Travel Tips for Shillong
Women Power in Shillong ( Meghalaya)-II
The idea of putting this tip here is to let people know that women power is really prevalent in the state of Meghalaya. Though in almost all tribal area women do a lot of work, but in Meghalaya they also hold the decision making power apart from doing all sorts of work, either be a labour, running shop, hotel, cooking, collecting fire wood or anything that requires manpower, they are there.
I shall be writing more on the subject in my other tips.
Have your wish fulfilled
If you have an ardent wish and visit the Mai Parbot temple in good faith, your wish is normally fulfilled, or so the belief goes. To reach this place, you come down from Shillong to Umiam lake (17 kms) and continue towards Guwahati till you see a heritage archway on your right. You take that road, past the SOS village and continue up. The road up to the SOS village is fine. Thereafter, it is still under construction. After about 3 kms, you may have to abandon the vehicle and trek the rest of the way to the temple. The entire journey may take you 1 hour, one way. The temple is located near the summit of Lum Sohpetbneng (Navel of the Earth), at a distance of 7 kms from Umiam Lake.
Near the top of the hill, there is a bifurcation. The lower right road leads to the Mai Parbot temple while the left one goes up to Lum Sohpetbneng. From this fork to the temple is about ½ a km. As you approach the site, the building on your left is the ‘sarai’ (dormitory), then an open, but enclosed space for performing Hindu marriages. The temple is at the corner. A Shiv Mandir is located below this temple while a Durga temple is under construction down below.
Legend has it that in 1946, the younger sister of Kamakhya, ‘Jwalla Mai’, rose from the earth in this place as a fiery apparition. The Hindu people residing nearby, saw this spectre as well as the sound of bells ringing, religious songs and of conches. They got together and decided to build a temple at that spot. Once the temple was constructed, there was no more sound of bells ringing, religious songs and of conches. Very soon thereafter, like a miracle, water start flowing out from inside the temple. This water continues to flow till today. The same water is taken up to the summit of U Lum Sohpetbneng where it is used by the Seng Khasi for their religious rituals.
In the same year, it is believed that near this temple, a ‘Shivalinga’ came out from the earth. The ‘pujari’ (priest) dreamt that at that spot also another temple should be constructed. The Hindu people got together and built a Shiv Mandir there. A third mandir (temple) dedicated to the Goddess Durga, is under construction nearby. Many people from Shillong and Guwahati come to this temple to pray. Hindu celebrate their puja in the month of March–April, called ‘Ram Navami Puja’. During April–May, they celebrate ‘Mai Puja’. It is believed that Jwalla Mai has one elder sister called Kamakhya. Her famous temple exists at the top of Kamakhya hill in Guwahati.
Next to the Maiparbot temple, stands a tree the trunk of which is overflowing with threads people have tied to have their wish fulfilled. Look up that tree near the place where the first branch shoots off on the left. You may discern a face, complete with hair, beard and eyes. Make what you want of it.
The ‘pujari’ (priest) of the temple is Pandit Lakshmi Prasad Projuli. His cell Nos are 98630-42638 and 96129-00490. He, unfortunately cannot walk owing to very weak legs but he manages to crawl around and perform his priestly duties.
Iron Suspension Bridge, Mawshubuit village
At the village of Mawshubuit, beyond the Army area of Happy Valley, stands a sturdy relic of the British Raj built before India's Independence in 1927. This iron suspension bridge over the river Umkhen, is a shining example of British far-sightedness and their nature of exploring the unknown. It is on the road that connects Mawshubuit village to Sohrynkham village by a walking trail strangely akin to the David Scott trail that earlier connected Dhaka in present-day Bangladesh to Assam. This bridge is the only link between the two villages.
The entire journey takes about 1 hour 45 minutes (40 minutes of driving to Mawshubuit Nongrim village, 45 minutes of trekking (5 kms) with 15 minutes of photo session at the bridge thrown in, 20 minutes of driving from Sohrynkham village to your place of stay).
You go towards Bandstand (Happy Valley), down to the Horseshoe Bend, past the Brown Gate and continue through 58 Gurkha Training Centre area. You will see lush vegetation on both sides of the road with Army recruits busy trimming the hedges, mowing the lawns and generally keeping the area shipshape. Once you come up to a gate, turn left and go past the Army houses. Whenever lost, ask for direction to 'Sweet Falls'. However, don't go to Sweet Falls (through Mawshubuit Nonshilliang village) but to Mawshubuit Nongrim village. An alternative route is to go through Assam Rifles bazaar after crossing Bandstand, Assam Regimental Centre and up to the gate.
