We would like to have our next day to be cosy and easy. Our destinations were chosen such a way that we would be just chilled out for the day. Unlike the previous days, the journey to Mawphlang was short. As soon as we got the entry tickets for Mawphlang sacred groves, we were advised to hire a guide which was compulsory there. I could see the vast forest patch in front of us opposite to which was the Khasi Heritage Village. We found a guide who was a local person speaking fluent English. He introduced himself and started guiding us towards the sacred groves. Being originated from Kerala, we were never new to the sacred groves. Therefore we had prejudices because of which we decided to have the shortest trek there. Before entering to the sacred groves, the guide was warning us not to take anything from there and not to leave anything behind there. The warning was very strict, still polite. As we entered, we could see the trunks of small and big trees randomly grown up into a forest. If we look up to see the top of the trees, it would be somewhere indistinguishable in the hodgepodge of the foliage. The guide started saying that animal sacrifices were performed in olden days within this 200 years old forest patch spreading across 70 hectares. According to him the sacrifices were performed for their deity locally known as Labasa who inhabits the forest. They believe that Labasa protects their kingdom and punishes anyone who violates nature. He also explained that they always had a King who was elected by the people of their kingdom. The king was just like him and us who dresses ordinarily and lives in a normal house. We came to know that their current King passed away recently and the people of Mawphlang would be electing a new king from the available candidates soon. The candidates could be people who belong to a unique clan. The tales of the guide and the beauty of the sacred groves; we didn't know where to concentrate! He said the tourism activities and preservation related to the sacred groves were completely taken care by their society. He showed us precious trees and plants of the place with a short description on how they were important, sometimes along with the botanical names. We could hold the fallen down Rudraksh from the tree, but should leave at the same place as we continued walking. While walking around the forest, we could listen to the hysteric chirping of autumn crickets. One could see that the fallen trees were not even moved from the place of collapse. They were left to perish by themselves. As we became more interested in this walk, we asked him to extend the trek to the longest. He showed us a group of moss covered rocks in which the preparations of sacrifice were carried out in past days. He also showed us the sacrifice chamber which consisted of dwarf stones arranged in a circular way. A stone plate was placed above the circle which was used as a covering lid for the area of sacrifice. During the ceremony, a leopard was believed to appear which would be an auspicious sign of the divine presence. The sacrificial ceremonies were conducted before any battle as a devotion to Labasa. He mentioned about one such battle in which the victory was for the kingdom of Mawphlang. He also showed the area where the king would be crowned. In addition to the King's seat, there were four more stone seats, dedicated to the four ministers of the kingdom. During the ceremony, only men with moustache and beard were allowed in the forest and women were never allowed. He also showed us a tall pledge stone where the crowned king used to take an oath by placing his hand on it. We stayed near beautiful stream in the forest for a while to feel the ambience.
The experience at Mawphlang would be incomplete without a description of our guide. We don’t remember his name, but will always remember him as a genuine host of his kingdom. He was the one who resolved our several questions on Khasi culture and language where Google was helpless. We also discovered that he was an excellent photographer. While we were capturing the pictures of the wildness, he made a heart frame out of a fallen yellow leaf. He used our mobile camera to capture the photo within the heart frame. He also created a natural frame for us by orienting the camera in such a way that our image was confined within a square shaped root growth of a big tree. He made crowns out of long ferns, separately for Krishnan and me. It was fun walking around the woods wearing those crowns. We didn’t forget to keep them back within the forest before leaving the place. When we neared the exit, he made us pose like jumping. As we did it, there he clicked one of the best photos we have. We didn’t forget to take a selfie with him, which we realised later as blurred. He pointed towards an yellow five petalled inflorescence spread in patches as we walked back to the cab. He said that finding a four petalled flower would be leading to fortune. After his remark, our eyes were searching for the fortune lying in a tiny yellow flower bloomed somewhere in the path. Followed by a mistaken flower by me, it was the guide who finally discovered the actual four petal one. At the nearby tea shop, the guide was busy showing the lucky flower to his acquaintances while talking something in Khasi language. We were wondering about the joyfulness they showed to us. Their happiness didn’t have any limits while they pursue the simplest of lifestyles. As we left Mawphlang, our hearts were still cherishing the blissful smiles and tales of a kingdom.
Though the initial plan was to visit Latylum Canyon followed by Mawphlang, the roads to the canyon were in broken condition so that the tourists could not access the place temporarily. Instead of Latylum Canyon, we decided to visit Air Force Museum and Don Bosco Museum. We had a quick visit to air force museum which showcased things related to the Indian Air Force. The Don Bosco Museum was constructed in seven floors exhibiting the cultural and local artefacts. It was a good visit to know better about the details of population and ethnicity of seven sister states. After finishing with the museums, we asked the driver to leave us in Police Bazaar. We walked along the busy streets of Police Bazaar to find a restaurant. The sky was cloudy threatening us with a heavy rain. While we started having food, it was raining outside. We had to stand under a shelter since the rain was quite heavy for a long time. Post lunch plan for shopping was quite disturbed with the rain since vendors could not display their items uncovered. As the rain weakened, we walked along the path to discover stuffs that we could purchase from Meghalaya. After finishing the shopping, we had the last plate of momos from Shillong when it was already sunset.