Wangala Festival | 100 Drums Festival of Meghalaya

Wangala Festival
Image via Wikimedia Commons (Visma kumar)

Wangala Festival, also known as the 100 Drums Festival, is a spectacular celebration that offers a glimpse into the vibrant culture and traditions of the Garo tribe in Meghalaya. From the rhythmic beats of a hundred drums to colorful dances and lively songs, this festival is a true feast for the senses.

The Wangala Festival celebrated with great fervor and joy, is an annual harvest festival and the most popular festival of the Garo tribe in Meghalaya. The Wangala Festival is a joyous celebration that signifies the culmination of hard work and the fruitful yield of the fields. It also serves as a celebration of the arrival of the winter season.

History and Significance

The Wangala Festival holds deep historical and cultural significance for the Garo tribe. It is believed to have originated many years ago, as a way for the tribe to express gratitude to Misi Saljong, the Sun God, for a bountiful harvest. The festival also symbolizes the unity and solidarity among the Garo people, reinforcing their strong sense of community and identity.

Wangala Festival 1

Ritual in the Wangala Festival

At the core of the Wangala Festival lies the enchanting ceremony called “Rugala,” which translates to the “dance of a hundred drums.” This captivating spectacle showcases a hundred drums being played in unison, creating a mesmerizing symphony that resonates through the air. The rhythmic beats of the drums harmonize with spirited dances, vibrant traditional garments, and lively songs.

On the second day, known as “Kakkat,” people of all ages adorn themselves in colorful costumes, complete with feathered headgears, and dance to the melodious tunes produced by long oval-shaped drums. This is a time of relaxation and festivity, where the hills and valleys echo with the extraordinary rhythms of the drums.

The festival features various popular dance forms, each with its own subtle variations, but all sharing the common motif of two parallel lines—one comprised of men and the other of women—dressed in their festive attires. Both young and old enthusiastically participate in the festivities.

As the men beat the drums, the line gracefully moves forward in rhythmic harmony. The “orchestra” of men includes drums, gongs, and flutes, accompanied by the melodious tones of a primitive flute crafted from buffalo horn. The performers, regardless of age, exhibit a remarkable sense of tempo, and their energetic dances leave a lasting impression on all who witness the spectacle.

The Celebrations of the Wangala Festival

The Wangala Festival is a grand celebration that extends over several days, filled with music, dance, and cultural activities. The festivities begin with the arrival of the Nokma, the village chief, who leads the procession accompanied by his followers. As Nokma makes his entrance, the atmosphere becomes charged with anticipation and excitement. Leading a resplendent procession, adorned with traditional attire and accompanied by his loyal followers, the Nokma sets the stage for the mesmerizing spectacle.

Wangala Festival 2
Via: Wikimedia Commons (Vishma thapa)

The atmosphere is electric as the sound of drums and traditional instruments fills the air, creating an infectious energy that spreads throughout the festival grounds. People from all walks of life come together to partake in the festivities, forging connections and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the Garo tribe. The Wangala Festival serves as a unifying force, bringing communities together and fostering a sense of unity and harmony.

Over the years, the Wangala Festival has expanded its reach and popularity to the extent that it now welcomes dance troupes from beyond the borders of Garo Hills. Notably, performers from regions such as Nagaland, Karbi Anglong, and Greater Mymensingh in Bangladesh join the festivities, adding a diverse and multicultural dimension to the event.

The 100 Drums Festival has garnered such acclaim and recognition that it has become a state-sponsored event and is observed as a public holiday. The support and endorsement from the government have further elevated its status, attracting a significant influx of visitors from both local and international destinations.

Wangala Festival e1688378498352
Image via Instagram (pethangkhiew)

When is it Celebrated?

The Wangala Festival is celebrated annually during the autumn season, usually in the month of November. The precise dates vary each year, with different villages setting different dates for the occasion.

Where to Witness Wangala Festival?

To experience the Wangala Festival in all its glory, head to the picturesque region of Garo Hills in Meghalaya. Tura, the largest town in the Garo Hills, serves as the main venue for the festival. The town comes alive during this time, bustling with locals and visitors from far and wide who come to witness the festivities. Immerse yourself in the Garo culture, indulge in the traditional cuisine, and revel in the joyous ambiance that permeates the entire region.

The Wangala Festival has become a highlight on the cultural calendar, drawing people from far and wide who seek to revel in the richness of Garo traditions and experience the awe-inspiring performances firsthand. As the festival continues to evolve and expand its horizons, it remains a captivating spectacle that unites diverse cultures, showcases remarkable talent, and fosters a sense of unity and appreciation for the cultural heritage of Meghalaya.

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