Meghalaya "the abode of clouds", became a full-fledged State on January 21, 1972. It is bounded on the north by Goalpara, Kamrup, Nagoan and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam State, and on the east by the Districts of Cachar and North Cachar Hills, also of the State of Assam. On the south and west is Bangladesh. Meghalaya lies between 20.1 ‘N and 26.5 latitude and 85.49 ‘E and 92.52 "E longitude.
Carved from the erstwhile State of Assam, Meghalaya became a fully-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 Sq.Km. and lies between 20.10N and 26.50 latitude and 85.490E and 92.520E longitude.
According to the 2011 census, Meghalaya has a population of 29,66,889 of which 1475057 are females and 1491832 are males.
Administration/Number of Districts
The State has a unicameral legislature. The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly consists of 60 elected members. There are three Autonomous District Councils, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, which discharge functions and duties as assigned under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
In order to accelerate the pace of development and to bring the administration closer to the people, the State has been reorganized into twelve administrative Districts, namely East and West Jaintia Hills Districts; East, West, South West and Eastern West Khasi Hills Districts, Ri Bhoi District and North, South, East, West and South West Garo Hills Districts.
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 India Languages. The Khasi language spoken by the Khasis and Jaintias is believed to be one of the few surviving dialects of the Mon-khmer family of languages in India, today.
The Khasis of the Mon-Khmer group, the Jaintias who migrated from South East Asia and the Garos of the Bodo family of the Tibeto-Burma stock are the predominant inhabitants of the State. Dance, music and sports reflect their way of life. Festive sounds of merry making echo from hill to hill revealing the pulsating life of the tribal people. Mindful of their cultural heritage, these simple folks are jovial and hospitable.
The people of Meghalaya are not of the same ethnic origin. The Khasis and Jaintias are believed to be remnants of the first Mongolian overflowing into India. They established themselves in their present homeland in the remote past and, owing primarily to their geographical isolation, succeeded in maintaining their independence until the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India.
The Garo hill is the homeland of the Garos who prefer to call themselves “Achik”. Legend has is that the Garos originally inhabited a province of Tibet named Toura and left Tibet for some reason in the distant past under the leadership of the legendary Jappa-Jalimpa and Sukpa-Bongepa. They wandered in the Brahmaputra valley at the site of the present valley for centuries in search of a permanent home. In the process they survived the ordeals of wars and persecutions at the hands of the kings ruling the valley. They often branched out into a number of sub-tribes and the main group under the legendary leader, Along Noga, occupied Nokrek, the highest peak in Garo Hills.
Linguistically, Garo is akin to Bodo or kachari, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family languages. Life in the hills is hard, but these sturdy people are fond of dances, songs, sports and festivals.
Meghalaya with rolling hills, breathtaking waterfalls, silent lakes and a wide array of flora and fauna also has a unique blend of cultures, lifestyles, sports, dances and festivals of indigenous people comprising of the Khasis, Jaintias and the Garos.
The Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills which forms the central and eastern part of Meghalaya is an imposing plateau with rolling grasslands, hills and river valleys. The southern face of the plateau is marked by deep gorges and abrupt slopes. Waterfalls rush down steep slopes and carve deep valleys through which swift flowing rivers descend to the plains. At the foot of these slopes, a narrow strip of plain land runs along the international border with Bangladesh.
The northern section of the plateau has an undulating topography with a series of hills rising to almost the same height, extending northwards to slope gradually merging with the plains of Assam. The accordant summit of these hills varies from 170m to 820m. Nongpoh village lying halfway on the Guwahati-Shillong road stands on a flat top of 70m high on this hill section.
The height of the central plateau of the Khasi Hills hovers around 1500m with Shillong Peak (1965m), the highest point in the plateau overlooking Shillong town.
Garo Hills which forms the western part of Meghalaya is lower in elevation. The greater part of Garo Hills range in height from 450m to 600m and drop steeply to the Brahmaputra valley on the north and to the plains of Bangladesh on the south. Nokrek Peak (1412m), east of Tura town is the highest peak in western Meghalaya.
The State enjoys a temperate climate. It is directly influenced by the south-west monsoon and the northeast winter winds. 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. The maximum rainfall occurs over the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills, i.e over the Sohra and Mawsynram platforms, which receives the heaviest rainfall in the world. The average rainfall in the State is 12,000 mm
Agriculture in Meghalaya contributes about 22% of the GDP and continues to be the dominant sector where about 81% of its total population depends directly or indirectly on it for their livelihood. Agriculture, thus assumes a vital role in the overall socio-economic development of the State.
