Culture of Meghalaya: A Journey to Festival, Art and Craft

Meghalaya is a small, unique state in India’s Northeast. It is a heaven on earth. In the Sanskrit language, it means “the place where clouds live.” It has become one of India’s most popular tourist spots. Millions of people visit the state yearly because it has much to offer, like beautiful scenery, peace, vibrant culture and tradition.

Assam is to its north, and Bangladesh is to its south. Its city is Shillong. “Scotland of the East” is what people call this city. It is one of North-East India’s seven sister states.

The weather in Meghalaya is muggy and subtropical, which means it is between hot and cold. This state gets 1200 cm of rain every year. Because of this, it is called the “wettest” state in the country. South of the city, Shillong, is Cherrapunji, which has set a world record for the most rain in a month. Mavasinram, a town near this city, has the record for the most rain each year.

About a third of the state is covered in trees, and the major peaks are the Khasi and Jaintia hills. There are also stretches of valleys and mountain plateaus, and the geology is very interesting. People think that the Meghalayan forest is one of Asia’s best places for plants.

Nature has given her a lot of rain, sun, virgin woods, high plateaus, tumbling waterfalls, clear rivers, winding streams, and strong, smart, and friendly people. Meghalaya has everything a traveller could want: interesting limestone caves, strange living root bridges, sacred woods, majesty falls, misty hills and monasteries in Meghalaya.

Meghalaya History

Meghalaya’s early history isn’t known. The Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi, and War people, known as the Hynniewtrep people, live mostly in the districts east of Meghalaya. They are one of the earliest ethnic groups to settle in the Indian subcontinent and are part of the Proto-Austroloid Monkhmer race. The Khasi and Jaintia tribes had their states in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the 1800s, the British took over these states, which became part of Assam in 1835. Because of a treaty between the kingdoms and the British, the area remained independent.

Lord Curzon split up Bengal on October 16, 1905. Meghalaya became part of the new state called “Eastern Bengal and Assam.” But in 1912, the partition was undone, and Meghalaya joined the state of Assam.

After the United States gained independence in 1947, Meghalaya was given autonomy within Assam. But Meghalaya wasn’t happy with the arrangement, so they started a peaceful, legal fight for more freedom. The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 gave the State of Meghalaya the title of an independent state.

In 1971, the Parliament House passed the Northeastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, which made the state of Meghalaya a “total autonomy state.” Meghalaya became a fully independent state on January 21, 1972.

Meghalaya comprised two parts of the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills, and the Jaintia Hills. The Garos live in the western part of Meghalaya, the Khasis in the centre, and the Jaintias in the east. It is now split into seven governmental districts: Jaintia Hills, East Gam Hills, West Garo Hills, East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi District, and South Garo hills district.

Culture of Meghalaya

Khasis, Garo, and Jaintia are the people of Meghalaya. People from these groups are thought to have come to Meghalaya from South East Asia. People from Meghalaya are known for being happy and able to change.

Each group has its own customs and cultural practices. The Khasis are of Mon-Khmer ancestry, the Garos are Tibeto-Burman, and the Jaintias are thought to be from South East Asia. All three of these groups have a matrilineal system, meaning the family tree returns to the mother.

As a result, there are many churches, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and shrines in Meghalaya. Many Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo people have become Christians.

The area has a lot of tribal and folk traditions. The sound of buffalo horns, flutes, mridangas, dancing, and drinking is important in social and religious events. The people they marry are not in their group.

Languages of the State of Meghalaya

English is the state’s main language and the language that most people speak. Khasi and Garo are the two other main languages of the state. Meghalaya is home to people who speak a lot of different languages. For example, people speak Panar, Tiwa, Baite, and Nepali almost everywhere in Meghalaya state.

Most people in towns speak English, while most people in the country speak other languages.


Garo People in Traditional Costume
Garo People in Traditional Costume

There are three main groups in Meghalaya: the Khasi, the Jaintias, and the Garos. The traditional clothes of each tribe are different. A woman’s skirt is called a Jympien. It is made of cotton or end, and an apron, a Kyrshah, is worn over it. The Kyrshah hangs from the left shoulder and loops down to the legs. A Jainsem is hung from both shoulders and looped down to just below the knee when used outside. Jainsem is a change to the Indian sari. It can be made of cotton or silk and covers the whole body.

A headcover is a Tapmoh that wraps around the head and fastens at the back of the neck. From the back of the neck, it goes below the cover of the upper body. A cape is put on by draping it over the shoulders and pulling the two ends together at the chest. It goes over the bottom of the tapmoh and hangs under the kyrshah, which is a kind of open shirting. Dress is different in each place.

