Meghalaya is a northeast Indian state. The word "Meghalaya" literally means 'the Abode of Clouds' in Sanskrit and other Indo-Iranian languages. As of 2011 the state has a population of 2,964,007 and is the 23rd most populous. Meghalaya covers an area of approximately 300 kilometers in length and about 100 kilometers in breadth. The state is bounded on the north by Assam and by Bangladesh on the south. The capital is Shillong is known as the 'Scotland of the East'. Shillong has a population of 143,007. Shillong, the capital of the state, is a popular hill station. There are several falls in and around Shillong. Shillong Peak is highest in the state and is good for trekking. It is also known as the "abode of the gods" and has excellent views. The state offers many good hotels and lodging facilities.
Meghalaya is predominantly an agrarian economy. Agriculture and allied activities engage nearly two-thirds of the total work force in Meghalaya. However, the contribution of this sector to the State’s NSDP is only about one-third. Agriculture in the state is characterized by low productivity and unsustainable farm practices, giving rise to a high incidence of rural poverty. As a result, despite the large percentage of population engaged in agriculture, the state is still dependent upon imports from other states for most food items such as meat, eggs, food grains etc. Infrastructural constraints have also prevented the economy of the state from growing at a pace commensurate with that of the rest of the country.
Meghalaya is considered to have a rich base of natural resources. These include minerals such as coal, limestone, sillimanite, Kaolin and granite among others. Meghalaya has a large forest cover, rich biodiversity and numerous water bodies. The low level of industrialization and the relatively poor infrastructure base acts as an impediment to the exploitation of these natural resources in the interest of the state's economy.
However, in recent years two large cement manufacturing plants with production capacity more than 900 MTD have come up in Jantia Hills district and several more are in pipeline to use the rich deposit of very high quality limestone available in this district. Meghalaya has much natural beauty, and the state government has been trying to exploit this for promoting tourism. However, infrastructural constraints and security concerns have hampered the growth of tourism.
Dance is at the very heart of Khasi life, rich in repertoire, performed often as a part of the "rites de passage" — the life-cycle of an individual in society or the annual passage of the seasons. Dances are performed at the level of individual villages (Shnong), a group of villages (Raid) and a conglomeration of Raids (Hima). Local or regional flavours and colours bring variations to the basic dance form, which is universal in Khasi folk culture. Types of (khasi) festivals includes Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem, Ka Pom-Blang Nongkrem, Ka-Shad Shyngwiang-Thangiap, Ka-Shad-Kynjoh Khaskain, Ka Bam Khana Shnong, Umsan Nongkharai, Shad Beh Sier.
Festivals of the Jaintia Hills, like others, contribute significantly to maintaining a balance between man, his culture and his natural environment or eco-system. At the same time it seeks to revive the spirit of cohesiveness and solidarity among the people. Festivals of Jaintias includes Behdienkhlam, Laho Dance, Sowing Ritual Ceremony.
The main festivals of Garos are Den Bilsia, Wangala, Rongchu gala, Mi Amua, Mangona, Grengdik BaA, Jamang Sia, Ja Megapa, Sa Sat Ra Chaka, Ajeaor Ahaoea, Dore Rata Dance, Chambil Mesara, Do'KruSua, Saram Cha'A, A Se Mania or Tata.
Earlier, foreign tourists required special permits to enter the areas that now constitute the state of Meghalaya. However, the restrictions were removed in 1955. Meghalaya is considered to be one of the most picturesque states in the country. It has enough tourism content to attract tourists of many different interests.
Important tourist spots:
Cherrapunji is one of the most popular tourist locations in North East of India. The town is well known and has guided tours of Tree Root Bridges. It lies to the south of the capital Shillong. A rather scenic 50 kilometer long road connects Cherrapunji with Shillong. The popular waterfalls in the state are the Elephant Falls, Shadthum Falls, Weinia falls, Bishop Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, Langshiang Falls and Sweet Falls. The hot springs at Jakrem near Mawsynram are believed to have curative and medicinal properties. Meghalaya is also known for its "Sacred Groves". These have been preserved by the traditional religious sanction since the ancient days. The Mawphlang sacred forest, also known as "Law Lyngdoh," is one of the most famous sacred forests. It's located about 25 kilometres from Shillong. It's a must visit for nature lovers.
Flora and fauna:
Meghalaya has a forest cover of 9,496 km2, which is 42.34% of the total geographical area of the state. The Meghalayan subtropical forests are considered to be among the richest botanical habitats of Asia. These forests receive abundant rainfall and support a vast variety of floral and faunal biodiversity. A small portion of the forest area in Meghalaya is under what is known as “sacred groves” (see Sacred groves of India). These are small pockets of ancient forest that have been preserved by the communities for hundreds of years due to religious and cultural beliefs. These forests are reserved for religious rituals and generally remain protected from any exploitation.
Due to diverse climatic and topographic conditions, Meghalayan forests support a vast floral diversity, including a large variety of Parasites and Epiphytes, Succulent plants and Shrubs. Two of the most important tree varieties include: Shorea robusta (sal tree) and Tectona grandis (teak). Meghalaya is also the home to a large variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and medicinal plants. Meghalayan is also famous for its large variety of orchids — nearly 325 of them. Of these the largest variety is found in the Mawsmi, Mawmluh and Sohrarim forests in the Khasi Hills.
Meghalaya also has a large variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. The important mammal species include elephants, bear, civets, mongooses, weasels, rodents, gaur, wild buffalo, deer, wild boar and a number of primates. Meghalaya also has a large variety of bats. The limestone caves in Meghalaya such as the Siju Cave are home to some of the nation's rarest bat species. There is an interesting population of red pandas in Garo Hills. The state has a remnant population of Wild Water Buffaloes in South Garo and West Khasi Hills districts. The hoolock gibbon still occurs in all districts of Meghalaya.
Other Important Places:
- Jakrem: 64 km from Shillong, a potential health resort having gushing hot-spring of sulphur water, believed to have curative medicinal properties.
- Ranikor: 140 km from Shillong, a place of scenic beauty. Ranikor is one of Meghalaya's most popular spots for angling, with an abundance of carp and other fresh water fish.
- Dawki: 96 km from Shillong, is a border town, where one can have a glimpse of the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. The colourful annual boat race during spring at the Umngot river is an added attraction.
- Kshaid Dain Thlen Falls: Located near Sohra, meaning the falls where the mythical monster of Khasi legend was finally butchered. The axe-marks made on the rocks where Thlen was butchered are stillintact and visible..
- Diengiei Peak: Located to the west of the Shillong Plateau, Diengiei Peak is just 200 feet lower than Shillong peak. On the top of Diengiei, there is a huge hollow, shaped like a cup, believed to be the crater of an extinct pre-historic volcano.
- Dwarksuid: A beautiful pool with wide, rocky sand banks located on a stream alongside the Umroi-Bhoilymbong Road is known as Dwarksuid or Devil's doorway.
- Kyllang Rock: Located about 11 kilometres off Mairang, is a several million years old steep dome of red granite rising to an elevation of about 5400 feet above sea level.
- Sacred Forest Mawphlang: One of the most celebrated sacred-groves of the State is the grove at Mawphlang about 25 kilometres off Shillong. Preserved since time immemorial, these sacred groveshave wide range of flora, thick cushion of humus on the grounds accumulated over the centuries, and trees heavily loaded with epiphytic growth of aroids, pipers, ferns, fern-allies and orchids.