MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST

Tripoto
22nd Dec 2018

Traditional Khasi Prayer Hall

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST by Akshay Rajagopalan

While I have had the pleasure of growing up in various places in the North East as an Army child, I recently had the opportunity to revisit Meghalya as an adult with some friends who are native to the state. This gave me an opportunity to do a deep dive into the history, geography & culture of this absolutely amazing state.

Geologically, the timeline we currently live in is known as the Meghalyan age. The state rests on the border of Bangaladesh, but at a substantial elevation, known as the Shillong Plateau.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 1/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Nokhalikai Falls
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 2/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Dainthlen Falls

Given its tropical location & some of the heaviest rainfall in the world, the state is home to dense forests ranging from deciduous Pine forests in the vicinity of the capital, Shillong to dense tropic vegetation as you near the Bangladesh border. Beautiful mountain ranges & valleys & some of the cleanest, clearest rivers in the world, further set the stage.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 3/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
English Pines leading to King's residence in Smit
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 4/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Australian Pines in Shillong
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 5/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 6/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Laitlum Canyons
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 7/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 8/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
King's residence Smit
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 9/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
King's residence Smit

Between October to March, some of these rivers run so clear, that you can see clean to the bed & it gives the illusion that the boats are floating on air instead of water.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 10/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Suspension Bridge - Shnongpdeng
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 11/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
View of clear waters from Suspension bridge
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 12/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 13/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 14/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 15/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Krang Suri Falls
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 16/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan

Due to being part of the ocean bed before the Indian Sub-Continent’s merger with Asia, the terrain is mostly made of limestone, and coupled with heavy rains, have given rise to some of the longest cave networks in the “World!” One can also see various ancient sea fossils embedded to the surfaces of these caves as you explore them.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 17/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Newly Opened Cave Network
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 18/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Guess which way we took?
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 19/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Ancient Sea Fossils embedded in Cave Walls

The state is populated by three main tribes, the Khasis, Jaintias & Garos, and the various districts of the state get their names from these tribes. Unlike the norm in most of the world, these tribes are “Matrilineal”, meaning the family name & property is passed down from mother to daughter. You can see women in control of almost all aspects of life in this region. These tribes live in great harmony with nature, as is evidenced by the many Sacred Groves (Similar to the Devara Kadus found in Malnad), where one is not allowed to even pluck a leaf. You can hence get the opportunity to visit actual, untouched, virgin forests, the magic of which, hits you from the moment you step inside.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 20/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Mawphlang Sacred Grove
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 21/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Mawphlang Sacred Grove
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 22/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Mawphlang Sacred Grove
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 23/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Mawphlang Sacred Grove
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 24/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Mawphlang Sacred Grove

These tribes have also learned the art of training the roots of living rubber trees, to create living bridges across rivers. These bridges take 100s of years to form, and the famous double decker bridge of Nongriat, accessible by a 3000 step deep ascent into a lush jungle valley, is even a UNESCO heritage site.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 25/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 26/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Steep Descent down to Nongriat
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 27/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
UNESCO Heritage Double Living Root Bridge - Nongriat
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 28/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
River Crossing on way to Nongriat
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 29/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
River Crossing on way to Nongriat
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 30/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 31/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Single Living Root Bridge - Nongriat
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 32/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Underside view of the Weave of the Living Root Bridges
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 33/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan

The typical Khasi house too follows this philosophy, being made mostly of wood, with windows running all around the periphery of the house to let in the sun & breeze. Each house will also have a tiny, beautiful garden, with dozens of flowering plants & orchids, paying tribute to the legendary Khasi Green Thumb.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 34/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Cottage Gardens
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 35/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Cottage Gardens
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 36/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Cottage Gardens
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 37/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Typical Cottage, with windows running all around the house
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 38/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
View of Shillong from the Lumparing neighbourhood

Another embodiment of perhaps both the matrilineal culture & appreciation for nature is the fetish for cleanliness displayed everywhere in accordance to rules of Khasi “Accor” or manners, including, and especially in roadside restaurants. In fact the village of Mawlynnong won the UN award for being the cleanest village, not only in India, but in all of Asia.

The capital city, Shillong, is a beautiful quaint hill station, with many institutions & buildings of the British era. However, rapid development is changing the landscape here as well. It is well connected from the nearest airport of Guwahati, and offers the perfect base camp to explore the rest of the state. Do check out the local cafes, the legendary music scene & the famous archery competition in Shillong during your stay there.

Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 39/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Different colored arrows for different clubs
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 40/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Ready for action
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 41/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
One of most famous Liver Performacnce Venues, located in the iconic Police Bazar
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 42/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan
Graffiti in Shillong
Photo of MEGHALYA – THE JEWEL OF THE NORTH EAST 43/43 by Akshay Rajagopalan

Shillong Graffiti

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