Original Buddhist Temple-Polo Area
Before India’s Independence, on May 24, 1918, the first Buddhist Temple in the entire North East was established as a temporary structure in the Polo Grounds area of Shillong. It was left to the Late Kripasan Mahastavir, the-then President of Bauddha Dharman Sabha to construct a permanent structure here. With the help of local businessmen, Kamala Kanta and Gnanarranjan Barua, he established the Shillong Branch of the Baudha Dharmankur Sabha on May 16, 1923. Mr. A.J. Lane, the-then Deputy Commissioner of United Khasi & Jaintia Hills District acceded to the request of Late Kripasaran Mahastavir for a plot of land measuring one bigha for construction of the Buddhist Temple. In 1925, the work began but had to be stopped the next year owing to the sudden death of Kripasaran Mahastavir.
Thereafter, in 1936 Jinaratan Mahathera stayed at the incomplete structure of the temple when he decided to complete the unfinished work. The Buddhist Temple was formally inaugurated on May 4, 1947.
Presently, the temple is managed by the Buddhist Association, the branch of Buddha Dharmanakur Sabha, Kolkata. It also runs an education institution across the road from the Buddhist temple called the ‘Buddha Vidya Niketan High School’.
A steep flight of concrete steps, constructed in 1949 by (Late) Balchand Hariprasad Goenka, lead up to this temple located in Forest Colony, Polo Grounds locality of Shillong. From the Main Gate also, a concrete road slopes uphill but vehicles are not permitted. You leave your car on the road and walk up. At the top, the main temple complex comes into view. To your right is a huge tree with a sign which reads, ‘Shillong Buddhist Association, Estd. 1935)’. Next to this is a double storied structure, a hostel for Buddhist tribal students, established in 1972.
The statues are housed in the main temple complex behind an iron grill. The grill is opened only during prayer time. A covered open area in front of the statues, serve as a place for worshippers to congregate. The main ‘pujari’ is, Shri. Jyotipal Bhikkhu (+919436302118).
First Written: Sept. 30, 2012
- Religious Travel
- Family Travel
Headfirst Waterfall – Ksaid Lwai
Tucked away in a gorge, hidden from view, lies a scintillating waterfall, roughly 20 kms out of Shillong. You see the head first then, as you climb down the concrete steps, the silvery water comes into view, rushing headlong down. It’s over a 100 feet long and almost 30 feet across with a volume of water that is yet to be measured. Suffice it to say that this falls caters to the drinking needs of half a dozen villages in its vicinity.
To reach this falls, you take National Highway 44 to Jowai from Shillong up to the junction of Smit village (10 kms). From there, take the right fork and head towards Nongkrem village, the headquarters of the Syiem (king) of Khyriem, a distance of 4 kms. From the marketplace of this village, take the left-hand road for another 4 kms till you come to Thangsning village junction. Here again, take the left-hand road for about 100 yards and then the lower road going to the right. A little ahead, you will come to a T-junction. Turn right on this narrow road till you meet up with a football field on your right. The macadamised road ends here, a distance of about a km from the Thangsning village junction. Park your vehicle here as the road ahead is a dirt track.
You will need to walk for about a kilometre from where you parked your vehicle. It’s a gentle gradient downhill till suddenly you’ll see a parking lot and beyond that, a concrete gazebo. In winter time, you may attempt to bring your vehicle up to this place but that is not possible during the monsoon.
There are roughly 50 concrete steps from this parking lot area to the gazebo. From there, the descent is steeper but the hand railings are sturdy and you need to clutch them as you negotiate other 180-odd steps to reach the bottom of the waterfall. As you go down, you can keep glancing at the falls to your right. It gets grander and grander till, when you reach the bottom, the falls reveals itself in all its glory. What a splendid sight it is! How rewarding and how fulfilling! You look around and feel yourself immersed at the bottom of a large well with forbidding hills all around you. Behind you the water meanders on, “down to a sunless sea.” The stillness, the silence, save for the crashing of the water, the peacefulness of the place, hits you. You are enveloped by the mist, the greenery and by nature. You experience bliss.
