MEGHALAYA: THE WORLD’S WETTEST PLACE AND THE KHASI AND GARO PEOPLE THAT LIVE THERE

MEGHALAYA

Meghalaya is a small state sandwiched in between Bangladesh and Assam. It is a scenic place with lakes, waterfalls, mountains, forests and deep caves. The Khasi and Garo are the primary ethnic groups. One thing that sets it apart from other states in India is that its predominately (75 percent Christian. Meghalaya means “the abode of clouds.” It used to be part of British-created Assam and its capital, Shillong, was the capital and main hill station of Assam until 1972.

Meghalaya state covers 22,429 square kilometers (8,660 square miles), is home to about 3 million people and has a population density of 130 people per square kilometer. About 80 percent of the population live in rural areas. Shillong is the capital and largest city, with about 145,000 people. Ethnic groups 2011: Khasi (34 percent); Garo (30.5 percent); Jaintia (18.5 percent); Bengali (8.5 percent); Nepali (2.5 percent); Hajong (1.2 percent); Biate (1.1 percent); Koch (1.0 percent); Tiwa (Lalung) (0.9 percent); Rabha (0.8 percent); Kuki (0.5 percent); Shaikh (0.3 percent); Other (0.2 percent). Religion in Meghalaya (2011): Christianity (74.59 percent); Hinduism (11.52 percent); Islam (4.39 percent); Sikhism (0.10 percent); Buddhism (0.33 percent); Jainism (0.02 percent); Tribal religions (8.70 percent); Others (0.35%)

Meghalaya contains the rainiest places on Earth. It is a mountainous area that blocks monsoon clouds from the Bay of Bengal that tarverse Bangladesh, forcing the clouds to deposit a lot of rain in a relatively small area. The result — at least during the monsoon season (it the dry season it can be surprisingly dry and dusty) — is lush verdant greenery and water everywhere. At Nohkalikai Falls — the tallest waterfall in India with height 340 meters (1115 feet) — it looks as the entire kilometer-long cliff side is a giant waterfall during June–to-September monsoon season. The dry season is from December to February.

Places of interesting in Meghalaya include Wards’ Lake, Umiam Lake, Jakrem, the Garo Hills, Siju Caves, the third longest cave in the Indian subcontinent, Naphak Lake and 1,400-meter-high Tura Peak, which can be reached via a five kilometer trek and rock climb, offering great views of the state. The Khasi Hills are best known for Cherrapunji, the wettest place on earth and Shillong, one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. The entire Khasi Hills region that forms the central part of Meghalaya is richly endowed with natural beauty.

Northeastern India

Northeastern India looks like a wing that was connected to India as a kind of afterthought. It is linked to India proper by a narrow strip of land between Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Bangladesh. Northeastern India is made up of the seven states of 1) Assam, 2) Meghalaya, 3) Tripura, 4) Arunachal Pradesh, 5) Mizoram, 6) Manipur, and 7) Nagaland. Assam is a large tea-growing state. Arunchal Pradesh, the northeastern-most state of India, is also claimed by China and requires a permit to visit. Meghlaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura are small ethnic states set up for the main ethnic groups that live in each one. They were set up largely to protect indigenous minorities living in them who are mainly Christians.Some of the states were off limits to foreigners in part to protect the culture and way of life of the tribal groups that live there. Some have experienced separatists violence,

Northeast India is one of the country's most scenic region. The snowcapped Himalayas provide a magnificent backdrop in the northern part of the region for pine forest, flower-covered meadows and lush tea plants that thrive in the regions misty weather. A multitude of ethnic groups occupy the southern and eastern regions, where there are dense rain forest with rare plants and animals. The main attractions are hill stations, national parks, Himalayan peaks and ethnic minorities. Some areas receive quite a bit of rain, especially in the monsoon season. In the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland, upward of 90 percent of the population is tribal. However, in the remaining northeast states of Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, and Tripura, tribal peoples form between 20 and 30 percent of the population.

