Magical secrets lie in the faraway hills and lands of India!
What a blessing to be a part of a country that celebrates diverse cultures, practices and festivals. Nestled in the heart of Meghalaya, Garo Hills is home to the Garo community. Garos live a distinctive life with traditional practices and events. One such beautiful celebration is the Wangala Festival, also known as the Harvest Festival of Garos.
Wangala festival attracts thousands of hodophiles from all over the globe. Wangala festival remarks the onset of the winter season. It features vibrant clothing, unique tribal practices, delicious cuisine and so much more.
It is one of the popular festivals of the Garos representing their rich cultural heritage. If you are a travel enthusiast willing to discover the distinctive India, this is your time to book tickets for Meghalaya! Moreover, you can find affordable Treebo hotels in Guwahati and Shillong for a comfortable stay. So, let’s understand it all in this guide for the Wangala festival.
It is in the essence of Indian culture to pray to traditional gods. While this practice can be witnessed in many places, Garos gives utmost importance to it! Wangala festival is celebrated to express thankfulness to the God of the Sun known as Misi Saljong. Popularly known as the 100 Drums Festival, the celebration started in the year 1967. Asanang location was the prime destination for appreciating the sun God for providing a rich harvest.
While this festival is famous in the state of Meghalaya, it can also be witnessed in other parts of the country. Garo communities in Nagaland, Assam and even Bangladesh also celebrate Wangala with absolute grandeur and traditional practices. As of today, the festival is sponsored by the state government to showcase and preserve the rich culture of the Garo community.
Wangala Festival: 100 Drums Echoing in Rhythm
Filled with enthusiasm and glory, the Wangala festival is an amazing combination of heritage and culture. Different communities in North East India are famous for the usage of wooden musical instruments. Wangala festival boasts highly of India-based instruments and unique rhythms. While the Wangala festival is generally a 2-day festival, it can be extended up to a week.
In the year 2023, the festival begins on 10th November.
Day 1 of the Celebration
The very first day of the festival starts with a traditional ceremony. It is known as Rugala which is conducted in the house of the chief known as Nokma. The ritual involves pouring rice beer and burning incense sticks by a priest. It is indeed a spectrum of different emotions as you witness this beautiful practice.
On this day, a special rice paste is prepared to decorate the chief’s house. The paste is also used to decorate everyone’s house in the village. This day also includes many other customs which are valued in the Garo community.
While the first day is all about connecting with God through rituals, the second day of Wangala is truly colourful! Day 2 is known as Kakkat which is also an important day for Garos representing different contingents. As the pictures suggest, everyone is dressed up in traditional attire.
Day 2 of the Celebration
What makes the attire such a highlight is the feathered headgear on everyone. Guess what? Whether it is a small child or an old member of the family, Wangala Day 2 witnesses everyone in complete joy! The day begins with the exuberant Wangala dance by the Garos. It literally requires no musician to be singing any song as the drums create euphonious melodies. Along with this, the dance formation starts with two parallel lines and later changes to different variations.
Wangala dance is all about honouring the journey of agricultural activities. The tribes showcase different scenes of harvesting, protecting the crops from evil and everyday rituals. The dance is certain to astonish you as it requires a spiritual connection with the agricultural practices as well as communal feeling.
It is believed that this is the time when the hills relax and rejuvenate for the upcoming winter season. Moreover, the combination of drums and dance by the Garo females is such a soothing sight to witness! What a pleasure to observe the undisturbed rhythm of music, dance and dedication of Garos for the Thanksgiving ceremony. In the end, one of the tribes is declared as the winner of the Wangala dance.
What’s the Hype about the 100 Drums Festival?
Wangala Festival is best known as the 100 oval-shaped Drums Festival but do you know why? Garos reside in different hilly areas of Meghalaya and everyone represents their location. It means, there are 10 different troupes dressed in distinctive colour clothes. All 10 troupes have 10 members playing the drum. That’s how the festival gets its name as 100 drums are played in such a melodious rhythm that melts your heart!
Why Should You Attend the Wangala Festival?
1. Usage of Musical Instruments
People in Meghalaya have been known for their unique craftsmanship for ages now. The drums played during the Wangala dance are made from trunks of the trees showcasing the pure artistry of the Garos. Well, that’s not just about the drums. The festival attracts music enthusiasts from around the world to witness a mellifluous combination of flutes, gongs and a special flute made from the horns of buffaloes.
2. Competitive Spirit
Wangala Festival is not just about the cultural dance and rhythm of drums. The festival embraces different forms of art including folk music, art and sports. You can find a variety of competitions hosted during the festival to involve the Garos in displaying their talents. Such competitions are a medium to bring the best of art forms to the world out there!
3. Exhibitions and Stalls
You are certain to find it distinctive because Garo Hills differs from the rest of the world. Here, art and craftsmanship play an important role in their everyday lives. From weaving authentic shawls to creating eye-dropping handicrafts from wood, Garo people do it all! Interestingly, you get to try the famous rice beer and traditional dishes including doo kappa (chicken), fish cooked in bamboo, wak brenga (pork) and sticky rice. It is one of the best ways to boost tourism and buy souvenirs for your loved ones simultaneously.
4. Vibrant Clothing and Jewellery
This extravaganza festival offers employment opportunities to the Garo community in the most mesmerizing way. It includes designing the clothes and getting them ready for the big day. Along with this, you get to witness the usage of old coins and unique elements in the accessories worn by men and women. It is super interesting to find different hues in their dressing making India a hub of fine artistry.
5. Tribal Tourism
Is that even a thing in India? Well yes, Tribal tourism is one of the growing branches of tourism in the country. By making travellers connect with the tribes of India, both get an opportunity to network and learn. It is more like uniting the country members through a serene experience. Wangala festival also happens to be a bridge in connecting the world with unique aspects of tribal tourism in India.
How to Reach Garo Hills for the Wangala Festival 2023
Meghalaya is all about tricky terrains and waterfalls so you need to opt for Guwahati to reach the Garo Hills. Check out the best ways to reach the hills.
- Guwahati Airport is approximately 200 kilometres from the Garo hills. It takes about 5 hours to reach the destination via a private vehicle or cab.
- Guwahati railway station in Assam is approximately 215 kilometres from the Garo hills. It takes around 5.5 hours to reach the destination.
- You can also take a road trip from Guwahati or Shillong which are well connected to the Garo hills.
- Tura is the nearest city to the Garo Hills at a distance of 4 kilometres.
Get ready to immerse yourself in the rhythmic trance inspired by 100 drums. Dance to the best moves along with the Garos. Wangala festival is sure to rejoice your heart in the tranquil surroundings that echo in melodies.