Welcome to Meghalaya
Heady is probably a word that describes Meghalaya. Literally meaning “abode in the clouds”, this nature kissed, rain soaked organic state in the North East of India, is a shoo in on the offbeat diary. With one of the richest botanical habitats in Asia, proud guardian tribes of varying ancestry, a matrilineal system that can teach the world a few lessons in emancipation, 800 years old sacred groves and forests, highland plateaus, valleys and living root bridges, Meghalaya is an explorer’s paradise.
Carved out from the state of Assam in 1972, Meghalaya today separates the Assam valley from the plains of Bangladesh. With a sub tropical forest region cornering 70% of the land, Meghalaya is a biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants and a curiosity known as the Living Root Bridges. Indian Rubber Trees with their strong, flexible roots are guided across rivers and streams with the help of bamboo, which dies down, leaving the living root bridge behind.
Parts of the state stake claim to the title of the wettest region in the world especially the over the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills, i.e over the Sohra and the Mawsynram platform (average rainfall in the State being 12,000 mm). Evidently, long natural cave, deep waterfalls and social forestry abound.
Inhabited since the Neolithic era, Meghalaya’s principal ethnic communities – the Khasis (of Mon- Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto – Burman origin) and the Jaintias (from South East Asia) – each with their own distinctive customs and cultural traditions – are bound by a charming girl power trait,the Matrilineal system. One of the 7 Sister states of India, here the lineage and inheritance are traced through women; the youngest daughter inherits all wealth and she also takes care of her parents. Men in Meghalaya move to a woman’s house after marriage. That’s one for girl power.
The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes had their own kingdoms until they came under British dominion in the early 19th century and eventually incorporated into Assam in 1835. Even today, local tribes abide by a self-governance model that exists within the larger ambit of the state. A community governing body called Dorbar Shnong addresses local issues be it social, economic or interpersonal and decisions are arrived often with voice votes. Preservation, one realises, is an instinct that comes naturally. The Neolithic Jhum style (Shifting) cultivation is still practised today.
This less explored and more blessed state, stands tall rightfully flirting with clouds and courting nature. If you want serenity and adventure in equal parts, a walk amongst the clouds in this hilly state is recommended.