A tradition of the Pnar tribe, Behdienkhlam Festival is all about the spirit of Meghalaya. Celebrated for three days every year, the festival is a customary celebration among the natives of Jowai, a scenic little plateau surrounded by the Jaintia hills. When translated literally, Behdienkhlam means warding off the evil spirit. A Hindu festival, Behdienkhlam is celebrated by the Pnar people, the followers of the Niamtre tradition.
History of Behdienkhlam Festival
The Land of no Man
The myth surrounding this festival leads to an interesting story that suggests that all of Jowai was once devoid of the human population. The only inhabitants of the area were five deities, four stones, and a river maiden. This is the reason why the five deities, apparently, requested god to convert the lonely forest into a thriving human dwelling. Their prayer was heard and the eldest of the deity, U Mokhai is said to have rejoiced with dance and song.
The Curse of the Horrific Plague
One of the more popular stories about the festival is that of the plague curse. There was a mythical prophecy that claimed Jowai would be struck by a fierce plague. The scare spread among the natives and they rushed to their revered deities - U Mukhai, Mulong, Mooralong, and Musniang. The deities advised them to worship the divine elements to fight natural calamities. Behdienkhlam is an extension of this belief, according to which health epidemics are an effect of the evil forces.
Major Attractions at Behdienkhlam Festival Meghalaya
1. A Celebration of the Harvest
The festival is essentially celebrated by farmers. It is said to be a significant way to pray for a bountiful harvest in the season. The locals suggest Behdienkhlam has a regional significance too. And the elders say the meaning of the festival lies in its name. While Beh Dien means to make something go away by beating sticks, Khlam means a fatal epidemic. As a customary tradition people gather around and climb on top of their houses to beat the roofs with sticks.
2. Changing Times
In recent years, the people of Jowai have become aware of the need to safeguard the environment. They have added a new purpose to the festival and have started awareness campaigns too, to educate people about the safety of the environment. The cultural ecstasy of the Jowai people echoes through a colorful celebration. People carry colorful bamboo structures called Rots or raths and gather at the celebration site. These rots carry different social messages and it has made the festival more of an honest effort to fight social evils today.
How to Reach Meghalaya for Behdienkhlam Festival
Jowai in Meghalaya can be a little tough to reach majorly due to its geographical remoteness. Although, it is connected very well with Shillong and Guwahati. It is situated at a distance of 2,063, 3,114, 1,168, 2,890 km from Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Mumbai respectively. Here is how you can reach here by the following means of transportation.
Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport (GAU) and Shillong Airport (SHL) are the two best options to reach here.
The Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is located at a distance of around 180-200 km from Jowai. Formerly known as the Borjhar Airport, it is considered the primary airport of North-Eastern Indian states. It is considered the 8th busiest airport in India. During the year 2017, this airport handled traffic of more than 3.7 million passengers.
Many flights operate to and fro this airport connecting various Indian cities. Here is how you can reach here by the following routes.
Coming on to the Shillong Airport (SHL), it is situated at a distance of 70-80 km from Jowai. As it is situated in Umroi, it also goes by the name of Umroi Airport.
Delhi - Board SpiceJet, Go Air, IndiGo flights from Indira Gandhi International Airport. The airfares start from Rs.2,000-Rs.3,000
Dimapur - Board Air India and IndiGo flights from Dimapur Airport. The airfares start from Rs.1,000-Rs.1,500
Patna - Board IndiGo, SpiceJet, Go Air flights from Patna Airport. The airfares start from Rs.2,500-Rs.3,000
Lucknow - Board IndiGo, Go Air, Air India flights from Lucknow Airport. The airfares start from Rs.3,000
Jodhpur - Board SpiceJet, IndiGo, Vistara flights from Jodhpur Airport. The airfares start from Rs.8,000
Jaipur - Board Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo flights from Jaipur Airport. The airfares start from Rs.6,000
The nearest railway station is in Guwahati which is situated at a distance of 160 km from Jowai. After you deboard at the station, it will take you around 3-4 hours to reach the town. This railway station is the first fully operated railway station in India. Here is how you can reach here.
Delhi - Board DBRT Rajdhani from New Delhi Railway Station and deboard at the Guwahati Junction
Patna - Board DBRT Rajdhani from Danapur Railway Station and deboard at the Guwahati Junction
Kolkata - Board GHY Gharib Rath from Kolkata and deboard at the Guwahati Station
Depending upon your location, you can also plan to travel to Jowai by road as well. For this, you can either travel by your own vehicle, cab, or by bus as well.