Behdieñkhlam is a religious festival celebrated annually by the Indigenous Pnar people of Jaintia Hills and it is a festival of “Ka Raij [Panchayat]” performed by its people in conformity to wishes of “U Tre Kirot [Almighty God]” for the general well-being of “Ki Khon Ka Raij Ka Shnong[Inhabitant]”. The Behdieñkhlam festival requires observance of series of rites and rituals mostly executed by the Traditional Head under the supervision of “U Doloi, U Langdoh, Ka Langdoh, U Pator, Ki Sangot wa ki Wasan Waheh of Ka Raij” which are known as “Ka Niam Raij” nevertheless, also there are certain rites and rituals incorporate with Behdieñkhlam Festival perform by every household under the consent of “U Kni(Uncle) and Ka Kchu(Motherhood)” which is known as “Ka Niam Iong Iung”. The origin of Behdieñkhlam may be traced back to the time when Ka Bon, Ka Tein, Ka Wet and Doh (the incarnate ancestors of Ka Kur Soo Kpoh) first settled down at a place called “Loom-soo-iung”. According to the legend, the first Behdieñkhlam was celebrated when U Dongsynriang was a Doloi and U Het Langdoh was a Langdoh of Jowai. Thus “Behdieñkhlam” means driving away of plague, devils and all kinds of evil spirits with prayer to the Almighty God for showering peace, security of life blessed with rich harvest and prosperity in business and other profession.
The Behdieñkhlam festival in Jowai are celebrated every year after sowing season but preparation for the festival begins before sowing season in the Lunar month of “U Bnai Wisu (March)” with a rituals called “Ka Kbai MooKnor” simultaneouslyfallows “Ka Thoh Langdoh”, “Ka Chat Thoh”, Ka Knia Khang”, Knia Pyrthat and finally a culmination days which are celebrated consecutively for “Four Days and Three Night”.
However, all these rites and rituals cannot be performed without a prior pronouncement of “Ka Dih-soo-pen”, which play a very important role in order to maintain the sacredness and sanctity of each ritual as “Ka Dih-soo-pen”, forbid the concern priest(s) engages in all religious activities to observe “Ka Iaid Thiah (an act of abstaining from any bodily contact with one’s spouse)”. Religious obligations also forbid them to attend any religious ceremony relates with birth or death of any family in the Raij until the completion of that particular ritual.
Ka Kbai Mooknor: Thisis the first custom in preparation of the Behdeinkhlam Festival. The Doloi and his subordinate standing on a particular sacred place “Ka mooknor Blai Iaw”, at Iawmusiang (Place at Market) made a public pronouncement about the beginning of the rites and rituals in preparation of the upcoming Behdieñkhlam Festival on the “Sngi musiang (Main Market day)”.
Ka Thoh Langdoh : On the fourth day from Ka Kbai Muknor, U Langdoh(a Priest) performed “Ka Thoh Langdoh” on the “Sngi Hat” at a sacred place called “Ka Blai Langdoh (Langdoh Sacred Grove)”. Thoh Langdoh is a ritual covered with offering of prayers prior to the sowing of seeds by U Langdoh in his garden symbolizing the beginning of a new season. Unless Ka Thoh Langdoh is completed, no one in “the Raij” can take up sowing of any agricultural plants. After Ka Thoh Langdoh and the farmer finished their sowing, the “Chad Sukra Festival” is being observed and followed by “ka Bamphalar(Communion feast)” performed by different localities.
“Chad Sukra Festival” is also one of the magnificent cultural festivals of Pnar people celebrated in the month of April every year en route along with Behdieñkhlam Festival.
Ka Chat Thoh: On the onset of u ’Naitung (April), “Chat Thoh” is being held on “Ka sngi Mulong (a day before main market day) at a place called “Ka Um-Chat-Thoh”. The purpose of this ritual is to consecrate one’s soul and during the ritual, “Ki Wasan (subordinate Priests)” went to this sacred place to clean their clothes and other materials require in various religious rites and rituals in preparation of Behdieñkhlam Festival, besides, a cleaning drive held at “Iung Langdoh (A Priestess’s house)”. Ka Chat Thoh is a ritual symbolizing the important of cleansing one’s soul.
Though, all the religious rites and ritual in preparation of Behdieñkhlam festival are in order of the day since the month of March till its culmination day on the 2nd week of the month of July, but on the ’nai san(May) no rituals are being performed during this month because customarily all “Ki Wasan(Subordinate of the Priest) are engaged and busy in catering the needs of “Ka Langdoh(Priestess)” such as fencing of “Ka Iung Langdoh(a Priestess’s House), fetching of firewood besides other works.
