Meghalaya – A Greenscape from North East India

“If you have seen the movie, ‘The Cave’, and awaiting one such consequence, leaving the cave species off-course, then the spied hills of ladened Meghalaya will quench the acme of your lust. As soon as you land in this ghastly realm there is a doubt if you can find a way back to your cozy hood. Meghalaya, The Land of Changing Hues, The Pits of Dour Determinations, The Woods of Intense Emotions, The Plunge of Raging Falls and The Crests of Mystic Clouds, is a daring spelunker’s dream den, an explorer’s veiled brisance, a frogman’s enlivening spunky depth and a trekker’s trailing track top. And for the spelunker, he is surely going to settle down for a lifetime in the woods exploring more than 780 caves and unexplored networks of mystic tunnels. And if you are the venturesome type, then monsoon dial will live up to your passionate goal.

Meghalaya at a glance
“I lost my way back to my amass ‘hoods, here am shrouded inside the calico maze, a strange voice whispered down the aisle, that sounded like my own when I was throbbing for a spark of daylight.”
Along the craggy terrain you will find a strange and unique culture among the inhabitants where men and women have equal rights. It is the only state in the entire North-East which is matrilineal with offspring taking the identity solely from the mother. Besides, the people of Meghalaya are cheerful, sociable and hardworking and they are the people who live their lives to the rhythm of nature and the beat of tribal drums. Furthermore, they are modern and trendy keenly following the latest in fashion. The term Art and Culture to the people of Meghalaya embraces a wide variety of activities from traditional to the modern and contemporary arts and crafts, from the ancient and legendary beliefs to the modern beliefs and practices. The Khasi Dance, Garo Dance and Jaintia Dance are far-famed cultural emblem bestowing in the society.

“Art, music, and dance are their pride;, they live their lives to the beat of kinship divine; they hold a harmony in the spirit of morality; religion, culture and vanity is their sole identity.”
Tucked in between Assam in India and Bangladesh, Meghalaya’s eternal natural beauty is most conducive for extended holidays with a host of activities like spelunking, diving, trekking, angling and different kind of water sports. Just come out of your cozy bed and meet the wilderness, match with the changing hues, dig in to the unexplored caves and blend with the tribal culture.

“Explore the unexplored, Quest for the unknown, Seek for the profundity and hold yourself to the ethnicity.”

Shillong – The gateway

“They rove within deepest of my dreams, they rove like they are dominating the forest, they rove along the melody of the chattering birds, they rove by their own noesis. They plunge splashing down the ridge to the whirlpool, they plunge along the mountain avens, they plunge along the glistering rays of the sun, they plunge blending with the golden beams greeting the curving hues.” The divine beauty indued with waterfalls along the mountain avens, the flashing brooks, the pine groves and varied orchards and mountain azalea resonated and grooved with the idyllic folk ballad and dance and tempted with a bracing climate throughout the year, Shillong, the capital city, is reverentially dubbed as ‘Scotland of India”. Adhered in the Khasi Hills of Shillong plateau, Shillong is graced with marvelous scenic beauty that tempts tourists throughout the year. In and around Shillong there are numerous waterfalls: Bishop Falls, Elephant Falls, Spread Eagle Falls, Sweet Falls, Crinoline Falls and Beadon Falls are the best known.

Barapani – Nature playing with myth

Holding a strange myth, Barapani or Umiam Lake is one of the most picturesque spots of Meghalaya forming the perfect landscape with ethereal mountains for an exotic tour. The flossy clouds, lush versant and the meandering roads along the broad country side draws in tourists from different parts of world.

Sohra – Potpourri of nature

Today I suppose I am in a dream land, where the horizon is graced with an illusory hope and down the slope it is adorned with emerald tors. Look aweigh the ambit the mackerel sky, I bid to draggle down the fenland vibes.’ Sohra, formerly Cherrapunji, at an altitude of 1200m, is bedded with lush and very diverse vegetation, containing numerous endemic species of plants, high cliffs and is credited as being the second wettest place on the Earth. Nohkalikai Falls, near Sohra, the tallest plunge waterfall in India and the fourth largest waterfall in the world, forming below an unusual green color plunge pool, beholds a breathtaking vista tempting large number of tourists worldwide. Mowsmai Lighted Cave, hidden behind the green drape, to the dark and dank interior of the hill, is one of the most stunning caves with natural lime stone in the Indian sub-continent that attracts spelunkers from Europe and other continents. With a mysterious myth and bruiting legend attached to Dain Thlen Waterfalls, it holds a special attraction for tourists.

