Meghalaya: Cupped by the Clouds
From a sea of gentle white clouds, proud hills rise - dappled in every shade of green, with waterfalls spilling down their lengths. Yes, this is Meghalaya - the state known as the “abode of clouds”. Move a little closer and you will notice a whole world captured in the embrace of emerald green forests where small streams twist and turn. You will catch the glimmer of serene lakes, where shades of blue and green seep into each other. Turn your gaze to East Khasi hills of Meghalaya and there lies Shillong – the capital of Meghalaya, which was affectionately referred to as the “Scotland of the East” by the Britishers. If heaven is a place on earth, then that place is Meghalaya.
|Meghalaya: A Quick View of the state|
|Official Language||Khasi, English and Garo|
|Dial Code||Shillong (0364)|
|Population||3.536 Million (as of 2018)|
|Currency||Indian Rupee (INR)|
|Time Zone||UTC+05:30 (IST)|
|Area||22,720 square km|
Highlights of Meghalaya: Come rain or shine
Take a deep breath before you enter the city, because Shillong is breath-taking. Graceful colonial styled homes are spread throughout this gorgeous city, shaded by trees and surrounded by green lawns. The pulse of the city is calm and serene. This is a nature lover’s paradise with tourist hotspots like the beautiful Umiam Lake, the silvery cascade of the Elephant falls, the mirror-like surface of Ward’s lake, Mawjymbuin caves, the steep green fall of the Laitlum canyons and more.
Craft and Culture
The Meghalayan people can be largely split into the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes, and yet there are elements that bind them together. All three tribes believe strongly in music and dance as an important element of life. Weaving and carving are skills that are treasured and revered here. Both the Garo and Khasi communities each boast of skilled weavers who can make Tileng - a cane mat that can last for 20-30 years due to the quality of weaving. The Khasi tribe also specialises in extracting iron ore and crafting domestic tools from them. Smit village, a mere 11 km from Shillong, is home to the famous Nongkrem Festival, which features goat sacrifices and traditional dances by men and women in front of a thatched bamboo “palace” of the local ruler.
If there was ever a land to feel nature’s kiss, then Meghalaya is that land. Meghalaya is a wonderland for wildlife. The state is gifted with species like the red panda, gorillas and elephants, gibbons and more. Crack open this treasure chest of flora, fauna and wildlife by visiting parks like Nokrek National Park, Balpakram National Park (where you’ll find the rare red panda), Siju Bird Sanctuary and more.
Places of Worship
Meghalaya is inhabited by a dominant Christian population. However, people of all faiths worship their gods, side by side. The Cathedrals of Meghalaya are important, not just for religious significance in the community, but also for their wonderful architecture. Wonder at the high arches and stained-glass windows of the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, or marvel at the 700-year-old Dargah of Hazrat Shah Kamal Baba. If temples are what you seek, then look no further than the 500-year-old Nartiang Durga temple.
When it rains, it really pours… or so one would say about Cherrapunji, which is considered to be the wettest place on earth (receiving an annual rainfall of 11,777 mm). The little town also has much to offer any traveller who is starved for a little beauty and wonder. Here is where you will find the fascinating double decker root bridge, crafted from nature’s best materials. You can gaze upon the plains of Bangladesh from Cherrapunji. Absorb the roar and rush of the fourth largest set of waterfalls in India - the Seven Sisters - as they cascade down the cliffs. There’s so much to see, you will wish you planned a longer trip.
Meghalaya’s cuisine is influenced by the three predominant tribal communities who live there. Rice, meat rank at the top of the list. The food is hearty, soothing and flavourful. Try popular dishes like Jadoh (red rice cooked with generous amounts of pork, chicken or fish), Doh Khlieh (a salad made from pork, onions and chillies) Nakhmam Bitchi (a thick fish soup) Pumaloi (steamed rice powder cakes) and more.
Interesting facts about Meghalaya
Location: High Up in the Hills
Meghalaya can be found high in the hills, amongst the dreamy clouds that cover the Northeast. On a more practical note, the state shares its borders with the Bangladeshi divisions of Mymensingh and Sylhet in the South. The western border makes neighbours out of Meghalaya and the Bangladeshi division of Rangpur. And finally, Meghalaya’s north and east borders are shared with one of the 7 sister states of the Northeast – Assam.
Timings: Best Time to Visit
Meghalaya is caressed by the clouds for most of the year, leading to pleasant weather for the most part. Temperatures rarely go beyond 30 degrees Celsius, which makes it the perfect summer retreat. The best time to visit Meghalaya is between October – June, where you can experience the winter wonderland that it is and avoid the scorching summers in other parts of the country. However, since this state receives the highest rainfall in the world, it is advised not to visit during peak monsoon season of May to September. Tourists often choose the beginning and end of the monsoon to experience the lovely drizzle and avoid the deluge of rain seen in peak season.
