Among one of the most beautiful destinations of North East India, Meghalaya often referred to as the Abode of the Clouds is a land of lush green mountains, magnificent waterfalls, unexplored natural caves, the man made wonders of the living root bridges and home to the simple people like the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias. Separating the State of Assam from the plains of Bangladesh, Meghalaya is a cool, pine fresh State set on the horseshoes of rocky cliffs. Forming a part of Assam earlier, Meghalaya became a full fledged State on January 21, 1972 and is bounded in the North and East by Assam and on the South and West by the country of Bangladesh. Meghalaya has a total area of 22,429 sq. km. covering the districts of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Ri Bhoi, East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and the South Garo Hills. The total population of the State is around 23,18,822 covering across 5629 villages and towns. Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya and is often referred to as the Scotland of the East.
The State of Meghalaya (Sanskrit: Meaning abode of the clouds) has never failed to thrill its visitor’s. From pleasant weather, beautiful landscapes, majestic waterfalls and breath-taking scenery, a visit to Meghalaya will surely fill your heart with solace. Shillong aka ‘the Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ is the capital of state of Meghalaya where you see a blend of the cultural past and modern civilization. Shillong is also the District Headquarters of East Khasi Hills District and is situated at an altitude of 1,496 metres above sea level. The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago.
Meghalaya is a place where you get to see a blend of ancient traditions and modern life. The sanskrit meaning of the word ‘Meghalaya’ is ‘Abode of the Clouds’ and very true to this description once you are at Meghalaya you will experience that the cloud cover ceases to clear the skies. Meghalaya is located at the proximity of the city of Guwahati in Assam with the capital of Meghalaya – Shillong having a distance of approximately 80 km from Guwahati. Shillong city is often referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ as every third household in Shillong has a talented musician. Meghalaya is bounded to the south and west by the country of Bangladesh and to the north and east by the State of Assam.
The State of Meghalaya is also home to the ‘Wettest place on Planet Earth – Mawsynram’. Mawsynram records the maximum rainfall anywhere in the world. Very close to this is the record held by the town of Cherrapunji. Cherrapunji’s breathtaking landscapes is sure to leave any visitor here awestruck! The Majestic ‘Nohkalikai’ waterfall at Cherrapunji is the tallest plunge waterfall in India.
Geography of Meghalaya ~
As mentioned earlier, around 70% of Meghalaya is under forest cover. Meghalaya is mountainous with stretches of valley and highland. The State of rich in mineral deposits like coal, limestone, uranium, etc.
Meghalaya also has many rivers like Umiam, Umngot, Simsang, etc.
The highest point of the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya is the Shillong Peak at an altitude of 1961 m and in the Garo Hills it’s the Nokrek Peak at an elevation of 1515 m.
Flora and Fauna of Meghalaya ~
With around 70% of land under forest cover, Meghalaya boasts of a wide variety of Flora, Fauna and Avifauna species. Two of the most important tree varieties found in Meghalaya are Sal and Teak. In addition, Meghalaya is home to a large variety of fruits, vegetable, spices and medicinal plants. It would be important to state that Meghalaya supplies vegetables across the entire North Eastern region of the Country. The mammal species found in Meghalaya are Elephants, Bears, Red Pandas, Gaurs, Deer, Wild Boars, etc. The Hollock Gibbon species is found in all the districts of Meghalaya. As per the tradition of the tribes of Meghalaya, certain small pockets of ancient forests have been preserved by these tribal communities for hundreds of years due to religious and cultural beliefs. These forests remain protected from exploitation and are called as Sacred Groves. These Sacred Groves of Meghalaya harbor many rare plants, animal species and a wide variety of Orchids.
