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Meghalaya

Meghalaya – The abode of clouds

Meghalaya is breathtakingly beautiful with its undulating hills, rolling grasslands, cascading waterfalls, snaking rivers, terraced slopes, hills and thrilling wildlife.  The drive along the winding roads through the mist and frequent cool showers is an experience in itself. The gurgling hill streams in pine-clad mountains invite travelers to immerse themselves in this fascinating, magical land.

Geography

Meghalaya is a hilly strip of land in the eastern part of India, about 300 km long and 100 km wide, covering 22,500 square kms.  It shares a border with Bangladesh in the south and southwest and with Assam on the other sides. Meghalaya is situated just south of the Brahmaputra river. The climate is moderate and humid and it is one of the wettest places on Earth.  Cherrapunjee, which was once the wettest place on Earth, now receives an annual average rainfall of 450 inches.  The title for the wettest place is now with Mawsynram, which also happens to be in Meghalaya and not too far away from Cherrapunjee.

 

History

Meghalaya was formed by carving out two districts, the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills, from the state of Assam on January 21, 1972.

 

After India’s independence in 1947, the Meghalaya of today was two districts of Assam and enjoyed limited autonomy within the state of Assam. The Assam Reorganization (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 accorded an autonomous status to the state of Meghalaya. The Act came into effect on April 02, 1970 and the new state had a 37-member legislature in accordance with the Sixth schedule to the Indian constitution.

 

In 1971, the Parliament passed the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971, which conferred full statehood on Meghalaya andon January 21, 1972.

 

Culture

Tribal people make up the majority of Meghalaya’s population.  The Khasis are the largest group, followed by the Garos and then the Jaintias. Other groups include the Koch, the Biates of Saipung Constituency and Jowai, the related Rajbongshi, the Boro, Hajong, Dimasa, Hmar, Paite, Kuki, Lakhar, Karbi, Rabha and Nepali.

 

About 70% of the population of Meghalaya practice Christianity, with Presbyterians and Catholics being the more common denominations. The religion of the people of Meghalaya is closely related to their ethnicity. Close to 90% of the Garo tribe and nearly 80% of the Khasi are Christians.

 

English is the official language of the state and is widely spoken. The other principal languages in Meghalaya are Khasi and Garo.

 

State symbols of Meghalaya

The state animal of Meghalaya is the Clouded Leopard

The state bird is the Hill Myna

The state flower of Meghalaya is the Lady Slipper Orchid

 

Places of Interest

1. Shillong

This beautiful hill station is also known as the “Scotland of the East” for its undiluted beauty and  is considered as one of the most charming places in the North East of India.

 

Places to visit in Shillong include:

Shillong Peak, Shillong

Shillong Peak, a popular tourist destination stands at an altitude of 1,965 meters above sea level. It provides a breathtaking view of Shillong city and the Himalayan ranges.

 

Elephant Falls, Shillong

Elephant Falls is in the East Khasi Hills district in the Upper Shillong area. The waterfall is 12 km from Shillong and 8 km from Rhino Point.

 

Lady Hydari Park, Shillong

This park is dedicated to the first lady of the erstwhile province, Lady Hydari, wife of the Governor of Assam. It resembles a Japanese garden and has a wide variety of local flowering plants and orchids. The park also has a mini zoo with a variety of birds, reptiles and other mammals. Besides this, it also has a deer park.  There are different varieties of rose plants in various hues in the park.

 

Wards Lake, Shillong

Also known as Polok Lake, it is a beautifully landscaped artificial lake in the middle of the city.

 

Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous Cultures, (Anthropology Museum,Shillong)

The Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous Cultures is a seven storey building with 17 well laid out Galleries of artifacts, paintings and figures that offer the visitors a historic experience of the entire north east region under one roof.

 

Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Shillong Cathedral is one of the largest and oldest Catholic Churches of the North East of India.  The Cathedral, also known as the Church of Mary, Help of Christians, was built by the Germans in 1913. It draws a large number of people every year who come to marvel at its high arches and stained glass windows.

 

Umiam Lake, Shillong

This beautiful lake that resembles the ‘lochs’ of Scotland sprawls over an area of 10 sq. km. and is locally called ‘Barapani’. It was created while building the reservoir.

 

Sweet Falls, Shillong

Sweet Falls or ‘KshaidWeitden’ in the local dialect, lies about 5 km from Happy Valley and is about 96 metres high. It is considered one of the most beautiful and dangerous waterfalls in Shillong.

 

Air Force Museum, Shillong

The Air Force Museum is part of the Eastern Command of the Indian Air Force. Situated in the headquarters of this command, the museum provides an insight into the glorious history of the Indian Air Force.

 

David Scott Trail, Shillong

The David Scott trail can lead a traveler right upto the highway to Cherapunjee. It is a 5 ½ hour trek through the hills and forests of the Mawphlang block of Shillong. One has to trek across four hills and a river to reach the other end.

 

 The Meghalaya Butterfly Museum, Shillong

The Meghalaya Butterfly Museum houses nearly 1,600 species of butterflies, moths and insects of distinct patterns and colours.  Most of the species housed in the museum are native to the state of Meghalaya.

 

Spread Eagle Falls, Shillong

Spread Eagle Falls is located in the East Khasi Hills District, in the Shillong Cantonment. It is about 6 km from the city and 3 km from the Polo ground. The Spread Eagle Falls or the Sati Falls is the widest waterfall in Shillong. It is widest near the top and gushes down steep hills along the three sides.

