The romantic city of Shillong is one of the important tourist destinations in the northeast. It is often referred to as the "Scotland of the East" due to its striking similarity with the Scottish highlands. The city derives its name from "Leishyllong"-the Superpower or God who is believed to reside on the Shillong peak, overlooking the city. Lying in the cradle of the tall pine conifers and pineapple shrubs, Shillong's undulating terrain is a constant source of attraction for tourists from both home and abroad. The Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes add color to this hilly city.
The capital of Meghalaya, Shillong lies on the eastern part of the state. Perched at an altitude of 1,520 meters (4,990 feet) above sea level, the city stretches for about 6 km on an elevated tract. It is situated on a plateau bound on the north by the Umiam gorge, on the northwest by the great mass of the Diengiei Hills that rise up to a height of 1,823 meters (6077 ft.) above sea level, and on the northeast by the hills of the Assam valley. The Umshyrpi and the Umkhra rivers, which finally merge and form the Umiam River, water it. Shillong is at distance of 104 km from Guwahati, 295 km from Kaziranga, 578 km from Siliguri and 658 km from Darjeeling. The climate is hot and humid during summers. The monsoons arrive in June and it rains almost until the end of August. It is quite cold during winters.
Shillong was a small village until 1864, when it became the new civil station of the Khasi and Jaintia hills. It remained the summer capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam for many years. In 1874, on the formation of Assam as a Chief Commissioner's Province, it was chosen as the capital of the new administration. An earthquake destroyed the city in 1897, necessitating its complete rebuilding. In January 1972, Shillong became the capital of the newly formed state of Meghalaya.
The Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi, War collectively known as the Hynniewtrep people predominantly inhabit the districts of East Meghalaya, also known to be one of the earliest ethnic group of settlers in the Indian sub-continent, belonging to the Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race.
The Garo Hills is predominantly inhabited by the Garos, belonging to the Bodo family of the Tibeto-Burman race, said to have migrated from Tibet. The Garos prefer to call themselves as Achiks and the land they inhabit as the Achik-land.
The Khasis inhabit the eastern part of Meghalaya, in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Khasis residing in Jaintia hills are now better known as Jaintias. They are also called Pnars.
The Khasis occupying the northern lowlands and foothills are generally called Bhois. Those who live in the southern tracts are termed Wars.
Again among the Wars, those living in the Khasi Hills are called War-Khasis and those in the Jaintia Hills, War-Pnars or War-Jaintias. In the Jaintia Hills we have Khyrwangs, Labangs, Nangphylluts, Nangtungs in the north-eastern part and in the east. In the Khasi Hills the Lyngngams live in the north-western part. But all of them claim to have descended from the 'Ki Hynniew Trep' and are now known by the generic name of Khasi-Pnars or simply Khasis. They have the same traditions, customs and usage with a little variation owing to geographical divisions.
The ancestors of the present day Khasis were perhaps immigrant tribes,with a strong Mongoloid strain, who came from S. E. Asia via Myanmar. And their language is a variation on Mon-khmer dialects of the Austric language, varities of which are spoken by Mundas, Saanthals, and Hos in India.The forefathers of the Khasis probably belonged to Annam in Cambodia. Material culture studies reveal that the Khasis were well versed in agriculture, metalworks, weaving and pottery as early as the 4th century A.D. The earliest mention of the word 'Khasi' appears in Sankardeva's "Baghavata Purana" of Indo-Aryan literature, composed about 1500 A.D.
The staple food of Khasis is rice. They also take fish and meat. Like the other tribes in the North-East, the Khasis also ferment rice-beer, and make spirit out of rice or millets by distillation. Use of rice-beer is a must for every ceremonial and religious occasion.
The main shopping areas are Police Bazaar, Bara Bazaar and Laitumukhrah. On Iewduh, the first day of the eight-day long Khasi week, people from all over eastern Meghalaya come to sell their products here. In the centre of Police Bazar, on the corner of Kacheri road, there are shops selling finely woven baskets of all sizes. For hand-woven shawls, handicrafts, orange flower honey and cane work, one can visit the various emporia like Meghalaya Handicrafts, Khadi Gramodyog and Purbashree.
For five days, this festival gives thanks to the Lord Almighty for a good harvest and the participants pray for peace and prosperity of the community. It is among the most prominent ancestral cultural revivals. Inearlier days, this festival was celebrated in mid- summer, but today,in conformity with other cultures and for convenience, it is held either in October or November every year. "Smit", the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship near Shillong, is today the official venue for this very ancient festival.