Ka Knia Khang: It is a series of rites, rituals and offering of prayer are being performed in four different places viz. at Mookhai, Mooralong, Musniang and at Mootong in a place called Iangnong during the ’nai ynru(June) in a “Sngi Mushai(a day after main market day)”. These four important places are believed to be the protectors of Jowai town. Further, a day before the commencement of “Ka Knia Khang”, there is one of custom called “Ka khrong ka tri” is being performed on a “sngi musiang (main market day)”.
Ka Knia Pyrthat: It is one of the most important religious rituals performed a week before the main days of Behdieñkhlam Festival. It is a biggest offering in the honour of the mother earth, rain, thunder to protect from any turbulent or calamities.
Kñia Pyrthat begins early in the morning starts with the observation of “Ka Chet Tpu Ka Peit Tpu” by U Doloi, U Langdoh, Ka Langdoh and others. In this ritual, it is a customary practice that “Ki Le Langdoh (the priest of three different raij)” i.e “U Langdoh Chyrmang (Priest of Raij Chyrmang)”, “U Langdoh Ialong (Priest of Raij Ialong)” & “U Langdoh Tuber (Priest of Raij Tuber)” who are under the jurisdiction of U Doloi Elaka Jowai, takes part in this ritual.
At the end of “Ka Knia Pyrthat”, U Doloi ka Elaka, Jowai (Chieftain of Elaka Jowai) and U Kongwasan, Langdoh Chyrmang offer a communion in prayer called “Ka Iutang Knia Pyrthat”.
After “Ka Knia Pyrthat” everyone busily engaged in preparations of Behdeinkhlam Festival in the entire week. ‘U Doloi’ and ‘Ki Wasan’ are seen supervising clearing and cleaning works in different area at Iawmusiang (Market Place) which is also one of the main arena where the festival takes place.
Ki Kmai Raij or Ki Dong (Localities) starts constructing their Rots – a structure replica of tableau like, showcasing the skill of Art and creativity with full of human development massages and simultaneously others locating for an appropriate tree to be solemnized as their Dienkhlam whereas Ka Khon Raij or Ki Chilliangraij (one of the locality) searched for their “Khnong Blai” and “Ka Symbood Khnong”. By ka “Sngi Khyllaw(a week day i.e three days before main market day) ” everything is on set for a colourful festival. On the next day, early in the morning, U Doloi, U Langdoh, Ka Langdoh and Ki Wasan after “Ka dih-so-pen” would go for an inspection to all the religious places where the Behdieñkhlam will takes place. As stated earlier, in order to make Behdieñkhlam Festival sanctity, all the elders engaged in different religious activities halted at Iung Langdoh from this day until the festival is over.
Ki Soo Sngi Le Iaw (Four Day Three Night) of The Behdeiñkhlam Festival
Behdieñkhlam festival at Jowai is celebrated for four days and three nights. The first day of the Behdieñkhlam begin at “Ka sngi Pynsin (the 6th day of the week after market day)”, “Ka sngi Mulong(the 7th day of the week day after market day)”, “Ka sngi Musiang(market day)” & culminated on “Ka Mushai(the 1st day of the week after market day)”. The celebration of this festival continues with the performance of Prayer, religious rites and offering, thanksgiving, cheering and rejoicing in the tunes of piping, beating of drum, bugles, tambourine and cymbal.
Ka Sngi Pynsin: In relating with “Ka niam Raij” the day begin with “Ka Khrong Khoo Pyrnah” in the morning by “Ki Wasan” thereafter followed by “Ka Li-dain Khnong” in preparation for “Kyntin Khnong”. While “Ki Khon Raij (one of the Locality)” is their customary duty bound to fetch “Ka Symbood Khnong (is one of a solemnize tree required to set a foothold at Aitnar)” from a sacred jungle and on reaching Iawmusiang place it in a particular place called “Kjat Loom Soo Iung” for the night. Subsequently, Ki Wasan brings “Ki Khnong” to “Iung Langdoh”. In the evening, U Doloi was escorted to inspect these Khnong, then followed by prayer and ritual called “Ka Bam Tyngkong”, “Ka Booh Pyrnah” and “Ka Kdoh Sarang”. On the afternoon of this particular day where “Ka Niam Iong Iung” is concern, all the household offer “Ka Chyllap Ka Chylliang” to their ancestors at their respective “Kmai Iung(a special home of a clan)”.
Ka Sngi Mulong: It is a second day of the festival, it begin with an offering called “Ka Knia Aitnar” at ‘Aitnar’ while “Ki Dong(localities)” are on the set, ready at their respective locality for fetching their respective “Deinkhlam”. As soon as the “Knia Aitnar” is finished they left their locality along with the beats of “Ka Bom(Drum)” and “Bhuri(Piping)” proceeding for assemble at “Mynkoi Pyrdi” and concurrently, “Ki Khon Raij” left to fetch the “Khnong Blai”. When all the localities arrived at Mynkoi Pyrdi, they dance together there for a short while then the entire localities dancing together along the way until reaching “Ka Biar Ka Blai”. From here they depart to the place far down the hills in the deep jungle to pick up a polished and a well circular solid shaped, elongated tall tree called “Deinkhlam” to be all assembled at the cluster of customary allotted place at the heart of Iaw Musiang.
