Shillong , the capital of Meghalaya, is one of the best hill stations and a place that must be visited at least once in a lifetime. Situated in the North-Eastern region of India, this small enclosed city is surrounded by hills and situated at an average altitude of 1496 metres above sea level. Its green valleys and hills enthrall tourists who have had the chance to bathe in its beauty. The mists, the rainfall bring life to this region even in the parched months of summers. One could not agree more that it rightfully deserves the soubriquet given to it –The Scotland of the East.
The temperatures in this region are pleasant throughout the year. For those who wish to escape the summer heat of the plains, its summer temperature rarely touches the 30 degrees Celsius mark. The monsoon season starts in June and ends around August, accompanied by heavy rains and strong winds. The winters though are very cold, reaching temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius with a minimum of 0 degrees Celsius. Though the low temperatures do not hinder the tourism industry; visiting Shillong in winter is like being in a “Winter Wonderland”, amidst the mist and the frost that settle on every glade and rooftop.
Like most places in India, Shillong too did not escape the colonial past of British rule. Shillong was made the civil station for the Khasi and Jaintia Hills in the year 1864 by the British Raj. On the formation of Assam as the Chief Commissioner’s Province in 1874, it was made the province’s headquarters due to its convenient geographical setting and weather.
However it was only in 1972 that Shillong became the capital of Meghalaya, following the creation of Meghalaya as a separate state. Though its colonial past is forgotten in our history, local folklore reminds the inhabitants of their unsung heroes, like Tirot Singh, and their courage and valor in fighting against colonial rule. The houses, the churches and the schools also remind us of our colonial past, a past whose contribution cannot be forgotten but also a past whose brutality still lives on in the ruins of colonial monuments.
For the tourists
The tourism department has done much to enhance the beauty of this green haven, and even though the city has not escaped the increasing commercialization of our modern times, its outskirts remain untouched and even the city itself still retains age-old, small town charm. What attracts most people to this region is its scenic beauty.
Popular tourist spots include Ward’s Lake, Lady Hydari’s Park, the Golf Course, State Central Museum, Butterfly Museum and the Rhino Museum which are situated within the main city itself. The outskirts of the city house more tourist spots that can be visited even by a local. Of these the most popular are the Umiam Lake popularly known as Dam Site, Mawlynnong Village, a village where one can walk about the village lanes bare-foot owing to the extreme cleanliness of the place,
Cherrapunjee popularly referred to as Sohra, is also known to be the wettest place on earth. Cherrapunjee is famous for its waterfalls: The Dainthlen Falls, the Nohkalikai Falls(the tallest waterfall in India), the seasonal Khohramhah Falls, the Nohsngithiang Falls and the Kynrem Falls.
The Sohra bridge is a popular place for tourists to visit. It offers an expansive view of the Mawkdok valley surrounded by heavily forested gorges. Besides the majestic waterfalls of Cherrapunjee, there are the Elephant Falls situated near Maitilang Park,Upper Shillong, the Spread Eagle Falls, and the Sweet falls – all waterfalls that are renowned in Shillong.
For adventure lovers who wish to know the feeling of being in the deep caverns under the earth, Shillong offers a variety of caves including Mawsmai caves, Cherrapunjee, Mawmluh Caves, Cherrapunjee, (the fourth longest cave in the Indian sub-continent), Soh Shympi Caves, Mawlong, (a cave that can be tackled only by crawling on one’s belly), Mawsynram caves or Mawjymbuin caves (Mawsynram caves) housing a stalagmite rock formation that resembles a Shivalinga thus making it popular especially amongst Hindus, and Krem Dam (a kilometer away from Mawsynram) – the largest sandstone cave in the Indian sub-continent. In short, Shillong is a place where Nature is seen in its most ancient and magnificent form.
Besides all this, there is still more that Shillong has to offer. Shillong is a multi-cultural city hence to attribute just one culture to it would not do justice to this place. However since the original inhabitants of this place are the Khasi tribe, their festivals are note worthy. The Shad Sukmynsiem dance held in April and the Nongkrem Dance held in October/November are a must watch in case one happens to visit the place at these particular time of year.
The Autumn Festival held in the month of October/November is a time when Shillong comes to life. Besides cultural programs, sporting events, rock shows, and the Shillong Beauty Pageant are also held during this festival. Indeed it is a time for entertainment, and a time also for food lovers to indulge in the local cuisines and home brewed wine available at various food stores present at the appointed venues. In winters, the streets are brightened by orange sellers along the footpaths. Indeed the oranges from this region are the juiciest.
Owing to its topography, the only way to get to Shillong is by road. The Guwahati-Shillong highway connects Shillong to the rest of the world. Guwahati is connected to the rest of India by road, by rail and by air. It takes about three hours to travel from Guwahati to Shillong. Local and private transport facilities are available for this purpose. Indeed connectivity still seems to be a problem for tourists in Shillong. However, the traveller will hardly feel the weariness of the journey as soon as he beholds the picturesque landscape that surrounds him all through his journey to Shillong..
Badakynti Nylla Iangngap