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Meghalaya

Meghalaya

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Meghalaya is a dream come true for the tourist. It is a happy land of magnificent beauty, undulating hills, rolling grasslands, cascading waterfalls, snaking rivers, terraced slopes and thrilling wildlife.Some of the important tourist spots are Uniam Lake, Kyllang Rock, Nohsngithiang falls at Mawsmai, and the monoliths of Nartiang.

One of the North Eastern states of India, Meghalaya is a sylvan beauty of breathtaking beauty. It is bounded on the south and southwest by Bangladesh and on all other sides by the state of Assam. The area is 22,429 square kilometres. The capital is the hill town of Shillong.

Meghalaya--literally "Abode (alaya) of the Clouds (megha)"--occupies a mountainous plateau of great scenic beauty where the average elevation is just under 2000 m (6500 ft). One of the wettest regions on earth, Cherrapunji lies 56 km from Shillong; it has mind-boggling annual rainfall average of 450 inches (11,430 mm) over a 74-year period, the highest ever recorded in Asia and the second highest in the world. The climate of Meghalaya is generally mild. In August the mean temperature at Shillong (in the Khasi Hills) is 70º F (21º C); it falls to 49º F (9.5º C) in January. Annual rainfall in Shillong, only 50 miles from Cherrapunji, is 92 inches.

Meghalaya has a single-chamber Legislative Assembly of 60 seats. The state sends three members to the Indian national parliament: one to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and two to the Lok Sabha (lower house). The state has seven administrative districts--the East and West Garo Hills, the East and West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and the South Garo Hills.

Hills of Meghalaya

Meghalaya is quite rich in natural resources like coal, uranium and is the only state with surplus power generation. It is also known for the tourism potential. Agriculture is the main stay of the people of Meghalaya and playing a predominant role in the state’s economy. Its climate is not only ideal for the development of tourist and health resorts but also for the growth of a large number of horticultural crops like fruits, spices and mushroom. Apart from such potential for agro based industries the state also posses rich deposits of limestone, coal and granite. Most of these natural resources are extracted and sent outside the state only in raw form. There are little value addition activities in the state. CMIE index for infrastructure development for Meghalaya is 65 (in 1992-93), the reference point being 100 which is the national average.

Fairs & Festivals

Festive celebrations in Meghalaya vary according to the region and tribe. Festivals, apart from those of the Christian faith, are held annually.. Meghalaya is so rich in its culture that the regional separations also see difference in festivals. The three main hills of Meghalaya namely Garo Hills, Khasi Hills & Jaintia Hills have their own distinct festivals.

Garoga Wangala: This week long festival is celebrated to mark the yield of godd harvest annually in the month of November. Performed in honour of 'Satyong', the God of fertility, "Wangla" means dance of Hundred Drum festival and people dressed in their colourful costumes dance to the beat of traditional drums.

Doregata Dance: This dance form reflects the happy and simple life of people. Women folk try to knock off the turbans of their male counterparts using their head. If they succeed, it is followed by peals of laughter.

Chambil Mesara : This is a solo dance-form in which the performer dangles a pomelo on a cord tied to his waist and then hurls it around without any perceptible movement of the hips. Expert dancers can hurl two separate fruits hung on a cord.

Nongkrem Dance: Held annually during October/ November, at Smit, the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship near Shillong, this festival is celebrated to offer thanks to the almighty God for good harvest, peace and prosperity of the community. goat sacrifice is offered by the devotees. The dance is performed by all.

Shad Suk Mynsiem: This thanksgiving dance festival, which means dance of the joyful heart is held in Shillong in April and lasts for three days. Men and women attired in traditional fineries dance to the hypnotising music of drums and the flute.

Behdienkhlam: This festival is celebrated annually as an invocation to God to seek his blessings for a good harvest. It is celebrated in July after the sowing is complete. Young men make a symbolic gesture of driving away of the evil spirit, plague and pestilence by beating of the roof of every house with bamboo poles.