In the afternoon, when all the localities brought their “Deinkhlam” at Iawmusiang and placed at their specific location as per practice, they again continue to dance together with joy and merry making until “Ki Khon Raij” brought “Ka Khnong Blai” and placed it at “Loom-soo-Iung”.
After “Ka Khnong Blai” reached its resting place, all the localities return back home dancing untiringly leaving their “Deinkhlam” at Iawmusiang for the night.
Ka Sngi Musiang: The third day of the festival fall on the market day (i.e musiang). This day is marked with the erection of “Ka Dienkhlam Ka Bon(a purify tree of Ka Bon)” at “Iong Rngad ( an ancestral clan of Ka Bon)”, “Ka Dienkhlam Ka Doh” at “Iong Langdoh(an ancestral clan of Ka Doh)” and “Ki Dien Khlam Khian(a solemnized small tree)” in frontage of every house early in the morning. Then follow by “Ki Khon Raij” fetching the “Symbood Khnong” from Iawmusiang upright it at “Khlieh Chnong”.
In midday, “Ki Kmai Raij” again assembly at Mynkoi Pyrdi where the elders will enlighten the important instructions and delivered a short speech in relationship between God and Humanbeing vis-à-vis with the celebration of Behdeinkhlam Festival. After this short gathering, the dance procession begins en route to Iawmusiang through “Ka Biar Ka Blai” and dance in all the places of religious significant located at Iawmusiang and Mynthong. In the mid of the enthusiasm, it’s a time for “Ki Khon Raij” to bring back “Ka Khnong Blai” to a place called “Pohsawiar”.
At ‘Pohsawiar’ U Doloi on his part will offer “Ka Suid Ka Chor Khnong Blai(a worship to Ka Khnong Blai)” before he handed over “U Klong Blai” to “U Kni Ka Kur Nikhla(Elder of Nikhla Clan)” to follow suit to “Ka Khnong Blai”. When the worship of “U Kni ka Kur Nikhla” is overed, “Ki Kmai raij (all the localities)” carry their “Deinkhlam” for erection at their respective locality but on reaching at “Ka Biar Ka Blai” they will halt their waiting for others locality to proceed together. As soon as “Ki Kmai Raij” left, “Ki khon Raij” carried “Ka Khnong Blai” to Chilliang Raij and on reaching “Moo syiem”, “U Pator (a Religious elder elected from a particular clan) offer “Ka Suid Ka Chor” in the same manner as perform by U Dolloi.
Ka Sngi Mushai: The culmination and most spectacular day of the Behdeinkhlam Festival filled with prayer and fanfare. At the dawn of the day, U Doloi, U Langdoh and “Ki Khad Soo Wasan” offer a Worship “Ka Bam Tyngkong” at “Iung Langdoh” in honour to “Bei pun Doh” whereas “U Sangot Paswet” and “U Chutia” set out to “Khon Raij” to carry out the same worship in honour of “Ka Beipun Bon” at “Iong Rngad” and “Iong Nikhla”.
While “U Sangot Pakyntein” and “U Harnamoid” set out to fetch “Ka Dong Loompyrdi (a customary demarcated locality by Dong Synniriang bound to perform this particular religious rites at Iung Langdoh) to perform the religious rites called “Ka Kyntin Khnong”. This rite is performed in honour and respects of “Ka Wet”, “Ka Tein” and “Ka Doh” who were the ancestors of Ka Kur Soo Kpoh and the first settler to set foot in Jowai Town. The Loompyrdi enacted these rites for two rounds parading to “Iung Langdoh” on dancing and with a stick in their hand rising above their heads.
When the Loompyrdi reach ‘Iung Langdoh’ on the first round, U Doloi pray and worship to “U Tre Kirod(Almighty God)” for his bountiful blessing after that he hand over “U Klong Blai” to “U Kni ka Loompyrdi” for delivering the same prayer and worship. On completion of this rite, Ki khon ka Loompyrdi begins air lifting of the Khnong thrice with their sticks. On the second time, the prayer is performed by “U Langdoh” and “U Klong Blai” is handed over to the Loompyrdi from his hand to carry out their prayer in the same manner. “U Kni ka Loompyrdi” concludes this rite with “Ka Choh Thyndai(it is an act of stamping the trees at the roof of the house prayed to Almighty God for his blessing)” at “Iung Langdoh”.