Certain tensions exist between these states and a relatively distant central government and between the tribal peoples, who are natives of these states, and migrant peoples from other parts of India. These tensions have led the natives of these states to seek a greater participation in their own governance, control of their states' economies, and their role in society. Emerging from these desires for greater self-governance are new regional political parties and continued insurgent movements. In addition to the more frequently analyzed regional movements in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and states such as Assam and Nagaland in the northeast, there are other regional movements, such as those in the Tripura and Miso tribal areas. [Source: Library of Congress]

There are more than 30 different separatist insurgent groups in Assam and northeast India. They include the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Manipur People’s Army, the National Liberation Front of Tripura and Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland Some of them have been fighting since independence in 1947 and have a history of fighting that goes back before that.

For a long time many areas of Assam and Northeast India were off limits to tourists, and some areas still are, because of the insurgent groups and tensions with China and to a lesser degree Bangladesh. There is periodic fighting between Assamese and Bengalis, and the Indian army and the Nagas, a tribal group that has never been completely tamed. You need a special permit to some areas. In recent years an effort has been made to open up the area. Restrictions on traveling are slowly being lifted. In 1995, the restricted area permits were lifted for Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura. In 2010, they were lifted in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. Arunachal Pradesh still requires a permit.

Khasi

The Khasi are the largest ethnic group in Meghalaya, comprising 34 percent of the state’s population. They are a Khmer people that have traditionally lived in the Khasi Hills around Shillong. Also known as the Cassia, Cossyah, Kasia, Kassia, Kassya, Kasya, Khasia, Khasiah, Khasso, Khosia, Ki Khasia, they may have originally come to India from Cambodia and are a matrilineal culture. From the mid 16th century to the British annexation of the area in the mid 19th century the Khasis controlled a couple dozen small kingdoms. The British began its efforts to take over the region after British subjects were seized for human sacrifices. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia, edited by Paul Hockings, C.K. Hall & Company, 1992]

There are about 1 million Khasis. They practice both wet-land rice farming and slash-and-burn agriculture. Cattle and hoes are used to prepare land to grow a variety of crops. They also fish with poison, trap birds with snares, raise goats and chickens for sacrifice and have hunted wild dogs, leopards, deer and tigers. They produce a number of goods with village level cottage industries and trade widely with other peoples.

Khasis have traditionally been divided into three classes: nobles commoners and slaves. Wealth has traditionally been measured by the possession of decorative gongs and the hosting of large feasts with dancing and music from drums, guitars, wooden pipes and flutes. Wealthy men are allowed to wear turbans and armlets above their elbows. Head hunting was once widely practiced to honor the war god U Syngkai Bamon and criminals were sometimes punished by confining them to a bamboo platform under which chillies were burnt.

The Khasi have great reverence for their queen mother, who turned 68 in 2020 and lives outside Shillong. Every Saturday hundreds of Khasi gather to receive her blessing and have a red-hot iron rod waved over their heads to drive off evil spirits. The Khasis practice a unique from of archery in which teams aim at a target made of bamboo and moss. Gamblers bet on which teams can pierce the target with most arrows in a fixed amount of time. Every day at 4:15pm hundreds of people crowd around as 60 archers shoot 1,000 arrows in four minutes into large straw targets, Afterwards judges count the number of arrows in the target. The last two numbers is the winning number (if for example 923 arrows strike the targets, 23 is the winning number). There are betting booths and kiosks that sell liquor. The archery lottery has been legal since 1982. No one knows how it got started. It is run along with other state lotteries by the Khasi Hills Archery Sports Institute.

Khasi Culture Khasi Matrilineal Customs

The Khasis have been heavily Christianized. Many have Western names. But traditional beliefs remain. Khasi medicine incorporates the singeing of hair with a burning hot poker. The Nongkrem is a dance performed by the Khasi to commemorate the founding the founding of their tribe. It is performed in Smit, the cultural center of the Khasi hills, in the autumn.

