Meghalaya Part 1
We were excited after visiting the important places at Guhawati & surrounding areas and fully enthused to move to another north east state to witness the natural beauty and unique cultural heritage. My dad told me; today we will be visiting Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and other areas around the city.
It is said that the tour and travelling never ends in life and that’s true because even after my Guhawati tour ended on 30th October 2014, we woke up at 6:30 am, had our tea and departed for Shillong at 8:20 am from guest house in a Hyundai Verna car. My dad told me that it will take at least 2 ½ to 3 hours though distance is only 84 kilometers. Soon we entered Khanpura area, a district of Meghalaya. At 10 am, we entered ‘Ri Bhoi’ district of Meghalaya; where we saw some hutments, working places, tourism offices, shops, travel agencies, cabs, etc and Shillong is just 30 kilometers away. Then at 10:30 am, we reached a place named as ‘Umroi’ a mountainous area for Shillong where photography is prohibited and there; the water resource body is being named as ‘Barapani’. Then we entered Shillong at 10:35 am and we were almost at the top of the hilly areas. We reached at ‘Nogoi Mangkwar’ place at G.S Road at 10:50 am and after reaching here we got stuck in traffic jam at the entrance to Shillong town and it is informed that on weekdays, there is a lot of traffic. Few minutes later, we entered the main city and we were searching the guest house where we were going to stay as we were not able to get the place. Then after few minutes, with the help of local people, at 12:15 pm, we reached at CPWD guest house. It is at other end of the city. We took rest and at 1:45 p.m. we booked a cab for sight seeing tour at Shillong.
Shillong is the capital and hill station of Meghalaya, also known as a place, "The Abode of Clouds", one of the smallest states in India. It is said that the rolling hills around the town reminded the European settlers of Scotland; hence this place is also known as ‘Scotland of the East’. It is the headquarters of the East Khasi Hills district and is situated at an average altitude of 4,908 feet (1,496 m) above sea level, with the highest point being at Shillong Peak at 6,449 feet (1,966 m). Shillong is the only major uplifted structure in the northern Indian shield. The city lies in the centre of the plateau and is surrounded by hills, three of which are revered in Khasi tradition: Lum Sohpetbneng, Lum Diengiei and Lum Shillong.
The legend says that Shillong was named after a boy called 'Aahlad', who was born to a virgin mother in a village near Bisi. This boy later became a handsome youth and was made by the local a powerful deity as ‘U-Shyllong’; and the place was named after him. Shillong was the capital for composite Assam during the British regime and later till a full – fledged separate State of Meghalaya was formed in January 1972. Bounded on the North and East by Assam and on the South and West by Bangladesh, Meghalaya is spread over an area of 22, 429 square kilometers, and lies between 20.1° N and 26.5° N latitude and 85.49 °E and 92.52 °E longitude. Since becoming the state capital of Meghalaya, it has rapidly developed into a typical modern Indian town, but still retains some its colonial-era charm in certain pockets.
The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the hub of Government administration since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago. The city is well connected to various important locations with excellent road network, retaining its own charm. It is different from other hill stations and presents a natural scenic beauty with waterfalls, brooks, pine grooves and gardens. The place, the people, the flora and fauna and the climate all combine to make Shillong an ideal resort throughout the year.The weather of this place is little chilled as it was proceeding towards the winter time but it has much as sunshine and sunrays also and it has temperate climate. Shillong is also the headquarters of the North Eastern Council (NEC), the Eastern Air Command the Assam Regimental Centre, the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU). The North East Telecom Circle-I has its headquarters at Shillong. Shillong is also the Regional Head Quarters of Power Grid for North Eastern Region. NEIGRIHMS, the first and the only Postgraduate Medical Institute in the North Eastern Region and third in the country has been established in Shillong. Shillong also boasts of having the first Indian Institute of Management (RGIIM), in the North Eastern Region and the 7th in the country. The 12th National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has also been setup in Shillong. The city is so enchanting and it was a beautiful paradise on earth for me.
While travelling towards the first place, we soon entered the Air Force Area in upper Shillong and then at 2:25 pm, we reached at the gate of’ Air Force Station Laitkar Peak’, Shillong to enter the places of tourist place and we also saw ‘Khatre Stadium’. At 2:35 pm, we reached at ‘Shillong View Point’ on Khasi hills.
