Beh Deinkhlam is the most important festival of the Pnar tribe of Meghalaya and is celebrated as an occasion as the agricultural sowing season comes to an end. The name of the festival literally means to drive away negative energy from the crops. Khlam means plague and beh dien means to drive away with sticks. The people invoke the gods for a good harvest after sowing has been done, and rituals are also conducted to avert evil.
According to popular legend, there was no human inhabitation in the town of Jowai and it was only covered with thick forest. During this time, the town had five deities, four of which were stones and one was in the form of a river. Hence, in the town of Jowai you’ll notice four stones in the four corners of the town. It is said that the five deities together wished to send human beings in this area and that their prayers were heard when a Mongolian tribe made the town their home.
You’ll find people singing and dancing during the time of the festival. There is an interesting practice that takes place on the last day of the festival. This is the day when the priest visits each and every home in town along with the youth and climb the rooftop of each house to beat it with a bamboo stick. This proactive is believed to chase away the evil spirits from the homes, thereby brining health and prosperity.
During the festival, there is a football match amongst the locals and it is believed that the winner of the match usually ends up having a bumper crop in the season. The festival is celebrated on the 14th of July each year at Jowai, Meghalaya. It is also considered one of the most colourful religious festivals celebrated in the community there.
The festival is celebrated over a period of three days and culminates with a procession of chariots and ceremonial tree trunks known as khnongs to a sacred pool of water.
If you ever visit the town during the Behdienkhlam Festival, you’ll get to witness the artistic skills of the people. Worth noting are a number of tall bamboo structures, which people decorate with coloured paper and tinsel.