Art & Craft in Meghalaya

Crafts
Weaving is an ancient craft of the tribals of Meghalaya - be it weaving of cane or cloth. The Khasis are famous for weaving cane mat, stools and baskets. They make a special kind of cane mat called 'Tlieng', which guarantees a good utility of around 20-30 years. The Garos weave the material used for their costumes called the 'Dakmanda'. Khasis and Jaintias also weave cloth. The Khasis have also been involved in extracting iron ore and then manufacture domestic knives, utensils and even guns and other warfare weapons using it.

Costumes and Jewellery
The three major tribes of Meghalaya have distinct costumes and jewellery. However, with the change of time as in the rest of the country, the males have adopted the western code of dress leaving the ladies to continue the tradition of ethnic sartorial elegance.

The Khasi lady wears a dress called 'Jainsem' which flows loose to the ankles. The upper part of her body is clad in a blouse. Over these, she ties both ends of a checkered cotton cloth on one shoulder, thus improvising on apron. On formal occasions, worn over the 'Jympien' is a long piece of Assam muga silk called 'Ka Jainsem Dhara' which hangs loose below the knees after being knotted or pinned at the shoulders. The 'Tapmohkhlieh' or head-shawl is either worn by knotting both ends behind the neck or is arranged in a stylish manner as done with a shawl.

The Jaintia maidens dresses like her Khasi counterpart but with the additional of a 'Kyrshah' - a checkered cloth tied round the head during harvesting. On formal occasions, however, she dons a velvet blouse, drapes a striped cloth called 'Thoh Khyrwang', sarong style round her waist and knots at her shoulder an Assam muga piece hanging loose to her ankles. In contrast, the Garo women wears a blouse, a raw cotton 'Dakmanda' which resembles a 'Lungi' and the 'Daksari' which wrapped like a 'Mekhla' as worn by Assamese ladies.

The jewellery of the Khasis and the Jaintias are also alike and the pendant is called 'Kynjri Ksiar', being made of 24 carat gold. The Khasis and the Jaintias also wear a string of thick red coral beads round their neck called 'Paila during festive occasions. The Garo ladies wear Rigitok, which are thin fluted stems of glass strung by fine thread.

Places of Interest

Shillong Peak : An ideal picnic spot, 1965 metres above sea level and 10 kms from the city, offers a panoramic view of these country side, and is also the highest point in the State. Obeisance is paid to U Shulong at the sanctum at the peak's summit every springtime, by the religious priest of Mylliem State. In the evening the city lights below appear like a star-studded abyss.

Sohpetbneng Peak: 1,343 meter, 20 Kms from Shillong, regarded as sacred by the Hynniewtrep people, is set amidst a beautiful scenic view against the backdrop of a sacred forest. This 'Navel of Heaven' as per Khasi mythology is a heavenly peak, which offers to fill the spiritual void and emptiness, to those who seek and desire solace and peace of mind.

Ward's Lake: Ward's Lake is century old picturesque lake also known as Polok Lake. Located in the heart of the city, popular for short garden walks and boating. The local people however prefer to call it Nan Polok (Polok's Lake) after an executive engineer named Mr. Pollock. It has a most pleasant, winding walk-a-way all around its parameter set in cobbled sand stones, in the midst of picturesque, rolling flower beds and fairyland lighting. The lake has a striking arched bridge over it.

Umiam Water Sports Complex: The Water Sports Complex has been developed upon the mighty reservoir of the Umiam Hydro Electric Project, at Umiam, 16 kilometres before reaching Shillong. The campus consists of a beautiful Orchid Lake Resort, the Nehru Park. Besides it offers a wide choice of exciting water sports activities with row-boats, paddle-boats, cruise-boats, sailing-boats, water-scooters, speed-boats and a floating restaurant with ferry services.

botanical garden

Botanical Garden: A secluded but captivating spot with a plethora of indigenous and exotic plants and is located just below the Ward's Lake. It also houses a mini-aviary with rare and colourful species of birds. The secluded setting of the Botanical Garden with its well-laid paved walks makes it a favourite resort for city dwellers as well as tourists who desire to exercise their limbs.

Lady Hydari Park: Lady Hydari Park, stretching over a km is replete with roses and blossoms of exquisite hues and colours, is a feast to eyes. Owes its existence to Lady Hydari, the wife of an erstwhile Governor of Assam. It has an excellent mini zoo cum deer park.