Khasi live under an ancient matriarchal system with women serving as household heads. There is no dowry and member of both sexes can freely choose their partners. Family incomes are shared and older women in a group decide how the money is spent and allocated. The youngest daughter of the family matriarch is the legal custodian of the family’s wealth and property and inherits property. It is not surprising that families desire girls not boys.

Women are the heads of families and the owners of property. When a man married he is moves in he house of his wife’s family Kinship is determined through the mother and clans trace their origin back to “grandmothers of the root.” Property is handed down through the female line from deceased mother to youngest daughter. There are no strict rules about marriage as long as one marries outside their clan. Young men and women are given a great deal of freedom in choosing their mates and are allowed to engage in premarital sex. The marriage ceremony includes pouring libation on the clan’s maternal ancestor and taking of food from the same plate and the placing of a ring on the finger of the bride in the house of the groom’s mother.

In the old days most Khasi households were comprised of a grandmother, her daughters and her daughters children. These days there are three main household types: 1) nuclear families; 2) a household comprised of wife, husband and the wife’s unmarried brothers and sisters; and 3) a family with all the female descendants of grandmother, including young children and sometimes including spouses. When male spouses are not included they eat meals and sleep at their sister’s house.

Men are not allowed to inherit property. All property obtained by a man before marriage belongs to his mother. That obtained after marriage belong to his wife and daughters. Ritual sacrifices of goats and divinations performed by breaking chicken eggs can only be done if female priests are presents. Many Khasi who adopted Christianity have abandoned these customs. Pioneering missionary work was done by the Welsh Calvinist Methodist mission.

Garo

The Garo are the second largest ethnic group in Meghalaya, comprising 30.5 percent of the state’s population. They lives in the East and West Gar Hills in Meghalaya in northeast India. Also known as the Achik, they are well known because of their matrilineal customs. There are around a half million of them and more than half are Christians and others follow a traditional religion focuses on spirits that have no form but act like humans. The Garo have rain-making rituals. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia, edited by Paul Hockings, C.K. Hall & Company, 1992]

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Garos are an indigenous tribe, majority of whom inhabit the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, while some live in parts of Assam and in a few pockets in Bangladesh adjoining Meghalaya. Their language is Tibeto-Burman in origin with several dialects, and was exclusively oral until set to Roman Script in the 1800s. They are also one of the few matrilineal societies. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“According to an oral tradition, the Garos first immigrated to Garo Hills from Tibet (referred to as Tibotgre) around 400 B.C. under the leadership of Jappa Jalimpa, crossing the Brahmaputra River and tentatively settling in the river valley. The Garos finally settled down in Garo Hills (East-West Garo Hills), finding both providence and security in this uncharted territory and claiming it their own. With time the community evolved and in this process of evolution through thousands of years, they interacted with the landscape so rigorously that natural landmarks, life forms and resources have become an integral part of the Garo culture and tradition. The Garos are now indigenous people in Meghalaya. Although the Garo beliefs are considered myths, these myths have allowed ample protection and conservation to the flora and fauna including the entire forest ecosystem. The nominated property is also protected under government designation as Protected Areas. This makes the property an ideal candidate for long term conservation and protection through the joint effort of the government authorities and the local community.”

The Garos were once self sufficient but no longer are. They sell coal and wood for cash and have switched to high yield strains of rice and risk losing rare strains they have used for centuries. Crop yields are lower then they once because soil fertility has been compromised by collecting wood for timber rather than letting it rot and not letting field lie fallow as long as before during crop rotations. The Garo suffer from high rates of some diseases, particularly tuberculosis.

Garo Culture

The Garo have traditionally been slash-and-burn agriculturalists who raised rice and a variety of crops on cleared forested slopes. The traded with people in the plains and were famous for being headhunters. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language related to Naga and are believed to originated from Tibet.