Beaded jewellery adds to the beauty of Jainsem. This type of jewellery is very popular among city women, who wear it with both Western and traditional clothes.

Men in Meghalaya usually wear dhoti-style clothes that are mostly not sewn together. They also wear a jacket and a cap or other head covering. Men’s dress was a coat with no sleeves worn until the end of the last century. It was made of thick cotton and had a fringe at the bottom. A cotton belt went around the waist. A wrapper was hung over the open coat that Jymphong was wearing.

Men usually wear Jymphong, but only at festivals. Men don’t wear Jymphong every day. Later, the waistband was swapped out for a dhoti. People wore triangular cars and wooden hats. Most guys wear cotton clothes, but Syiems and other important people like to wear silk patterns. A lot of people wear jeans and jackets every day.

Cuisines of Meghalaya

Cuisines of Meghalaya
Cuisines of Meghalaya

Since rice, dried fish, and meat are the main foods here, it could be called “non-vegetarian” heaven. People who hunt are very fond of them, and meat is their favourite food. They eat fish, prawns, crabs, eels, dry fish, and wild animals like deer, bison, and wild pigs. They raise goats, pigs, chickens and ducks as pets so they can eat them. They eat fish and meat that has been cooked, dried and smoked. Meghalayans like beef, and shops sell red meat in every part of the city. The family eats curries made with arum plants and bamboo leaves every day. Many kinds of mushrooms and tuberous roots can be eaten.

There are many kinds of food, but the traditional Garo food is the most popular. Traditional Garo food includes boiled rice, pork, beef, chicken, and dry fish cooked differently. Garo food includes dishes like Nakam Bitchi, a dry fish made with peppers and soda, and Wak Pura, pork cooked with crushed rice.

The local drink, kyat, is made of rice and beer, and booze is a regular part of their diet. They make rice beer by boiling rice and then sprinkling it with yeast. The food is put in a bowl, and the mouth is covered with a rolled-up plantain leaf. The items are left alone for a few weeks until they are ready. Sticky rice and tapioca are also used to make bears. Wanti is a special beer made from fermented rice and a rare medicinal plant.


“Pamblang-Nongkrem” is a big religious event in Meghalaya with many special foods, which is a holiday that lasts five days. It is also called ‘Nongkrem’. It is held in the town of Smit, which is about 11 km from Shillong. Shad Suk Minseem is a big event with lots of different foods.

Every year in the second week of April, this event is held in Shillong. The “Bisinikhalam Jaintia” event is a big deal for tribal people. It is held in Jowai in the Jaintia Hills in July. In October and November, the Garo tribes hold a holiday called “Wangala” to honour the Sun God, Saljong. About a week is taken up by this event.

Khasi: Dance is the most important thing in Khasi’s life and a part of his religious ceremonies. The dance shows take place in the towns of Schnog, Red, and Hima. Ka Shad Suk Mynism, Kapom-blank Nongkrem, Ka-Shad Shyngving-Thangyeop, Ka-Shad-Kyenjo Khaskan, Ka Bam Khana Shanog, Umsnong Kharai, and Shad Beh Sier are some of the most important events in the state.

Jaintia: The Jaintia Hill festivals are like the Mahotsavos of another group. People here love nature, harmony, and working together. Behreen Khalan, the Laho dance, and the sowing ritual ceremony are some of the Mahotsavos of the Jaintia group.

Hajong: The people of Hajong follow Hindu traditions. Every Hajong family prays at a temple called “Deoghar” every morning and evening. The Hajongs live in groups, and the name “mercury or village” is given to where the group lives. The village of Hajong is just as big as any kingdom. The Hajong family members who live in the village must join the village. Hajong wears Ranga Patheen and Fula Argo for women and Bhizgamsa for men. The Hajong people also do folk dances.

Garo: The festival is where the people of the Garo tribe hide their definitive history. They often have holidays to honour their culture, religious events, and the changing seasons. Dena Bilsia, Vangala, Rongchu Gala, Miamua, Mangona, Grengdikba, Jamang Siya, Ja Megapa, Sa Sat Ra Chaka, Ajeore Ahora, Dore Rata Dance, Chambil Mesra, Do Kra Sua, Saram Cha, A Se Mania, etc. are some of the events that the Garo people celebrate.

Baite: The Baite village holds many festivals at different times of the year. But they don’t have as many parties as people did in the past. Every January, this town holds a festival called Nulding Kut. People dance, listen to music, and play traditional games at this festival. The temple is also where people pray.