Economy of Meghalaya ~
The State of Meghalaya is predominantly an agrarian economy and nearly 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Nearly 10% of the area of Meghalaya is under cultivation. Handicraft is also an occupation prevalent among the tribes of Meghalaya. Weaving in an ancient craft done both on cloth and cane. Cane mats, stools and baskets of Meghalaya are famous across the World. Other items include mouth organs, flute, tobacco pipes, tribal weapons, etc. Tourism as an economy is gradually catching up in Meghalaya with many people depending on it for their livelihood. The Tourism Department Govt. of Meghalaya has come up with many unique initiatives to attract more visitors to the State and Meghalaya Tourism is dedicated on developing infrastructure and public facilities at tourist spots across Meghalaya.
Considered to be among the wettest places on Earth, Meghalaya is home to Mawsynram and Cherrapunji, the two most rainiest places on the planet. Meghalaya itself records an average annual rainfall of 1200 cm. Meghalaya enjoys a favorable climate around the year generalized as temperate. The climate of Meghalaya is influenced by the South-West monsoons and the North-East winter winds. The four seasons of Meghalaya are Spring – March and April, Summer (Monsoon) – May to September, Autumn – October and November and Winter – December to February.
Known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly, the people of Meghalaya belong mainly to three principal ethnic communities viz. the Khasis, the Garos and the Jaintias. Majority of these people practice Christianity as their faith which is evident from the many number of Churches to be seen here in Meghalaya. The most common trait binding these communities of Meghalaya is the matrilineal system wherein the family heritage is taken from the mother’s side.
The principal languages of Meghalaya are Khasi, Pnar and Garo. However, English is spoken by a majority of the people of the State. The Khasi language of Meghalaya is believed to be on the few surviving dialects of the Mon-Khmer family of languages in India today.
Meghalaya is home to varied flora and fauna. Rich in rare species of flora like the pitcher plant, wild citrus and pygmy lily. Meghalaya is a paradise for botanists with over 300 world’s species to be found here. Meghalaya’s forests are rich with the Rhododendron and pine trees. In addition, various species of fruit trees like plums, peaches, oranges as well as spices like ginger, pepper, turmeric, bay leaf, etc. are found across Meghalaya. The Mawphlang Sacred Groves at Mawphlang is a huge protected area forest and is home to over 200 species of orchids. Flora and Fauna are widely spread across the National Parks and Wildlife Reserves of Meghalaya. The Nokrek National Park near Tura is home to various species of fauna like Wild Elephants, Hoolock Gibbons, rare varieties of birds and orchids, etc. The Balpakram National Park near Tura is home to the highly endangered species of Red Panda. Additional fauna to be sighted here are tigers, bisons, black bear, leopards, sambar deer, etc. The Siju Bird Sanctuary is home to many rare and endangered species of Avi Fauna. The Siberian ducks are spotted here during winters and also the Grey Hornbill and Peacock Pheasant.
Meghalaya is a state of never ending festivals. From modern rock concerts to traditional agrarian based festivals, the ethnic community of Meghalaya viz. the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias celebrate several festivals that are characterized in the form of dance, feast and worship. Some of the prominent festivals celebrated across Meghalaya are Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance, Nongkrem Dance Festival, Behdienkhlam Festival, Laho Dance, Chad Sukra, Wangala Festival, Autumn Festival, Strawberry Festival, Ranikor Festival, etc.
Meghalaya is the wettest region of India, recording an average of 12,000 mm of rain in a year. Mawsynram in Meghalaya is the wettest place on Planet Earth. Alos, around 70% of the State of Meghalaya is under forest cover.
Meghalaya’s main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are the Khasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its Matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother’s side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly.
Destinations of Meghalaya and places of Interest~
1| Shillong, Meghalaya ~
Shillong aka ‘the Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ is the capital of State of Meghalaya where you see a blend of the cultural past and modern civilization. Shillong is also the District Headquarters of East Khasi Hills District and is situated at an altitude of 1,496 metres above sea level. The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago.
Places of Interest ~
Wards Lake, Don Bosco Museum, Madina Masjid, Shillong Polo Grounds, Elephant Falls, Indian Air Force Museum, Shillong Peak, Cathedrals of Shillong, Bara Bazaar, Police Bazaar and the numerous Cafes of Shillong.
