Meghalaya meaning “The abode of clouds” in Sanskrit is surely a hidden gem sitting in the subtle hills of eastern sub-Himalayas is India’s most amazing state.
Make a wish for anything and this state will proffer you with the same, be it high plateaus, gorgeous waterfalls, clear rivers, amazing streams, virgin forests, best scenic views, and abundant rainfall. I don’t think a person can ask for more. Well, it might be just enough for many who are planning to visit Meghalaya for a vacation.
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But for me, it was more about exploring the place and learning its mind-blowing culture. I had definitely heard a lot about the same but experiencing on my own was something next level. So, here’s everything you also need to know about the culture of Meghalaya and the beauty of this place before you plan to pay a visit there.
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Culture of Meghalaya
The Main tribes
Well, before you start learning about the culture of any new place, you should know about its people.
In Meghalaya, the Khasi tribe is the largest one that has many other sub-tribes namely the Khynriams, the Bhois, and the Wars. Besides this, Garos and the Jaintias are two other main tribes of the state.
The Garos are known to be the descendants of Bodo family and are mainly found or I should say settled in the Garo Hills. You can see that the beautiful Tibetan culture is still alive in the hearts of these people.
On the other side, Jaintias are known to be a part of the Khasi community but are said as the descendants of Mongoloids, while Khasis are descended from the Mon-Khem.
Since the state is made of different tribes, every tribe has its own type of clothing that makes this place even more colorful. If you see someone in Jymphong, which is a sleeveless coat without a collar and is tied by thongs, they are Khasis.
Women of Khasi tribe carry a piece of cloth that looks cylindrical in shape as a whole. Now, talking about the Garo tribe, their dressing depends on what location they are living in. If you move to the densely crowded areas, you’ll see women in a long cotton dress that is paired up with a blouse called Dakmanda. On the other side, if you move to the remote areas, women are often seen wrapped in a piece of cloth around their waist namely eking.
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When in Meghalaya, do not forget to get yourself their famous clothing made of silk i.e. the Endi Shawl. And hey! Did I tell you about their fabulous accessories? Well, along with their traditional dresses they also carry some jewelry made of gold and silver, and pendant called Kynjri Ksiar.
Also, if you’re lucky enough to attend any of their ceremonial occasions, you can see people wearing a crown with spikes that they hooked on the back of the crown representing feathers of birds, usually hornbill.
Meghalaya is mainly considered a non-vegetarian’s paradise and the staple food of the state is rice, meat, and dried fish.
So, for the people who simply love having non-vegetarian food can try out an ample number of dishes made from deer, wild pig, fish, dry fish, crabs, prawns, eels, and bison. Hey wait, they also serve rice, vegetables, daal, and rotis those who do not prefer having non-veg. talking about the taste of the food- it is really bland and usually, fish chutney is added to the food, which is very common among the people of Meghalaya.
Also, for the curry preparations, bamboo shoots are used and it is one of their favored things. And once there, you should try out their special Kyat, their local drink made of rice. You can also find beer and alcohol on their everyday menu.
The Matriarchal Lineage
This is one of the best things I really loved and also found interesting about the culture of Meghalaya. Many of you might not know this but the tribes in Meghalaya follows the matriarchal lineage.
One can trace the family history of a person through the women in the tribe. Also, according to the rules, the younger daughter in the family is the claimant of the property and her husband has to live at her accommodation.
Children use the surname of their mother only. Both men and women in Meghalaya are allowed to step out and earn bread for their families. Still, these old rules mentioned above are often challenged by the Khasi men as they feel insecure and neglected because the power and property are in the hands of the women.
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Arts and Crafts
The state of Meghalaya is basically known for its beautiful cane mats, stools, and baskets that are mainly woven by the people of Meghalaya.
I have talked about the material in the attire section used by the Garo community called Dakmanda, they use the same fabric for the products. You can also see chairs and baskets made of cane whereas, bamboo is used to make fish traps. Besides this, the people of this state are also famous for silk weaving and carpet weaving.
So, don’t miss seeing how these beauties are made and if possible take some for your home as well and add grace to your living area.
Music and Dance
People in Meghalaya believe that no celebration is complete if there’s no folk music and dance in it.
The different dance forms are related to their different festivals and seasons hence can be enjoyed throughout the year. Another form of dance is the tribal dance, which is agricultural, funeral, recreational, religious, and social, thus you can experience a great variety under the open sky.
Talking about the popular music of Meghalaya, you’ll see Garos tribe mainly singing songs related to birth, love, marriage, festivals, and heroic deeds along with magical beats of flute and drums.
Whereas, on the other hand, the Khasis and Jaintias are usually fond of singing songs that express their love for nature, hills, waterfalls, lakes, and their land. Another interesting thing about their music is that their songs are still partnered with the sound of traditional instruments like duitara, cymbals, flutes, pipes, drums, and guitar.
So, this was all about the beautiful culture of Meghalaya that sent me home with mesmerizing memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Apart from bringing back some memories, what I loved the most that the people of Meghalaya have protected their culture, traditions, and of course, the beauty of the place so well that they don’t let the bits of the modern world touch their uniqueness. Just visit the place and experience the charm of Meghalaya on your own.