The annual spring dance,performed to celebrate harvesting and sowing. The dance is ritualistic and symbolic of the timeless fertility cult-the women as receptacles of seeds and bearers of fruit and the men as cultivators, who provide the seeds and protect and nurse them till the crop is harvested.
A ceremonial dance to express sorrow, performed on the occasion of a death in the family. Male musicians play music on the flute, drum and bamboo pole. The dance begins on the day of death, at a place next to the kitchen of the house (called the Rympeiling) and continues till the last rites are performed on the cremation grounds.
A dance to commemorate "house warming" or when a family moves into a new-built home. Once the ritual ceremonies are over, the dance is performed in three stages-kA Shad Kyuntui, kA Shad Khalai Miaw and kA Shad Brap- and lasts through the night till dawn of the next day.
Nobody knows when this "Village Community Feasting Festival", began, but it is an event that everyone-men, women and children-look forward to. It is a social get-together, but at the back of it all, it is a time to thank the Lord for the old year past and seek his blessings for the new year which is to come. Originally,the entire village would participate with each home contributing cash or kind (rice,pumpkins etc.).
The festival is held in spring (April or May), commencing on Sugi Lynka with a ceremonial sacrifice of a goat and two cocks before the supreme deity of the Khasis-Lei Shyllong. It ends on Sugi-Shillong, with prayers offered at midnight to establish person-to-person contact between the finite and the infinite.
Christmas is now a major Khasi festival with the bulk of the Khasis embracing Christianity, and is celebrated in the European way.
Shillong lies on the eastern part of the state. Perched at an altitude of 1,520 meters (4,990 feet) above sea level, the city stretches for about 6 km on an elevated tract. It is situated on a plateau bound on the north by the Umiam gorge, on the northwest by the great mass of the Diengiei Hills that rise up to a height of 1,823 meters (6077 ft.) above sea level, and on the northeast by the hills of the Assam valley.
The nearest airport and railhead is Guwahati in Assam.
The Guwahati-Shillong Road connects the two cities. Pineapple plantations and pine trees on both sides line the road. There are buses every half an hour to Guwahati. Taxi services (Ph. 223895) are also available at cheap rates.
Shillong is subject to vagaries of the monsoon. The monsoons arrive in June and it rains almost until the end of August. The climate is hot and humid during summers but quite cold during winters. October-November and March-April are the best months to visit Shillong.
October?November and March?April.
Shillong peak is the highest point in Meghalaya, which provides a scintillating view of the valley below. This place is revered as the 'Abode of Gods. Every year during the spring season, prayers are offered to the deity, "Lei Shillong", by the religious priest of Mylliem state. The venue is a sanctum at the peak's summit.
This place offers excellent views of the city during the evenings, when the lights glitter below like the thousand stars of a night sky. One of the most preferred picnic spots in Shillong, this peak stands at an altitude of 1965m above sea level and is located at a distance of 10 kms from the Shillong city.
This water sports complex is located at Umiam, where it has been developed upon the huge reservior of a recently built dam, under the Umiam Hydro Electric Project. This attractive spot offers immense scope for exciting water sports activities like boating, cruising, sailing, fishing etc. A number of row-boats, paddle-boats, sail-boats, cruise-boats, speed-boats and water-scooters are available here for the enthusiastic tourists. This is also an ideal place for picnics, and houses floating restaurants which run their own ferry services. Umiam Water Sports Complex also boasts of a beautiful Orchid Lake Resort, frequented by tourists a lot, and is located at a distance of 16 km from Shillong.
This park lies adjacent to the Crinoline falls, and is named after Lady Hydari, wife of an erstwhile Governor of Assam. Enclosing an area of about 1km, the park is designed like a Japanese garden, with vividly colored beautiful flowers, particularly roses. The exquisite hues and colors present a delightful sight, one which can be hardly forgotten. This park is also the seat of a native species of pine tree called 'Pinus Khasiana', which can be seen dotted all along the park. There is also a mini zoo cum Deer Park here.
This lake, also known as 'Polok Lake', is a horseshoe shaped lake, set amidst picturesque surroundings. This century old lake takes its name after an executive engineer named Mr. Pollock. The local people therefore, prefer to call it "Nan Polok" or "Polok's Lake". This lake is quite popular for boatings as well as pleasant walks on the cobbled sand stone pathways, among beautiful, vividly colored flowers. The lake also sports on arched bridge over it. It is located in the heart of the city near Raj Bhawan and is easily approachable from Shillong.
