SHILLONG: One of the most ancient and grandiose festivals of the indigenous Khasi, the annual Nongkrem Dance was held amidst pomp, joy and gaiety at the scenic hamlet of Smit, the headquarter and capital of the Khasi state of Hima Khyrim, 20 km from here.
The Nongkrem dance festival is celebrated during autumn at Smit, the cultural centre of the Khasi Hills. The five- day long religious festival of the Khasis, Ka Pomblang Syiem is popularly known as Shad Nongkrem.
Similar to all other festivals of Meghalaya, Nongkrem Dance Festival is performed to appease the all- powerful Goddess, ‘Ka Blei Synshar’ for a rich bumper harvest and prosperity of the people.
The Syiem (King) of Hima Khyrim along with the high priest performed the Pomblang ceremony. He offers oblation to Lei Shyllong; the god of Shillong peak by sacrificing a cock. An important part of this festival is Pomblang (sacrifice of goats). Then offerings are made to the ancestor and ancestress of the ruling clan.
The intriguing part of this festival is the dance called the Shad Nongkrem where as many as 30-40 young unmarried women, decked up in their exotic and traditional attires, moves to the centre of dancing arena in front of the Iing Sad (thatched palace) and took tiny steps, while the men clad in their majestic and traditional regalia and holding a white Yak hair whisks in one hand and a sword in another, they move outside the circle keeping time to the changing beats of drums and haunting tunes of the tangmuri or pipes. The silver or gold crowns that they wear signify the glory and dignity of the Khasi matrilineal society.
As people come from all over the State of Khyrim, little markets spring up in the field outside the Iing Sad compound adding to the revelry.
Dressed in their best, people throng the dancing arena and the adjoining hills where a colourful fair, featuring local handicrafts and delicacies is held on the occasion every year. Over the years, the Nongkrem Dance has been attracting large number of tourists, both domestic and foreign.
Attired in his majestic regalia, the Syiem (King) of Khyrim, Dr. Balajied Syiem presided over the festival. “With the changing times we need to uphold and strengthen our rich ancient culture and tradition,” the Syiem emphasized.
The dance was also witnessed by Governor Dr KK Paul, Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma besides other government officials.
A Concerned Chieftain says: In present age, the existence of the Himas in the Khasi Hills is just for name sake as it is noticed that unlike the Hima Khyrim, the other Himas has fallen back in keeping their tradition alive.
“The festivals, the dances, the rituals carry with it a name, a specific identity for us which we should cherish but it is sad to see that the other Himas have not been able to keep up with this tradition,” Syiem of Hima Khyrim Dr Balajied Sing Syiem said. Calling upon the youth to stick to their roots, Syiem said “No matter how advanced or how modern we may be, we must never forget our origin and our roots.”