Scotland Of The East
Perched at an altitude of 1,496 m, this lesser known hill station is also called the "Scotland of the east". What exactly it has in common with Scotland maybe a matter of discussion but the majority of the population - the Khasis and the Jaintias - boats of a clan system that would any day outrival the Scottish clans!
As the car winds up from Guwahati in neighbouring Assam, 103-km away, the flat, dusty and grimy plains give way to rolling hills that rise slowly and sinuously. No abrupt, sudden assault on the senses. The charms of Shillong begin to work gradually but effectively. The road snakes up through lush green forests, seeping into the senses like heady wine.
Even before the effect of Umiam Lake wears off, Shillong spreads out with its lush green undulating hills, cottages tucked in its folds with a sprinkling of old world cathedrals and churches and localities with quaint names like 'Laitumkrah', 'Sunnyhill', 'Lachumiere', 'Mawalai', 'Nongthymiah' and 'Pokseh'.
Khasi-Pnar Tribes Homeland
Shillong, the home of the Khasi-Pnar tribe has its origin rooted in myths. The more common legend traces the name of Shillong to a mythical youth, U Shillong, a supernatural youth born out of immaculate conception of a virgin mother named Lir U Shillong or the one who grows naturally and who is the presiding deity of the city. The phrase 'Khot Shillong" (Call Shillong) is a prayer mantra in times of distress.
Another legend involves the Shillong deity, a Supernatural being and his beautiful daughter who went on to become the "Pahsyntiew" (lured by flower) Queen mother of the Shillong kingdom following her marriage to a local youth Kongor Nongiri.
The legends might have vague roots but there is no disputing that nature has been more than partial where Shillong is concerned. Towering pines and gurgling mountain streams, awesome waterfalls that go by the name of Elephant, Crinoline, sweet falls, and the twin Bishop and Beadon. Then there are lakes and gorges and caverns that all combine to make Shillong a tourist's delight.
And if nature's bounty was not enough, Shillong boasts of a man made lake- Ward's Lake - right in the heart of the city. The lake, built by Chief Commissioner William Ward in 1893-94, is a picture book lake complete with a white wooden Japanese like bridge and fishes that throng to feed on Channa (Chickpeas).
For a panoramic view of the city, the best bet is Shilling peak at 1,965 m, the highest point in the state and 10-km from the city. On a clear day, the whole of Shillong spreads below it before disappearing into the distant blue green hills. And on a clear night, it is a bejewelled, twinkling carpet out of an Arabian lore.
Meghalaya's State Museum, in Lachumiere, has exhibits depicting tribal customs and a weaker collection of ancient scriptures from elsewhere in India.
In Summer - Monday to Saturday 10.00 am to 4.30 pm
In Winter - 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
Closed on: - 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month.
A more unusual museum is the tiny Butterfly Museum, based in the home of Mr. Wankhar, in the Riatsamthiah area, which hold an extensive collection of butterflies and moths. Since 1939, Mr. Wankhar has run a breeding farm in the Khasi hills to the south, shipping eggs and cocoons all over the world.
Timing: - Monday to Friday - 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and Saturday 10.00 am to 1.00 pm
To sample the delights of Shillong, the best way is to opt out of the tourist route and amble around. Walk through lanes saddled by cute cottages, walk into nurseries in the upper Shillong areas and ask for the exotic orchids and the unique carnivorous plant - the Pitcher Plant.
Visit the "Sacred groves" or virgin forests. The nearest one is the Mawphlang sacred as it is by traditional religious sanctions. The forest is so sacred that even a dead leaf cannot be removed from the area. With the sanction of religion, it is certainly a brilliant way of preserving the ecological system.
Lady Hydari Park
There is the perfectly landscaped Lady Hydari Park ablaze with roses and flowers of almost every variety even as weeping willows bend into water bodies that house pelicans and the like. There is also a mini zoo and Butterfly museum with colourful species preserved for sale and posterity.
Iewduh - Shopper's Stop
Take a walk down to Lewduh, the main bazaar run mostly by women under the administrative supervision of the Mylliem State. While here, feast on the local sight, smell and taste. And splurge on the unbelievable cane and wood products.
Lovers of old churchyards will enjoy the Anglican cemetery in Rilbong, with gravestones dating back to the last century, including those soldiers killed in the Lushai campaign in Mizoram .
Beadon Falls, Bishop Falls & Elephant Falls
Beadon Falls and Bishop Falls, off the Guwahati road at Mawprem, 3-km north, and Elephant Falls, set amid fern-covered rocks 12-km south, are popular waterfalls and picnic sites, and accessible by taxi.
Spread Eagle Falls
Located on the outskirts of the city, lies a sparkling waterfall, which looks like an eagle with, wings spread out. Hence, the name spread eagle falls. The falls has fairly steep cliffs on three sides with a very deep pool beneath - a soothing setting amidst calm nature. The falls is locally known as "Urkaliar" or the falls into which Ka Liar slipped.
Situated at a height of 1,343m, 20-km from Shillong, regarded as sacred by the Hynniewtrep people, is set amidst a beautiful scenic view against the backdrop of sacred forest. This 'Navel-of-heaven' as per Khasi mythology, is a heavenly peak, which offers to fill the spiritual void and emptiness, to those who seek and desire solace and peace of mind.
On the road from Mairang to Nongkhlaw lies a massive single granite stone at great height known as Kyllang Rock. It presents an appearance of a circular dome with a diameter of about 1,000 ft.
At a distance of 15-km from Shillong on the Shillong - Jowai highway is the awe-inspiring Rengthiam Falls. Located in the mawlyngad village, 2 kms. Away at pepbah, this spectacular waterfall untouched in its natural beauty and surroundings will give any visitor the excitement of visiting the unknown in this unique corner waiting to be discovered.
Lum Nehru Park
Adjacent to the orchid lake resort in one of the surrounding spurs, there is a charming park. Besides beautiful lawns and flowers. There is also an orchid-house and an aviary. Plans are afoot to construct an aquarium and set-up musical fountains nearby.
Shillong has very recently joined the Adventure Tourism bandwagon. The Project Division of Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation has identified two trekking Trails and backed them up with exclusive photographs, maps, trekking equipments and tents; all available at the MTDC Office at Polo Road.
The five-days part-trek and part-bus trip to Cherrapunjee and the seven days trek to Umlyng (extendable to ten days if one wants to press on upto Mawlyndep) exposes the trekker to dense pine and mixed forests, bamboo groves and interesting rock formations, exotic ferns and tree creepers, a pride of wild orchids and wild flowers.
One the other hand, if one is into water sports, the Umiam Lake resort serves up motorboats, water scooters, skiing and sailing facilities backed by the comforts of the Orchid Lake resort. Angling is another activity that one can delve into here, but Ranikhor is truly the angler's dream come true! For the less adventurous, Ward's Lake right in the heart of Shillong, has row boats and paddle boats a-plenty.
A Golfer's Paradise
For those seeking to combine their holiday with a dash of sport, there is the golf club and the 18-hole golf course. It is the third oldest course in the country, termed "the Gleneagle of the East" by the United States Golf Association Library and Museum. The club is a throwback to the old world charms reminiscent of the British.
Teer - The Local Sport
If it is local sport, one is looking for, try "Teer". The ancient martial art of Archery has now been allowed to develop into the addictive Teer or legalized betting. Betters go on waging their money on how many arrows the archers will shoot at the end of the day. And those who hit the bulls-eye go home richer!
CLICK HERE FOR SHILLONG EXCURSION GUIDE