Local ethos & customs
The better sex never had it so good as in Meghalaya. At least among the Khasis tribe, children take the family name of the mother. The property is inherited by the youngest daughter and basically women are the head of the family.
I grew up in Shillong and eventhough am not a Khasi, greatly admire this culture. I believe women should be given equal, if not greater, rights than men.
Meghalaya is a lovely place, dubbed as scotland of the east by the Britishers who used to live there before the independance of India. I do not know about actual Scotland, but this is a wonderful place with waterfalls and lakes and dense jungles.
Meghalaya means "Abode of the clouds" and experiences the highest rainfall in the world. The town of Cherapunji located some 50 Km south of the capital city Shillong has the highest recorded rainfall. Currently this record is held by Mausamram, a village about 5 km west of Cherapunji.
If you are a foreigner, you'll love this place. The locals like foreigners in their midst and welcome them to visit their homes too if you know someone.
The women of Meghalaya are very beautiful. I should know, I grew up with them and fell in love with several of them during by school & college years there.
Christian Shillong ( Meghalaya)
When the British conquered/ came to India with them the Missionaries arrived. They spread out to mostly remote tribal areas, where poverty, hunger and infighting among the tribes was present. They utilised the situation by providing them comfort, food, education and converted them. Those simple tribal simply had no knowledge who was Jesus, where he came from, what he said. Before they could know they were given a new name and a religion , a God to worship. Besides, they had British gun power for their protection from any resistance from the tribal s.
Meghalaya is one of three states in India to have a Christian majority with 70.3% of the population practicing Christianity the other two (Nagaland and Mizoram) are also in the north-east of India. Protestants make up three-fourth of the Christian population of Shillong and Catholics make up the remaining one-fourth . A sizable proportion of the population follow the original Khasi religion. Other religions found in India are also represented in significant numbers in the city. Protestants make up three-fourth of the Christian population of Shillong and Catholics make up the remaining one-fourth . A sizable proportion of the population follow the original Khasi religion. Other religions found in India are also represented in significant numbers in the city. Hinduism is the next sizeable faith in the region with 13.3% of the population practicing it. A sizeable minority, 11.5% of the population, follow traditional animist religions (classified as other on the census). Muslims make up 4.3% of the population. In 1991 when Christians made up 65% of the population of Meghalaya the 1.1 million (11 lakh) Christians made it the state in North-east India with the most Christians. At that point more Christians lived in Meghalaya than there were people in Mizoram.
As per the census of India 2001, the sex ratio in the state was 975 females per thousand males which was far higher than the national average of 933. It has grown steadily from a 1981 level of 954. Traditionally the sex ratio in the rural areas has been higher than that in the urban areas. However, as per the census figures for 2001, the urban sex ratio of 985 was higher than the rural sex ratio of 972. This has often been attributed to the belief that, unlike most other parts of India, there is no special preference for male children in Meghalaya.
It is suggested to make visit to a few churches of Shillong as there are many to understand the real, culture & religion of the people!
Teer - Archery - Legalised Gambling
Every afternoon, except Sundays, the area around Polo Grounds in Shillong comes alive with people making a beeline for last minute betting. The air is thick with excitement as men and women assemble with dreams in their eyes of getting rich quick. Bets are placed with bookies throughout the morning, not only in Shillong, but in faraway places like Agartala, Silchar, Hailakandi, Darjeeling, Dimapur and Mankachar. This is the venue for ‘Teer’ or archery shooting, a traditional game in which legalized betting takes place.
At the centre of attraction is a large ‘skum’ (a target measuring 45” x 30”) made of bamboos with the covers removed. 60 (sixty) archers, belonging to two groups, viz., the Archery Cubs and the Stewards, form a semi-circle at a distance of 60 feet around the target with each archer holding 30 colour-coded arrows (60 archers x 30 arrows = 1,800 arrows). The colour in the arrow, just beneath the fletching, indicates the club the archer represents.
At the word, ‘Go’, each archer shoots all his 30 arrows furiously at the target within the allotted time of 4 (four) minutes. This is for the 1st round which takes place at 4.00 pm. An hour later, at 5.00 pm, the 2nd round takes place. This time, the ‘skum’ is smaller (32” x 32”), with each archer holding only 20 arrows (60 archers x 20 arrows = 1,200 arrows) and the time allotted is reduced to 3 minutes.
