Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Meghalaya

CAPITAL SHILLONG
AREA IN Sq. km 22,000
PRINCIPAL LANGUAGES KHASHI, GARO, JAINTIA, ENGLISH

One of the North Eastern states of India, Meghalaya is a sylvan beauty of breathtaking beauty. It is bounded on the south and southwest by Bangladesh and on all other sides by the state of Assam. The area is 22,429 square kilometres. The capital is the hill town of Shillong.

Meghalaya--literally "Abode (alaya) of the Clouds (megha)"--occupies a mountainous plateau of great scenic beauty where the average elevation is just under 2000 m (6500 ft). One of the wettest regions on earth, Cherrapunji lies 56 km from Shillong; it has mind-boggling annual rainfall average of 450 inches (11,430 mm) over a 74-year period, the highest ever recorded in Asia and the second highest in the world. The climate of Meghalaya is generally mild. In August the mean temperature at Shillong (in the Khasi Hills) is 70 F (21 C); it falls to 49 F (9.5 C) in January. Annual rainfall in Shillong, only 50 miles from Cherrapunji, is 92 inches.

Meghalaya has a single-chamber Legislative Assembly of 60 seats. The state sends three members to the Indian national parliament: one to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and two to the Lok Sabha (lower house). The state has seven administrative districts--the East and West Garo Hills, the East and West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and the South Garo Hills.

History

The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes each had their own kingdoms until the British annexed them in the 19th century to build a road through the region. Eventually, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835. After the Independence in 1947, Meghalaya was accorded autonomous status within Assam. However the Meghalayans were not complacent with the arrangement and launched a peaceful and constitutional struggle for greater independence. The turning point in their struggle came when Assam introduced Assamese as the state language, a language alien to the tribes of Meghalaya. The Centre recognized their plight and their right for a state of their own. Meghalaya became a full-fledged state in 1972

Society and Culture

The original inhabitants of this state are Khasis, Jaintias and Garos who are a predominantly tribal lot. A common cultural tradition of all the tribes of Meghalaya is the matriarchal law of inheritance by which, custody to property and succession of family position runs through the female line, passing from the mother to the youngest daughter, instead of the male line as is common elsewhere in the country.


Animism (the worship of nature deities and other spirits), Hinduism, and Christianity are the main religions. There is also a small minority of Muslims and even smaller groups of Buddhists and Sikhs. Traditional customs are maintained, and religious festivals include varied forms of dance, an important element in the local culture. Khasi and Garo are the principal languages; together with Jaintia and English they are also official languages.

The area is rich in tribal culture and folklore. Drinking and dancing to the accompaniment of music from buffalo horn singas, bamboo flutes, and drums are integral parts of religious ceremonies and social functions. Marriages are exogamous. The advent of Christianity in the mid-19th century, along with its strict morality, has disrupted many of the tribal and communal institutions.

Festivals vary according to the region and tribe. Festivals, apart from those of the Christian faith, are held annually. This is a time when the ancestral spirits are appeased, following sowing and harvesting. Ka Pomblang Nongkrem, or the Nongkrem dance, is one of the most important Khasi festivals. Shad Sukmynsiem is another important festival of the Khasis. Behdiengkhlam, the most significant festival of the Jaintias is celebrated in July. Wangala, is the prominent festival of the Garos and is dedicated to the Sun God.

Economy and Infrastructure

Meghalaya has abundant but untapped natural resources, including coal, limestone, kaolin, feldspar, quartz, mica, gypsum, bauxite, and other minerals. Its sillimanite deposits (a source of high-grade ceramic clay) are reputedly the best in the world and account for almost all of India's sillimanite output. Meghalaya has no heavy industries; small-scale industries include cement, plywood, and beverage factories, in addition to a newly established electronics plant

Important fruits grown here are orange, pineapple, lemon, guava, jackfruit and bananas, while potato, jute, mesta, cotton, arecanut, ginger, turmeric, betel leaf and black pepper are the chief commercial crops. 'Jhum' or the shifting system of cultivation is being replaced with scientific methods, bringing land under permanent cultivation. Forest resources from pine and other timber products bring in the major chunk of state revenue

Internal communications are poor, and many areas remain isolated. There are no railways in Meghalaya. A national highway runs through the state from Guwahati (Assam) in the north to Karimganj (Assam) in the south. The only airport in the state is located at Umroi, 31 km from Shillong

Tourist Centres

Meghalaya is a dream come true for the tourist. It is a happy land of magnificent beauty, undulating hills, rolling grasslands, cascading waterfalls, snaking rivers, terraced slopes and thrilling wildlife.Some of the important tourist spots are Uniam Lake, Kyllang Rock, Nohsngithiang falls at Mawsmai, and the monoliths of Nartiang.