Kinship is determined through the mother and property is handed down through the female line. There are strict rules about marriage with young men preferably marrying their mother’s brothers daughter in an arranged marriage. After marriage the man moves into the residence of his wife. Even so men are regarded as the heads of the households and decision-makers about property. Women do most of the domestic chores, field work and make beer and men do the heavy work like clearing fields and constructing houses.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Their traditional method of agriculture is called jhum i.e. slash and burn shifting agriculture, best suited to the hilly terrain. In this system, the community clears a patch of forest for cultivation for a few years, then leaves it fallow for several subsequent years for natural regeneration to take place. This practice is followed under community rules and is one of the classical examples of traditional methods of sustainable land-use for cultivation in the landscape. The faith and practices of the Garo people are integrally linked with the land and nature around which they reside, demonstrating intimate linkages between the people and the environment. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

The Garo traditional faith centers around land, nature, jhum cultivation and traditional healing, and is understood by the term Songsarek which encompasses principles, rituals, celebrations and deities. The practitioners are also called Songsareks. Conversion to Christianity since the late 1800s have resulted in majority of the Gatos in Meghalaya now identifying as Christian (95 percent), with the Songsareks being in a minority of 2 percent of Garos or about 17000 in absolute numbers. The decline has also been marked from 16 percent of Garos in 2001 to 2 percent remaining in 2011. There have been some attempts at reviving and safe-guarding the Songsarek religion in view of its imminent extinction, and with it many associated cultural beliefs and practices of music, dance, taboos and ethno-medicine.

Despite the large-scale conversion to Christianity, many Gatos continue to hold traditional beliefs. Several of these are associated with actual locations, especially in and around Balpakram. Nearly 50 locations connected to specific myths have been documented. The entire Balpakram plateau and gorge are believed to be the resting place of spirits of the Garo dead, before their rebirth, and thus sacred to the tribe. Other sites include the Memang Anti Cha.Ram or the Market place of the Spirits; Goera Rong. Jaleng or The Rock Ledge of Goera, God of Thunder and Lightning; Mebit-Mebang or the Oracle Rock whose stone pebbles are 'read' to predict harvests; and the Dikkini Ring or Dikki's Canoe, a mound of earth that resembles an upturned canoe. On declaration of Meghalaya as a new State in 1972, its first Chief Minister Captain Williamson Sangma, who was a Garo, visited Ganchi Soram (a series of small hillocks on the Balpakram Plateau which was a cremation site) to give thanks and pay respects to ancestors.

Shillong

Shillong (104 kilometers, two hour drive, south of Guwahati) is the capital and largest city in Meghalaya, with about 145,000 people. It is a pleasant year-round hill station and has been compared with Scotland because of its rolling hills, heather covered slopes, beautiful waterfalls, moving mists, picturesque lakes, British colonial buildings, Tudor-style houses and churches, picturesque lakes, flower gardens, caves and rich flora and fauna. The Khasi are the predominate ethnic group but there are also large numbers of Jaintia and Garo here.

Located at an elevation of 1,525 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level, Shillong sits on a plateau surrounded by hills. The plateau is bound by Umiam to the north, the Diengiei Hills to the northwest and the hills of the Assam Valley on the northeast. On the hills are tall pine tree and pineapple plantations, trekking trails and parks with living root bridges capable of carrying 50 people at a time, and treehouses that visitors can stay in for the night. Activities that can be enjoyed in the Shillong area include trekking, camping, river rafting, rappelling, kayaking, fishing and caving. The city is known for its vibrant nightlife and has a rock music scene that is alive at several nightclub. It is also known for its Christmas celebrations, choirs and church singing. Sometimes there is snow in the hills at that time of the year

Shillong is quite wet in the June-to-September monsoon season. According to legend the city derived its name from a powerful deity, U Shyllong. The deity was said to reside on the Shillong Peak, overlooking the city and guarding it. Given the status of a new civil station for the Khasi and Jaintia Hills by the British in the late 19th century, Shillong remained the summer capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam for several years. Ravaged by an earthquake in 1897 and completely re-built, Shillong became Meghalaya's capital city in 1972. Sights within the city include Ward Lake, Bara Bazaar (run entirely by women), the Butterfly Museum and the State Museum.

