Hidden away in the hills of eastern lower Himalayas, Meghalaya is a place between the heaven and earth – a place where the cloud dwells. For no state in India is as blessed as Meghalaya with rains, virgin forests, cascading waterfalls, meandering rivers and wonderful and friendly people. The Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills surround the plateau-like region.
Meghalaya literally means the abode of clouds and true to its name, the state claims to have the wettest place on the planet. Meghalaya is the home to the ancient tribes that live in perfect communion with nature.
Why visit Meghalaya
Meghalaya is mainly known for its rainfall and rock music of Shillong. But the state is much more than that. Swiftly flowing streams and crystal clear rivers meandering through the hilly tracts and the innumerable cascading waterfalls and placid lakes are indeed a sight to behold.
The state has the most beautiful waterfalls, clear blue pools, living root bridges, natural caves and quaint villages that simply look like picture postcards.
Call of the Wild:
A large portion of the state is covered with moist deciduous and evergreen forests that are rich in wildlife and biodiversity. Due to excessive rainfall in the region, there is a large variety of flora and fauna in the region. The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve and the Balpakram Wildlife sanctuary are the biodiversity hotspot of the region and the home to hoolock gibbons. Meghalaya also has small pockets of ancient forests that are known as sacred groves. These forests are preserved by the community for hundreds of years due to religious and cultural beliefs. The Mawphlang Sacred Grove is one such forest that is considered sacred by the Khasi communities. Apart from the rich variety of wildlife and bird population, Meghalaya is also the proud habitat of almost a quarter of the butterfly species.
Heritage & Culture:
The state is the home to three indigenous tribes – the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia, each having their own distinct culture and traditions. The Khasis occupy the Khasi hills of central Meghalaya, the Garos occupy the western Garo Hills while the Jaintias occupy the Jaintia hills of eastern part of the state. The common trait binding all three communities is its matrilineal system in which the family lineage is taken from the mother’s side.
The Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes had their own kingdom until they came under the British administration in the 19th century. The tribes of Meghalaya are mostly nature worshippers. They followed animist rituals and customs until Welsh Christian missionaries landed in Meghalaya and many of the residents converted to Christianity. The Khasi and Jaintia tribes are said to be the descendants of the Seven Families or Ri Hynniewtrep from Southeast Asia mainly Cambodia and Laos. The Garo tribes, on the other hand, are of Tibetan origin.
Although the predominant religion of the state is Christianity, the tribes still retain their old traditions and customs thus keeping their heritage alive. A sizeable minority population still follows the ancient animist traditions.
The tribes are quite fond of songs and dance and this is reflected in their traditional festivals. The Khasi and Jaintia tribes praise the nature, land, waterfalls, hills and rivers in their songs. The songs of the Garos are mainly folk-based dedicated to agriculture, marriage and festivals.
The people here live in perfect harmony with nature. They have preserved the ancient forests and root bridges in the same way as their ancient traditions and customs. The cleanest village of Asia, Mawlynnong is also here. The state has a number of waterfalls, each unique in its own way. For the adventure junkies, Meghalaya offers caving as a wonderful option. Meghalaya thus delights all its visitors with surprises galore and has plenty of secrets for the travellers who choose to tread on the off beaten path.
Festivals of Meghalaya:
Nongkrem is one of the most important festivals of the Khasi community. It is a five-day festival celebrated as a thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. The festival is held every year at Smit village, 15 km from Shillong. The festival is celebrated with traditional songs and dance. On the fourth day of the festival, dance is performed by men and women decked in the most exquisite traditional attires.
Wangala Festival is a Garo Festival celebrated as an act of thanksgiving to the sun god of fertility. It is a post-harvest festival that marks the end of the agricultural year. This is the most important festival of the Garo Hills. The men and women dance to the beat of drums blowing off buffalo horn trumpets and bamboo flutes. The main attraction of this festival is the Wangala dance where 300 dancers dance to the beat of 100 drums together.
This is one of the most joyous festivals of the state and is celebrated during the month of July at Jowai at the Jaintia hills. The word literally means ‘driving away of evil (plague) by wooden sticks’. In this festival, the women folks do not participate in dancing, but they play an important role by offering sacrificial food to the spirits of their ancestors.
Climate of Meghalaya:
It is one of the wettest places on the earth, with the rains falling mostly during June to September. And during this period, the beauty of the state is simply breathtaking. With the waterfalls at their best, monsoons are magical here. The weather during the winter season is dry. The mornings are sunny making it perfect for outdoor activities, while the winters can be cold. The summer season is hot and humid here.
Discover more about Meghalaya:
- Hundred Drums Wangala Festival of the Garos in Tura, Meghalaya
- David Scott Trail – Trekking in Meghalaya
- Tura, Garo Hills , Meghalaya
- Mawlyngbna, a destination for adventure enthusiast in Meghalaya
- Umden, Meghalaya – an offbeat village destination
- Nongkhnum Island – largest river island of Meghalaya
- Kongthong, the whistling village of Meghalaya
- Mawphanlur, an offbeat destination in Meghalaya
- Selling dreams at Mawlyngot, Meghalaya
- Shnongpdeng, Meghalaya – Finding serenity at the waters of Umngot
- Waterfalls not to be missed when you are in Meghalaya
- 12 Amazing Reasons why you need to visit Shillong