How to Get to Meghalaya: Path to Perfection
By Road: Meghalaya is well connected to major cities in India, via the roads. You can reach Shillong by taking the NH37 from Guwahati (also known as Assam Trunk Road), followed by the GS road, then toward NH40 until you enter Meghalaya via Nongpoh. You can drive yourself or choose private and government operated buses.
By Rail: The Guwahati railway station is the closest to Shillong. You’ll need to take a taxi from the station to reach Shillong, which is 100 kms away. Luckily, the Guwahati railway station is well connected to many major cities in India.
By Air: If you’re looking to approach Meghalaya from the sky, you’ll need to fly to the Umroi Airport in Barapani – which is 25 to 30 kilometres away from Shillong. This airport has limited connection to most cities. The closest major airport is the Guwahati airport, which is 125 kilometres away. Outside the Guwahati airport, taxis are waiting to whisk you to Shillong.
History: A State of Being
Meghalaya’s illustrious history dates all the way back to the Neolithic era – with sites from this era found in the Khasi hills, the Garo hills and other neighbouring states. Some Neolithic farming practices are still carried out today.
When the British arrived in India and imposed colonial rule, they put an end to the separate kingdoms of the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia people. After that, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835. Meghalaya’s history was often as temperamental as the clouds that surround it. It became a part of Assam and Eastern Bengal after the partition of Bengal. After the Bengal partition was reversed Meghalaya became a part of Assam entirely. After India gained independence, Meghalaya enjoyed limited autonomy in the state of Assam. Finally, the movement of a separate state began in 1960, and culminated with the autonomous state of Meghalaya in 1969. In 1972, Meghalaya was granted full statehood and autonomy.
There may be state lines drawn firmly and securely around Meghalaya, but the culture, beauty and peace that the state has to offer can barely be contained.
Khasi, English and Garo
Indian Rupee (INR)
Known to be a popular state of the renowned seven sisters of the Northeast, Meghalaya tourism has been making a mark in the tourism industry with its dense evergreen forests, scenic views and vibrant culture. Earlier a part of Assam, it became a full-fledged state in the year of 1972 and has a massive treasure of endangered wildlife, such as leopard, tiger, wild boar and the list goes on. With Meghalaya tourism packages, you will get to explore a wide variety of eco-destinations and hilly terrains.
Meghalaya tourism is home to a fusion of diverse cultures and traditions, by a number of tribal communities, such as the Jaintias and Garos. These tribes organise their own festivals that have now become a tourist magnet. One of the most popular things to do in Meghalaya is attending its tribal festivals to know more about these tribes. Some of the well-known festivals organised by these tribes are Nongkrem Dance Festival, Wangala Festival and Bamkhana Festival.
Whether we talk about Cherrapunji or Shillong, Meghalaya tourism is known for its natural beauty and scenic views. Its mesmerizing lakes and greenery has certainly made a name for itself among the nature lovers and is the pride of this North-eastern state. Sightseeing destinations such as Ward’s Lake, Lady Hydari Park, Shillong Peak, Nartiang and Uniam Lake have some of the most breath-taking appearances that must be captured by your camera.
Home to only two seasons, winters and monsoons, the city of Cherrapunji is known for its heavy rainfall. The monsoon season is certainly not a time to visit this beautiful state, as the rains won’t let you explore its terrains. The best time to visit Meghalaya and delve into Meghalaya tourism is between the months of March and July. Make sure of taking up some good Meghalaya tourism packages that help you rediscover the meaning of natural beauty.
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If you love hills and like to travel to hilly destinations on holidays, Meghalaya holidays are ideal for you. Book yourself onto Meghalaya vacation packages to visit the abode of clouds. You will certainly feel no less than amidst the clouds. This beautiful place promises you a cool stay here, thanks to its favorable weather. It's a much-needed respite from the sweltering heat of the Assam plains.
While on Meghalaya tours, you will sight rocky cliffs that rise above the fertile Bengal plains. Most tourists also travel to Meghalaya to visit Cherrepunjee and Mawsynram, the wettest places on earth. You should not give them a miss too, while on your Trip to this place. However, it is advisable to avoid them between April and September, the period deemed wettest here.
Meghalaya travel packages are a sight that restores the tired eyes resorted to seeing concrete jungles. Excessive rainfall here gives birth to many tripling waterfalls that cascade its way through mountains and winding roads. They also carve out several of Asia’s longest caves. Go on Meghalaya Holiday Packages to excavate them.