Getting There: By Air: Umroi Airport is the nearest airport and lies at a distance of about 30 kilometers from Shillong. By Road: The city of Shillong is well-connected by good roads to nearby cities like Cherrapunji and Guwahati. By Train: The nearest railway station to the city of Shillong is about 104 kilometers away and is situated in Guwahati.

Shopping and Entertainment in Shillong

Don Bosco Square is a good place to sample street food. For a small city Shillong has a fairly lively nightlife scene with nightclubs, bars and lounges, where visitors can enjoy good food, drinks and rock music. Christmas is a good time to visit Shillong. Christmas carols are sung by locals on the streets. Shillong has a popular Christmas choir called the Shillong Chamber Choir, which sings both Christmas carols and Gospel music.

Shopping is also quite good for a small place. Shillong's markets are one of the best ways to experience the Khasi culture. In addition to local handicrafts and memorabilia, they are also good places to sample local foods. Khasi Emporium is the place to visit to buy traditional Khasi and Garo handicrafts, Its bamboo handicrafts are the most popular. One can also find Chinese products and traditional clothes. The Indian-government-run Purbashree Emporium sells traditional handloom saris, cane furniture and jewelry. All the products in the emporium are handmade by skilful artisans. The prices of products are fixed and bargaining is not encouraged. Meghalaya Handloom And Handicrafts Development Emporium is a one-stop shop to buy local textiles and fabrics. It is particularly known for its Jaintia and Garo fabrics. One can also find small home decor items made from bamboo shoot and traditional handicrafts. Located in the vicinity of the Police Bazaar, it is a great place to buy souvenirs.

Popularly known as Laimu, Laitumkhrah Bazaar is a busy hangout dotted with restaurants, churches, shops, stalls and hotels. Located in the heart of the city, it’s a great place to soak in the flavor of local life as residents come here to shop for vegetables, meat and groceries. The Holy Ground Cemetery and the Ramakrishna Mission are also located in the bazaar's vicinity.

Police Bazaar is a must-visit market for every tourist who is looking to shop indigenous items and catch some entertainment on the side. One can find traditional handicrafts, local artefacts, cotton and silk items, and bamboo and cane products. The market is quite modern and there is a fine selection of shoes, bags and apparel on offer. Foodies can stop over and sample some delicious and generous helpings of local dishes. The bazaar is the commercial hub of the city and is packed with hotels, restaurants and even a cinema hall.

Bara Bazaar is the oldest traditional market in the city of Shillong. It is called Lewduh Market by the locals. Household items and traditional Khasi materials are on offer at the shops, while several shacks sell savoury Khasi street food. The biggest wholesale market in Shillong, it is always buzzing with activity. Special things that one should look out for are betel nuts and betel leaves that are a favorite with the Khasis. The bustling market is visited by women from villages who sell local seasonal fruits and vegetables. This market is your best bet to come across some curious indigenous vegetables of the city.

Sights in Shillong

Wankhar Entomological Museum (Butterfly Museum) (two kilometers from Police Bazaar) is privately owned and is the only known museum in India devoted to moths and butterflies. Mrs Wankhar, the daughter of Bengali entomologist Dr S Sarkar, runs the museum. She collects specimens from different countries. The museum was established in the 1930s and boasts a vast collection of rhinoceros beetles along with 1,600 species of butterflies and moths. One can also find other stick-insects of various colors and patterns. The museum was once instrumental in the conservation of rare butterfly and moth species as it started a breeding program. A display in the premises gives an insight into the habitat and life span of insects.

Cathedral Mary Help Of Christians is the primary place of worship for Catholics in Shillong. The church was built in the 1960s and invites people of all cultures and creeds. With its high arches and stained glass windows, the church is said to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Shillong. The works of art inside it are made of terracotta and are said to have been made by the Art Institute in Munich, Germany. The grave of the first Archbishop of Shillong is on the left of the main altar. Another altar in front of the statue of Mary and Jesus is where special nine-day devotions are held every month.