Golf course

Golf Course: Shillong Golf Course is considered to be the "Glen-eagle of the East" at the United States Golf Association Museum. The site where the Golf Course is located provides a scenic view. It was set in an undulating valley covered with thick groves of pine and rhododendron trees at an altitude of 5200 ft in 1898 as a 9 (nine) hole course and later converted into a 18 (eighteen) hole course in 1924 by Captain Jackson and C. K. Rhodes.

state museum

State Museum: The State Museum is located in the state central library premises with a good collection of artifacts of North Eastern India in general and Meghalaya in particular.

cathedral Shillong

Shillong Cathedral: As if to justify the desire of the British founding fathers of the city of Shillong to make it a little England, churches and cathedrals, large and small, have come up everywhere in the city. Some of these churches and cathedrals are so spacious and large that they can be easily accommodate a few thousand worshippers, at a time. Among such large churches of Shillong, mention can be made of the Shillong Cathedral, the Mawkhar Presbyterian Church, the jaiaw Presbyterian Church, the Laitumkhrah Presbyterian Church and the All Saints' Cathedral, as prominant landmarks of the City. Churches of Shillong - a measure of  the religiosity of the Shillongites

Bishop and Beadon Falls: Both cascade down the same escarpment into a deep valley, the mass of water dissolving into misty sparks.

Elephant falls

Elephant Falls: 12 kms on the outskirts of the city the mountain stream descends through two successive falls set in dells of fern-covered rocks. At a short distance beyond the falls, there are two smaller falls which are none  the less beautiful and captivating. These are the Wei Iaplam Falls and the Wir Phang Falls. A  well paved footpath and a small wooden bridge facilitate access to these falls.

spread eagle falls

Spread Eagle Falls:  Located within the Shillong Cantonment, on the outskirts of the city, lies a sparkling waterfall which looks like an eagle with wings spread. Hence the name Spread Eagle Falls. The falls is locally known as Urkaliar or the falls into which Ka Liar slipped. A soothing setting amidst the calmness of nature - a treat to the eyes.

sweet-falls

Sweet Falls: Situated near Happy Valley at a distance of about eight kilometers from Shillong. It resembles a straight pencil of water emerging from a large size water pipe, as it drops vertically over a distance exceeding two hundred feet. Most suitable for a day's outing and picnic, Explore it!

Crinoline Falls: Located in the heart of the city adjacent to the Lady Hydari Park with its mini zoo, lies the Crinoline Falls which cascades through its jungle path. At the foot of the falls there is a well maintained Swimming Pool which caters to swimming enthusiast of all ages. Beside swimming there is an attached restaurant and regular evening programmes are arranged for the benefit of tourist and visitors.

Diengiei Peak: Located to the west of the Shillong plateau, Diengiei Peak is just two hundred feet lower than Shillong peak. The peak presents a spectacular view of green mountainous hills. The captivating hills are dotted with tiny shining villages. Diengiei Peak is accessible by the Umiam-Union Christian College-Mawmaram motorable road which takes off from National Highway-40 at Umiam. Atop Diengiei, a visitor is greeted with a commanding view of the Umiam lake with the city of Shillong in the background. On the top of Diengiei, there is a huge hollow, shaped like a cup, which some geologists believe could be the crater of an extinct pre-historic volcano.

dwarksuid

Dwarksuid: An enigmatically beautiful pool with wide, rocky sand banks located on a stream alongside the Umroi-Bhoilymbong Road is known as Dwarksuid or Devil's doorway. Its lotus-like rock formations are captivatingly scenic and unforgettable.

Kyllang Rock

Kyllang Rock: Located about eleven kilometres off Mairang, is a steep dome of red granite rising to an elevation of about five thousand and four hundred feet above sea level. According to geologists, the hard red granite rock is several million years old. The rock is accessible from its northern and eastern flanks, but inaccessible from its southern flank where its slope exceeds 800 over an incline of about six hundred feet. The southern side of Kyllang Rock is encumbered with enormous detached blocks of rock, while its northern side is clothed with dense forests, containing age-old red Rhododendron trees and oaks besides bushy, white Rhododendron trees which are not found elsewhere.

