Unique beauty of North East Region
Shillong- the Scotland of Asia
When we talk about hill stations in India, some of the famous places are Darjeeling in Bengal, Rishikesh, Masoorie and Nainital in Uttarakhand, Shimla, Kullu and Manali in Himanchal Pradesh, Srinagar (Kashmir Valley) in Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Northern and Eastern Regions besides many other places that are known as best pilgrim places.
From all the above mentioned names we hear about, it is seen that very few people are familiar or have heard much about the amazing beauty of the North East and living style of people of this region.
It does not consist of one State or City but seven States that are found to be named together and it is famous by the name ‘Seven Sisters’ in the world as well. It is called ‘Seven Sisters’ because of the seven beautiful states with an amazing history unfolded inside it.
The seven states comprise of many tribes dwelling on different traditions and way of living. Apart from the people in these States, the weather in these areas is immense and beyond the description of beauty. The nature seems to be fully honoured by the Almighty in this section of the earth wherein people are blessed with simplicity and the nature is also blessed with the awesome beauty difficult to be narrated. It is a part of India connected with the eastern part of the country with a narrow line squeezed between Nepal and Bangladesh. The seven sisters mentioned above consisting of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and the Himalayan state of Sikkim.
The state of Assam that came into existence in the year 1874 had all the other States as its small parts which formed into small states after the independence of India in 1947.
Nagaland was formed in 1963, Meghalaya in 1972, Arunachal Pradesh in 1975 and Mizoram in 1987 out of the Assam.
Apart from all the beautiful States and its history, the capital Shillong was named as a capital of Assam until the formation of Meghalaya in 1972.
Shillong known as the ‘Scotland of Asia’ is a speaker itself about its beauty and the uniqueness.
Located at 25.57° N and 91.88° E on a plateau in the eastern part of the State, Shillong is in the East Khasi Hills district of the State and is a beautiful town depicting the simplicity of the nature. However, it is still to be connected by rail or air.
It has no airport or railway that connects it to the other parts of the country. However, it is linked to Guwahati, the closest rail and airway for the city. It is a place that is connected with Guwahati through road that is cut through the mountains. The place is extreme with its unique beauty because the road to the city is also awesome to see through its greenery that is the best part of this area as the entire place is surrounded by thick pine trees. It is also a place where we see the ancient cultivation and the kind of farming. ‘Shifting cultivation’ that we have read only in books is the type of farming, which is highly practised in Shillong and would be seen from the borders of the town itself.
The moment we enter the border of Shillong, we would get to see small shops of fruits that welcome us to the place of surprises. The small shops comprises of pineapple, bananas, oranges and kinds of pickles which are made from the ‘chillies’ and the famous ‘Bamboo shoots’ that are found in this area. The fruits that are sold in these shops are usually grown by the farmers and sold to the tourists and the travellers heading towards the main location of the Shillong.
On way to Shillong from Guwahati, we would come across the beautiful lake called ‘Bara pani’ that represents the vast beauty of the sunrise and set from the bridge made in between the lake. It is not only a source of beauty and water supply, but is also playing a key role to generate electricity to the entire belt of Shillong. A little ahead after we cross the bridge is a ‘Shiva Parvati’ temple ‘which is so serene and popular that devotees from outside and the locals come to visit the temple to see its beauty and to do Puja Archana (offerings and worshipping the God).
After the visit from the temple, we would be welcomed by the beauty of the trees from both the sides of the road and the narrow roads cut through. When we reach the main town the first place we would see is the ‘Mawlai Area’ which has the majority of the Khasi tribe dwelling and it is also famous because of the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) in the interiors of the area.
After we cross Mawlai, we reach the place that leads to the interior of Shillong.
In the city, there are two famous markets to be visited by everyone for all their household needs and these are ‘Police Bazaar’ and ‘Bara Bazaar’.
Police bazaar is the famous market and the place for tourists because all the famous tourist restaurants and hotels, lodges, etc., are found close to the market itself.
This bazaar is famous for the tourists and is a good place to enjoy the visit because of the variety of the things sold that is made from the bamboos, but expensive in the other parts of the country.
We also get to see the Nāga shawls that are so warm because of the wool used to prepare the same and are handmade with the unique designs used in Nagaland (part of North East Region).
Apart from Police Bazaar, which is the best option for the young crowd to pass their time and for the older people and the families as well, Bara bazaar is also known to be Asia’s 3rd biggest market. It is the market where the wholesalers are prime source of supply from which we also get to see the freshest vegetables, fish and the famous products of Shillong like tungrymbai, bamboo shoots, and things made up of jute and bamboos. We also get to see the natural scrubs that are plucked from the trees used to take a bath.
It is another name for the beetle nut which is called in Shillong as Kwaipan and it is also used to honor the guests at every house and even in hotels it is served as a tradition. It is also believed that the beetle nut is used by the people in Shillong due to the fact that the climate in Shillong is cold and when chewed the beetle nut helps bring warmth in the body.
Kwai is a symbol of love and respect for the guests and the loved ones that is used at houses. The people of this area are friendly and generous towards the guests. They welcome their guests with lot of love and respect and believe in kind hospitality.
In Shillong, the tradition is very interesting to explore. To start, we can discuss about the traditional clothes that are worn by the people in Shillong.
The most in the area belongs to Khasi tribe and the women seem to wear the traditional clothes that include long dress, long pinafore and a shawl. In the older days it was seen to be a belief in the tribal’s that the women should wear a combination of five slots in the body.
The women in today’s day with the effect of global warming are seen with the clothes like sari, jeans and T-shirts. However, the women prefer to wear ‘Jainsem ‘which is a two piece cloth tied on both shoulders with a pin and most of the time accompanied by a shawl called ‘Tapmohkhlieh.’ Men in the ancient times were also seen to wear dhoti, turban and a jacket and even today the old people prefer to wear the same, and however, with the introduction of westernisation in the country the people have started wearing trousers and shirts as well.
After the clothes, we now can discuss about the tradition and the culture that is followed in the State. The area is comprised of not only the Khasi tribes, but it has Jaintia and Garo tribe as well who dwell in the city with others.
A City of Tribes
It is not a denied fact that Shillong is a city of the tribes also welcomes all the residents from other States as well that includes the people from north India and other parts of the country. We also do see Bengalis and Nepalese in the area who might have migrated in the town for ages.
The Khasi tribe is ‘Christian’ by faith, but they enjoy festivals like Diwali (North Indian Festival), Durga Puja (Bengali Festival), Chhat Puja (UP/Bihar Festival) and celebrate it with great zeal and enthusiasm.
The Famous Church of Shillong
The famous church of Shillong was built at the time when British visited this part of the country and its beauty is enormous in itself. Christians in huge numbers are seen in the church offering their prayers to the Almighty and those who are not Christians by faith are also seen visiting the beauty and feel the peace inside the church. It is very difficult to explain the beauty of the church just in words and needs to feel from inside.
The State being not very much covered in kilometres from one place to the other, yet it is easy to travel in all the beautiful places by own conveyance or public transport. The beauty does not stay only to the nature and greenery, but also the climate is unpredictable that shows its magic with sudden and unpredictable rains and sunshine. Thus, weather on a day cannot be predicted and an Umbrella had to be your companion all the time of travel.
Places nearby to visit:
The places preferred to be visited are ‘Wards Lake, Bara Pani, Cherrapuni, Shillong Peak etc.
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