Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mawphlang sacred forest in Shillong, Meghalaya



After an hour's  drive in the torrential rain, my driver says ‘ That is the forest ‘ parking the car aside. Unable to  get out of the car I look around to see the forest from the window. There is nothing to be seen encircled by mist and rain.  I wonder has he taken me to the right place. Not finding any sign of anyone being there, I decide to wait until the  rain stops. After a while, mist uncovers to see a clearly defined forest amid the meadows. Gauging how dense the forest is I realise its not wise to stride alone.At the same time making my mind not to return without entering the forest, I request the driver to drive back to the village and find out a guide.
There comes the problem of language. Neither my driver nor I could speak in local  language, Khasi. So after futile efforts for sometime I decide to wait in front of a house which has a board mentioning information centre. After a  long wait with rain as a companion, a boy emerges out of the rain like a rain god and luckily he claims himself as a guide and agrees to  accompany me to the forest. As rain was in no mood to stop, we walk in the rain and enter the forest.
The sacred forest is the protected forest managed by village community.Khasi tribes believe this as the abode of their gods. It has history of 1000 years and some trees are as old as 800-1000 years. There is a clear distinction between neighboring grassland and the forest. It is a dense forest with rich biodiversity. It has many herbs and medicinal plants which can cure many diseases. Most of the trees were covered with algae and orchids. No one does anything bad inside the forest and nor they speak bad words. Mcduff, explains that it is sacred to them and no one is supposed to take anything out of the forest. Some villagers who violated the custom had to suffer illness. Those who spoke bad things inside the sacred forest lost their speech and wicked acts resulted in turning their head  180 degrees, Mcduff the guide  narrates.
There is another legend to the  forest sacred. Long back a guy from  Assam, while walking through this area had a vision that the entire forest would disappear into meadows. Treating  it as a threat to their forest, the villagers of the entire vicinity decided to protect it. Since then, no one had cut the trees nor used the forest for their livelihood. Amazing indigenous way of forest conservation by Khasi tribes!
The sacred forest has many herbs and trees which are precious and can only be found here. There are precious varieties of Rudraksh trees (Rudraksh is a seed used for rosary)  and some fungus which glows in the night. Mcduff gives a colorful picture of the forest when different algae and plants would glow in the night which takes me to the scene from the movie Life of pie where the boy spends a night in the magical world of glowing forest.
I look  at the standing rock and a small group of stones. This is where they perform rituals as a community and the standing rock is the place where villagers meditate. Keeping the  umbrella aside, I allow  rain to caress  me and I pay my respect to the forest deity.
Further, the path goes steep down and he suggests to return as it is slippery and not advisable in that heavy rain. I return following Mcduff on the path full of humus which is soft and oozy. While walking back rain reduces letting me to take some pictures.
Rain bathed meadows outside the forest glows in the sunlight and it is inviting. I jump in joy for my trademark picture.

Before I sign off, Let me confess something I faced being a solo traveller. I was not at all comfortable while  waiting in the rain for a guide near the forest. It was so heavy rain and no one was around even if I had screamed, yelled and shouted except the driver. On top of this, I  wanted to add one more stranger as a guide to the team and I was ready  to go inside the dense forest. But  when the guide started talking about the sacredness of the forest and the punishment for the bad things, my confidence on him grew like a mountain. I was convinced that sacred forest would be the most safest place in Meghalaya. I relaxed and enjoyed the rain. How I wish if India had such sacred places everywhere that we women could travel without a tinge of worry.



Travel notes 

  • Mawphlong sacred forest is 25 kms away from Shillong, Meghalaya. It takes 45 minutes to reach Mawphlong from Shillong
  • It is open from morning till 5 pm
  • Entry fee is Rs., 20 and vehicle entry fee is 30
  • It is good to contact guide before reaching the place to save time. My guide Mcduff and his father both work as guides. You can contact Tambhor on +919863082456
  • If you have enough time, I suggest to go inside the forest for 1-2 hours
  • There is a heritage village outside the forest which has  different models of tribal houses and also houses museum
  • Local people speak good English. They can’t understand Hind
Forest covered in mist

Starting point of the forest

Entry to Mawphlang sacred forest .. It was raining

Group of stones meant for rituals

Spoon leaf

In to the woods

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Heritage village outside the forest


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10 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing. Great..............really..............

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  2. Ahh, playing in the rain - what a beautiful place.

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  3. Ahh, playing in the rain - what a beautiful place.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Tara .. Yes.. It was so much fun :-)

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  4. Wonderful travelogue, this type of travelogues encourages the villagers, who are dedicated to Conserve. As well very informative for the tourists. You will wonder Girija, that Rajasthan, also have such sacred areas/forests. these areas are well protected , nothing can be taken out of these forests. In western Rajasthan these are named as 'Oran', but in Eastern Rajasthan no specific name.

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