Laitkynsew – Off the ramp
A solitary hamlet, best known for its living root bridges, Laitkynsew is an enchanting spot that offers a rural aroma along with panoramic view of Khasi Hills and Nohkalikai Falls. ‘Jingkieng Deingjri’, the Umnnoi living root bridge, 53 m long and over 100 years old, is also a major attraction.

Mawphlang – The nature’s own museum

A blissful hamlet, Mawphlang is a renowned grove forest preserved by traditional religious sanction since the ancient days and is a haven for eco lovers. The sacred forest shares space with epiphytic growths of aroids, pipers, fern-allies and orchids.

The Dark World Beneath … Take ONE, the caves of Khasi Hills
Mawsmai Cave – With an intricate network of tunnels, Mawsmai cave, having its entrance from Mawsmai Village en route the dense forest, is the only lighted cave. This is one of the show caves, also called tourist caves. Staircases can also be found inside as these were used while exploring the tunnels.

Krem Mawmluh – The cave is situated approximately half a kilometer west of Sohra adjacent to a small hamlet of Mawmluh. The entrance of this cave is easily found by following the river that flows behind the cement works of the Mamluh Cherra Cements Limited. This cave interestingly has a five river passage. With a length of 4503m it is the fourth longest in the Indian sub continent.

Krem Phyllut – With a large section of fossil passage, two stream ways and three entrances this cave with a length of 1003m is yet another thrilling destination for spelunkers.

Krem Soh Shympi (Mawlong) – With a large pothole entrance this cave serves a mystic and interesting adventure.

Krem Dam – With a length of 1297m, Krem Dam is the largest sandstone cave in the Indian sub-continent.

Krem Mawsynram – It is located at a distance of 58km from Shillong en route a small hamlet Mawsynram. The entrance chamber is 50m across and 4m high. Krem Mawsynram has become a sacred cave because of a large stalactite at the entrance over a female stalagmite which gives the impression of a Shiva Lingam.

Nartiang En route Khasi Hills to Jaintai Hills…

Not a single stone, I believe, is just a souvenir of victory, these are gems, a testimonial, evincing the gore reign of tribal dynasts.” Roving down east to west of Khasi and jaintai Hills one will come across legion of monoliths those commemorates the victory of the Jaintai Kings. Nartiang, a small village, 63 km from Shillong, holds the biggest collection of monoliths. Amidst several such monoliths, the Menhir erected by U Mar Phalyngki, is the tallest, commemorating his victory in battle. The monoliths found in Nartiang date back to the 15th Century. The Durga Temple, the Hindu heritage of the Jainta Kingdom, is one of the eminent pilgrimage centre in Nartiang and for the Hindus in Meghalaya. En route to Nartiang is the legendary manmade lake, Thadlaskein Lake, which is an enchanting stopover for tourists.

Jowai – The land of Pnar Tribe
Jowai is one of the eminent commercial hubs of the entire district. The exuberant hill town, surrounded by striking and natural wonders, blessed by Myntdu river, consists of many tribes and settlements that depict the cultural heritage of the town. Behdeimkhlam is a popular festival when you can savor the local cuisine. ‘Syntu Ksiar’, a historical meadow which holds a monument of Kiang Nangbah, a fearless fighter of the hill people, is a must visit spot for tourists. The Jowai Presbyterian Church, the oldest church in Jainta Hills, is one of the few colonial structures that still stand. The Lalong Park, an ecological park, is yet another enchanting spot in Jowai. En route to Jowai, Tyrchi Falls is a tantalizing spot.

The Dark World Beneath … Take TWO, the caves of Jaintia Hills

Krem Liat Prah – Having some mysterious tunnel networks, Krem Liat Prah with an approximate length of 31km is the longest natural cave in India. The Aircraft Hangar, the enormous trunk passage, is the dominant feature of Krem Liat prah.

