When we think hill stations of India, we tend to think of Panchgini and Mahabhleshwar if we’re in the West of India, Ooty and Kodai if were in the South, Manali, Shimla and Dalhousie if we’re talking about north India, and perhaps Darjeeling in the East. But the fact is that Shillong, Meghalaya is a lesser known jewel that is still off the itinerary of most hill station bound tourist.
The North Eastern hills are unlike the steep, forbidding crags of the Himalayas; this is a gently undulating topography. Meghalaya, with its rolling, verdant hills, beautiful winding roads running through quaint villages, numerous waterfalls and fascinating indigenous culture has so much to offer! There are multitudes of reasons to visit Shillong; here are 10 good ones to whet your appetite:
We all learnt in school that Cherrapunji receives the most rainfall on earth. Indeed the verdant, gently rolling hills bear testimony to the heavy rainfall. But it was a beautiful day that alternated between gentle sunshine and a light drizzle the day we visited the little town about 50 odd km from Meghalaya’s state capital Shillong.
This is a bridge that the locals have fashioned out of the roots of living trees – the root bridge close to Mawlynnong village spans a stream between two tribal villages. It is approachable via a short walk through one of those villages and down a steepish, rocky path, the living root bridge is truly remarkable and something that is the only one of its kind anywhere.
The Mawphlang forest is a remarkably tranquil place – we hear a few birds and practically no animals in this peaceful and picturesque location. Located right next to the Heritage Khasi Village, which is also well worth the visit. This is another easy drive from Shillong.
Widely considered to be Asia’s cleanest village is Mawlynnong village, this is a picture perfect location. As my 10 year old daughter pointed out shortly before our simple meal of dal chawal in one of the homes there, the place looks more like a resort!
5. The Waterfalls
Waterfalls dot the countryside. You see them everywhere as you drive through the hills of Meghalaya but some of the falls are truly spectacular – Elephant falls, Nohkalikai falls, Crinoline falls and many more – now hiding in the clouds, now peeping out from the mist.
It is a remarkable sight – the hills of Meghalaya abruptly give way to the plains that are Bangladesh. It’s like a natural demarcation line which transmuted into a geographical one.
When traveling though Shillong’s neighbouring areas, you’re frequently driving through the clouds – the now foggy, now clear, now sunny scenery is almost mercurial in its every changing beauty.
8. Shillong Peak
This is a panoramic view that you get from Shillong peak – a majestic height that overlooks Shillong town with wonderful views from lookout points. Oh! and there is the Whistler: he whistles various film ditties such as yeh sham mastani as he collects bathroom money from visitors!
Mawjymbuin Cave – another short drive from Shillong is quite a natural wonder, but not for the faint of heart. It involves much wading, with cave water dripping over you, and quite a bit of crawling through narrow openings. very interesting, but let’s face it – not terribly pretty.
The state of Meghalaya is overwhelmingly Christian – the churches that dot the countryside and the quaint cemeteries that are uniquely positioned on small hillocks bear ample testimony to the fact that 70% of the state’s population is Christian. However the state has a very distinctive culture and some fascinating tribal customs. For instance there are various rock structures or dolmens to be seen all over – these are meant to mark important historical events or may be representative of tribal leaders.
By – Reena Daruwalla
Images – Author’s Original Pictures, Cherrapunji, Shillong,
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