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Meghalaya or 'abode of the clouds' is a source of inspiration to any poet, a dramatic canvas for an artist's dream, and the ideal retreat for people in search of beauty and solitude. Declared as a state on 21st January, 1972, Meghalaya is one of the most picturesque states of India, offering a spectrum of sylvan surroundings, rich cultural heritage, misty heights, luxurious vegetation, flora & fauna.

Carved out of the former state of Assam, Meghalaya is one of the seven sister states of the North Eastern Region, bordered by Assam in the north and Bangladesh in the south. Meghalaya is divided into five administrative districts of the Jaintia hills, East and West Garo hills and East and West Khasi hills.

Meghalaya experiences the two seasons, of winter and monsoon, and is characterized by a cool climate throughout the year. The Cherrapunjee-Mawsynram belt in the southern slopes of Khasi Hills records the heaviest rainfall in the world. Numerous rivers flow through Megahalaya, although none of them are navigable, due to rocky beds and strong currents.

Predominantly tribal, the original inhabitants of this state are Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. Khasis and Jaintias trace their ancestry to the Mongolian race, while the Garos belong to the Tibeto-Burman race. Their cultural trails and ethnic origins remain distinctive, mainly due to their geographical isolation. The Khasi language spoken here is believed to be one of the few surviving dialects of the Mon-Khmer family of languages, in India.

A common cultural tradition of all the tribes of Meghalaya is the matrilineal law of inheritance by which, custody to property and succession of family position runs through the female line, passing from the mother to the younger daughter, instead of the male line as is common elsewhere in the country.

Agriculture is the main occupation of Meghalaya, with eighty three percent of the total population, dependent on it for their livelihood. Rice and maize are the major food crops. Important fruits grown here are pineapple, orange, lemon, guava, jackfruit and bananas, while potato, jute, cotton, ginger, turmeric, betel leaf and black pepper are the chief commercial crops.

Shillong

Shillong
(1496 m), the capital city has a number of beautiful sites like Shillong peak (10 km from Shillong,), at an altitude of 1965 metre, offers a dazzling view of the idyllic surroundings. Butterfly Museum (closed on Sundays) is another interesting place to visit.

BURRA BAZAR OR IDEW MARKET

Burra Bazar or Idew Market
(closed on Sundays), one of the most interesting markets one can see over here. For hours one can explore the different levels and myriad alleys with shops displaying mind boggling items. To visit this market one has to walk for at least 1 kilometer as traffic in this area always remain near standstill. Walk along narrow lanes and squeeze past porters bent double under sacks of potatoes. Khasi women wearing traditional Jain Kyrshahs - an apron of chequered material worn slantwise from one shoulder over a blouse and skirt manage all the shops.

ARCHERY STAKES

Another unique spot of Shillong is Archery Stakes. Archery stakes - a gambling sport which is held everyday (except Sundays) at 4.00 PM where some 60 odd archers assemble in a small field surrounded by ticket selling booths and small shops selling liquor. At 4.15 PM, the archers begin shooting at a target where they shoot more than thousand arrows in the next four minutes. The archers, ranging in age from boys of twelve to men of seventy plus, hunker down their hunches in a line, 15 yards away from the target. At the signal the air is thick with the "whop" of arrows whizzing like meteors across the field. The officials then count the numbers of arrows that hit the target. The target is a cylindrical reed drum about twenty inches high, mounted on a short bamboo pole. The last two number after counting is the winning lottery number. Information is passed across Meghalaya. 980 arrows on target means 80 is the winning number. The Meghalaya Government legalized the archery lottery game in 1982, but according to the local people the game is running for over 100 years.

THE SACRED GROVE, Mawphlang

The tribal communities of Meghalaya in northeast India, the Khasi, Garo, and the Jaintia have a tradition of environmental conservation based on various religious beliefs, which have been passed on from one generation to the other. Based on these beliefs, certain patches of forests are designated as sacred groves under customary law and are protected from any product extraction by the community. Such forests are very rich in biological diversity and harbor many endangered plant species including rare herbs and medicinal plants. 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 grove are 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 and avi-fauna of the State, are undoubtedly of immense interest to all naturalists.

