Biplab Kr Dey
TURA, Jan 12 - Bangsi Apal, near Dainadubi in North Garo Hills, became the destination to be in Garo Hills on January 2, with more than 10,000 people gathering for Song Kristan – a dance form unique to the Garo tribe. The century-old open dance form heralds the end of Christmas celebrations in the region.
Song Kristan is a group celebration to worship and praise the Almighty. The group celebrations include the beating of drums, cymbals and flute accompanied by songs and dance. This form of celebration began in North Garo Hills before moving to other parts of Garo Hills region.
“While we were Songsareks (Pagans), we only had the Wangala and devotional songs (Kirtan) performed to our Gods, but later when we embraced Christianity, the celebration form evolved as what is now known as Song Kristan to praise the Almighty,” said a resident of North Garo Hills.
‘Song Kristan’ 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 neighbouring 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 Kristan in 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 CR Marak, a resident of Dainadubi.
The 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 km 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 an organiser.
“The energy around is electric and anyone who comes here wants to put on his dancing shoes. Nobody is judging you for your level of skill,” added BD Sangma, a resident of Tura, who was a part of the programme.
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 need to be promoted into the tourism calendar. Unfortunately that has not been. Hope the government gives the event its due,” said another resident, Anthony Marak.