A tradition of the Pnar tribe, Behdienkhlam festival talks of 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 driving evil spirits. A Hindu festival, Behdienkhlam is celebrated by the Pnar people, the followers of the Niamtre tradition.
The myth surrounding this festival leads to an interesting story. The people believe 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. The five 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.
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 the natural calamities. Behdienkhlam is an extension of this belief which suggests health epidemics are an effect of the evil forces.
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-’Beh dien’ to make something go away by beating sticks and ‘khlam’ means fatal epidemic. As a customary tradition people gather around and climb on top of their houses to beat the roofs with sticks.
In recent years, the people of Jowai have become aware of the need to safeguard the environment. They have extended a new purpose to the festival and have started awareness campaigns to educate people about the safety of the environment.
The cultural ecstacy 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.
Source: Dhiraj Singh
Jowai 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.
By Air. 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 as the primary airport of North-Eastern Indian states. It is considered as 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.
By Train. The nearest railway station is in Guwahati. It is situated at a distance of 160 km from Jowai. And after you deboard at the station, it will take you around 3-4 hour time to reach here. This railway station is the first fully operated railway station in India. It is located in the Paltan Baazar Railway Station of Guwahati and this is also the area from where most of the private bus companies operate. Here is how you can reach here.
By Road. 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 from bus as well.
Here is the route you can take to reach here.
08 July 2020 - 11 July 2020
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