One of the major biodiversity hotspot of the country, the hill state Meghalaya is home to three hills Khasi, Garo and Jayntia and three such tribes by same name. The region best known its bio-diversity also is popular for the beautiful landscape and rich culture of the tribes living in the region.
Located in the East Khasi Hills is an administrative district in the state of Meghalaya in India. The district occupies an area of 2748 Sq Km. and it lies between 25°07” & 25°41” N Latitude and 91°21” & 92°09” E Longitude bounded by Ri-Bhoi District on the north, Karbi Anglong District on the north east, Jaintia Hills district on the east, Bangladesh on the south and West Khasi Hills district on the west.
The state capital Shillong is also the district headquarter of East Khasi Hills District. The region is best known geographically for Cherrapunjee (modern name Sohra) and Mawsynram being the wettest place on earth. In addition Shilong is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. Guwahati is the nearest airport and railhead. Shilong can be reached by helicopters, car or bus from Guwahati.
Physical Features, Climate and Vegetation
The physiography of East Khasi Hills District constitutes mostly high hilly terrains with deep gorges and ravines to the southern part. The state capital Shillong Plateau is divided by river valleys, forming deep gorges and ravine in Mawsynram and Shella-Bholaganj. The highest point in Shillong is the peak of same name lies at the outskirt of 10 Kms. from the city offering a panoramic view of the countryside.
The climate of the district ranges from temperate in the plateau region to the warmer tropical and sub-tropical pockets on the Northern and Southern regions. The whole of the district is influenced by the southwest monsoon which begins generally from May and continues till September. The weather is humid for the major portion of the year except for the relatively dry spell usually between December and March.
Attractions in Khasi Hills
The region known as the seat of Khasi culture is popular for folk dance, fairs, dress and housing pattern of local tribes. The Nongkrem dance, is performed in Smit during November attracts hundreds of visitors every year. Located at distance of 25 kilometers from Shilong, Mawphlang is home to the famous sacred forest having variety of plants, flowering tress, orchids and butterflies, which make Mawphalang an ideal destination for nature lovers. Sohra (Cherrapunjee) a Sub-Division in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, is basically located on a plateau that is dotted with waterfalls and corresponding deep gorges.
Fifteen kilometers further to Sohra, Laitkynsew holiday resort is located. Run by a private body, it offers visitors trekking, spring bath, expedition and other adventure activities. The region is also know for the famous living root bridges across torrential streams. In Nongriat, an adjacent village, two such living bridges have been created by weaving and inter-twine roots of the same banyan tree that is popularly known as Jingkieng Nongriat or more commonly Double Decker. Another small village in the Khasi hills, Mawsynram is recently reported as the wettest place on Earth.
Mawsynram is a place where nature-loving people frequently visit for the steep, sliding slopes, the fresh air, the rolling green mountains and the deafening but beautiful waterfalls. Jakrem located about 64 km from Shillong on the Shillong-Mawkyrwat road, is famous for its hot water springs of sulphur water which is believed to have curative medicinal properties. Jakrem has now developed as a potential health resort.
The Garo Hills part of the Garo-Khasi range in Meghalaya is known for its rich and diverse flora and fauna. The headquarter town of Tura is 323 Km via Guwahati, has a beautiful landscape of hills. The highest peak of the hills Tura Peak is located at a height of 1,400 m at its summit and can be reached by a 5 km trek, partly by hiking and also by rock-climbing. The Garos predominant tribes living in the region have rich traditional folk tales of myths and legends. The Tura range has been declared a reserve forest with an observatory, a Cinchona plantation and a tourist bungalow located at its vicinity. The legend has it that the peak is a sacred shelter of ‘Gods’.
A magnificent view of the lower Brahmaputra valley and the golden yellow plains of Bangladesh from the peak is a tourist’s delight. A colonial foot-track or path of a pre-independence era is still in existence to reach Tura peak. Famous Nokrek Biosphere is located in the vicinity of the hill town. Nokrek hill is the home of a very rare species of citrus locally known as Memang Narang that is is considered to be the most primitive and progenitor of all other varieties of citrus plants in the world.
With a view to preserve this rare species of citrus indica the first gene sanctuary of the world has been established here. Balpakramlocated in the South Garo Hills District is known as the land of perpetual winds. The deep gorge in Balpakram is popularly known as Grand Canyon of the region. Besides this, the place is popular amongst the Garo tribes as abode of the dead spirits.
Jaintia Hills a distinct district in the state is headquartered are located at Jowai. The region is rich in mineral deposits, the natural vegetation. The Jaintia hills is known for its biggest collection of monolithic or megalithic stones in one single area. The stand alone upright stones and flat stones at Nartiang is a major tourist attraction.
The place is also known for the Durga temple built by a Jaintia Kings on his conversion to Hinduism. Thadlaskein Lake is a major man-made lake in the region is a popular picnic spot for locals. Umlawan Cave discovered recently is believed to be the deepest and longest cave in the Indian sub-continent. The Umlawan cave is interconnected with two other caves namely Kot-Sati and Umskor caves.
The total length of these caves is more than 21 kms and about 100 m in depth. This place is 60 kms east of Jowai. Dotted across the entire district there are numerous caves and caverns with spectacular stalagmites and stalactite formations. Till now only a few of these caves have been explored and surveyed.