Shillong, Nov 7: The annual Nongkrem dance festival culminated on Monday at Smit, the headquarters of the erstwhile Khasi state.
Syiem (Chieftain) of Khyrim, Dr Balajied Syiem with traditional attire, presided over the festival.
The five-day religious festival took place at the ‘Iing Sad’ (thatched palace), the royal abode of the Syiem Sad, Queen Mother or High Priestess of the state of Khyrim.
On the last day, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma stressed the need to preserve, protect and promote the Shad Nongkrem and other festivals of the indigenous people of the state.
“These festivals and our cultures are what give us our identity. Hence, we must always ensure that our culture is preserved, is protected and is always promoted,” he said.
He expressed happiness that the people have not lost touch with the culture.
“I encourage not just the Shad Nongkrem but all the festivals of the different tribes of our state we must strive to ensure we maintain our identity”, he said.
Rs 2 crore sanctioned
The chief minister also announced the government’s decision to sanction Rs 2 crore under the first phase for the development of infrastructure at the place where the Shad Nongkrem is being held.
“I will ensure that financial support from the government will always be there in the coming years to ensure these kinds of festivals become more and more grand and ensure we celebrate in the best possible ways so that not just our people but the people and guests coming from outside can see, enjoy and be part of our celebrations,” he said.
The festival is performed to appease the all-powerful Goddess, Ka Blei Synshar, for a rich harvest and prosperity of the people.
The Syiem of Khyrim and the high priest performed the Pomblang ceremony, where goats were sacrificed to appease the Lei Shyllong; the god of Shillong peak and also to the ancestors and ancestress of the ruling clan.
The religious part of the festival preceded dances, in which unmarried girls in all their exotic costumes participated.
In their majestic and traditional regalia, young men also took to the dancing arena in front of the Iing Sad. They danced holding swords and white Yak hair whisks in their hands, to the accompaniment of beats of drums and tunes of the tangmuri.
Markets sprang up with handicrafts and delicacies in the field outside the Iing Sad compound adding to the revelry as people came from all over the State of Khyrim.
Dr Balajied said, “We have preserved and nurtured the rich legacy of the traditional dances bequeathed to us by our ancestors. As inheritors of this cultural heritage, there is an urgent need to safeguard our roots despite the changes witnessed in the modern days all over the world.”
Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh, cabinet ministers – Sanbor Shullai, Renikton Lyngdoh Tongkhar, Dasakhiatbha Lamare, KHADC chief Titosstarwell Chyne, MLAs and MDCs were also present.