Cherrapunjee
(1300 m) and its surroundings areas are blessed with many breathtaking views of nature in her pristine beauty with cool springs, mind soothing waves of thick green jungle foliage, gurgling mountain streams finding their way through rocks, enthralling milky white waterfalls leaping into deep gorges in a thunderous applause to the record-breaking rainfall that resounds through the valley. The pregnant monsoon clouds embrace and kiss the mountains as they swept across the plains of Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal and are coaxed to shed their moisture to drench the mountains in a deluge to provide home to one of the most bio-diversity rich vegetation in the world. During the monsoon months it is a thrill to catch sight of nature in the prime of her beauty when the clouds lift their mantle over her for fleeting moments. Cherrapunjee has the distinction of being the wettest place on Earth, having the highest recorded rainfall, year after year. The Caves of Cherrapunjee, Mawsmai and Mawmluh, are the longest limestone caves in India, formed over 3500 years, a must go destination for cavers and adventurists.

LIVING ROOT BRIDGE, near Cherrapunjee

The lower reaches of the southern slopes of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills are humid and warm and are streaked by swift flowing rivers and mountain streams. A specie of rubber tree flourishes alongside these rivers and steams. The tree usually perches on rocks and reaching out to soil for nourishment. Thus, they have adapted themselves well to high soil erosion, caused by these fast flowing rivers and streams. The exposed roots grow strong and reach out over long distance from the tree trunk.

The early War-Khasis had noticed these qualities of these trees and had adapted it to serve their need for bridges to cross-rivers and streams. In order to direct the roots in the desired direction, they use hollowed out areca nut tree trunks. The thin and long tender roots are then passed through the hollowed out areca nut tree trunks, which are positioned as per the requirement of the proposed bridge. The roots start growing towards the directed end. When they reach the other end of the stream or river they are allowed to take root in the soil. Where required, the roots are redirected back to the side of the river or streams where the tree stands. The bridges usually have base spans numbering more than two. There are also two protective railing spans. Stones are used to fill any gaps in the base span roots. Some of these bridges have roots brought down from the tree branches joining the middle of the bridge from the top as support spans. These root bridges are so strong that some of them can carry 50 or more people at a time.

These bridges probably take 20 to 25 years to become fully functional. They keep growing in strength by the day. Perhaps their life span is 200 to 300 years after the bridges are well formed. These bridges are eloquent testimonies of man living in harmony with nature. A unique Double Decker Root Bridge in the vicinity has one deck 70 feet long and another 56 feet long. This must be the only one of its kind in the entire world.

MAWLYNNONG

Mawlynnong village, situated 90 kms ahead of Shillong, on the Shillong-Dawki Road, 30 kms from Pynursla, is a village of 75 households with a population of 400. A idyllic location, this village epitomizes a standard which all other villages need to aspire to be. Dubbed the cleanest village in India by Discover India Magazine, the primary village School till class V boasts of it's no dropout record and the village of 90 % literacy. Paved walkways and beautiful flowerbed all along mark the village, with waterfalls, a living root bridge, hilly rivulets, acacia plantation and an excellent view of the faraway plains of Bangladesh all contribute to the ambience of this village. Farming of betel nut & leaves, broomsticks and pepper along with bee rearing are the primary economic activity of these village and with the village headman himself taking the responsibility of making visitors comfortable, a day in this village gives a insight into the life of the Khasis, the influence of the Church and it's metamorphosis.

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 sacredforest. 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.

MAWSYNRAM

56 kms from Shillong and is known for the giant stalagmite formation shaped into a Shivalinga, called locally as 'Mawjymbuin'.

MAIRANG

40 kms from Shillong, capital of Nongkhlaw states. Home of the legendary U Tirot Sing Syiem (Raja of Nongkhlaw), who spear-headed a war against the British invaders to defend the territorial integrity and cultural identity of the Hynniewtrep people. He raised the battle cry on April 4, 1829, but was finally captured and died in captivity in Dhaka on July 17, 1835.

JAKREM

64 kms from Shillong, a popular health resort having hot-springs of sulphur water, believed to have curative medicinal properties.

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 Umgot river is an added attraction.

Ranikor

140 kms from Shillong, is a scenic spot and an angler's paradise of carp and mahseers.
 
 
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