At the bottom of the steps, there is a concrete sitting area with an iron fencing to prevent any untoward accident. You open your knapsack, uncork your flask and sip your fluid. Take out your camera and click away! Turn round from the waterfall and capture the greenery and the gradient of the surrounding hills.
Not many people visit this waterfall. Either they have no knowledge about it or they consider it too far away. Owing to this, there is plenty of moss along the path and on the steps during the monsoons. So be careful not to slip. Use the handrail at all times. For the adventurous, try to go across the small stream to the other side for that perfect shot of the waterfall. There is a thick water pipe which will aid you in your effort as you clamber across the stones in the stream.
There are three unique areas you can enjoy a day-long picnic in. First is the parking lot area. The second is the space next to the gazebo at the top. Only disadvantage of these two spaces is the complete absence of water. The third one is another open area to your right as you go down the steps. A smaller waterfall which feeds the big one downstream flows nearby. This is the ideal picnic spot. During the winter months, when you are assured of bright sunshine from 6 am till 3 pm, go early and grab this spot – before the others do!
While returning, after you pick up your vehicle, take the left-hand road when you come to the first junction. Return along this road till you again reach the Thangsning Junction. Here, take the right turning for Shillong.
First Written: Sept. 20, 2012
- Family Travel
Mahadev Khola Dham
The oldest Hindu temple in Meghalaya is about 5 kms on the outskirts of Shillong towards Upper Shillong, opposite the 101 Area Canteen. You park your car at the top and walk along a rough road followed by some steps for about 10 minutes to reach the sanctum sanctorum. The Umshyrpi stream flows gently by the side of the temple. On the opposite hill, a steep flight of concrete stairs leads one to the locality of Lawshotun. A video is here.
The temple belongs to Lord Shiva and is called Mahadev Khola Dham. Religious belief has it that the first person to visit this site was a sage called Lakhiya Baba who came here to meditate over 150 years ago. At that time, the entire place was a dense forest. It is said that the Subedar Major of the 2nd. Battalion of 8th. Gurkha Rifles, saw a sage dressed in red with a rudraksh necklace around his neck in a dream. He was ordered to search out the sage and to erect a small place of worship at the site. The Subedar Major, along with his men, carried out an excavation on the rock surface. After digging for a long time, to their utter surprise they found a ‘shivling’ inside a cave.
The present temple is the site of that excavation. Soon, worshippers started to visit the site and a temple was constructed with the permission of the Government. Gradually, people of different Hindu community came forward and constructed other temples to the different gods and goddesses around the main site. To the right of the main cave are the temples of Bajrang Bali, Shiv Parivar, Saraswati Mata, Santoshi Mata, Surya Narayan, Baba Ramdeo Maharaj and Tulsi Mata. On the left are the temples of Gori Shankar Mahadev, Ganesh Durga, Sai Baba, Laxmi Narayan and Ram & Lasksham Parivar.
By the side of the same cave is a small opening that leads to another cave. A small statue of Lord Shiva guards the entrance. It is believed that this leads straight to the Kamakya Temple in Guwahati. Religious lore has it that the incarnation of Lord Shiva went through this cave. A local man also went along. After a while, he saw a pond and apparitions which led him to believe that he was in heaven. He was then ordered to return with the caveat that should he reveal what he had seen to any mortal, he would turn into stone. When he returned to the temple, he narrated his story to the sages present there. He immediately turned into stone. He lies buried adjacent to the temple in an unmarked cave. He was Lakhiya Baba.
On many nights, around midnight, a clear ringing sound of a bell is heard. This resonates and rings very clearly only once. If one is attentive, vibrations of this bell can also be felt. This was corroborated not only by the Pundit’s wife but also by a young man who lives within the temple premises and teaches Physics and Mathematics in the BSF School at Umpling.