Crinoline falls is one of Shillong's many natural waterfalls. It is centrally located in the city, quite nearby Lady Hydari Park. The cascading water presents a captivating sight, as it makes its way through the jungle. At the foot of the falls, there is a well-maintained swimming pool, surrounded by beautiful orchids and potted Bonsais. There is also a rock pool nearby with reeds and water lilies. To attract tourists and visitors, regular evening programs to entertain the guests, are organized and an attached restaurant caters to the need of food and drinks.
Standing at an altitude of 1,343m, this peak holds immense religious importance, as it is considered to be sacred by the Hynniewtrep people, i.e. the Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi and War tribes.
Also known as the "Navel of Heaven", this peak boasts of an enchanting surrounding, set against the backdrop of a sacred forest. According to the Khasi mythology, this is a heavenly peak, which provides peace and solace to those who suffer from spiritual void and emptiness. It is situated 20km from Shillong.
Elephant Falls is a charming spot where a descending mountain stream bifurcates into two high falls. It is surrounded by fern-covered rocks and is a treat to the eyes of a nature lover. It lies on the outskirts of the city, at a distance of 12 km.
This is a famous 18 hole golf course of Shillong, which lies at an altitude of 5200 ft, in an undulating valley. Popularly known as a 'Golfer's Paradise', this golf course is set amidst thick grooves of pine and rhododendron trees and is a captivating spot.
This golf course was developed initially as a 9-hole course, but was later converted to an 18-hole course by Captain Jackson and C.K. Rhodes in 1924. Once a favourite sport of the British, this golf course, one of the wettest and yet the most beautiful in the world, has retained its glory and fame till today.
Diengiei peak closely rivals the Shillong peak when it comes to the enchanting surroundings, as it is just 200ft. lower than the Shillong peak. It gives a breathtaking view of the lush green hills dotted by tiny villages. Apart from this, one can also get a spectacular view of the Umiam Lake and the Shillong city from this peak.
Atop Diengiei, there is a huge cup-shaped hollow, which geologists believe, could be the crater of an extinct ancient volcano. The peak is located to the west of the Shillong plateau and is approachable from the Umiam-Union Christian College-Mawmaram Motorable road, which takes off from National Highway-40, at Umiam.
This landscaped garden is located just below the Ward's lake and is a favorite haunt of the tourists as well as the local people. Located in a remote area, this garden is a treasure trove of varied indigenous and exotic flora. Another interesting feature of this Botanical Garden is its mini-aviary, which houses rare and colorfull species of birds. The calm surroundings of the garden and its secluded setting, makes it a frequented destination.
Jakrem is famous for its Hot Springs of sulfur water, which is believed to have curative medicinal properties. As a result, this place has developed as a potential health resort, attracting people from far and wide. They come here to bathe in the sulphur springs and benefit from its medicinal properties. Jakrem is at a distance of 64km from Shillong.
TIt is now known as the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms as well as the Government Institute of Cottage Industries. Started during the time of the Chogyals of Sikkim, as a venture to protect and propagate the craft and skills of local and village artisans, it has become on t of the major attractions for people visiting Sikkim where traditional handcrafts, furniture, handlooms carpets and other products can be viewed and also purchased . A word of caution to the innocent guest. It is better to check whether there is a government holiday or not as the G.I.C.I. is closed on Sundays, all government declared holidays, second Saturdays and the odd unforeseen holidays.
Cherrapunji is a region which abounds in scenic beauty and is also one of the most frequented tourist destinations of north-eastern India. Situated 1300m above sea level, Cherrapunji commands a panoramic view of the hilly terrains, deep gorges and valleys with its roaring waterfalls. This amazing place was once known to hold the record for being the wettest place on earth, with an average rainfall of about 1150ms. However, a place nearby called Mawsynram, has surpassed this record recently.
This place closely rivals Cherrapunji in annual rainfall and has infact broken its record too. Mawsynram is famous for being the seat of a beautiful natural 'Shivalinga,' which is actually a giant stalagmite formation. This Shivalinga is located in an unexplored vast cave, known locally as 'Mawjymbuin,' and is bathed all through the year by water dripping from an overhanging stalactite. This cave is thronged by numerous Hindu pilgrims as well as curious tourists.