The Mavjiyambin cave is in the southern part of Meghalaya. Here, the huge natural rock is made to look like a Shivling. Legends say that this Shivling has been in the Jaintia hill near Rani Singa since the 13th century. On the day of Shivaratri, a Hindu holiday, thousands of people come here to worship.

Dance and Music

Some of North East India’s most well-known music and dance styles come from Meghalaya. The dances are tied to their holidays or times of the year so they can be done at any time. There are social dances, religious dances, farming dances, funeral dances, and fun dances. The land is filled with the sounds of beautiful songs and traditional instruments played in perfect time. Most Meghalaya dances happen outside in the open air.

They danced for harvest, chose a partner, and made babies. Dance and music are a part of almost all celebrations, holidays, and ceremonies. Also, there is a dance where men and women dance together. They show different feelings and actions that are national symbols.

The guys do the war dance (Grika) while the women in the corners just cheer. The harvest dance is called Wangala. During the partners or elopement dance (jikseka), girls and boys make strange movements as if they were suitors coming and moving in on a girl, while the girl either says “no” or “yes.” The dance shows how fruits are picked (chambira) and include a group dance (chroma).

Gariroa is a merry-go-round. The boys sit on the left side and play pipes, horns, gongs, and drums in an orchestra, while the girls on the right dance and hop forward. The whole thing goes around and around in a circle. Cane and bamboo are used to make things like mouth organs, tobacco pipes, flutes, cup violins, and tools for tribes, among other things.

Art and Craft of Meghalaya

meghalaya arts and crafts
meghalaya arts and crafts

Meghalaya has many arts and crafts, but the most important are cane & bamboo work, weaving, and cutting wood. Crafts made of wood are not bought and sold. They have been around for a long time and are used for art, decoration, and rituals.

Meghalaya comprises three old hill communities: the Garos, the Khasi tribe, and the Jaintias. The Garos, Khasis, and Jaintias are very good at making traditional items out of bamboo and cane. Most of the groups make different kinds of handicrafts, such as things out of bamboo and cane.

Meghalaya’s art & crafts are special in their way. They are made with a lot of care and look beautiful. Meghalaya’s art & crafts are so amazing that they leave tourists speechless in this northeastern part of the country. Artists can make things out of bamboo and cane because there is so much of it. These goods are now well-known in their own country and worldwide, and they are in high demand. One of the main things that the tribespeople of Meghalaya do for a living is make things out of cane & bamboo.


Krangsuri Waterfall near Meghalaya
Krangsuri Waterfall

Meghalaya is one of the most beautiful places in India. It is a great place for ecotourism, country, cultural, and adventure tourism. It has some of the country’s biggest woods. It is one of the most important tourist routes in the country because of this.

In the subtropical forest of Meghalaya, there are many different kinds of plants and animals. Meghalaya has a lot of wildlife. It has two national parks and two wildlife sanctuaries. The two national parks are Nokrek National Park and Balpakram National Park. The two wildlife sanctuaries are Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary and Siju Wildlife Sanctuary.

There are many caves, mountain peaks, parks, lake resorts, beautiful scenery, hot water fountains, and waterfalls in Meghalaya. Major tourist places are Umiam Lake, Cherrapunji, Mawsynram, Zakriyam, Myrang, Jowai, Nartiang, Thadalashin, Tura, Seju, and Balpakram National Park.

When you see the green instruments and their beauty, you feel you should stay here and never leave. If you want to visit Meghalaya, you should go to these places:

Ewduh Bara Bazaar, Shillong

The biggest and oldest market in the Northeast, where you can learn about Meghalaya’s rich past. Here, people from different areas set up markets, which is Meghalaya’s main draw. You should visit there.

Mountains in Garo

This mountain is stunning. It is surrounded by a dense forest where you can go hiking. A calm and peaceful place where you can get a close look at nature.

The sacred forest of Mawflang

This place is 45 km from Shillong on the Khasi mountain. Here, people from the tribe Mavflang live. This place is a treasure in and of itself because of its beauty. There is a very beautiful tree garden here.

Nohkalikai Fall

This beautiful waterfall is about seven kilometres from Cherrapunji. People from all over India go for walks there. There’s an interesting story behind this. It is said that a woman named Likai lived here. After her first husband died, she remarried and had a daughter she loved very much. The second husband didn’t like this, so he killed the daughter. When Likai got home, she saw the finger that the daughter had cut off.

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