Marriages, ‘yagnas’ and other Hindu rituals are observed in the temple premises. The ‘Mahashivratri’ puja is a grand occasion. The timings of this temple are from 5.30 in the morning to 8.00 at night. Presently, the temple is taken care of by the sixth generation of Shri. Sukram Das Mishra, the first Mahant of the temple, Pandit Bhola Mishra (0364-2505411; +919863080551).
- Religious Travel
- Family Travel
Hole Hearted Stone - Mawjingieiet - Tyrsad
On your way to the sulphur spring at Jakrem village in West Khasi Hills, you will come across a small hamlet, by name Tyrsad, barely 39 kms from Shillong. About a kilometre before you reach this village, if you look to your left at the gentle stream below, you will see a white stone shaped exactly like a human heart with a small depression near the top. As there are no signboards, the best way to identify this spot is to look at your kilometre reading carefully before you start your journey. On the 38th km, you should have crossed a bridge. Stop the car, get down and peer at the stream below. . Here’s a video at VirtualTourist.
Local villagers call this ‘Mawjingieiet’ or the stone heart. Its whiteness is ethereal, its placement perfect and the stream that flows past it on towards the plains of Bangladesh, placid. The way down from the metalled road to the stream is easily negotiable but getting closer to the stone is dicey as the stream is knee deep and the bed is rocky as well as slippery. Though only 38 kms away, it takes a good hour to reach the spot. A round journey, combined with a cup of tea and some snacks at the nearby Tyrsad village, should take you about 3 hours. But it is time well spent as the countryside air is decidedly bracing, the scenery bewitching and the outing as total stress buster.
- Arts and Culture
Blue Heaven Falls
The ‘Blue Heaven Falls’ appears to be a closely-guarded secret. Located behind the Crinoline Falls and in the higher reaches of Shillong Peak, past a thickly-wooded forest, this falls can only be reached after an arduous trek. Formed by the Um Risa stream, the local name is Kshaid Suin Bneng (Waterfall Higher Altitude Heaven). Best would be to undertake this trek on a holiday so that plenty of boys would be around to show you the way through the maze of jungle trails. For a good photo, undertake this trek in the early afternoon (say 2 pm) so that the rays of the sun are on the falls as you click. A video is at VirtualTourist.
At Malki point, you head towards ‘Seven Set’ School, past the wooden bridge and climb towards Mission locality, located almost at the summit of the hill. Park your vehicle and head into the woods to your right. The first few hundred yards are easy as you go downhill. Once you leap over a thin sparkling stream, the upward climb begins. As you huff and pant your way up, you will come across a four-way junction. Turn sharp right and continue your trek. After a small clearing, the steep descent begins. You hold on to a twig or the roots of an overgrown tree while the boys of the locality whistle past you.
At the bottom of the hill, you see a stream and the sound of people swimming. The sight that awaits you is worth all the trouble. Ensconced against the hill is a delicate waterfall with almost four branches in the leaner months. Though the height of the waterfall may not be more than 20 feet, its placement is a sight for sore eyes. Rocks have been used to dam the water of this falls so that a shallow swimming pool is formed. Boys of the locality laze around amongst the rocks while some frolic in the pool.
The journey back is equally difficult owing to the steep climb that you must negotiate to reach the clearing. Then onwards, its plain sailing. The total distance covered would not be more than 3 (three) kilometers while the time taken for the to and fro journey would be around 1 (one) hour.
- Hiking and Walking
Viewpoint - 3 religious hills of the Khasis
There is a grand viewpoint almost at the top of Lum Mawlengkreng (Mawlengkreng Hill) in Sadew village at a distance of about 41 kms from Shillong. The trek is somewhat strenuous as the gradient at most places is 50-60 degrees. However, the view from the top is simply breathtaking on a clear day. A video is at VirtualTourist
From Shillong, you drive down to Umsning Police Out Post. Then, instead of proceeding towards Guwahati along NH-44, you take the right hand-side road towards Sohliya village, which nowadays is famous for its strawberries. After driving for about 2 kms past Slalung Tea Processing Unit Plantation at Mawrong village, you come to a junction. The signboard indicating the right fork reads, ‘Strawberry Hills 3 kms.’ That road ends at Rtiang village. You take the left hand-side road which goes to the ‘Eco Adventure Camp’, 5 kms away. After about 2 kms, take the right fork indicated by the signboard, ‘The Farm, Strawberry Hills, Entrance’.