Rice is the most dominant crop occupying almost 60% of the State’s cultivated areas, followed by maize. The important oilseeds grown include castor, sesame, rapeseed and mustard, linseed, soyabean and sunflower. Nearly 96% of the area under oilseed cultivation comes from Garo Hills which include fiber crops like cotton, jute and mesta.
The State also has maximum area under pineapple cultivation (9.5 thousand Ha) followed by citrus (8.2 thousand Ha) and banana cultivation (6.2 thousand Ha). Meghalaya has the second largest acreage under potato cultivation (20.8 thousand Ha) next to Assam only. It also has sizeable area cabbage, cauliflower and radish cultivation and which are mostly marketed outside the State. As far as spices are concerned, Meghalaya is the leading State in ginger production (9.2 thousand Ha) and also one of the leading producers of turmeric and cashewnut.
The State’s latest foray into the cultivation of high of high value low volume crops namely strawberry and commercial floriculture like rose, liliums, anthuriums, carnations, birds of paradise is very promising. Cultivation of high value vegetables like broccoli and capsicum are also being expanded through Technology Mission.
Besides the major food crops of rice and maize, the State is also renowned for its horticulture crops like orange, lemon, pineapple, guava, litchi, banana, jack fruits and temperate fruits such as plum, pear, peach etc. potato, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, arecanut, bayleaf, betel vine, short -staple cotton, jute, mesta, mustard and rapeseed etc. are some of the important cash crops in the State.
Apart from the above, the State has achieved good success in the cultivation of non-traditional crops like tea, tomato, mushroom, wheat, etc.
Influenced directly by the south-west monsoon, the State has an average annual rainfall of 12,000 mm. With all the rivers being monsoon fed, the river basin of the Meghalaya has a potential of about 3,000 megawatt of hydro-power if which only 11.8% has been tapped.
To meet its peak power demands, Meghalaya depends on the hyrdro-power plant of the Meghalaya Power Generation Corporation and from central generating stations such as those of NTPC limited and NEEPCO Ltd. The State operates eight hydroelectric power plants with a rated capacity of 355MWand draws 228 MW from Central generating stations
The Government of Meghalaya through its Power Policy 2007 reiterates its commitment towards supporting and facilitating the promotion of the power sector.
A high degree of literacy, fluency in English and low operational costs offer the ideal environment for development and growth of IT enabled services in the State. Meghalaya has a comprehensive IT policy that envisages making Shillong the IT capital of the North Eastern region. With the STPI Park which was in operation since 2007, in its second phase of development and the expected tie up with NASSCOM-NAC, investors should find Meghalaya an attractive destination for IT enabled services and other IT related industries and economic activities.
Meghalaya is one of the States in the country which has enormous natural beauty and resources in terms of a wide variety of flora and fauna. As per the State of Forest Report, 2017 published by Forest survey of India, the Forest Cover of the State is 17,146 sq km (76.44 % of Geographical area) and Tree cover is 657 sq km (2.92% of Geographical area), which includes Reserved Forest, protected Forest, National Park and unclassed Forest. The principal timer species are sal, teak, titachap, gomari, bol, pine, birch and makri-sal.
The principal forest products include timber, bamboo, reed, broomstick, cane, ipecac, medicinal herbs and plants, cinnamon and thatch grass. Azaleas and rhododendrons grow wild in the forests of Khasi Hills and Jaintia hills and many kinds of beautiful orchids are found in many parts of the State.
Pitcher plants, the insect -eating plants of botanical wonder is found inplenty in the Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills District of Meghalaya and it is said that such a plant is found nowhere else in the world. Many rare and interesting plants like wild citrus and pygmy lily are also endemic to the State.
A number of rivers, none of them navigable, rein this mountainous State. In the Garo Hills, the Manda, the Damring and the Janjiram flow towards the north while the Ringge and the Ganol flow in the westerly direction. Those that flow to the south are the Simsang, which is the biggest river in Garo Hills and the Bhogai.
In the Khasi and Jaintia hills, the rivers that flow in a northerly direction include the Khri, the Umtrew, the Umiam, the Umkhen besides the Kupli on the border between Jaintia Hills and North Cachar Hills. The Kynshi, the Umiam Mawphlang and the Umngot flow to the south into Bangladesh.
Complementing Meghalaya’s natural beauty are some well-known sites associated with this fascinating State. The artistic hands of nature are perhaps best seen in the awe-inspiring waterfalls, the intriguing cave systems that are abundantly found here.