Krem Um-Lawan – With a length of 6381m, Krem Um-Lawan is one of the longest caves in Jaintia Hills and is less explored.
Krem Kotsati – This cave has 8 entrances with the main entrance through a deep pool. Portions of the beautiful river passage have to be traversed by swimming or by using inflatable rubber boats. Hence Krem Kotsai offers a thrilling adventure.
Krem Umshangktat – The entrance passage of 350 meters offers a comfortable stroll on moist sand. The last stretch requires a mild climb across fallen limestone blocks and debris to reach the collapse doline of the upper entrance.
Synrang-Pamiang – One of the colorful caves in the world and probably the world’s longest single cave passage, the 7.63km long meandering stream way, Synrang-Pamiang is India’s third longest cave and the 500m boulder strewn passage is the salient feature of this cave.
Krem Umkesh – An esoteric mystic maze, Krem Umkesh is located behind a sawmill to the south of the Lumshnong Petrol Station.
Krem Shreih – Currently India’s 5th longest cave with the deepest direct shaft in India, Krem Shrieh thrills with a maze of high fossil passages and marvelous key-hole passages coated with orange mud. It has just one entrance with a massive vertical shaft of 97m deep descending to a fine stream way that connects the maze.
Other caves in the Jaintia Hills region are Krem Lubon, Krem Chympe, Krem Mawshun, Krem Jogindra, Krem Umthloo and Krem Lawe.
“Something that haunts me , why nature is so wild at times. She has given a vast terrain with so many resources… And suddenly I realize… Ferocious, Man Eaters yet brilliant, Their wilderness is the bestowed testament to the nature’s regime.”

Tura – orange of the spirits
An important commercial and cultural hub in the West Garo Hills district, Tura has a large number of interesting and unexplored areas criss-crossed by a galaxy of rivulets namely Someswari, Jinjiram, Kalu, Didak, Bogai, Rongai and Nitai coursing down the hilly azalea originating doling from Nokrek mountains, Upot Lake, Tura Peak, Anogre Village and Arbela Peak. The Nokrek Peak, the highest point in Tura, Nengminjok peak and Chitmang Peak cedes virtual destinations for trekkers. There are many waterfalls namely Rongbangdre, Pelgadare and Gandrak. The significance of unique culture and harmony among the people can be noted from their traditional Garo Dance, celebration during Christmas and Durga Puja. The Nokrek National Park, is about 45km from Tura and a home to some wide-ranging wild species. The park is also home to a many rare species of citrus-indica which is endemic to this place and referred by the locals as memang narang (‘orange of the spirits’). Pegla Falls, 7km from Tura has increasingly became a hot spot for anglers. A typical traditional Garo bamboo bridge constructed over Ganol River is another added attraction.

Baghmara – Wild ‘o’ tweets
Blessed by River Simsang and dubbed by the Bengali citizens after the name of its founder Pa Balman A Sangma, renowned as Bong, Baghmara, otherwise a significant commercial town of South Garo Hills, is a ecological research center. Baghmara National Park via the Bhagmara Reserve Forest is densely inhabited by langurs, birds of different species and elephants. The Balpakram National Park is also a thrilling visit for spotting birds like common hornbill and kingfisher, and creepy reptiles like King Cobra, Krait and Viber, rowdy animals like tigers, bisons, leopards, sambar deer and black bear. Siju Bird Sanctuary, home to rare birds, on the other side of Simsang River is also worth visiting. Siberian Ducks, Grey Hornbill and Peacock Pheasant are spotted amidst the wildlife. The Tetengkol Balwakol, the second longest cave of the country, is yet another spine-tingling and gainsaying destination nearby along with two other mystic caves.

The Dark World Beneath … Take THREE, the caves of Garo Hills

Siju-Dobkhakol – It is one of the longest caves in the Indian sub-continent with magnificent limestone rock formation inside. It is easily accessible from Tura.

Teteng-Balwakol – The Cave of Dwarfs with inverted feet, Teteng-Balwakol, with a small and insignificant entrance of 1m diameter reveals a large cave of 5334m long and is India’s 2nd longest cave.

Dobhakol Chibe Nala – A hidden cave behind a large rock, Dobhakol Chibe Nala, on the river Chibe Nala is yet
another jaw-breaking venture for the spelunkers.

By- Swairik Das

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