After the 4 (four) minutes in the 1st game and 3 (three) minutes in the 2nd game, members of the clubs approach the ‘skum’ and remove the arrows from the target. The arrows are then counted meticulously. During such counting, bookies (members who sell the tickets to the general public), are also present to satisfy themselves that the counting is done in a fair manner. The results are then declared.
The last 2 (two) digits hold the key to four types of betting which an individual may indulge in. If the total number of arrows taken out of the ‘skum’ is 780 or 685, only the last 2 (two) digits are declared i.e., 80 or 85. This is ‘single number betting’ in which the last 2 (two) digits is the winner. The second is called the ‘ending betting’, where the last 1 (one) digit i.e., 0 or 5, is the winner. Third is the ‘all pairs’ i.e., 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, 00 are the winners. Finally, ‘forecast betting’, where the last 2 (two) digits of both games, are predicted.
The winnings from ‘teer’ are touted to be in fantastic proportion to the investment made, sometimes as much as 80 times. For the ‘Forecast’, it is much, much more. This is the intoxicant that draws the crowds. Be forewarned, however, that like all gambling and betting, the odds are always heavily against you. A round or two is fun, though, as you rub shoulders with the friendly locals.
Navel of the Earth - U Lum Sopetbneng
About 25 kms from Shillong, lies the sacred U Lum Sohpetbneng (Navel of the Earth) Peak (4432 ft/1343m), on NH-40, and 14 kms from the Shillong Umroi Airport, linking the State capital with Kolkata (Calcutta). It is situated in the vicinity of the sprawling scenic tourism complex of the Umiam Lake. A to and fro journey from Shillong may take you roughly 3 to 4 hours.
At the base of the peak, almost on NH-40, stands an impressive heritage gate. From there to the SOS village, hardly a km. away, the road is good. After that, the road is still under construction. About 3 kms more and you may have to abandon your vehicle (if it’s not a 4 by 4) and trek the rest of the journey, about 2 kms. As you walk up, take a moment or two to admire the scene below. The Umiam lake looks like a sparkling jewel from this distance, the hills beyond seem ethereal. To your right, you’ll spot the sprawling Army cantonment.
This religious place draws thousands of devotees and visitors, especially at the annual pilgrimage, held every first Sunday in the month of February by the believers of the indigenous faith, the Seng Khasi. There is a deep-rooted belief of the Khasi people that they belong to the sixteen huts dear to God the creator and the divine powers. The inhabitants of these huts descended and ascended from their heavenly abode to the earth and back to the heavens through a golden bridge known as ‘Jingkieng Ksiar’, atop the sacred peak. Interestingly, till today foot imprints of various sizes exist on the rocks near about the sanctum sanctorum. This period was called the innocent golden age, ‘Sotti Juk’. According to the divine wish, the Golden Bridge was broken when inhabitants of nine huts (Khyndai Skum), chose to remain in their celestial abode while the inhabitants of the remaining seven huts (Hynniew Trep), decided to settle on earth. The golden bridge was broken.
U Lum Sohpetbneng being the repository of ancient wisdom and the fountain head of religious philosophy is shrouded in sacredness and sanctity. It jealously guards the spiritual belief, the territorial integrity and cultural heritage of the Hynniewtrep people. The peak also has a message of universal dimension for those who seek to surrender to the tranquil atmosphere, overlooking the placid scenic beauty all around. U Lum Sohpetbneng Peak is therefore, a destination for spiritual fulfillment.
Shillong - 'Halfway To Heaven'
"Shillong - 'Halfway To Heaven'"
Perched atop a plateau, Meghalaya is blessed with the widest range of scenic beauty imaginable. From the misty heights of Shillong peak (1965 mtrs) to the verdant low-lands of Garo Hills, this ‘Abode of the Clouds’, is easily an exciting all-season tourist destination. With dazzling vistas, intriguing caves, sacred groves and over 300 varieties of orchids, Meghalaya is a tourist delight where even the monsoons provide the exhilarating experience of being in the rainiest place in the world - Cherrapunjee. Nokrek peak in Garo Hills is 1412 mtrs high and is considered as a national biosphere. The capital of this unique nature-blessed state, Shillong, derives its name from ‘U Blei Shyllong’, the presiding deity of Shillong peak. Totally air-conditioned by nature, Shillong is truly a destination that is ‘Halfway to Heaven’.