Thousands participate in ‘Song Kristan’ to herald the end of Christmas celebration in Garo Hills

Tura, Jan 2: Festivities is never ending in Garo hills. The demonstration of the euphoria and the way of life in the Christian dominated region can be felt beyond Christmas and New Year celebration.

The bordering villages of Assam and Meghalaya on Thursday came alive with the sounds of drums, cymbals and flute as thousands marched through the street dancing and singing praise to the almighty Lord Jesus Christ.

In the quaint little village of Bangsi Apal in North Garo Hills (NGH), thousands sang and danced to the beat of drums and cymbals in to herald the end of the Christmas celebrations for Garos.

The open dance form heralds the ends of Christmas celebrations every year in the region with the tradition now being centuries old. Song Kristan is unique to the Garo tribe and is a group celebration form to worship and praise the Almighty.

The group celebrations include the beating of drums, cymbals and flute accompanied by songs and dance of tradition. The form of celebration began in North Garo Hills before moving to other parts of the Garo Hills region and has continued till date.

“While we were Songsareks (pagans), we only had the Wangala and devotional songs (kirtan) performed to our Gods but later when we joined Christianity, the celebration form evolved to what is now known as Song Krittan to praise the Almighty after conversion to Christianity,” said C D Marak, a resident of Dainadubi.

This year’s celebration saw people come from far off places like Tura, Baghmara and even Shillong while many Garos from nearby Assam also flocked to the venue to be a part of the celebration.

‘Song Krittan’ borrows itself from the word Kirtan which is a form of religious performance, connoting a musical form of narration or shared recitation, particularly of spiritual or religious ideas. Early Songsareks were inspired by neighboruing Assam based Hindus performing ‘Kirtan’ and caught on with the tradition, more than a century ago. This later evolved into the form that is seen today.

“Traditionally, we welcome the Christmas season about a month before it is due with children and grown-ups doing rounds of Song Krittan near their villages. While there have been competitions now set up to see the best groups, the one in Bangsi Apal is completely open – meaning any group can come and be a part of the tradition,” said a resident of Tura, BD Sangma.

Thursday’s event was managed by the 2nd Jan Dance Management Committee which consists of Nokmas and Sordars of neighbouring villages.

“People have come from places that are more than 10 kms away, including Wageasi, Nishangram, Damra, to be a part of this celebration. They dance and sing throughout their journey to the destination and the energy continues when they get here,” said Jaffrey Momin, one of the principal organizers.

The event started at 11 am and continued till about 6 pm with not one moment going by without singing and dancing by cheerful revelers.

“This is a unique tradition and needs to have been promoted into the tourism calendar. Unfortunately that has not been done and something as unique as this is being sidelined. Hope the government gives the event its due,” said a local resident, Anthony Marak.

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