Coal and Limestone are the two major minerals found in the State. Limestone occurs in an extensive belt of approx. 200 km along the southern border of Meghalaya. It varies in grade from cement to chemical and can also be cut and polished into slabs revealing the button shaped fossil giving an aesthetic look to the slab. Coal deposits can be found in all southern districts of Meghalaya. Coal ranges from sub bituminous to bituminous and is of high calorific value. Meghalaya coal, being tertiary coal suffers from high sulphur content. This coal can be suitably used in various industries including power generation, smokeless coke, and cement industries.
Huge deposits of lithomarge clay are also found in the State. Physio-chemical test have confirmed the suitability of kaolin for ceramic, paper and rubber industries. Fire clay having refractory characteristics is found to occur in Garo Hills and is considered suitable for the manufacture of firebricks and refractory industries. One of the best Sillimanite deposits in the world is found in the Sonapahar region of West Khasi Hills District and covers an area of 205 sq. Km. It is the only deposit in India producing superior grade sillimanite. However, this sillimanite is depleting due to extensive mining in the past. Quartz and feldspar bearing pegmatite veins are found to occur in the Pre Cambrian schists and gneissic country. Quartz and feldspar are required for the manufacture of low-tension insulators and ceramic wares. Granite of different shades of colour is available at the northern and central parts of the state. These granites can be polished into slabs and make good dimensional stones. Quartzites found in several places around Shillong make good building stone. The hard greenish to black Khasi greenstones found in southern parts of Shillong plateau as well as Sylhet Trap are useful as high-grade road metals and may also be cut into slabs for domestic purposes.
Besides industrial minerals, Meghalaya is also endowed with strategic minerals. The presence of huge Uranium deposits in West Khasi Hills District has put Meghalaya in the mineral map of India.
Meghalaya is also rich in fauna. Elephants, tigers, bears, wild-boars, leopards, golden cats, leopard cats and jungle cats, deer of various kind, binturongs, slow loris, monkeys of different types including capped-langurs, golden langurs and hillock gibbon, flying squirrels and giant squirrels are found in the State besides exotic and rare birds like hornbills, partridges, pheasants, teals, snipes geese, ducks and quails. All these species are protected by the law.
The State has two National Parks, viz, Nokrek and Balpakram and two Wildlife Sanctuaries, viz, Nongkhyllem and Siju.
Six National Highways, namely NH 40, NH 40-E, NH 44, NH 44-E, NH 51, NH 62, NH127B pass through the State of Meghalaya including Shillong and Jowai Byepass which covers a distance of 1124.92 Kilometers. The road density is 48.56 Sq.km.
Railways: The Mendipathar Railway Station, the first railway Station in Meghalaya is located in Resubelpara, North Garo Hills District. The Dudhnoi-Mendipathar railway line linking Garo Hills in Meghalaya with Assam and the rest of the country was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 30, 2014.
Aviation: Shillong Airport at Umroi in Ri Bhoi District is fully operational with flights connecting New Delhi, Kolkata and Imphal.
Like education, the foundation for health care system was laid by the Christian Missionaries as far back as the 19th century. The health services coverage in the State is much below the national average owing to the hilly terrain with its inadequate road network. To reduce infant and maternal mortality, a number of Family Welfare Programmes have been taken up under Central Government Sponsorship. There are at present 15 Government Hospitals, 30 Community Health Centres, 110 Primary Health Centres besides 450 Sub-Centres.
Although the foundation of modern education in the State was laid by the Christian Missionaries in the 19th century, in accordance with the democratic tradition of the people, the community plays a significant role in setting up and maintenance of schools, This is evident from the fact that, most of Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary Schools and Colleges are under private management, The State Government plays a promotional role in supplementing the efforts of the Community by extending liberal maintenance grant to recognized schools either under deficit or adhoc grant -in- aid system.
A State Council for Technical Education is giving special thrust for elimination of illiteracy from the State with the implementation of the total Literacy campaign. The literary rate in the State according to the 2001 census is 74.43 %.
Arts and Culture
Meghalaya is steeped in cultural traditions and has a rich repertoire of arts and craft practices. Prominent among them are bamboo and textile weaving, ornament making, and wood carving. Fashioned into stools, baskets, bamboo-fishing traps, mats, furniture etc, the products are widely gaining popularity.
Sericulture and weaving in Meghalaya are the two most important cottage based, eco-friendly industries in the rural areas. In the absence of a textile industry, sericulture and weaving plays an important role in the production of Silk fabrics and hand-woven fabrics of ethnic designs.
Handcrafted black clay pottery indigenous to the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya yielding kettles, plates, cups, pitchers and pots for cooking, eating and storing food is a women centric enterprise with the products being marketed in India and aboard.