Natures own Museum - Sacred Forest Mawphlang: Only 4 km from Shillong, close to almost all large Khasi and Jaintia villages of yore, one finds a Forest-Grove variedly known as Ki Law Kyntang (Sacred forest), Ki Law Adong (Prohibited forest), Ki Law Shnong (Village forest) and Ki Law Kynti (Private forest).

The sacred-groves which have been preserved since time immemorial, are in sharp contrast to their surrounding grasslands. These groves are generally rimmed by a dense growth of Castanopsis kurzii trees, forming a protective hedge which halts intrusion of Pinus kasia (Khasi pine) which dominates all areas outside the sacred groves. Inside the outer rim, the sacred groves are virtually Nature's Own Museum. The heavily covered grounds have a thick cushion of humus accumulated over the centuries. The trees in every sacred groveare heavily loaded with epiphytic growth of aroids, pipers, ferns, fern-allies and orchids. The humus-covered grounds likewise harbour myriad varieties of plant life, many of which are found nowhere else.

One of the most celebrated sacred-groves of the State is the grove at Mawphlang about 25 kilometres off Shillong. This particular grove has for long years been a reservoir of interest for eminent and internationally known botanists.

The sacred-groves which make a unique contribution to the flora of the State are undoubtedly of immense interest to all naturalists.

Cherrapunjee (Sohra): Better known as Sohra, Cherrapunjee is one of the most visited tourist spots of North Eastern India. Situated 56 Kms from Shillong and 1300 metres above sea level, known all over the world as the rainiest place on the planet. A pleasant drive to see roaring water falls leaping into deep gorges, including the famous Nohsngithiang falls is certainly an ever memorable visual treat. The lovely town is also famous for its limestone caves, orange, honey, a headquarter of the Syiem of Sohra and a Centre of the Khasi Culture and literature. The oldest Theological College in this region is located here, established by the Welsh Presbyterian Missionaries in 1888, known as Cherrapunjee Theological College. Extensive limestone caves abound, with a large number of stalagmites and stalactites inside, the full length and breadth of the caves has not been adequately explored. In addition, the natural beauty is complemented by springs and sacred forests.

12 Kms from Cherrapunjee is situated a beautiful Park 'Thangkharang'. Besides housing a bird sanctuary, the spot commands an imposing almost 180 degree view of the plains of Bangladesh. The ideal time to visit is during the monsoons when the gorges become resplendent with several seasonal waterfalls.

noh kalikai falls

Noh Kalikai Falls: A few kilometres to the west of Sohra (Cherrapunji), a clear bubbling stream emerges from its steep mountain bed to hurl down a rocky precipice, into a deep gorge, creating a captivating view of breathtaking beauty. The cascading waterfall compares favourably with the well known Job Falls of South India.

Located near Cherrapunjee are the Kshaid Dain Thlen Falls or the falls where the mythical monster of Khasi legend was finally butchered. Thlen is the khasi name for a mega monster, which according to local legend and belief personifies the devil himself. Axes used by the people as they butchered the Thlen made deep scars on the surface of the flat rock where Thlen was butchered. These axe-marks are still intact and visible.

Mawsynram: 56 Kms from Shillong and is known for the Giant Stalagmite formation shaped into a "Shivalinga" and found inside a cave known locally as 'Mawjymbuin' One and half Kilometres off the right hand side of the Shillong Mawsynram - Balat - Ranikor Highway, very near Weiloi Village, once comes across a unique geological formation called "Symper Rock". It is an almost flat topped loaf-shaped rocky dome, which rises sharply from the midst of the surrounding hillocks.

From its base, one has to take an exciting uphill trek to reach the summit of the rock. From the top of the hill one can see the gorgeous surrounding hills and valleys and the plain and fast moving rivers of Bangladesh.

Jakrem: 64 Kms from Shillong, a potential health resort having gushing hot-spring of sulphur water, believed to have curative medicinal properties. People from all parts of the region flock to the hot-spring at Jakrem for bathing themselves in its waters. A well kept secret indeed.

Ranikor: 140 Kms from Shillong, a place of scenic beauty. Ranikor is one of Meghalaya's most popular spots for angling, with an abundance of carp and other fresh water fish. Huge golden mahseers, the pride of the anglers are available here.