A series of ritual continues one after another synchronous throughout the day. After the ceremony at “Iung Langdoh”, U Doloi and U Langdoh moves to “Kmai Raij” to perform “Ka Bam Tyngkong” at “Iong Paswet” and “Iong Pakyntein” in honour of “Ka Bei Pun Wet” and “Ka Bei Pun Tein” respectively while “U Pator” and “U Sangot” set out to perform the same rites at “Khon raij”. Bam Tyngkong” is also offer at “Iong Syngkon” and “Iong Lato” etc. The significant part in the morning of the culmination day is “Ka Choh Thyndai” in each and every household seeking a blessing of “U Tre Kirod” and this is carry out by “Ki Wasan” as well by the elders and selected youth in their particular locality, side-by-side “U Chutia” left for “Tympiahskoo” to complete “Ka Knia Khang”. U Doloi, U Langdoh and Ki Wasan returned back to Iung Langdoh as soon as they completed their duty for performing “Ka Kyntin Khnong Iong-Waheh” followed by ka Choh Thyndai.
By now it is already passed mid-day and people throng towards Aitnar to witness the culmination of this splendid Festival.
The localities escorted their “Rot” towards Aitnar and dancing gain momentum in every tick of a minute. The audible of “Ki Bom” become louder and the uniformity of the tunes of “Bhuri” tickle one’s heart leap and pound so much so that joy abound as it comes nearer to the vicinity of Ait-nar. “U Pator” and other brought the “Deinkhlam” of “Ka Bon” in the middle of Aitnar followed by U Daloi and Ki wasan with the “Deinkhlam” of “Ka Doh”, as these elders are performing in the pool of Aitnar, the localities seen waiting on their way holding their Rots sways like disciplined soldier as they wait for signals from U Doloi and their Elders to moves forwards. On entering the sacred pool of Aitnar, first of all the people splash the water over their head and body. One after another, the Rot enters Aitnar and before placed on the other side they hop, jump and dance carried around the pool. When one or two Rot has crossed, it sets the timing right for “Ki Khon Raij” to give away the “Symbood Khnong”.
The crescendo of cheering and merry making reaches its zenith when all the Rots of the localities arrived and it brings more delight when “Ka Khnong Blai” is brought to a side by “Ki Khon Raij” before placing it in the middle of the pool. In this moment, “Ki Bom” stops beating and “Bhuri” completely inaudible and everyone moves aside clearing for ultimate ritual to begin. On one side “Ki Khon Raij” moves their hand signaling the “Khon Raij” to move away from the pool. In contrary, “Ki Kmai Raij” waves their hand signaling the “Khon Raij” to gives away “Ka Khnong Blai”. At long last, “Ka Khnong Blai” brought and place at the middle of the Pool, everyone seen rushes to get a foothold on it. As soon as “Ka Khnong Blai” brought to other sides, the ambiences in the air changes so suddenly as the Rot are thrown down one by one. The devotee and the people leave the Aitnar prepared for witnessing “Ka Dat-La-Wakor”, simultaneously, “U Chutia” leave for “Khloo Langdoh” to perform “Ka Knia Wah-Bhang”.
“Ka Dat-La-Wakor” is a sort of football game played with “Wooden Ball” and it is performed in the place called “Pohsawiar”. The contenders for the game is between “Ka Pynthornein (it is a paddy fields situated in the upper part of Ka Wah Myntdu)” represented and lead by “U Langdoh” versus “Ka Pynthorwah (it is a paddy fields situated in the Lower part of Ka Wah Myntdu)” represented and lead by “U Sangot Paswet”. Each side tried their best to get possession of “Ka La-Wakor” and to carry it to other side. The successful side is believed that their paddy fields will reap a bumper harvest. The game is played in devotion to “Ka Syiem Rymaw (Mother nature)” who feeds, protect and sustains human being life. Dat-La-Wakor is played under the supervision of “U Doloi” and he is the one to declare the winner. At the end of the day, U Doloi, U Langdoh, Ki Wasan and the Elders of “Ka Raij” get back to “Iung Langdoh” for “Ka Bam tyngkong” followed by a communion from U Langdoh and U Kni ka Raij. The grand Behdeinkhlam festival came to an end with a ritual called “Ka Wai Sarang”.
Conclusion: The unique occasion of Behdeinkhlam festival brings people together, closer to Mother Earth and nearer to “U Tre Kirot” so do they dance on soils, mud or in any places of Mother earth. It is a festival well preserved by tradition of being where one’s belong together with their Kith and Kin. A common worship at home is none would like to miss for it brings lineage members together spiritually with their ancestors. By the evening, it is a common sight seen people moving visiting their respective “Iong Ki Pa” (paternal grand-mother) place for their supper. Nearer to “U Tre Kirod” the soul giver so do they pray for protection through the year and every day.