India > Hill Stations > Meghalaya
Tel Area Code: 0364
From 1874 to 1905 Shillong was the capital of Assam and known as the Scotland of the East. Surrounded by pine trees and veiled in clouds, you can quite understand why it reminded the Brits to strongly of home. Standing at an altitude of 1496 m it provided a welcome relief from the heat of the plains. They built a championship golf course (the world's wettest), and a polo ground, and soon the surrounding hills were dotted with neat Victorian bungalows and little churches.
Most of these still stand but in the centre of Shillong they've been joined by a multitude of ugly concrete buildings and the narrow roads are choked with traffic. Nevertheless, there are good walks in the area and interesting markets that attract tribes people from outlying villages. It's a pleasant place to spend some time.
History: The tribal hill people trace their origins to pre-Aryan times in India. They accepted nominal British rule in the 19th century. Included in the state of Assam, the area received special protection under the Indian constitution. With the introduction of Assamese as official language, agitation for autonomy began, and the area was made a state in 1972. Most of the inhabitants are of Tibeto-Burman (Garos) or Mon-Khmer (Khasis) origin. The predominately rural population is mostly Hindu and Christian, with some Muslims and a few Buddhists.
Society : In Meghalaya, mothers know best. This is a matrilineal society - property and wealth are passed through the female rather than the male line. Majority of the Khasis, (the dominant tribe) are archers, though agriculture is the main occupation. Crops include rice, millet, corn (maize), pepper, potatoes, chilies, cotton, ginger, betel nuts, oranges, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and numerous varieties of vegetables. Forests are the source of commercial wood: teak, bamboo and cane.
Handicrafts : The main shopping areas are Police Bazar, Bara Bazar and Laitumkhrah. At Bara Bazar one can have an interesting experience of seeing people of different tribes in colourful traditional attire. For handwoven shawls, handicrafts, orange flower honey and cane work, you can visit the emporia namely - the Meghalaya Handicrafts, Khadi Gramodyog and Purabshree.
Climate : Meghalaya primarily experiences the seasons of winter and monsoon. A mountainous place, it has a cool climate throughout the year. February to May is the best season. Meghalaya is synonymous with wetness. Cherrapunji, 58 km away from Shillong, is allegedly the wettest place on earth with an average rainfall of 1150 cm, nearly 40 ft! Nearby Mawsynram has, however, broken Cherrapunji's record recently. It's small wonder that Meghalaya takes its name from the clouds.
Population : 2 million
Festivals : vary according to the region and tribe. Festivals, apart from those of the Christian faith, are held annually. This is a time when the ancestral spirits are appeased, following sowing and harvesting. Ka Pomblang Nongkrem, or the Nongkrem dance, is one of the most important Khasi festivals. Shad Sukmynsiem is another important festival of the Khasis. Behdiengkhlam, the most significant festival of the Jaintias is celebrated in July. Wangala, is the prominent festival of the Garos and is dedicated to the Sun God.
Meghalaya Tourism Devt Corp, Orchid Hotel, Polo Rd, Shillong -1 Ph: 224933 Fax: 0364-224176
The Director, Directorate of Tourism, MTC Bldg, Police Bazaar, Shillong Ph: 226054
MTDC Meghalaya House 9 Russel St, Kolkata-71, Ph: 290797, 291775
Directorate of Tourism, 9 Aurangzeb Rd, New Delhi-11, Ph: 3014417