khasis was celebrated in all gaiety with huge crowds thronging the traditional palace of the Syiem of Hima Khyriem at Smit to witness the dance usually performed in the autumn.
Balajied Sing Syiem, Syiem (Chief) of Hima Khyriem said, “It is the responsibility of the Syiem and the Hima along with the Myntris to preserve the legacy bestowed upon us since ancient days and to see that there is no change in the dances and rituals conducted.”
According to Syiem, there is a need to encourage the young generation of the Hima Khyrim to participate in the traditional dance to showcase the culture and tradition as well as to carry on the legacy from generation to generation.
The maidens took tiny steps with eyes focused on the ground while the men surround the women swaying their white yak hair whisk in one hand and a sword in one hand, dancing to the traditional music of the duhalia (the traditional musicians).
The dances were performed in the courtyard of the Iing Sad (thatched House) of the Syiem of Hima Khyrim.
The Nongkrem dance marked the five day long religious festival of the Khasis, which is performed to appease Ka Blei Synshar to look forward to a prosperous harvest.
The Syiem along with the high priest performed the Pomblang ceremony, the sacrifice of goats which is an important part of the ceremony.
At the same time, offers were made to Lei Shyllong, the Deity inhabiting the Shillong Peak, by sacrificing a cock.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma, in his message to the people on the occasion, said the festival has been forging bonds of friendship and compassion among the local people. “May this festival continue to preserve our cultural roots and create strong bonds of friendship and compassion to achieve our shared objective of lasting peace, communal harmony and progress,” he said.
The king of Hima Khyrim kingdom, Balajied Syiem, along with the high priest, performed the Pomblang ceremony, where a goat was sacrificed to appease the god of Shillong peak, Lei Shyllong, and also the ancestors of the ruling clan. The religious part of the festival preceded Monday’s dance performances.
Young maidens, dressed in exotic costumes and jewellery, matched steps to the changing beats of drums and haunting tunes of the tangmuri (pipes).
Attired in their traditional regalia, young men also took to the dance arena to perform in front of the ling sad (thatched palace). They held swords and white yak hair whisks in their hands.
A colourful fair, featuring local handicraft and delicacies, was also organised here on this occasion.
The Nongkrem dance festival has always attracted tourists, both domestic and foreign.
Hima Khyrim has always been a bastion of Khasi culture, Balajied Syiem said on the occasion.
“The rituals and the dance performances have remained the same for all these years,” he said.