As the chill of winter recedes and the charm of spring descends on the Khasi Hills, it is marked by one of the community’s biggest festivals. Shad Suk Mynsiem is the Khasi way of offering their thanks to the creator for all the blessings and bountiful harvests received – characterized by many symbolic rituals, dances and the best of traditional apparel….
Shad Suk Mynsiem (‘the dance of peaceful hearts’) is held during the month of April. Spring is symbolic as a season of rebirth, as is the case in many societies. It signifies the beginning of new cycles during which new seedlings are planted. Shad Suk Mynsiem is an agrarian festival and celebrates the optimism for the coming year.
The biggest visual highlight of Shad Suk Mynsiem is the dance and accompanying music. The layout of the dancers can teach observant viewers a few things about the distinctive matrilineal societies that celebrate this occasion. The dance of the maidens reflects their roles in the community. They are in the middle – the keepers of the hearth, home, and the lineage of the clans. The turbaned men in ceremonial apparel are the protectors, they surround the female dancers armed with the waitlam (sword) and symphiah (whisk). The arrows in their quiver represent the qualities of a man. The role of the man in Hynniewtrep society is to be the advisor, leader, and protector – represented in the nuances of the Shad Suk Mynsiem rituals.
The female dancers are clad in the best silks, and adorned with gold, coral, and silver accessories. The crown represents dignity and modesty. Chastity of the dancer is represented by the lasubon flower, an important totem for the Hynniewtrep clans.
Visitors of the Shad Suk Mynsiem festival can also learn about Niam Khasi and the role of the Seng Khasi – an organization that keeping alive the old traditions and helping the indigenous beliefs and customs flourish into modern times. As the Khasis negotiate many cultural crossroads – this is one of the best ways to see the beautiful and ancient heritage, beliefs, and motifs of the community on one single stage.