Sadhier or Kiad is a traditional rice brew prepared by the Pnar people also known as the Jaiñtia or Synteng living in the West Jaintia and East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. This ancient beverage (since the 1800s) is a necessity for all religious ceremonies and important events. It is a common custom for the head priest to offer large quantities of this beverage from a native gourd to their beloved gods on these occasions. Babies are given a few drops of this native drink during their naming ceremonies as it is believed that the infant grows up to be healthy and strong.
Like all homebrews of the North East, this traditional drink is also prepared from the typical starter cake known as thiat and medicinal plants. Leaves of khaw-iang/hawiang (Amomum aromaticum Roxb) and banana locally known as sla-poshar (Musa paradisiacal L.) are sundried and ground to a fine powder.
It is added to a local sticky red rice variety known as Kho–so and mixed together into a fine paste. Small round cakes are prepared which are then dried in the sun to be used in the preparation of the brew. These round cakes act as a natural yeast and facilitate the fermentation process.
The native variety of rice Kho-so is washed, cleaned and cooked. It is then spread over banana leaves and left to cool. A few thiat are finely crushed and mixed together with the freshly cooked rice by hand.
The mixture is then put inside a cone-shaped basket, sealed tightly and left to ferment for 2 to 3 days. The fermented mixture is yellowish white in colour and known as Sadhier. This mixture is boiled in a special apparatus called as shet–kiad and the final distilled beverage is known as Kiad. It is served in tall bamboo tumblers with a charcoal piece at the bottom to preserve its tart.
The tribal people believe in its curative and medicinal properties and is used to cure dysentery and ailments of the urinary tract. It is deemed to be a health tonic and a small quantity is recommended on a daily basis. However, as this drink contains about 70 percent alcohol, excess consumption might lead to intoxication and could be harmful for the body.
The diluted product is sold in the markets and is an excellent source of income for the tribal population. This rice-based drink is an integral part of the social and cultural life of the Pnar people. This brew is considered to be a powerful magic potent.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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