Travelogue: North-East Indian States By Bhamy V. Shenoy
[Continued from yesterday]
In comparison to Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya has far more attractive sight-seeing places. Cherrapunji, the rainiest place in the world with an annual precipitation of 463.7, is one of them. In Cherrapunji, Seven Sisters Fall is a tourist spot. However, when we were there, there was no water. However the majestic Nohkalikai Falls in Cherrapunji was worth the effort of driving on rough roads. With a single fall down a height of 1,115 ft, it is the tallest plunge falls in India.
Near to Shillong the capital of Meghalaya, there is Elephant Falls. It was Britishers who named it because they seem to have seen a rock which looked like an elephant. Rock was destroyed in 1987 due to earthquake. But the name continues. The original Khasi (tribe in Meghalaya) name for the falls is Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew, which translates to “the three-step waterfall.
Three other attractive places in Meghalaya which we visited were the Living Root Bridge, the cleanest village in Asia and the clearest river Umngot in Dawki. The natural marvel of Living Root Bridges are found mostly in Meghalaya. They were developed two centuries ago by veterans of Khasi tribe by putting rubber tree roots into hollow canes of areca nut palm. These are recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage. Some of the root bridges are over 100-feet-long and take 10 to 15 years to attain the perfect shape.
Once fully grown, these roots last for as long as 500 years. There are double-decker and single-decker bridges. We saw only one single-decker bridge near Mawlynnong village. We took so many photos that we never got tired. Root bridges are good enough to hold 50 or more people in one go.
Mawlynnong village with 900 residents and 90% literacy is definitely the cleanest village. I was waiting to learn how it achieved this distinction. When just about every other house is a home stay and with so few residents, it is not a typical Indian village. It was not easy to locate a toilet. When I located one, it was nothing much to write about. There were three churches and a school. When Travel India magazine published an article declaring it as the cleanest village in India in 2005, it was catapulted into a top tourist spot in the region. I felt that the cleanest village promotion is just a tourist hype. But it is working. By one estimate village income has increased by 60%.
Dawki or Dauki is a small border town between India and Bangladesh, set in West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. There is a beautiful suspension bridge built during the British time. After hearing about the Morbi Bridge tragedy we were scared as we were going over it. The gorgeous green and blue water of Umngot river looks stunning. One can see fish and pebbles easily. Boat seems to glide over the river as it is claimed by some.
Visit to Shillong is not complete without visiting ultra modern and ultra clean Don Bosco Museum. One can easily spend one whole day in this seven-floor museum where we can see the progress of homo sapiens from prehistoric to current era. Special emphasis is given to depict the rich and multi-cultural lifestyles of indigenous people of North East India. There are several different galleries — agriculture, art, basketry, ornaments, fishing and hunting, food, housing, historic evolution of mankind, mission and culture, musical instruments and religions. This was opened in 2003.
[To be continued tomorrow]