Don Bosco Center For Indigenous Cultures (three kilometers from Shillong) is a museum and research and publication center that provides a look into the life, culture and history of Northeast India and peoples. A fascinating storehouse of tribal artefacts, the building is seven storeys high, with each level representing one of the seven sister states of the Northeast. The architecture of the building is like a honeycomb, allowing light and fresh air to pass through easily. The museum houses 17 galleries, which carry exhibits of tribal basketry, weapons, musical instruments, costumes, objects from daily life, jewelry and photographs. The library has over 10,000 volumes. There is a media hall and a conference hall. Visitors can buy souvenirs at the center’s gift shop.

Lady Hydari Park is named after Lady Hydari, the wife of one of Assam's former governor. Along with manicured lawns, the park has facilities like a mini zoo, a butterfly museum, a deer park and a separate playground for children. The zoo here has over 73 species of birds and 140 species of reptiles, apart from various mammals. Landscaped in the Japanese style, the park is best known for its beds of roses and also showcases a wide variety of local flowers and orchids. It is a serene and beautiful place to spend a few hours in. Close to the park is the city's only swimming pool - Crinoline; there is also a waterfall in the vicinity by the same name: Crinoline Waterfalls.

Sights Near Shillong

Popular destinations outside Shillong include Bishop Falls, Beadon Falls, Elephant Falls and Umaim Lake. There are good views from Shillong Peak (10 kilometers from Shillong) and Sixty-six kilometers from Shillong is Jowai, a picturesque town circled by the Myntdu River. On the way to the town is the beautiful Thadleskein Lake, which according to legend was dug with bows from rebel arm of General Jaintia Raja. Kharsati Park (40 kilometers from Shillong) was opened to the public in 1998 and has been a center for the preservation of the region’s flora and fauna since then. The park covers an area of nearly 570 acre that comprises perennial streams and undulating hills. It is teeming with wildlife and is a great spot to sight some endemic species.

Mawlynnong (92 kilometers from Shillong) was declared the cleanest village in Asia in 2003 and the cleanest in India in 2005. The village is locally referred to as 'God's Own Garden' and is commended for its community-based eco-tourism initiative. Under this, the onus of keeping the village clean lies on every resident and to promote cleanliness, bamboo garbage bins dot the lanes, nooks and corners of Mawlynnong. The waste collected in the bins is sent to a pit and turned into manure. Smoking is prohibited here and so is plastic. Rainwater harvesting is considered very important and is practiced by almost all its residents. In addition, the village boasts a 100 per cent literacy rate and most of the inhabitants are fluent in English. Since it is located on the Indo-Bangla border, one can enjoy a sweeping view of Bangladesh. Another reason to mark this place in your itinerary is the natural rock balancing phenomenon that is seen here - the unusual and curious sight of one boulder balanced on another. There is a Living Root Bridge in the neighbouring village called Riwai.

Lum Nehru Park (15 kilometers from Shillong, in Umiam) is adjacent to Orchid Lake. In addition to being a popular picnic spot, the park is known for its orchid house, aviary and sprawling lawns. The park is dotted with huge pine trees on either side and has a lot of space where children can play. It has been named after the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and has a Nehru statue.

Living Root Bridges

Living Root Bridges are popular and unique creations and symbols of Meghalaya. They are made of tangles of massively thick roots. They can hold several people at a time and have been classified as double-decker and single-decker root bridges. The Khasi people are experts in growing these bridges, which are over a hundred feet long and take about 10 to 15 years to become fully functional.

The bridges are alive and growing, capable of carrying strong weights of up to 50 people at a time. It is said that even elephants are able to cross these bridges! There is no knowledge about when and how the tradition began. Lieutenant Henry Yule's written mention of the bridges in Sohra, Cherrapunji in the Asiatic Society of Bengal journal in 1944, earliest known record of them.

To make the bridges the pliable roots of the Ficus elastic tree are pulled and guided across a stream or river and then left to strengthen and grow so that they can hold the weight of a human being. Several methods are used to make the root bridges. One is where the locals pull and manipulate young roots to grow and strengthen without any scaffolding. The second is when the roots are pulled over bamboo or wood scaffolding and allowed to grow. The third method is when the roots are manipulated and allowed to grow through hollowed out areca nut trees that are planted over rivers or streams. Last, but not least, is when the roots are manipulated over already existing bridges, which could also be steel structures.

