Pulsating percussive sound of 100 drums, chantings and hummings in synchrony with energetic grooves; welcome to Wangala Festival. An ancient ceremony celebrating the harvest, the Sun God with Chubitchi and a visual marvel exhibiting the heritage of the Garo Tribe
On November 10, the 46th edition of the '100-Drums Wangala Festival 2022' began near Tura. Wangala Festival of Meghalaya, also known as the 100 Drums Festival, is an annual harvest ceremony commemorating Saljong, the Sun-God of fertility. The festivity marks the completion of a time of toil that has resulted in abundant crop output from the fields. It also heralds the arrival of winter. It is usually celebrated for two days, but it can last up to a week. The first day's ritual, known as "Ragula," is held within the chief's house. On the second day, it is referred to as "Kakkat." On the final day, the priest will perform 'Sasat So.a,' or incense burning.
As this enigmatic indigenous ceremony reaches its second day, i.e., today, a ritual known as 'rugala' is held in which special Chubitchi or Chubok (Garo rice beer) is offered to the deity. And it is a strong indication of how rice and harvesting festivals are intertwined in this region. It is indeed a thanksgiving ceremony observed by the indigenous Garo tribes honouring the deity for a bountiful and bumper harvest after the finale of the sowing seasons. A spread of unique Garo cuisine is also integrally entwined with it. Just like this festival, Chubitchi takes the centre stage of every special occasion of this ethnic tribe.
Garo performers at 100 Drums Festival, Image Source: natgeotraveller.in
The Wangala Festival is a way to preserve and promote the cultural identity of the Garos in Meghalaya. This is a means of showcasing the region's heritage and customs. The celebration features over 10 dancing contingents from across the Garo Hills. One of the main highlights of this ceremony is those olong-shaped drums.
History and ceremonies
According to mythology, the first Wangala was performed by Sangkni, a river serpent who is claimed to still dwell in the lakes of the East Garo Hills. Over years, humans have taken over the celebrations.
The first act of revelling begins with a dance competition between ten tribes. The movements in these dances mirror Garo's daily life activities, and rituals. The themes are equally fascinating, narrating different stages of harvesting to even chasing evil spirits away.
The Wangala performance, also known as the Festival of Hundred Drums, takes place at the end as the grand finale. People dressed in multihued costumes and feathered headgears dance to the beat of music performed on long oval-shaped drums. All the clans join together for a final stunning rendition.
Do'o kappa, Image Source: Instagram
A variety of tribal cuisine is consumed, including wak brenga (pork), do'o kappa (chicken with gravy), fish cooked in bamboo, vegetable accompaniments, and sticky rice.
Rice beer, Image Source: Eat Your Kappa@YouTube
Rice beer is the most significant staple during celebrations. Chubitchi, the local homemade rice beer is an essential feature of the festivities and ensuing revelry. The party will last as long as the beer keeps flowing. The preparation process of this beer is unique, and a special pot is used to ferment Chubitchi.