It's a long, lonely, narrow road that leads you to the spot where you can park your vehicle. From Shillong, that spot is 19 kms and should take you about 40 minutes of driving time. Ask the friendly villagers for the road leading to Sohrynkham village. Once you alight from your vehicle, you hit the dirt track that takes you down to the river Umkhen. Along the way, you will notice a water storage tank. A little further on and you come across the iron suspension bridge. You may take about 15 minutes to reach the bridge.
The bridge is still in remarkable good shape. Villagers cross it with the dexterity of a mountain goat. You may have to hold on to the side railings as some of the planks are missing. At the middle of that 40-odd feet bridge, you may like to take a few photos. The date of its construction by the PWD is inscribed on the top area of the left-hand side post of the bridge.
The path from the bridge onwards is steep with a gradient of perhaps 35 to 40 degrees. The placement of the stones is not as neat as the one in the David Scott Trail but is equally fascinating. After about 15 minutes, you will come across a diminutive waterfall on the right-hand side of the road. Perhaps, you may like to quench your thirst from this natural spring. Another 15 minutes and suddenly you will be upon a group of village women surrounded by soap suds and piles of clothes, happily chatting away as they go about washing clothes. A kind word or two wouldn't hurt you.
You continue on your upward trek for another 10 minutes and you will come to Medija village junction. The left road leads to Um Iet village while the one straight ahead leads to Sohrynkham village. Walk for another 5 minutes and you hit the National Highway. If you had told your driver to meet you there, he'd be waiting patiently for you. He would take 20 minutes from Mawshubuit Nongrim village to Madanrting Police Station (6 kms), plus another 30 minutes to cover the 16 kms to Sohrynkham village to park beside 'Sharawn Tea Garden' on the National Highway. If you're feeling hungry by now, there are plenty of fresh, organic fruits on the roadside a little ahead towards Shillong.
If you want the easy way out, you may drive up to Sharawn Tea Garden on the Shillong-Jowai road, tell the driver to meet you at Mawshubuit Nongrim village and take the left-hand side road going down to the iron suspension bridge. Once you hit the bridge, you merely have to climb for about 20 minutes to take your vehicle back into town. This may take you barely an hour.
Sohra - Heart of Stone
It is total virgin territory, pristine, untouched by the smell of mortality, pure and unspoilt. The valley explodes in your face as you take the last bend on the 5 kms long stretch that leads from the junction of Laitrynew village, a mere 47 kms from Shillong on the Shillong-Cherrapunjee road. The entire journey takes about an hour and 45 minutes. The ride is worth it as the view that awaits you beggars description, so rich and verdant is the scenery, with the rolling hills behind it, tumbling down into the plains of Bangladesh.
Comfortably flat in a region known for its hilly terrain, Laitmawsiang village is ideal for the kind of festival envisioned by the local MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Dr. P.W. Khonjee. A doctor, specialising in Medicine, he must have studied the entire topography clinically, before emptying his pockets to develop his dream and his desire. For the past seven months, he and his motley group of friends and followers have worked tirelessly to give shape to the vision of the gentle doctor. The result is there for all to see now.
The entire area has been cleared of shrubs, weeds and jungle. Eco-friendly bamboo bridges span rivulets and streams. Cement-less steps made of large, flat boulders have been placed strategically for a smoother trek. At other places, large slabs of stones have been cleaned and one of them, shaped like a heart, yields the sweetest water imaginable. This is Mawdohnud or ‘Heart Stone’. Village belles draw water in copious amount from this natural well for the workers, for the food and for washing, but the level of the water does not lessen one iota. You look around and see a small waterfall nearby but the water of that floats elsewhere. This is but only one of the mysteries of this enchanted place.
We are led past this ‘Heart of Stone’ towards the sturdy ‘jyrmi’ bridges. You have a choice – you can take the flat one to get you across or the arched one for a bit of an adventure. At one place, you see an inviting shower that passes through a layer of rock for your bath. At another place, you are told of various caves that criss-cross underneath. Your guide disallows you to burrow across, telling you that the height of the caves does not allow you to walk upright. It’s meant for the ‘khullungs’ (small kids) not for grownups, he admonishes as you watch half a dozen kids disappear from the face of the earth, laughing and shrieking.
Our guide leads us down the cement-less steps to a grand waterfall, Umluwai (um=water; luwai=type of bees), or what is left of it. He explains that they have diverted the waters of this waterfall to make a small lake for boating during the course of the festival. He reassures us that on the opening day, they will restore the original course of this waterfall so that the tourists may enjoy both the lake as well as the waterfall. Smart fellows, these! We make the best of a bad bargain. We take photographs from behind the waterfall, the overhead rocks forming a natural eave. This is the first time in our lives that we have shot a waterfall from the wrong direction!
