Meghalaya is an embodiment of eternal bliss and tranquillity wrapped in absolute beauty. The ‘Abode of Clouds’ acquires its charm from the picturesque locales, bountiful nature, fresh and sedating surroundings and yes the adventure sports. The exposition of exuberant emerald hills and glens often bathing in frequent drizzles will resuscitate one’s spirit. Trip to Meghalaya promises a rendezvous with the exclusive flora and fauna, the amicable tribal folks and their cultural heritage.
Meghalaya covers an area of approximately 300 kilometres in length and about 100 kilometres in breadth. This state is bounded to the north by Assam and by Bangladesh to the south. The capital city Shillong, known as the ‘Scotland of the East’, has a population of 143,007. There are several falls in and around Shillong, making it one of the most favourite hill station.Shillong Peak, also known as the ‘abode of the gods’ is the highest in the state.
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.
Meghalaya was previously part of Assam, but on 21 January 1972, the districts of Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills became the new state of Meghalaya.
Meghalaya occupies a total area of 22,429 sqkms with a total population of 2,964,007 persons according to the 2011 census report. Three dominant tribes, Khasis, Garos and Jaintias inhabit Meghalaya with each tribe contrastingly distinct from the other yet a harmonious milieu. The Garos inhabit the western area, the central area by the Khasis and the eastern area by the Jaintias.
The Khasis : ‘Hynniewtrep’ as they call themselves signifies ‘the seven huts’ constitutes about 50 percent population of the state. Khasis are followers of different religious practices. Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman Catholic are also found significantly in Meghalaya. Khasi tribes who adapted to the indigenous practices of the Khasi religion are also in a large number. The Khasi tribe follow the culture, rituals and norms of matrilineal community. However, the father of the house plays a significant role in a Khasi family.
The Garos : The zesty and zippy Garos are habitants of Garo Hills and call themselves Achik-mande. In the Garo language ‘achik’ means ‘hills’ and ‘mande’ means ‘man’. Hence, Achik-mande means the hill-people. A childbirth in Garos is not only celebrated by family but by the whole clan. The Garos are also one of the few tribes in the world who follow matrilineal societal system.
The Jaintias : This tribe is also called Pnar or Synteng. They belong to Hynniewtrep sect of the Austric race whose kingdom was the oldest and most widely spread around Jaintia Hills. Like the other two, this tribe also is matrilineal where the youngest daughter of the family inherits the family property. The girl child of the family is adored and mollycoddled, in terms of education, health and liberty, by every member of the family. Jaintias has expertise in artistic weaving, wood-carving, cane and bamboo work. Also they are interested in carpet weaving, sericulture and making musical instruments, jewellery and pineapple fibre articles.
The sex-ratio in Meghalaya was 974 females per 1000 males; as against 923 females for the country as a whole. The fairly high sex ratio in Meghalaya may be attributed to the existing tradition of matrilineal society.
Meghalaya is mainly a Christianity dominated state. Before the arrival of Christian missionaries in the late 19th century and later, most natives followed tribal religions.
Meghalaya's main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are the Khasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother's side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly.
Traditionally, the Khasis believe that their religion is God given and is based on the belief of one supreme God, the creator 'U BleiNongthaw' A Khasi is a deeply religious person, who has an intense love of life. He believes that life is God's greatest gift and he has to account for it again in the hereafter.
The Jaintias and Khasis have the same religion, although the Jaintias are more influenced by Hinduism. They have a superstition that the Jam, like the KhasiThlen, is an evil spirit bringing riches to its owner and disease or death to its enemies or victims.
The Garos believe in one supreme Creator, Rabuga, who is the sustainer and commander of the world. The other spirits are the representatives of the supreme Creator. The spirits connected to the Garo's agricultural life, are appeased by sacrifices but never worshipped. The headman is an integral part of the village and acts as religious head.
However, many members of the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo communities have converted to Christianity and one can see a number of churches as well as temples, mosques, gurudwaras and monasteries in Meghalaya.
A five day long religious festival of the Khasis, KaPemblangNongrem dance, popularly known as Nongrem dance is held annually at village calledSmit,11km from Shillong. Shad Sukmysieum, another festival of the Khasis is held at Shillong during the second week of April. Behdiengkhlam, the most important and colourful festival of the Jaintias is celebrated annually at Jowai in Jaintia hills in July.Wangla festival is observed for a week to honour Saljong(Sun-god) of theGaros during October-November. Christmas is celebrated by the large Christian population of the state.
This write-up on the State of Meghalaya is just an introduction to the land and its people. It is not meant to be an exhaustive or authoritative document.