Shillong Peak or View Point –
The view point is within military area, which is the popular place of tourist interest. (Laitk or peak). Shillong Peak is the highest point in state of Meghalaya which is 1965 meters above sea level which gives scenic view to the visitors. There is a view-point where one can get a breathtaking view of Shillong city. It has a beautiful landscape, lush green meadows and the serene environment attracts large numbers of tourists. Shillong peak is actually one of the highest points of the state and is therefore regarded as a highly famous Shillong’s attraction. In the evening time, the city appears even more beautiful and it looks like a necklace of light. The city view during night is a memorable scene to all. It is also the host to a radar station for Indian Air force and tourists are advised to disclose their valuables including camera, while reaching view-point and strictly restricted to take any snap of radar facilities. It was such a wonderful view, an amazing scene, one can never forget. I took some snaps here with a beautiful scenic background. Here my dad bought a special Shillong hat along with a muffler, as the cold breeze was blowing around. It was really a wonderful time to refresh you.
Then at 2:50 pm we left the place to move towards our next tourist destination. Then we reached at ‘Elephanta Falls’ at 3:15 pm which is said to be one of the mysterious place in Shillong; we bought or tickets and went to see the falls.
Elephanta Falls -
Elephanta Falls is the British name of this place of what the local Khasi people once referred to as ‘Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew’ or "Three Steps Waterfalls"; since the falls actually consisted of three sections in succession. It is said that the British renamed the falls because there used to be a rock resembling an elephant near the left side of the main falls. However, that rock was destroyed in an earthquake back in 1897. Elephant Falls is situated at the outskirts of the main city of Shillong. It is almost 12 kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. The unique part of this place is that it is a two-tier waterfall set in the dingles of the rocks. The beauty of Elephant Falls is an eye catching point as the two falls- the ‘Wir Phang Falls’ and the ‘Wei Iaplam Falls merge’. It solely holds the attraction of the tourists and even of locals that anyone cannot resist. The gigantic stream accumulated just at the pinnacle comes crashing down the terrain and rebounds only to cover a short distance and once again leap into a daunting gorge. The sight of the natural pandemonium is enough to make one miss a heartbeat and leap with joy. While entering the place, amazing sounds along with cold breeze were coming from the falls, which I was able to feel from far away place; so one can well imagine the power, degree of coolness and the temperature of the waterfall. It is said that the waterfalls are mysterious as no one knows the source of water originated. But this place is really unusually calm & quiet and anyone can get relieved from the stressful life & relax. We really enjoyed a lot here and at one place there was a photo shop where visitors can dress themselves in traditional Khasi attires and jewelleries and get their photos clicked. No one wishes to miss such an opportunity, so I also dressed up myself in Khasi style and got my photo clicked. We really have enjoyed natural beauty and refresh ourselves in clean environment. Then at 1545 hours, we departed the Elephanta falls to visit the next tourist destination. At 1605 hours we reached at ‘Ward’s Lake’, a beautiful place at Manpolok road.
Ward’s Lake -
Ward's Lake situated right in the center of the city is pristine with beautiful gardens which are frequented by locals and tourists alike; this place has its own charm. It is a beautiful man made lake, which is named after Sir William Ward, the then Chief Commissioner of Assam. This artificial horse-shoe shaped lake is set amidst lush green garden and is located in the middle of the scenic hill station. The adjoining Botanical garden offers a wide array of orchids and other flora typical of the temperate rainforests which is a nice place to spend the beautiful afternoon to relive from the stress. There is a story behind the Ward’s lake. It is said that a Khasi prisoner who was bored with the penitentiary routine requested the warden for creative release by permitting him to create innovative construction over the Wards Lake. He was permitted to do so and what stands today is a marvelous site of the Wards Lake or Pollok's Lake as the locals also prefer to call it. So, this lake is about 100 years old and is also known as Pollock’s Lake, as named after an engineer during the pre-independence days. The lake is chock-full of fish and swans and it is also a common sight, tourists are feeding fish standing on the wooden bridge. The lake is encircled by a winding walk-way and is inter spread with gently sloping flowerbeds and innovative illumination, edged in by luxuriant greens. This century old picturesque artificial lake, lying beneath the Raj Bhavan is located at the heart of the city and is extremely popular for its garden walks and boating. Visitors can just sprawl on the grass and gaze, or go for a boat ride, or just stand on the bridge and feed the fish. We really enjoyed the gurgling water of fountains embedded in the garden as we rested for sometime and also had some peaceful time in the midst of lush greens, beautiful flowerbeds, sloping walkways. We also saw, swans moving on the lake along with their own members and it was so wonderful, experiencing the natural retreat.
We took some snaps here; I was keen to spend some more time but we left the place at 1630 hours to visit the next place; then at 1640 hours we reached at Shillong Golf Course.
