Tourism in Meghalaya

Location

The state of Meghalaya is situated in the northeast region of India, extending from latitude 20°1' N and 26°5' N and longitude 85°49' E and 92°52' E. It extends for about 300 km in length and about 100 km in width. It is bounded on the north and east by the Indian state of Assam and on the south and west by Bangladesh.

History

There is not much information on the history of Meghalaya apart from accounts of the more important Khasi kingdoms in the chronicles of the neighboring Ahoms and Kacharis.The first written history of the state came into existence only after Britishers tried to construct a rail line through this area to connect Bengal and Assam that ultimately led to a treaty with the Khasi principality of Nonkhlaw. However, with the treaty came opposition, which forced the ruler to repudiate the treaty in 1829. This led to direct confrontation between Khasis and the Britishers and by 1830s, the local rulers had submitted to the latter. The tribes continued their practices in seclusion until rulers of the region acceded to the newly independent country of India. The region was included in the united province of Assam for administrative region, which led to the agitation by the local population. The region was accorded full statehood on January 21, 1972.

Fairs & Festivals

Wangala (or dance of hundred drums) festival is an important event of the Garos. This festival marks the end of a period of toil, heralding a yield of good harvest. It is performed in honor of 'Satyong', the God of fertility. People, young and old, dressed in their in their colorful costumes and feathered head dress, dance to the beat of long cylindrical drums. Held annually in November, the festival lasts for a week.

Doregata Dance is another interesting dance where, while dancing, the women try to knock off the turbans of their male partner using their head. If the women succeed, it is followed by peals of laughter.

The Chambil Mesara or Pomelo Dance is a solo dance-form that requires skill. 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 is a religious festival marked by thanksgiving to God Almighty for good harvest, peace, and prosperity of the community. It is held annually during October/November, at Smit, the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship near Shillong. Men and women, both married and unmarried, perform the dance in the open. The women dressed in expensive silk costumes with heavy gold, silver, and coral ornaments dance in the inner circle of the arena. The men form an outer circle and dance to the accompaniment of music of flutes and drums. An important feature of the festival is the 'Pomblang' or goat sacrifice offered by the subjects to the Syiem of Khyrim, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi state). Ka Syiem Sad, the eldest sister of the king is the chief priest and caretaker of all ceremonies. The festival is conducted along with the Myntries (ministers), priests, and high priest where offerings are made to ancestors of the ruling clan and the deity of Shillong.

One of the most important festivals of the Khasis is Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem (or dance of the joyful heart). It is an annual thanksgiving dance held in Shillong in April. Men and women, dressed in traditional fineries, dance to the accompaniment of drums and the flute. The festival lasts for three days.

Behdiengkhlam, celebrated annually in July after the sowing period, is the most important dance festival of the Jaintias. 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. In addition, poles of great length are held across the stream Wah-Ait-Nar. People jump on the poles and break them while dancing in the muddy pool of water. A large pole is placed across the stream and two groups contend for the possession of the pole. This festival is also an invocation to God seeking his blessings for a good harvest. The women however do not participate in the dancing, as they have an important function of offering sacrificial food to the spirits of the ancestors.

The Lahoo Dance is performed by both males and females. Attired in their best finery, usually two young men on either side of a woman, holding arms together, dance in step. In place of the usual drum and pipe, a cheerleader, usually a man gifted with the talent of impromptu recitation, recites couplets to the merriment of the audience.

Best Time to Visit

The climate of Meghalaya varies with the altitude. The climate of Khasi and Jaintia Hills is uniquely pleasant and bracing. It is neither too warm in summer nor too cold in winter, but over the plains of Garo Hills, the climate is warm and humid, except in winter. True to its name, the Meghalaya sky seldom remains free of clouds (megh, clouds; alaya, abode of). The average annual rainfall is about 1,150 cm.

How to Reach

BY AIR -

Guwahati (100 km from Shillong) is the nearest airport connecting Meghalaya to the outer world. From Shillong there are state transport buses from the Police Bazaar stand every half hour to Guwahati and Silchar. Private coaches are also available. Hiring a taxi is the best option to get around the state.

BY RAIL -

The nearest railway station is Guwahati, which is well connected to the rest of the country.

Tourist Attractions

Shillong is the capital of the state and the largest city. The city is situated in the Khasi Hills. Shillong is the place to enjoy everything, starting from events, sightseeing, recreation, shopping, or unwinding oneself in a bar. The city has a character which can be felt only after exploring around the city.

Cherrapunji (58 km from Shillong), about two hours south of Shillong, used to the wettest place on earth. This honor is given today to Mausynram, a stone throw further west. The area is lush green with waterfalls and an extensive underground cave network.

A popular picnic spot is the Mawjinbuim Cave (55 km off Shillong) where there is a stalagmite in the form of a Shiva lingam receiving steady drops of water from a stone formed like a breast.

Jowai, the second biggest town in Meghalaya, is situated in the district of the Jaintias. It is the gateway to Nartiang, a delightful village further north that has a bizarre collection of druid stones. Today it is an interesting park but a decade ago, human sacrifices were carried out. The most dominating piece rising up to the sky with red spots on the gray granite carries the story of a boy who was tricked into a trap, offering his life to please the gods. Take a walk through the charming village. There is a monument dedicated to the first freedom fighter hanged by the British in 1862. It is situated by a river surrounded by fields and pine forests and is inviting for a relaxing day's walk.

Other places to visit are Jakrem (66 km from Shillong), which is famous for its hot springs. Nawphlang is a picnic spot, and Ranigodam is known for adventure sports like angling.

The untouched 220-sq-km Balpakram National Park south of Tura features the canyon of the Mahadeo River, with fauna including tiger, elephant, barking deer, and gaur. The park is also known for its medicinal herbs. The valley has been left untouched partly because of a Garo myth that souls linger here for a while after death.


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