We rest at the waterfall. It has been quite a trek. This, our guide explains, is phase 1 of the circuit. Phase 2 is till the hill of Bri U Tham from where the plains of Bangladesh can be easily seen and phase 3 is till Synrang Synrai cave. If you start the circuit at 8 am in the morning, you’ll end it at 4 pm, totally exhausted but thrilled beyond expectation at the rich variety that the place has to offer. A rest at the top of Bri U Tham to view the plains of Bangladesh is a must. Besides these, there are plenty of smaller waterfalls, caves and a famed living root bridge.
Meghalaya,The Abode of Clouds & North East Culture
Meghalaya is a small state in north-eastern India. The word "Meghalaya" literally means "The Abode of Clouds" in Sanskrit and other Indic languages. Meghalaya is a hilly strip in the eastern part of the country about 300 km long (east-west) and 100 km wide, with a total area of about 8,700 sq mi (22,720 km²). The population numbered 2,175,000 in 2000. The state is bounded on the north by Assam and by Bangladesh on the south. The capital is Shillong also known as the Scotland of the East, which has a population of 260,000.
Tribal people make up the majority of Meghalaya's population. The Khasis are the largest group, followed by the Garos. These were among those known to the British as "hill tribes". Other groups include the Jaintias, the Koch and the Hajong, Dimasa, Hmar, Kuki, Lakhar, Mikir, Rabha and the Nepali.
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. 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.
The main tribes in Meghalaya are the Jaintias, the Khasis and the Garos. One of the unique features of the State is that a majority of the tribal population in Meghalaya follows a matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. The Khasi and Jaintia tribesmen follow the traditional matrilineal norm, wherein the "Kha Khadduh" (or the youngest daughter) inherits all the property and acts as the caretaker of aged parents and any unmarried siblings. However, the male line, particularly the mother’s brother, may indirectly control the ancestral property since he may be involved in important decisions relating to property including its sale and disposal. The tribal people of Meghalaya are therefore a part of what may be the world's largest surviving matrilineal culture. According to India's National Family Health Survey, Meghalaya is the state where parents have shown the least interest to have a male child—73% less than the national average. ( Some info with courtesy Wikipedia)
Please see videos of Khasi Culture , Flavours of North East ( songs & dances) and Cherrapunjee ( The Wettest Place on Earth). I have tried my best to bring it from Meghalaya.
"Self proclaimed rock music capital of India"
Many international and Indian rock groups visit Shillong every year. Shillong itself has produced a many legends in rock music which are greatly recognized all over India. Some of the International rock groups that have visited Shillong in the past are:
Petra (a Gospel Rock band)
Michael Learns To Rock
Lou Majaw, the Bob Dylan of Shillong. Lou and Eddie Rynjah had started celebrating Bob Dylan's birthday in Shillong on May 24, 1972. It has become an annual event and gets extensive coverage on national and international TV Channels.
"Cherrapunjee The Wettest Place on Earth!"
Cherrapunji pronunciation (also spelled as Cherrapunjee), is a town in East Khasi Hills district in the Indian state of Meghalaya. It is credited as being the wettest place on Earth. However, nearby Mawsynram has more rainfall nowadays.
It is the traditional capital of a hima (Khasi tribal chieftainship constituting a petty state) known as Sohra or Churra.
The original name for this town was Sohra, pronounced as "Churra" by the British before morphing into the present one. Despite perennial rain, Cherrapunji faces an acute water shortage and the inhabitants often have to trek for miles to obtain potable water. Irrigation is also hampered due to excessive rain washing away the topsoil as a result of human encroachment into the forests. Now the Meghalaya State government has decided to rename Cherrapunjee to its local name "Sohra". There is a monument to David Scott (British Administrator in NE India, 1802-31) in Cherrapunji cemetery.
Cherrapunjee receives rains from the Bay of Bengal arm of the Indian Summer Monsoon. The monsoon clouds fly unhindered over the plains of Bangladesh for about 400 km. Thereafter, they hit Khasi hills which abruptly erupt out of the plains to reach a height of about 1370 m above MSL within a short distance of 2 to 5 km. The orography of the hills with many deep valleys channels the low flying (150-300 m) moisture laden clouds from a wide area to converge over Cherrapunjee which falls in the middle of the path of this stream. The winds push the rain clouds through these gorges and up the steep slopes. The rapid ascendance of the clouds into the upper atmosphere hastens the cooling and helps vapours to condense. Most of Cherrapunjee’s rain is the consequence of air being lifted as a large body of water vapour. Extremely large amount of rainfall at Cherrapunjee is perhaps the most well known feature of orographic rain in northeast India.