If your vehicle does not have enough clearance and is not a 4x4, park it at Sadew village. Thereafter, proceed to the Eco Adventure Camp on foot. It’s about a kilometer away. If on a vehicle, you have to drive through Umran river as there is no bridge for a vehicle. If on foot, you cross the river by a narrow bamboo bridge and enter the Camp. From there, request for a guide and trek for about an hour uphill for the next 3 kms. On the way up, large rocks and boulders form interesting patterns.
Once you reach the viewpoint, you can stand on a large flat boulder and see the 3 religious hills. The left-most one is U Lum Sohpetbneng. Folklore has it that at this ‘Navel of Earth’, 16 families descended and ascended from Heaven till 9 decided to stay in Heaven while 7 chose to settle on earth. The Khasis believe that they are the descendents of these 7 huts or families (Hynniewtrep). Towards your right in the middle, you will see U Lum Shyllong, the presiding deity of Shillong. At the corner on the right, you will see U Lum Diengiei (Mawmih), the site where mankind repented and cut down the mighty tree which was causing them such untold misery brought about by their own misdeeds.
The rolling hills, the clear blue sky, the distant horizon, the solitude, the utter tranquility, the peacefulness – all more than make up for the arduous trek. It’s contentment at its zenith. Take out your victuals and munch away as you drink in the scenery.
On the way back, you can enjoy the picturesque tea plantation. The play of light and shade amongst the tea bushes make for interesting photos. As you descend further, you may also see strawberry fields. During January-February, they are in full bloom and may rival any tulip field.
The Eco Adventure Camp is located within Hercules Farm. The Camp had 10-odd mountain bikes with 16 gears. During the dry season, competitions are held up to the hill top of Lum Mawlengkreng and back, a distance of 16 kms. Besides this, the camp has 3 good rooms with attached bathrooms. Tents, hammocks, binoculars and telescopes are also available. This is a nature lover’s paradise with the river Umran close enough for you to hear. If you are an ornithologist or interested in observing the night sky or unravelling the mystery of orchids, you will love this spot.
The entire journey from Shillong and back should take you roughly 6 hours.
- Religious Travel
Mother of All Caves - Krem Marai
About 16 kms away from Shillong, on the way to Jowai, further on top of the Army Public School, is an intriguing cave, called 'Krem Marai' (Cave of Marai). Vehicles go up to the base of the hill which is the source of Umiam river. Thereafter, there is a steady climb amidst vegetation, rocks and cultivated land. The hill continues towards, and forms part of, Shillong Peak.
From the base itself you can see a few large boulders, with another large one on top of them, forming a cave-like structure. The climb takes about 20 minutes, one way. A clear view of Shillong awaits you on one side while the rolling lowlands, studded with buildings of the Assam Regimental Centre, may be seen from the other side.
Folklore has it that the descendants of the Syiems (rulers) of the kingdoms of Mylliem (Shillong side) and Khyrim (Nongkrem side) came from this cave. In a period, lost in time, shepherds once saw an exquisitely beautiful maiden there. When they reported the matter to the village headmen of Nongkesh village, their story was met with disbelief. Only one man, U Sati Mylliemngap, believed them and ventured to find out for himself. Going up to the cave, he lured the fair maiden by offering her flowers. He brought her down to the village and named her 'Pah Syntiew' (lured by flowers). The Syiem clan is believed to have sprung from her womb. The locals revere this cave as the fair maiden was supposed to be the only daughter of the reigning deity of the sacred peak of Shyllong, known as U 'Lei Shyllong.
- Hiking and Walking
- Religious Travel
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.
- Hiking and Walking
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.
- Mountain Climbing
- Religious Travel
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.
