Shillong - the true spirit of a Shangri-La

- by Parmita Borah
Exuberant rainfall, sun-shine, high plateaus, hills, tumbling waterfalls, meandering rivers and streamlets ornament the state of Meghalaya with their natural splendor. In the heart of those escalating paths, thick vegetation with known and unknown trees all around, forests with flowers and medicinal herbs and the mystic pine trees lies Shillong, a home to the heavenly clouds, an alluring spread of fauna and a fair haven to diverse ethnicity.

A three hours drive from Assam’s Capital City Guwahati (Dispur), through the venturous curves and thick pine groves reminds you that sometimes life is more about the journey than its destination; starting right from the ‘Umiam’ also known as ‘Barapani Lake’, which sets the mood for a lovely destination ahead. The word Umiam literally translates into “vast water” in the Khasi language.

Created by the British as a summer destination, Shillong still flaunts its British styled architecture and monuments. It is also a major educational hub with many prolific convents and schools. Like most hill stations, Shillong too has its fair share of attractions. A walk in the streets of ‘Police Bazaar’ and Barabazar, the central points of Shillong, is a must for any fashion conscious shopaholic and food lovers. The aroma of fresh oranges and pears, the khasi ladies carrying their babies on their backs, the shared cabs, the roadside momos and the little kids in their colorful blazers, every little affair about the place is so mesmerizing that it always stays afresh in your memories.

Moving through the town, across the Golf-link and the well known Ward’s lake is quite an overwhelming experience. Ward’s Lake is a lonely manmade lake in the middle of Shillong town. The botanical garden neighboring the lake is a paradise of herbal and medicinal plantations.

The Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians is one of the most beautiful churches and is the principal place of worship of the over 3,00,000 strong Catholics.

A picturesque road leads towards the elephanta falls and the famous Shillong peak in the Upper Shillong area. And a little ahead the Mausmai caves. The road also leads to one of the wettest regions in the world, Cherrapunjee. Monoliths, fog and the unmistakable chill, form a core part of the brief journey towards Upper Shillong.

Although, the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes form a greater part of its population, Shillong has been the home to a cosmopolitan crowd as well. The predominant Khasi tribe is matriarchal, and often the family’s inheritance is passed on to the youngest of the daughters, also known as khadduh.

The people of the land celebrate many fascinating festivals like Nongkrem Dance, Wangala, Christmas and All souls day.

Shillong also has a strong western influence which is reflected in the fashion statement of the people and of course their Music. Right from the days of the legendary Lou Majau to the internationally acclaimed Shillong Chamber Choir, the folks of Shillong have always managed to make their mark.

Nighttime sneaks in before you know it but the illuminated streets always endorse a festive mood. The best thing about Shillong is that one can never get bored of the place. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, embodies the true spirit of a Shangri-La.