Seven Sisters, as the North Eastern states of India are popularly known, are home to some spectacular tourist locations. Submerged under constant rain is the town of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, one such location. Home to clouds and the raindrops, the town of Cherrapunji is often referred to as the rain capital of India. The place is locally and historically known as Sohra, and this scenic town also has to its credit the world record for most rainfall in a calendar month and a year.
The city whose name means “land of oranges” is inhabited by the Khasi tribe. Their tribal history extends as far back as 16th century. In the latter half of 19th century the place came under British rule. The history of the place, the Welsh influence that can be detected here, and the matriarchal system of the society make this a fascinating place. The abundance of natural beauty, the gorgeous green landscapes, and the rainfall make it a traveler’s delight.
Location of Cherrapunji- amidst the Khasi hills, overlooking the fields of Bangladesh and surrounded by blankets of greenery and waterfalls- provide some awe inspiring views. With an average yearly rainfall of 463.7 in, the place counts among few of the most wettest places on earth, and gives the place a rich and diverse flora, fauna as well as landscapes.
The Living Bridges
The Living Bridges of Cherrapunji are a famous tourist attraction. Living bridges involve development of techniques for growing roots of trees into usable bridges. People of Meghalaya have been developing and employing these techniques for the past many centuries. The trees used in Cherrapunji for building these living bridges are a type of Indian rubber tree owing to their strong root system. It requires 10–15 years to build such a bridge and they last for hundreds of years. The oldest bridge that is still in use is some 500 years old. These Living bridges provide an extraordinary sight nestled between picturesque places.
Situated in the Tyma village is one such root bridge, its specialty is its double-decker nature. Known as Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge, it has two bridges stacked over each other. It is a unique structure even among the living bridges worldwide. It is a hundred feet long bridge, capable of carrying around 50 people at the same time. It is a marvel of the mingling of human creation and nature.
Reverend Thomas Jones is credited with first introducing Christianity in the area. He established the famous church, the Nongsawlia Presbyterian Church, which is another popular tourist site. Nongsawlia also has the Cherrapunji Theological College. It was established by Welsh Presbyterian Missionaries in 1888. A visit to Nongswalia then also allows for the exploration of Meghalaya’s religious historical trajectory. For the spiritually inclined, there is also Rama Krishna Mission, which organizes “Dance of Joyous Heart” during the month of April, a special performance worth attending.
Cherrapunji and the surrounding areas also boast of several magnificent waterfalls. Dainthlen waterfall is one such place. This waterfall is famous as a picnic spot and for sightseeing. The drive down to the place is also lined with beautiful vistas, making the entire journey an experience in itself. Not just the natural beauty, the falls also have legendary importance. There are local legends associated with its origin. Village of Rangjyrthej lies nearby and is also worth a visit. Other examples are Kynrem waterfall and Mawsmai waterfalls (which are among the highest falls in India, with an estimated height of 1035 feet.)
Nohkalikai waterfalls are very popular among visitors. Its height, some 1100 feet, and the water cascading down from such heights provide a treat to the eyes. The view of these waterfalls, especially during monsoons, is breathtaking.
Waterfalls and rains are not the only thing that Cherrapunji has to offer. Around 12 km from Cherrapunji is the Thangkharang Park. It provides a marvelous view of the fields of Bangladesh. Some distance from this park is the Basket of Giant. It is a huge stone similar to a Khasi basket in structure. Local folklore states that the stone was carried around by a giant, which gave it its name Basket of Giant or Khoh Ramhah.
There are additional options for more adventurous travelers. Cherrapunji has some Caves that provide ample opportunity for exploration. The Krem Mawmluh Caves are situated at a height of 4503m. The main entrance is some 10km above sea level. It is also the fourth longest cave in India, made more popular as it includes a pool formed by five rivers which enter this cave. Krem Phyllut Cave is another tourist site. Located in the Mawsmai village, it is a 1002m long cave. It has three entrances and two river passages. Much of these caves are as yet unexplored. Expeditions of cavers from other continents visit here to explore and map these caves. It brings the caves among Cherrapunji’s major attractions.
For those travelers who are more interested in exploring the historical or architectural aspects of any place, Cherrapunji also has Khasi monoliths in addition to these caves. These monoliths were built in the memory of the ancestors of people of Khasi tribe. They can be found scattered throughout Cherrapunji. Some of them are exceptionally intricate and beautiful structures.
Meghalaya government has established an Eco park in east Khasi hills district. It houses various hybrid and indigenous orchids. It also provides spectacular view of the Sylphet plains of Bangladesh. In a nutshell, the place provides different avenues for travelers.
Cherrapunji has escaped mindless urbanization and is a place blessed with enormous beauty and an abundance of nature. The rivers, the waterfalls, the caves, the constant rains, and the typical flora and fauna of the place provide stunning vistas. Cherrapunji will charm even the most demanding of travelers.