Spread over an area of 22,429sq km, Meghalaya lies sandwiched between the valleys of Assam to the north and the northeast, and the lowlands of Bangladesh to the south. One amongst the seven sisters comprising the northeast, this hill state is a land of great geographical diversity, with rolling hills, verdant valleys, roaring waterfalls, miles of grasslands and pristine forests. Ethnically, Meghalaya is dominated by the indigenous communities of Khasis, Garos and Jaintias, each of which has its own distinct language and way of life. However, the element that binds this multi-cultural society is its deep reverence for nature, as is manifest in the state’s colourful festivals celebrating the power and beauty of nature, and the traditional folklore that often describes nature as an exalted entity. Here are 3 reasons why Meghalaya should be on your bucket list:
The name ‘Meghalaya’ is derived from the Sanskrit words, Megh and Alay, which literally means ‘Abode of Clouds’. the state is spread over a mountainous plateau, with an altitude ranging from 150m to 1,961m. At the heart of the plateau are the Khasi hills, with the highest elevation, followed by the Jaintia hills, which forms the eastern and southeastern part of the state. Lording over the capital city, Shillong Peak is the highest point in Meghalaya, soaring to a height of 1,961m. The Garo hills rise from the Brahmaputra River Valley to a maximum elevation of around 1,500m in the western part, and then merge with the Khasi and Jaintia hills to the east. Overlooking the flood plains of Bangladesh, the southern part of the plateau features a steep cliff face and vertiginous drops to the valleys below. A number of rivers crisscross the vast tableland, notable among which are Umiam, Kynshi, Khri, Umngot, Myntdu and Mawpa rivers in the central and eastern region, and Simsang, Ganol, Daring, Sanda and Bugai in the western part. Largely rain-fed, the rivers create deep gorge, steep valleys and spectacular waterfalls.
Meghalaya records an average rainfall of 12,000mm every year, making it one of the wettest regions in India. In fact, two of the world’s wettest places, Sohra and Mawsynram, are located here. They receive an average annual rainfall of 11,430mm and 17,800mm, respectively. Blessed with a mild climate for most part of the year, the state provides an ideal habitat to a rich variety of flora and fauna. As much as 70 per cent of the land area is forested, with temperate forests blanketing the northern reaches, and lowland tropical forests covering much of the southern parts.
Balance between traditions and modernity
Straddling the line between tradition and modernity is the capital city of Shillong, which attracts visitors with its interesting museums, impressive british-era architecture, stylish cafés and mesmerising natural attractions. beyond this bustling city lie pretty towns and villages, and a diverse landscape of cloud-kissed peaks, lakes, sacred groves and meandering rivers. This splendid mix of natural features and fascinating cultures makes a trip to Meghalaya an incredibly thrilling experience.
Ancient Culture and Resources
A unique feature of the state are the sacred groves: pockets of ancient forests protected and preserved by the ethnic communities for hundreds of years, owing to their traditional beliefs. These biodiversity hotspots harbour a diversity of plant species, including many varieties of epiphytic flora, succulents and shrubs. The wildlife reserves of Meghalaya are home to a large variety of animal and bird species, including leopards, elephants, red pandas, civets, hoolock gibbons, wild buffaloes, as well as hornbills, parakeets and blue jays.
The countryside also offers stunning bucolic scenes of neatly fenced rice, potato, cauliflower and maize fields, framed against green hills. Dense groves of areca nut trees, bay leaf, bamboo, broom grass and banana plants are a common feature along the highways in the southern part of the state. Owing to the boom in tourism over recent years, several villages across the state, notably the hamlets of Mawlyngbna and Mawlynnong, have taken on a host of green-tourism initiatives to preserve the region’s ecosystems.