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Let the party begin in abode of clouds

- Meghalaya lines up three festivals of books, music & food this month

Shillong, Dec. 9: An assortment of creativity and passion in literary art and music amid a sumptuous spread of traditional cuisine with a heavy touch of indigenousness is in the offing across the month in this hill state.

The Sohra Literary Festival in the lap of nature and Khasi language, the Simsang Festival in the assumed heartland of militancy and the Mei Ram-ew Festival in midst of a legendary sacred grove, have been lined up for one and all.

To start with, the Sohra Literary Festival, a first, will be held on Tuesday at St John Bosco Auditorium, Sohra.

“The daylong event will witness poetry writing and creative writing workshops with a special focus on students where they would also be given a stage to express themselves and bring out their creative best,” Cyril Diengdoh, Sohra subdivisional officer (civil), said.

On the significance of the festival, Diengdoh said, “Sohra is the birthplace of U Soso Tham, the father of Khasi literature and poetry. December 18 is his death anniversary and hence, this month was chosen to hold the first literary festival to pay tribute to this author.”

He also said it was at Sohra that the standard dialect, of which is in use today, and referred to commonly as “Ka Ktien Sohra” was developed by Thomas Jones when he adopted the Roman script to expand the language.

“It is befitting that a literary festival be held here to increase awareness among the youth about the culture and history of the Khasi language and to encourage literary activities among them,” Diengdoh said.

A highlight of the event will be the oral storytellers of folklore from the Khatar Shnong and other parts of the subdivision to expose students to oral traditions of storytelling.

Next is the Simsang Festival from December 11 to 14 where the sounds of guitars and other musical instruments will reverberate across Williamnagar in the East Garo hills with a profusion of indigenous food.

For the Simsang beat contest, which is part of the festival, there will be a total of 20 bands —one each from Sikkim and Mizoram, eight from Shillong, seven from Tura, and three from Williamnagar — to compete for a prize money of Rs 1 lakh.

Earlier, the Simsang Festival was known as the Winter Festival.

Simsang is the largest river of Garo hills.

It originates from the Nokrek mountains and moves eastwards through Williamnagar and flows down through the district of South Garo Hills and finally enters Bangladesh.

The other programmes of the festival will include a carnival, singing and dancing competitions, Miss Simsang beauty pageant, fashion show and food and wine festival among others.

The third one lined up is the Mei Ram-ew (Terra Madre) Festival at the sacred grove in Mawphlang village will be held on December 14 to 15 to celebrate indigenous food.

Around 24 local communities, including the Karen people of Thailand, Thangkhul Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis from Manipur, people from Dima Hasao district, Nilgiri hills, Nagaland and other places will participate in the Mei Ram-ew Festival.

The first day of the festival would allow communities to discuss common issues such as shifting cultivation and the revival of local food crops, and they will also share their own stories of agro-biodiversity through songs, folklore and traditional dances.

The second day will showcase the local agro-biodiversity from Meghalaya, Manipur, Assam, Southern India and Thailand.

The exhibition will not only focus on food items, but also showcase the diversity of crops, their methods of cultivation and preparation and their importance to the food security and sovereignty of indigenous people.

Traditional cuisine will also be documented.