The Seng Kut Snem festival is celebrated on November 23rd of every year to commemorate the Seng Khasi Movement to preserve, protect and uphold the indigenous Khasi religion and culture. This foundation dates back to the 19th century when the Seng Khasi was founded. Seng Kut Snem is also the day before Khasi New Year, which traditionally takes place on November 24. The Khasi calendar is based on the change of the four seasons, known indigenously as ‘Saw Samoi’ – winter, spring, summer and autumn.
Seng Kut Snem is a joyous occasion by followers of the Khasi traditional faith to commemorate their special day. It was on November 23, 1899 that 16 brave and nationalist Khasi youth formed the Seng Khasi to protect their indigenous religion, rich culture and unique language in the face of British onslaught. Since then, the movement has gained momentum imbibing a sense of pride among the Khasi traditional faith followers in their rich heritage. The Seng Khasi undoubtedly is the torch-bearer of the Khasi traditional faith and culture.
The first uprising by the Khasis against the Britishers started on April 4,1829 when Tirot Sing Syiem, the king of Nongkhlaw took on the might of the aliens by leading an attack on the British Garrison at Nongkhlaw and inflicting major casualties. This marked the beginning of a bitter four-year long conflict between the uncompromising Khasi soldiers under the leadership of Tirot Sing and the British culminating in Tirot Sing’s martyrdom at Dacca. The second uprising began from December 28, 1861 under the leadership of the legendary Kiang Nongbah of the Jaintia Hills who waged a war with the British after the aliens desecrated an indigenous Khasi religious ceremony at Ialong.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 121st celebration of the Seng Kut Snem this year was celebrated in a low key affair. There was no presentation of tableaux or processions or cultural programme and the Weiking Ground in Shillong where the main celebration is usually held wore a deserted look. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on various religious festivals in Meghalaya and across India. With eight months completed and uncertainties weighing down heavily, the remaining days of 2020 will likely see the same trend.
Our State has seen how the two Hindu festivals – Durga Puja and Dussehra – were previously a fair-like atmosphere with all the fun and festivities at Puja pandals. But this time it didn’t happen due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed by the authorities. For Christians too, the pandemic may also mean that Christmas this year won’t look exactly the same as it usually does. In Meghalaya, churches have just reopened for worship only this month, that too, with lots of restrictions. We all know the stringent measures are for the safety of us and others.
The washout of festivities is indeed a cause for frustration but we have to understand the reality of the situation. Recently, a government appointed committee of experts on Covid-19 pandemic has warned that any laxity during festivals will lead to an increase of 26 lakh coronavirus cases within a month. The ten-member government committee led by Niti Aayog member V K Paul arrived at the figure after conducting a study based on a mathematical model to map the progression of the deadly virus in the country. Therefore, let us sacrifice big celebrations this one year and commemorate festivals in a simple manner. We must soldier on with the hope that we will win the fight against Covid-19 and what is more important is that we can win this fight through unity of all creeds and religions.