The Wangala Dance of the Garo Tribe

The Wangala Dance of the Garo Tribe

in Video
Published on: 05 December 2019

Tarini Manchanda

Tarini has made environmental films for WWF-India, the UN, PSBT and several NGOs. Her films have been pitched at Docedge India, and the Union Docs Summer Intensive in New York. She runs a filmmakers workshop called Docu Charcha for independent filmmakers. As a filmmaker and researcher, Tarini likes to take her camera to the mountains and listen to people’s stories.

The Wangala Dance of the Garo tribe at the Hornbill Festival, Nagaland

At the state-sponsored Hornbill Festival, the Garo cultural troupe performed a harvest dance, part of their popular Wangala festival celebrations that usually takes place in October–November. One of the 16 state-recognised tribes in Nagaland, the Garo tribe lives in areas across Meghalaya, Nagaland and Myanmar. The tribe is categorised as a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group. It is generally presumed that before the emergence of Christianity, all Garo were Songsarek.

Wangala, an important annual festival for Ambeng Songsareks, has become, over the last couple of decades, a core element of what has emerged as a shared Garo culture. This 3-day harvest festival is celebrated by the Garo tribe to thank Misi-A-Gilpa-Saljong-Galapa (The Sun God) for blessing the region with good harvest. The festival signifies the beginning of winter, which also means the end of the harvesting season and labour in the fields. In the Wangala dance, one performer—the nokma or village headman—acts as the priest. The men of the Garo tribe play the horn and lok drums, and the women make formations around the nokma in honour of the Misi-Saljong (also known as Pattigipa Ra'rongipa).

Traditional styles of celebrating Wangala can be found in remote villages such as Sadolpara in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, where people worship the old gods and still persist in the old way of life. During Wangala, people dress up in their colourful garments (dakmanda, daksari, or gando) and feathered headgear (do'me) and dance to music played on long, oval-shaped drums (dama).

Video created by Tarini Manchanda, illustrations by Bhavya Kumar, text editing Ketan Kumar, ideation and support Neha Paliwal.