Meghalaya is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful States in India. Blessed with a climate that welcomes visitors almost all year round, this nature’s bounty has everything to offer tourists in the form of caves, waterfalls, lakes, rare flora and fauna and such botanical wonders as the pitcher plant and living root bridges. Traditional festivals celebrated at different times of the year add to the colour and charm of the State.
The State has great-untapped potential for the growth of tourism and in the Government’s pursuit to develop Meghalaya as a dream destination of North East India, emphasis is being laid on the development of eco-tourism, cave tourism, adventure tourism, health tourism, golf tourism conference tourism etc.
With its picturesque locations, Meghalaya could also be utilised as an ideal location for film and television shooting.
Meghalaya is dotted with a number of lovely tourist spots where nature unveils herself in all her glory. Some of the places of interest include;
Shillong, the capital city of the State, has a number of beautiful spots. They are Ward’s Lake, Ka Phan Nonglait Park, the expansive Polo Grounds, Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak overlooking the city and the green Golf course, one of the highest 18-hole link golf courses in the Country.
Umiam Lake (Barapani), lies 17 Km away from Shillong and has been developed into a popular tourist Centre in the State. The introduction of water sports with facilities like sailing, water-skiing, water scooter etc., and opening of the Orchid Lake Resort has greatly enhanced the already breathtaking favourite haunt.
Shillong Peak, an ideal picnic spot rises 1960 metres above the sea level and is 10 Kms from the city. Standing on the peak one can see on a clear day, the Himalayans peaks as well as the plains of Bangladesh. In the evening the city lights below is like a planetarium in reverse position.
Sohra, (Cherrapunjee), 56 Kms from Shillong is noted for its heavy rainfall. It is 1,300 metresabove sea-level. Sohra is set amid deep gorges and roaring waterfalls. No other place in India can offer such a variety-the monumental Nohsngithiang Falls (Mawsmai Falls), the epic Dain-thlan Falls and the romantic Nohkalikai Falls and the smaller ones streaking down every slope. Close by there is a network of limestone caves between Sohra and Mawsmai, the ends of which has not yet been explored. Sohra also has some significance for being the first British outpost in this part of the country. It also has the oldest Presbyterian Church in the North East. The Ramakrishna Mission also has larger establishment in this land for Khasi culture and literature. Its surrounding is also famous for orange orchards and honey.
Mawsynram, 55Km from Shillong is situated on the South West of Shillong by the side of Shillong-Mawphlang-Balat road. It closely rivals Sohra in annual rainfall. Its major attraction is a picturesque cavefeaturing a giant stalagmite in the shape of a natural Shivalinga, which is bathed the year round by water dropping form an overhanging stalactite shaped like a cow’s udder. This famous cavern is locally known a ‘KremMawjymbuin’ - a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and a natural wonder for sightseers.
Mawlynnong village, famously known for being the cleanest village in India is 90kms from Shillong. Many interesting natural sights such as a living root bridge and a strange geological phenomenon, a boulder balanced one on top of another, are found here.
Jakrem, 64 Km from Shillong is a popular health resort with hot spring of sulphur water which is believed to have medicinal properties.
Nongkhnum, 115 kms from Shillong, is one of the largest river islands in Asia formed by the bifurcation of the Kynshi river. There are 5 waterfalls within the island, of which the Weinia falls is the most breathtaking. The river beach is also another attraction.
Ranikor, 140 Km from Shillong is also a place of scenic beauty. Ranikor is one of Meghalaya’s most popular spots for angling, with an abundance of carp and other fresh water fish. Huge golden mahseers, the pride of the anglers are available here.
Dawki, 96 Km from Shillong is an excellent picnic spot with silver streams and deep waters with nagnificient views of the Khasi Hills on one side and Bangladesh on the other
Mairang, 45 Km from Shillong is famous for U Tirot Singh, Syiem of Nongkhlaw, who fought against the British ruler to retain independence of the Khasi People. Visitors can also visit the massive ‘Kyllang Rock’ about 16 Kms from Mairang. Climbing this rock is a package attraction for adventurous people.
Thadlaskein Lake is located 56 Km from Shillong. According to legend this lake was dug using the head of bows by the followers of SajarNangli, a Laskar of a Jaintia King who had revolted against his ruler. It is a historical lake and a beautiful spot for outing, boating and picnic.
Nartiang, 65 Km from Shillong and 24 Km from Jowai was once the headquarters of the Jaintia Kings. The village is famous for a cluster of monoliths, some of which is said to have been the walking stick of Mar Phalyngki, the legendary Jaintia strongman.
Syndai, is an important village of Jaintia Hills famous for a number of caverns in the limestone-borne area. Till date eleven caves have been discovered near Syndai. These caved had once served as a secure haven of Jaintia Rajas where they used to hide their families during war times.
