Anytime is a good time to visit Meghalaya
Meghalaya, the abode of the clouds, with its lush green valleys, forest glades, gorgeous waterfalls and misty hills, is the perfect getaway destination.
Meghalaya, the abode of the clouds, with its lush green valleys, forest glades, gorgeous waterfalls and misty hills, is the perfect getaway destination. For thrill seekers, recharge retreaters and everyone in between, Meghalaya has something for every taste: a prolific music scene, nature trails, majestic living root bridges, lakes and rivers perfect for river scuba diving, a vibrant adventure sports scene, never ending cave systems, diverse cuisine and a veritable plethora of culture!
According to most, Meghalaya’s peak season stretches from April to June, during the Meghalayan summer. However, if you’re okay with a little rain, or if mist and fog is when you shine, or even if cozy jacket weather is when you’re at your best, Meghalaya has enough and more to offer all year round.
Here is our list of favourite events and festivals, beyond just the summer season, that you can plan your Meghalayan holiday around.
Shad Suk Mynsiem Festival: Thanksgiving and celebrating fertility
The Khasis believe that God lives in everything. Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem, or The Dance Of Joyful and Peaceful Hearts, is celebrated as a thanksgiving to mother nature for a good harvest and to celebrate her fertility before the sowing of fresh seeds. The festival is primarily celebrated through dance – only unmarried girls and men perform each year in a ritual that symbolises fertility – the women are receptacles of seeds and bearers of fruit while the men are the cultivators who protect and nurture the seeds till the crop is harvested. The vibrant traditional dresses, tribal instruments, jewellery, headgear and weapons make this festival an absolute visual delight.
When: The beginning of the sowing season in spring, early April.
Where: While every village organises it, the most elaborate celebration happens in Shillong.
What to pack: Cottons, sunscreen, water bottles
Behdeinkhlam: Evil spirits, begone!
Behdeinkhlam (chasing away evil spirits) is the largest festival of the Jaintias and is dedicated to a good harvest and a year of plenty. While there are many rituals, the one that travellers find most compelling is the one where the priests beat the roofs of each house to drive away evil spirits. Having driven away from the spirits, the men relax with some freshly brewed rice beer (a different spirit, entirely!) The final Behdeinkhlam procession provides many photo opportunities and a friendly game of Dat Lawakor between the residents of the upper and lower valley brings in the crowd! Rivalry aside, the game is a delight to watch: imagine football, played in a pool of water, with a wooden ball. The winners of the game expect a more bountiful crop than the other team.
When: Mid-July after the sowing period.
Where: Jowai (West Jaintia Hills) and Tuberkmai (East Jaintia Hills).
What to pack: Umbrellas, raincoats and wellies!
The Shillong Autumn Festival: Music to the ears (and eyes and mouths too!)
A 2-day extravaganza of music, art, and food! Set along the banks of the beautiful Umiam Lake, the festival provides a stage for artists from all over the country, while giving local bands and artists an opportunity to shine. It’s not surprising to see the country’s top acts from EDM, Hip hop, metal and rock here each year. Aside from the great music, this is a great place to delve into local cuisine and sample the local wines and pickles. And for those with a penchant for sustainable art and design, the festival represents a great opportunity to connect with artists working in various media and to buy local crafts.
When: Autumn – usually between September and October
Where: On the banks of Umiam Lake.
What to pack: A sturdy raincoat, and wellies! Best to invest in a rain jacket that can keep you warm if the weather turns chilly.
Wangala Festival: March to the tune of 100 drums!
The Wangala, also known as the 100 drum festival, is the most important festival of the Garo tribe. The festival honours the Sun God and marks the end of the long harvest season. A rhythmic beating of the Nagra drum accompanies the ritual to the Sun God, as do ceremonial and traditional dances. It’s a great opportunity for tourists to get their hands on exquisite handicrafts (including bamboo and cane artifacts!) directly from the artists’ stalls. Celebrated since December of 1976, this festival attracts hundreds of tourists every year.
When: The end of the harvest season, in the second week of November.
Where: Tura town and West Garo Hills.
What to pack: Extra bags for all your shopping!
Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival: The Happiest Festival in The Land!
A multi-day, multi-event festival that straddles music, cultural activities, food, handicrafts and art. The festival is timed with the blossoming of the Cherry Blossom trees that give the festival its name. Aside from performances, the festival includes several contests allowing local artists to showcase their singing and dancing talents, fashion design and choreography, and recipes for food and for wine! The festival’s happy vibe is a huge draw for young locals as well as travellers in the know.
When: November, in time with the flowering of the Cherry Blossom trees.
Where: Wards’ Lake and the JN Sports Complex in Shillong for music performances and stalls.
What to pack: Winter fashion!
Winter Tales Festival: An Artisanal Winter Celebration!
This festival serves as a platform where unique talents and entrepreneurs from across Meghalaya can share their stories through their food, art, craft and music! It provides locals and travellers alike with an opportunity to engage with the local creative community and appreciate their work. With Christmas just around the corner, this festival is a great place to find meaningful gifts for your loved ones, while supporting local artists and their art.
When: December, just before Christmas
Where: Wards’ Lake, Shillong
What to pack: Warm winter comfort, and sturdy boots for walking!
And that wraps it up! From the comfortably warm spring days of celebrating fertility to the beautiful cherry blossoms in autumn, to a wintry trawl through Shillong’s arts scene, Meghalaya’s got you covered, all year round. So, make a plan. Enjoy Meghalaya’s natural beauty, take in the culture, and eat some truly great meals… and while you’re at it, hit a festival or two!