 

Meghalaya State Museum, Shillong (Capt. Williamson Sangma State Museum, Shillong)

At this museum one can get an idea of tribal life from the exhibits of their traditional living places, hunting and fishing instruments, weapons, transportation equipment, agricultural tools and household articles such as pots, spoons, water jug, tobacco boxes, and baskets.

 

The Beadon Falls and the Bishop Falls, Shillong

The Bishop Falls is a three-tiered waterfall at a height of approximately 135 metres.  Beadon Falls and Bishop Falls are off the National Highway 40 at Mawprem. A narrow road at Mawlai takes one to a view point from where both the falls can be seen at the same time.

 

Botanical Survey of India Orchidarium, Shillong

The Botanical Survey of India Orchidarium, located along the tranquil waters of the Ward Lake, is a haven for  both nature lovers and horticulturists and is famous specially for its wide range of orchids.

 

Laitlum Canyons, Shillong

Laitlum Canyons is a tourist destination at Shillong in Meghalaya. Perched at great heights, it is in fact the edge of a hill which is surrounded by green hills and valleys. The view from the top is really magnificent. One can easily walk down to the valley through an uneven rocky path.

 

Mawphlang Sacred Forest

Mawphlang is a village in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, 25 kilometers from Shillong. The word maw means ‘stone’, maw phlang means ‘grassy stone’, and is one of many settlements in the Khasi hills named after monoliths

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2. Cherrapunji (Sohra)

 

Nohkalikai Falls

The Nohkalikai Falls is one of the most photogenic of waterfalls and the fourth highest in India. Nohkalikai, which means ‘KaLikai’s Leap’ in Khasi language, is located about seven km away from Cherrapunji.  Water plunges straight down from a height of 1,100 ft making it a spectacular sight.

 

Mawsmai Falls/ Seven Sisters Falls/ Nohsngithiang Falls

Mawsmai Falls, the fifth highest waterfall in India, is a few kilometres from Cherrapunjee and 2 km from the monument of David Scott at Sohra. Water falls from a height of 1,035 ft.

 

Mawsynram

The village of Mawsynram is located in the East Khasi Hills district, 15 km west of Cherrapunji and has replaced Cherrapunjee as the wettest place on earth. Mawsynram is a nature lover’s dream and one of the best places to witness the fury of the rains.

 

KhohRamhah

KhohRamhah means ‘basket of the giant’. According to local lore, the stone which resembles a basket was carried by a giant. Some legends even say that the basket has an evil spirit. The waterfalls beside the rocks and the view of the plains of Bangladesh make KhohRamhah an ideal picnic spot.

 

Thangkharang Park

This is a beautiful garden for children and various species of plants and trees in the greenhouse. It provides a panoramic view of the plains of Bangladesh and the Kynrem falls.

 

 The Double Decker Living Root Bridge

The Double Decker Living Root Bridge in Tyrna village is a unique two–tier bridge across the Umshiang River that is more than 100 feet long and can carry 50 people at a time.  It is estimated to be around 500 to 600 years old and uses the roots of the Indian Rubber Tree or Ficuselastica.

 

Dainthlen Waterfalls, Cherrapunjee

Dainthlen waterfall, a popular tourist spot is 5 km from Cherrapunjee, According to legend, people killed a huge snake that used to live in the cave and terrorize them. One can see the carvings of the snake which represent evil, greed and corruption on the rock.

 

Nongsawlia

Nongsawlia, which is 2 km from south Sohrawas, is a settlement of Welsh missionaries who came here in 1942.

 

KremMawmluh Cave

KremMawmluh cave, is about half a kilometer to the west of Cherrapunjee. It is the fourth longest cave in India and covers a distance of approximately 4,255 ft.  There is a pool inside the cave that has been formed by water from five rivers

 

Nokrek National Park

Nokrek National Park is 45 km from Tura in the West Garo hill district and is one of the most famous national parks of Meghalaya.  It has an abundance of flora and fauna, which range from wild elephants and orchids to wild oranges and the horn bill. In addition, the Pheasant, Hollock, Python and Leopard Cat, can also be spotted in this national park.

 

Mawsmai Caves

The Mawsmai Caves are situated about 6 kms from Cherrapunjee. These limestone caves are big and reasonably easy to explore as they have sufficient natural light to allow visitors to enjoy its natural formations.

 

3. Mawlynnong Village

 

Mawlynnong Village in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya is referred to as ‘God’s own garden’  and won acclaim for being the cleanest village in Asia in 2003. It is located about 90 kms from Shillong and is a community based eco-tourism initiative. The community maintains the ambience of a clean village. The village offers picturesque natural beauty, a trek to the living root bridge at the neighbouring village of Riwai and a strange natural phenomenon of a boulder balancing on another rock.

 

Sky Walk at Mawlynnong Village

The sky walk is an 85 foot bamboo structure, which offers a bird’s eye view of the village and a panoramic view of the Bangladesh plains.

 

Click here to view our programme information on Meghalaya

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About Rohan K. Abraham

A simple attempt to document my travels, observations and experiences in this fantastic region of the world - The North East of India. Words cannot fully describe the beauty and diversity of this region, so click on the Instagram button here for the picture story.
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