In between the undulating green hills, gurgling waterfalls, flowing streams and hanging bridges is a sacred forest in Mawphlang, Meghalaya. Located about 25 kms away from Shillong, this sacred forest is core to Khasi culture. Though the Khasis have adapted to Christianity over the years worshiping nature is central to their lives. Maw ~ stone and Phlang ~ grassy so Mawphlang translates as the land of the grassy stone.
Story of the Sacred Forest
It is believed that the forest is protected by the local deity Labasa and no one is allowed to take anything not even a dried leaf out of the forest premises. We hired a guide for the walk in the forest covering 2 areas for about an hour. We walked through a well defined path between old trees hearing stories about the forest and the practices of the people of Mawphlang. The forest is now taken care of by the local Lyngdoh Clan. Apparently several centuries ago it was taken care of by the Blah clan who did not have a proper successor. They chose a young boy whose mother was known as Lyngdoh. She agreed to have her son take over as successor provided the 5 saplings she planted there would grow into trees. The trees grew beautifully and the rest is history. There were monolithic stones of different sizes around and some of them were seats of coronation, celebration of victory or simply for discussion.The guide pointed out to some places for sacrifice of cocks, lambs etc as per the local practice. The people participating in the practice cannot return until the sacrifice is completed so they have to be very careful to bring all the required material in one go.
Mawphlang Heritage Village
The heritage village is just about a meadow away from the Sacred Forest. The sprawling gated complex has houses or “Hima” constructed by Khasi Village names or Tribes names. Most of them are made of bamboo and thatch except one which had a stone base and circular structure which turned out to be “Hima Mawphlang”.
I walked around a bit, specially loved crossing the metal bridge.There were quite a few monolithic stones which seemed to used for worships or village gatherings and seemed to be regular features in most villages.One of the model houses had a structure which demonstrated how meat is generally roasted and cooked in this part of the country. The place lacks upkeep and seems to be an ambitious project which has lost its way.
Jakrem Hot Water Spring
Since I had time on hand and a vehicle as well, I decided to visit Jakrem Hot Water Springs 40 kms beyond Mawphlang. The springs were not worth it but for the beautiful drive and a glorious sunset from a not so high hill top.There are washrooms constructed along the hot springs which are mostly used by the locals for their daily needs. I guess interaction with the cute village kids made up for my disappointment.
- Hire a guide in Mawphlang Sacred Forest for the areas you want to visit else you may get lost within the maze of trees
- Mawphlang can be included as a part of Shillong Sightseeing or enroute Mawsynram
- Trekking: there is a David Scott Trail that begins within the forest and emerges on a highway on the other side. This activity has to be planned in advance and will take up the entire day
- Carry water, umbrella, sunscreen and food. If you are eager to explore the local “Ja- Cha” eateries for home made Khasi food then stop by and dig in
- Mawphlang Festival is held in the month of March. That is the time the rains just about begin so it will surely be magical with local folk music, dance and other activities
- Contact North East Explorers for planning this trip or write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @northeastexplrs . They did a great job with mine and the young entrepreneur from north east will surely make you comfortable.
- Boatride on Umngot River in Dawki
- Glimpse of the Border Post in Dawki-Tamabil
- Around Mawlynnong, the cleanest Village of India
- Road Less Travelled to Laitlum and Smit