Nokrek Peak, the highest peak in Garo Hills is 1,412 metres high. It can be reached from Tura by road up to Daribokgre village followed by about 3 Kilometres trekking to the Peak. Citrus fruits grow abundantly here. The Government has taken over 47 Sq. Km of Nokrek Peak in 1985 and declared it as the National Gene Citrus Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve. Nokrek Peak is the source of most of the important rivers of Garo Hills including Simsang River.
BalpakramNational park, is a high plateau in South Garo Hills District overlooking Bangladesh. There is a great precipice or deep gorge in Balpakram and is popularly compared to the Grand Canyon of the U.S.A. The literal meaning of Balpakram is the “land of perpetual wind”. This place is closely connected with the age-old belief of the Garos as the land of the disembodied spirits. This area has been declared a National Park on 27th December, 1998. A variety of medicinal herbs locally called “dikges” grow abundantly in Balpakram.
Siju Cave, popularly known as Dabakkol, is situated at Siju village on the bank of the Simsang river in South Garo Hills District. A small stream flows out of this cave. To enter this cave one should carry petromax lantern or a number of torches.
Tura Peak, is 5 Km above Tura town and is situated on the eastern side of Tura. It is 872 metres above the sea-level. There is a Tourist Bangalow and Observatory Post in the peak. A nice cinchona garden is also situated near the Tura Peak. When the weather is clear at the peak one can have a panoramic view of Tura town and the south-western part of the district. The Government has declared the entire Tura Peak as water catchment area and Reserved Forest in 1982.
Baghmara, is growing headquarter of the former Baghmara Civil Sub-Division, now the South Garo Hills district. It is situated on the bank of Simsang River and is famous for its tasty fishes. The rare carnivorous pitchers plant locally called “Memang Koksi” grows abundantly in and around Baghmara town.Williamnagar, is the beautiful headquarter of East Garo Hills district situated on the bank of Simsang river. This little township was named after Capt. Williamson A. Sangma, the first Chief Minister of Meghalaya.
Nongkrem Dance (Pomblang Nongkrem): PomblangNongkrem popularly known as the Nongkrem Dance is one of the most important festivals of the Khasis. it is five-day religious festival held annually at Smit about 11 Km from Shillong, the Headquarters of the Chief (Syiem) of Khyrim. This festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving to the God Almighty for the good harvest and to pray for peace and prosperity. The Syiem who is the Administrative Head of the Hima (Khasi State), Ka Syiem Sad (literally the Syiem priestess), who is the caretaker of all religious ceremonies of the Hima, the Myntri (Council of Ministers), the priest and the high priest and the people in general all join in this festival, which is a rhythmic form of prayer for the well-being of all.
Shad Suk Mynsiem: One of the most important and colourful festivals of the Khasis is ‘Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem’ (Dance of the joyful heart). It is a thanksgiving dance. Maidens dress in traditional fineries and men-folk in colourful costumes participate in the dance to the accompaniment of drums and the flute. It is held in Shillong in the month of April every year. The festival lasts for 3 (three) days.
Beh Dienkhlam: This is the most important festival of the Jaintias and is celebrated after the sowing is over. “Khlam” means ‘Plague or Pestilence’ and “BehDeiñ” means to drive away with sticks. It is very popular and colourful festivals of the Jaintias where men only, young and old, take part in the dancing to the tune of drums and flute. Women do not take part in the dancing, but have an important role to play at home in offering sacrificial food to the spirits of the ancestors. They invoke their aid and intercession to guide them in their life. Men go round the town and beat the roof of every house with bamboo poles symbolically driving away the plaque. This is done early on the last day of the festival. This festival is also an invocation to God, seeking His blessing for a good harvest.
Wangala Dance: This is the biggest of all festival of the Garos performed in collection with the Jhum cultivation. It is usually held in November and so sometimes synchronises with the Durga Puja, but each village sets its own time and so there are two or three weeks during which Wangala is celebrated in two or three villages. After harvest, the annual dance of joy and thanks giving commences. The occasion is initiated right in the field by a simple but impressive ceremony known as ‘Rugalal’, which is followed by the ceremony of incense known as ‘SasatSoa’. This is performed inside the house of the Chief of the village. The Chief, amidst burning of incense, beating of drums and the chanting of the people, utter a few words of incantation and pour rice beer and sprinkles rice powder over a collection of field produce offered to the Gods. This is immediately followed by drinking, dancing and merry making. People, young and old, boys and girls, in their colourful costumes with feathered headgears, dance to the tunes of music played on long oval shaped drums.