Dawki: 96 Kms from Shillong, is a border town, where one can have a glimpse of the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. The colourful annual boat race during spring at the Umngot river is an added attraction.

Nongkhnum island - the hidden beauty of the west

Nongkhnum Island is the biggest River Island in Meghalaya and the second biggest island in Asia, after Majuli Island in Assam. Located about 14 Kms from Nongstoin, the district hqs. of West Khasi Hills, it is 20 to 25 sq. kms in area. Travelling on foot from Nongstoin through the villages of Lawse, Mawduh and Mawthar, it takes about two and a half-hours to reach the Island. There is a wooden bridge over the Weinia Fall to enter the Island.

Far_view_Nongkhnum

The Island is formed by the bifurcation of Kynshi River into the Phanliang River and the Namliang River. At the point of divergence, there is a beautiful sandy shore about 100 sq. meters in area. The Phanliang River forms a beautiful lake adjacent to the sandy beach. This lake is about 400 to 500 sq. meters. The River then moves along and before reaching a deep gorge, forms a pretty fall about 60 meters high, called Shadthum Fall. At the bottom of the fall, there is a beautiful pool where a variety of fishes can be found. It then continues its journey and finally reunites with the Namliang River, near a place called Thongrin.

Bamboo_footbridge_at_Weinia_fal

The Namliang River first flows towards the north and then changes its course towards the west. It then reaches a gorge and forms two narrow falls. The first one is called Riatsohkhe fall and is near Mawthar village. The second one is the wonderful and beautiful Weinia fall, which is about 60 meters high. The River then flows further west till it reunites with the Phanliang River on the western rocky shore and then flow towards the west. After a distance of about 10 kms from the Island, it reaches the deepest gorge and forms the longest fall in the region of about 335 to 340 meters high, called Langshiang fall.

The area surrounded by the two Rivers, i.e. Phanliang and Namliang forms the Nongkhnum Island. Within the Island, there are big trees and areas of grassland and natural playground suitable for playing football and golf and even for landing a helicopter. There are plenty of fishing pools, especially near the sandy shore, called Wei-Phanliang. Angling is the only way to enjoy as well as protect the fishes.

Wildlife in Meghalaya

Balpakram National Park, Meghalaya

Balpakram, which has been, declared a National Park since 1987 is the land of scenic beauty, lying at an altitude of nearly 3,000 ft. above sea level, covering an area of 200sq. kms. It is a vast tableland of dense forest, teeming with wild life, undoubtedly one of the richest spot in bio-diversity in the country. Many rare and exotic species of flora and fauna some endemic to the area - many almost extinct very rare forms of wild-life found in the area had naturally evoked a lot of interest among the elite circles of naturalist, botanists and zoologist.

167 kms away from Tura, the District Head quarter of west Garo Hills District, Balpakram can be reached by road only. There are however regular helicopter services from Shillong and Guwahati to Tura and road transport facilities, nearest airport and rail head is Guwahati in Assam which is 220 kms from Tura.

Nokrek National Park, Meghalaya

Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is located in the Garo Hills district 2 kms from Tura Peak. The reserve is one of the least disturbed forest tracts of the sub-himalayan ranges. It is the first biosphere reserve of its kind in the northeast region. The Garo Hills contain many natural limestone caves. The famous Siju Cave is located very close to the Nophak Lake near the Simsang River game reserve. The Cave is filled with water and is miles long.

Geology, rock and soil

The entire Biosphere Reserve is hilly. The rock is mainly gneisses, granulites, migmatites, amphibolites and banded iron formation, intruded by basis and ultra-basic bodies. In most of the Biosphere Reserve area the soil is red loam. But sometimes it varies from clayey to sandy loam. The soils in the Biosphere Reserve are rich in organic matter and nitrogen but deficient in phosphate and potash. The area consists of patchy sedimentary rock comprising of pebble bed, sand stone and carbonaceous shales.

Fauna

Nokrek Biosphere Reserve supports a wide variety of animals. There is a great diversity of animal species like mammals, reptiles, avi-fauna and invertebrate groups. Detailed scientific study on fauna is lacking.