2| Cherrapunji, Meghalaya ~
The Land of Majestic Waterfalls, Breath taking Landscape, Unexplored Caves, the Living Root Bridges and the Second Highest Rainfall anywhere in the World. The original name for this town was Sohra, which was pronounced “Churra” by the British. This name eventually evolved into the current name, Cherrapunji. The name “cherrapunji” which means ‘land of oranges’ was first used by tourists from other parts of India.
Places of Interest ~
Nohkalikai Falls, Seven Sister Falls, Dainthlen Falls, Mawsmai Caves, Double Decker Living Root Bridge, Single Decker Living Root Bridge, Beautiful Landscapes and the Rains of Cherrapunji.
3| Mawlynnong, Meghalaya ~
Declared as the Cleanest Village in Asia, at Mawlynnong there are about 95 households. A striking feature of this small village is that the literacy rate is 100%. Agriculture is the chief occupation of the local population, with betel nut being the main crop. The people residing in the community are mostly Khasi people.
Places of Interest ~
Living Root Bridge at Mawlynnong, Bangladesh Border view Sky-walk, Balancing Rocks at Mawlynnong, Asia’s Cleanest Village, Village Walks, Ecotourism Homestay with the Khasi Tribes, Mawlynnong Cathedral, Khasi Cuisine, etc.
4| Dawki, Meghalaya ~
Dawki aka Tamabil, is a place at the border of India and Bangladesh near Meghalaya. Dawki is renowned for the Umngot River which has water so clear that you can see the river bed clearly with a naked eye. Visitors are allowed to take a boat ride on the River and one can literally see the boat floating in air as the water is so clear. At Dawki you can cross the border of India and reach the pillar 1273 that marks the border of Bangladesh and India. The suspension bridge at Dawki is also a tourist attraction which was constructed in 1932 by the British.
5| Pynursla, Meghalaya ~
Pynursla is small town in the East Khasi Hills located between the journey from Cherrapunji to Mawlynnong. Covered with a thick rain forests Pynursla is a place of breath taking beauty. The place remains under a cover of clouds most of the time around. Pynusrla is also home to the Longest Living Root Bridge in the World!
6| Mawphlang, Meghalaya ~
The site of the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves, Mawphlang is located at 25 kilometers from the capital city of Shillong. The word maw means “stone”, maw phlang means “grassy stone,” and is one of many settlements in the Khasi hills named after monoliths. The Khasi heritage village is considered to be the hub of Khasi culture and plays host the Monolith Festival of Meghalaya every year in the month of March-April.
Mawphlang is also the starting point of one of the most pristine trekking routes across Meghalaya viz. the ‘David Scott Trail Trek’ which begins at Mawphlang and extends upto Lad Mawphlang covering a total distance of 16 km across the vast virgin wilderness of the East Khasi Hills and the flowing Umiam river.
7| Tura, Meghalaya ~
Tura is a hilly town in the West Garo Hills district in the state of Meghalaya. One of the largest towns in Meghalaya, Tura is a valley located at the foothills of the Tura Hills and right below the Tura Peak. The climate in Tura is moderate throughout the year and has a large number of interesting and unexplored areas. The native God ‘Durama’ was believed to reside in the hills.
The Nokrek National Park near Tura is a hotspot of biodiversity in Meghalaya. Nokrek is an important habitat of the Asian elephants. The park had eight species of cats, ranging from Tiger to Marbled cat. But Nokrek is better known to have a remnant population of the Red panda that has generated curiosity across the World.
Places of Interest ~
Tura Peak, Nokrek Biosphere, Pelga Falls, Rongbang Dare, Sasatgre Village, Williamnagar, Sisobibra, Resubelpara, Baghmara Reserve Forest, Nengkong, Imilchang Dare, Simsang River
So why wait?! Plan your visit to the State of Magical Meghalaya, North East India, Incredible India!
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