Shillong Golf Course –
The Golf Course is a pride of Shillong. This is one of the largest Golf Courses and also the world's wettest in Asia. It is sometimes also equated a ‘Gleneagles of the East’ in the United States because of its unique beauty and location. It is set in a valley at an altitude of 5200 ft in 1898 initially as a nine hole course by the British civil service officers and later it was converted into a full fledged eighteen hole course by Captain Jackson and C. K. Rhodes in 1924 who successfully preserved the natural beauty of the area while giving it an excellent layout. This course has been charted in a surging valley which is full of thick pine groves and rhododendron trees. The tight fairways are carpeted with an indigenous species of local grass which hardens the soil and makes the course tough to play. The longest hole is sixth hole at a distance of 594 yards, makes it an extremely trying hole and challenging for golfers to play. It is also one of the longest in India. The tight fairways are difficult to negotiate in any case, but the task is made even more trying by the number of ‘out-of-bounds’ streams that criss-cross almost every fairway. Most of the approaches are uphill shots & even the low handicappers opt to play safe. The greens are lightning fast & are invariably surrounded by heavy sand bunkers. The 372 yards, par four, 9th hole is a dog leg, and one of the most picturesque on the course. The tee off is from a pine grove elevated some 200 feet above the fairway. The tiger line is onto a steep ridge and to the left of the row of pine tree which demarcate the common eighth and ninth fairway. The second shot is placed into the elbow of the dog leg which is in a valley, and from where the green is now visible on a hillock ahead. The third stroke has to be lofted to gain height as well as negotiate the tight fairway. It requires a good chip and a lucky putt to get a par on this hole, as the area around the green is uneven, and the green itself extremely fast. The scenic beauty at the Shillong Golf Club is awesome and gives the pleasure of sinking into nature and sports in equal measures. We enjoyed a good time at this place as it was both relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time. We all had a great time together as I have seen a golf course in my life first time and this is really a wonderful sight seeing for all visitors.
Then after visiting the course, we departed for the next place. We went to St. Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians; a church at Laitumkhrah road at 1700 hours.
St. Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians –
The Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians is one of the most beautiful and exquisite churches that is perched on a hill and is located in the Laitumkhrah locality in Shillong. It has high arches and tainted glass windows which add to its grandeur. There is a Grotto Church, which is directly below carved out of the hill. This Cathedral is named after Mary the mother of Jesus Christ. It is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Shillong which covers the Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 strong Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. An Archdiocese is a “diocese" or area under the jurisdiction of an Archbishop. The historical church of divinity and peace was built fifty years ago in the Gothic architectural style and it is a spectacular sight in the midst of sprawling green lawns. The unique feature of the church is that it was built on sand not on rock. As the region is prone to earthquakes, the church absorbs any earthquake related shocks and from any other damage. As situated on the top of an emerald coloured hill, the tall arches of the church and its stained glass installations mesmerize visitors.
This is built by the first Catholic missionaries to these hills, the Salvatorians from Germany (of the Society of the Divine Saviour), it was the first Catholic Cathedral Church in what was then the Mission of Assam. Construction of the new church of Mary Help of Christians began on the same site on 25 October 1936. The Cathedral Church is biplane of worship stands on the very site of the first Church built by the German fathers (Salvatorians from Germany). The earlier 1913 building – the Church of the Divine Saviour – was a wooden structure. It was destroyed in the Good Friday fire of April 10, 1963. Described as modern Gothic, the Church building plan was approved on August 22, 1936 by the then Chairman of the Shillong Municipality, who was also the Deputy Commissioner of former United Khasi & Jaintia Hills District, Mr. Keith Cantlie. The first stone of the new Church was blessed on October 25, 1936 the feast of Christ the King. A unique feature of the Cathedral Church building is that is stands on sand.
There is a grave of the first archbishop of the city near the altar of the church. Apart from all these, the church also has several pieces of artwork depicting various scenes and chapters from Holy Scriptures. Apart from being the pride of the Catholics of the region, the church is a major tourist attraction and even for locals. Here, the special church services are held every Wednesday round the year. For the past few decades, the cathedral church has also become a house where people of other faiths also come to seek the blessings, prayers and divine favours through the meditation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its location and captivating design has made the church a prominent landmark of Shillong. This place was really very peaceful as anyone feels the same at God’s place. As the time was crossing, the light were illuminated through the church and the place was getting brighter and beautiful. I really had a good time at this place as I felt relieved after visiting this place.