This is a beautiful place and one of Meghalaya's most popular spots for angling. The river waters here are agog with Carps and other fresh water fish, and of course, the huge golden Mahseers. Tourists and localites throng this place in large numbers to try their luck at angling Ranikor is located at a distance of 140 km from Shillong.
This is one of the most celebrated Forest-Groves of Meghalaya, which is sacred to the Khasis and Jaintias.
Forest-Groves are known by various names as "Ki Law Kyntang" (sacred forest); "Ki Law Adong" (prohibited forest); "Ki Law Shnong" (village forest) and "Ki Law Kynti" (private forest). These sacred groves are basically nature's own museum, as they have been preserved since time immemorial, and are hence a treasure trove of unique flora. A protective hedge of Castanopsis kurzii trees, which do not allow the growth of the Khasi pine within the enclosed area, surrounds these groves. Inside the groves however, the soil is richly laden with humus, accumulated over the centuries and which supports a variety of plant life found nowhere else. The trees in every grove are loaded with epiphytic growth of pipers, ferns, orchids etc.
The Butterfly museum is housed at Wankhar and Co. in Shillong, which boasts of an excellent collection of mounted butterflies and beetles from India and abroad. These people have also ventured into the field of breeding butterflies for their commercial activity which is also regarded as a conservation measure. Over 1600 beautiful displays can be seen here.
This market is an interesting place, worth a visit, where one can see the different tribal people in their colourful traditional attires. These people congregate here, not only to buy but also to sell different products like pots, baskets, spices and even bows and arrows. One can also get a taste of real Khasi food at a number of small stalls set up by the tribals.
This beautiful island holds the distinction of being the second largest island in Asia, after the Majuli Island in Assam. It is also the biggest River Island in Meghalaya and is spread over an area of 20-25 sq. kms.
The island has been formed by the bifurcation of the Kynshi River into two rivers namely- Phanliang River and Namliang River. The area enclosed by these two rivers forms the Nongkhnum Island. At the point where the Kynshi River bifurcates, there is a charming sandy beach, about 100-sq. mts in area called Wei-Phanliang. Adjacent to it, the Phanliang River also forms a beautiful lake.
Jowai is the headquarter of the Jaintia hills district. This charming hamlet is surrounded by the Myntdu River and is located 64 kms from the National Highway.
This lake is a sought after destination as it offers lot of scope for boating and picnics. Tourists visit this place for outings and to enjoy its calm and peaceful environs.
Historically too, it holds great importance. According to a legend, this lake was dug by the members of the 290 clans of U Sajiar Niangli, who was a rebel general of the Jaintia king. These people used the ends of their bows to dig the lake. This was done to commemorate the great exodus of the clans. The lake is located at a distance of 56kms from Shillong.
Nartiang is famous for its megalithic remnants. A dominant feature of this beautiful hamlet, are the huge monoliths which are believed to be erected by a Goliath named Mar Phalyngki. These Monoliths are symbolic of the megalithic culture of the Hynniewtrep people, and is popularly referred to as the 'Stonehenge of Northeast India.' Each monolith measures around 27 feet and 6 inches in thickness.
This mountain hamlet is quite famous for numerous caves and caverns, used as hideouts during war times between Jaintia hills and the foreign invaders. These caves thus provide historical significance to this tiny village and are located in a limestone-borne area.
This beautiful hill is located on the eastern flank of Tura, which is the headquarters of the West Garo Hills District. It is also the largest town in this region.
The Tura peak stands at 872m above sea level and commands a mesmerizing view of the lower Brahmaputra valley and the plains of Bangladesh, besides overlooking Tura. For the enthusiastic tourists, there is a tourist bungalow located at Tura peak amidst its scenic environs. One can also get to see an observatory and an area dominated by Cinchona plantations. Tribal markets are also held in villages around Tura, once a week.
Nokrek peak stands at an elevation of 1412m above sea level and is the highest point of the Garo Hills region. The beauty of this peak is reflected in its lush green dense forests, which enclose the peak from all sides.
This is a popular waterfall of the West Garo Hills District, with a mesmerizing visual beauty. Its gushing water cascading down in electrifying manners, is a treat to the eyes of nature lovers. A deep, wide pool formed at the bottom as a result makes an exciting swimming pool, where one can take a refreshing swim. This place is also an ideal picnic spot for those who want to enjoy and amidst the scenic environs of this waterfall.