- Hiking and Walking
- Religious Travel
Death Falls, Nongpyiur village
This fascinating falls is located about 4 kms from the main road that leads to Elephant Falls, Upper Shillong. Shillong city to the junction would be about 6 kms. The river from Shillong Peak first forms the Elephant Falls, then slowly flows to Nongpyiur village to form the Death Falls. It then meanders to form the astonishingly high Whirphanang Falls.
The road from the junction of the main road to the Satellite Earth Station at Nongpyiur is fairly good. You park your vehicle there and then take the left hand-side path before the RCC bridge. You walk along the banks of a sparkling stream through a slushy path and dense vegetation behind the Satellite Earth Station for about 10 minutes till you suddenly view a large pond and the beautiful waterfall just ahead. There are plenty of large rocks to stand upon and admire nature's work while clicking away. As this falls is relatively unknown, you can enjoy its beauty in an uninterrupted manner. Soak in the tranquillity, the lush surroundings, the various shades of green and be one with nature. Unpack your food and drinks and thank your lucky stars for such a serene spot on earth.
Locals say that the waterfall is rather long with a zig-zag course. However, the dense vegetation upstream obscures the view. You can catch a glimpse of the beginning of the waterfall though. The entire journey from Shillong to this spot should take you about 40 minutes. If you think you need a guide, talk to the security staff of Elephant Falls. For a small fee, they'll guide you.
- Hiking and Walking
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.
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
- Mountain Climbing
Rabindranath Tagore's Brookside Bungalow
The Brookside Bungalow in Rilbong, Shillong was made famous by the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. He stayed here for about a month during 1919. His highest tribute to Shillong is contained in the novel, ‘Shesher Kavita’. Almost 13 chapters of that novel have Shillong as the backdrop. The poet laureate had visited Shillong thrice.
Brookside is a large country house in the Rilbong locality of Shillong by the side of Umshyrpi stream. The bungalow earlier belonged to the-then Commissioner of Chittagong District. The large compound is dotted with eucalyptus and other trees that provide plenty of shade. The entire road from the junction of the Harrison bridge till beyond the bungalow is long, windy, solitary and peaceful. These, coupled with the rolling clouds, soughing pine tress, the tremulous stream, must have moved the poet to pen a number of his immortal works. The room, the bedstead and other furnishings used by Tagore, have been retained by the owners of the bungalow for posterity. Unfortunately, this landmark bungalow is now in a state of repair. It is advisable to check if it is open before you visit it.
Another structure, Sidhli House, on Upland Road, Laitumkhrah in Shillong, which was the abode of Nobel laureate during his last visit to Shillong in May-June 1927, where he had penned two of his most important works, has been demolished. That, at a time when the country is celebrating his 150th birth anniversary. A plaque to the left of the main gate used to greet the visitor. It read, "Here lived Rabindranath Tagore in May and June, 1927. His famous novel 'Yogayug' and poems 'Susamay' and 'Debdaru' were written here.” According to the records, the house originally belonged to an Italian, Louis Joseph Dalingrad. Later, the house was bought by the royal family of Sidhli hailing from Goalpara district of Assam. The queen of Sidhli, Rani Manjula Devi, wife of Raja Ajit Narayan, stayed in this house, till her death in the 1980’s.
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A Snatch of Paradise
One of the most tranquil, unspoilt, fascinating and hardly-touted waterfall is located barely 15 kms from Shillong. To visit that spot, sit calmly, soak in nature and gaze at the frothy, milky-white cascade, is to experience pure paradise.
On the Shillong-Jowai National Highway, after about 15 kms from Shillong, there is a place called Mawlangad. To the right is a road which leads to Pepbah village (3 kms). From the village, the Rangthem or Rengthiam waterfall is barely a kilometer off. It is formed by the Umngot river, the source of which is Urmasi u Joh in Smit village. You'll have to walk for roughly 10 minutes before selecting a suitable spot for rumination.
A to and fro journey from Shillong should not take you more than 2 hours. Unless, of course, you are totally enthralled.
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.
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