Meghalaya - Background
With its rolling hills and tall elegant pines, Shillong has often been called "the Scotland of the east"; the impression is first brought to mind by Barapani, the loch-like reservoir on its fringes. At an altitude of around 1500m, Shillong was a favorite holiday resort for the British, who built it on the site of a thousand-year-old Khasi settlement and made it the capital of Assam in 1874. Much of the original Victorian town is still evident; the large gardens around Ward Lake at its centre conjure up images of colonial masters longing for a home far away.
Away from the center, post-colonial Shillong hasn't worn well. An acute water shortage and a general lack of planning have resulted in haphazard growth, and the surrounding hills have been subjected to severe deforestation. Migration has created intense communal pressures over the years, with the Khasi population reacting with hostility to the influx of Bengalis and other outside groups. Political uncertainty throughout the northeast, and violent unrest in Meghalaya, left Shillong all but abandoned, with its Golf Club and Polo Ground gradually falling into decay.
Carved from the erstwhile State of Assam, Meghalaya became a full fledged State on January 21,1972. Bounded on the North and East by Assam and on the South and West by Bangladesh, Meghalaya is spread over an area of 22, 429 square kilometers.
The State enjoys a temperate climate. It is directly influenced by the South-West Monsoon and the northeast winter wind. The four seasons of Meghalaya are: Spring - March and April, Summer (Monsoon) - May to September, Autumn -October and November and Winter - December to February.
The Monsoon usually starts by the third week of May and continues right to the end of September and sometimes well into the middle of October. Maximum rainfall occurs over the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills, i.e over the Sohra and the Mawsynram platform, which receives the heaviest rainfall in the world. The average rainfall in the State is 12,000 mm.
The principal languages in Meghalaya are Khasi, Pnar and Garo with English as the official language of the State. It was at the initiative of the Christian missionaries that the Khasi, Pnar and Garo languages and literature have developed and emerged in the list of Modern Indian Languages. The Khasi language is believed to be one of the very few surviving dialects of the Mon-khmer family of languages in India today.
Meghalaya's capital, Shillong and also the District Headquarters of East Khasi Hills District is situated at an altitude of 1,496 metres above sea level, The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago.
The city is well connected with motorable roads all-over, has its own charm, different from other hill stations, and presents a natural scenic beauty with waterfalls, brooks, pine grooves and gardens. The place, the people, the flora and fauna and the climate all combine to make Shillong an ideal resort throughout the year. Shillong offers amenities for tourists with good hotel accommodations, facilities for sports, angling, trekking and hiking.
Shillong is connected by the National Highway 40 with the rest of the country through Assam. It is also well connected by road with other important towns of the State.
Shillong is also the headquarters of the North Eastern Council (NEC), the Eastern Air Command the Assam Regimental Centre, the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU). The North East Telecom Circle-I has its headquarters at Shillong. Shillong is also the Regional Head Quarters of Power Grid for North Eastern Region. NEIGRIHMS, the first and the only Postgraduate Medical Institute in the North Eastern Region and third in the country has been established in Shillong. Shillong also boasts of having the first Indian Institute of Management (RGIIM), in the North Eastern Region and the 7th in the country. The 12th National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has also been setup in Shillong.
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 Blei Nongthaw' 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 Khasi Thlen, 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.
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