It was in the month of August when I decided to chase the rain in the second wettest terrains on the planet. What better time to dance in the rain than monsoon in Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, the land of clouds.
Charrapunji is credited as being the second wettest place on earth. Originally known as “Sohra”, the British pronounced it “Churra” before it got its popular name as Cherrapunji. Situated on the southern edge of the Khasi Hills, this town shares its international border with Bangladesh on its south.
Nearly 60 km away from Shillong, Cherrapunji offers one of the most picturesque landscapes and unparalleled scenic beauty. The surroundings are mostly dotted with towering Khasi hills and valleys beyond your horizon. You are welcomed by the charming Khasi people with a big smile. Known as “the abode of clouds”, Meghalaya surprises you with its splendid secrets.
While driving up , I saw the very first layers of clouds in the Khasi hills in Upper Shillong. It was a sight well framed in my mind. I stood still for a few minutes to have a glimpse of this amazing view. As I was approaching the Sohra valley, I rolled down my windows,popping my head out to let the swirls of clouds play with my hair.
The plateau of Cherrapunji has a completely unique horizon. The multi layers of hills and sun rays are not seen in this part of India. Instead, rocky hills, lush green surroundings, valleys and clouds are there to delight you. On my way, I crossed a number of villages like Six Miles, Banuin, Myllien, Mawjrog and Nongsawlia. I noticed that the population of these villages was very less.
It was 11.30 am. I had already covered half of my journey towards Cherrapunji. I must tell you that the weather in Cherrapunji is unpredictable. You never know when you are welcomed by clouds or rain on the road. With each turn, new landscape awaits you.
As I was heading up, I saw a sudden change in the climate. Within a fraction of minutes, clouds descended on the entire road, leaving it to zero visibility. I was awe-stricken by the sudden transition. By the time I got down from my car at Duwan Sing Syiem Bridge to view the Mawkdok Dympep Valley, rain started pouring.
I was amidst the clouds and absolutely smitten by the place. Since I was totally unaware of the weather change, I did not even carry an umbrella with me. I was drenched completely. A hot cup of tea was what I needed urgently. It was surprising that in that cloudy and rainy weather also, you can find small roadside tea stalls in that place. Khasi women were selling tea, biscuits, water bottles, and all essentials to the tourists under a small umbrella.
Unlike other parts of India, this region has another specific characteristic of their social system. Meghalaya practices matrilineal system where the women hold the most important position in the family with all social, cultural and political rights.
Interestingly, it’s the groom who comes to live with the bride’s family after marriage. Women are in charge of business outside while men end up doing household chores. That’s why you will see more women in the market selling goods than men in Meghalaya.
It reminded me of my experience in Emma Market (Emma means Mother in Manipuri language) in Manipur where women run the market exclusively. In the matrilineal system, even children take the surname of their mother instead of the father. According to Khasi tradition, the youngest daughter inherits all ancestral property. Khasi women also exercise their right to marry outside the community as well.
It’s so amazing to know that when the whole world is fighting for gender equality, a state like Meghalaya is practicing a matrilineal system. Meghalaya truly sets an example of celebrating women in society in a real sense.
By the time I reached Cherrapunji, I could only see the descending clouds. It was still raining. I headed towards Eco Park, which is one of the tourist attractions in Cherrapunji.
Designed and maintained by the Government of Meghalaya, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the ‘Green Canyons’ of Cherrapunji. Not just that, you can also view the amazing plains of Bangladesh (If the weather is clear).
My first sight of the famous Double Decker Living Root Bridge amazed me. You really have to see it to believe it. Located in a thick tropical forest of Meghalaya, this bridge is nothing less than a man-made cum natural wonder.
These roots grow from ancient rubber trees which are seen only in the Northeast region. Created by Khasi people, these roots are weaved in such a way that they are in a form of a bridge on top of the river. There are a few root bridges in Meghalaya, but Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge is the most popular one.
Another jaw-dropping sight is the Nohkalikai Falls . This breathtaking waterfall is the tallest waterfall in the country which falls from a height of 1115 feet and it is the fourth highest in the world.
This waterfall is also called as Seven Sisters Waterfalls. If you are lucky, you can have the picturesque view of seven different waterfalls cascading down the hill.
Cherrapunji has a lot to offer from root bridges, waterfalls, Eco parks, caves to breathtaking valleys. Also known as “Scotland of East”, it has a bundle of hidden treasures in the middle of the forest. Though tourists have started exploring this part of India lately, if I compare it with other parts of India, the Northeast is still way beyond the margin.
I thoroughly enjoyed chasing the monsoon in Cherrapunji where the auditory sensation of raindrops and misty forest even whisper unheard tales. And I could not shy away from dancing in the rain.
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By Air : The best way to reach Cherrapunji is to fly to Guwahati in Assam and then take a road trip from Guwahati to Cherrapunjee. You can also fly directly to Shillong from Kolkata on Monday , Wednesday and Friday. Indian Airlines operates a 50 seater ATR German aircraft on this route. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Indigo, Spice Jet, Jet Konnect and Air Asia fly from Delhi to Guwahati.
By Railway : Guwahati railway station is the nearest rail-head to Cherrapunji.
By Road : The distance between Guwahati to Cherrapunji is approximately 181 KM. You can also take State Transport buses to Shillong and from there you can hire private cab to reach Cherrapunji. The Distance from Shillong from Cherrapunji is nearly 60 KM. There are many luxury coach operators operating Bus services to Shillong . You can also take tourist taxi from Guwahati.
There are a few accommodation options available in Cherrapunji. Though one can stay in Shillong and travel to Cherrapunji. Here are some good accommodation options ….
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