The longest living root bridge is near Pynursla and the most famous is the double decker bridge in Nongriat Village. Some of the places where one can see this quirk of nature are West Jaintia Hills, Burma village, Rangthylliang etc.In addition to India, living root bridges can also be found in Jembatan Akar in Sumatra Islands, Indonesia and in the Banten province of Java.

Activities the Shillong Area

Tree House Experience are a unique experience. Many tree houses have been built on the hills of Shillong and spending time in them can make you feel like a kid again. Enjoy the feeling of being sheltered in a house, perched atop a tree, from where you can get panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

Shillong Golf Course (northeast of Ward's Lake) is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. Described as the "Gleneagle of the East" by the United States Golf Association and Museum, it is situated at an elevation of about 5,200 feet in an undulating valley and has groves of pine and rhododendron trees. The golf course began as a nine-hole course built in 1898 and was converted to an 18- hole course in 1924. Golf was introduced to Shillong by a group of British civil service officers in 1898. The course is almost always wet and that adds to the charm of the place. Shillong Golf Course has one of the longest holes in India. It has a well-equipped clubhouse that serves excellent food.

Trekking and Hiking on the trails in the Shillong area have something adventure seekers, nature lovers and those who just want a pleasant place to stroll around. There are long treks in the mountains and short hikes to waterfalls. Be prepared for rain. Because of the rain the trails can be muddy and slippery. Khasi Hills are an ideal stop for camping. One can stay overnight in the fleeting camps here and lie amid green meadows and fragrant pine trees with the slight nip in the air adding to the experience. Mawlynnong forest and Dawki are also good places to camp.

Rappelling and Rock Climbing can be enjoyed at beautiful Elephant Falls, which provides tough rocks that act as good supports for rock climbing. The level is not very high and even beginners can enjoy this. Boating, Fishing and Kayaking is a popular activity at Umiam Lake. Horse Riding is done at Shillong Peak. River Rafting is pursued in Ranikor, a few hours away from Shillong. Beginners can go to Bara Pani Lake, about 17 kilometers from the city. Caving is an adventure sport that can be explored near Shillong. Some of the popular caves are Krem Mawsmai, Krem Mamluh, and Krem Umshyrpi.

Nature Near Shillong

Laitlum Canyons (45 kilometers from Shillong) is the perfect place enjoy spectacular scenery and sweeping views of Meghalaya. 'Laitlum' literally means end of the world or end of hills — and that is the kind of place it is. The area offers long, rocky, wet and lush green treks. The terrain, though a little difficult to navigate, offers the best views. A long stairway on the side of the mountain with about 3,000 steps is the only route between the village and the nearest market. The best time to visit the place is in the afternoon hours as mornings are usually foggy and the view cannot be enjoyed,

Mawphlang Sacred Forest (25 kilometers from Shillong) is one of the best known sacred forests in Meghalaya, a unique feature of the Khasi Hills. It has an amazing variety of plants, flowering trees, orchids and butterflies. The forest has been preserved by traditional religious sanction for a long as people can remember and is protected by the Lyngdoh clan. . According to legend the forest was earlier ruled by the Blah clan. They struggled to control it and decided to choose another protector. The clan found a woman belonging to the Lyngdoh clan, who had a son. She acceded to their demands on the condition that if the five saplings she had planted grew into trees, she would let her son take over the forest. As it turned out, the saplings grew beautifully.

Umiam (15 kilometers from Shillon) is one of the biggest artificial lakes in Meghalaya and one of the most popular recreation destination in the Shillong area. Known locally as Bara Pani, it covers an area of about 220 square kilometers and is surrounded Sylvan Hills and green Khasi pines. The vast lake was created when the Umiam river was dammed to store water for hydroelectric power generation. People enjoy kayaking, fishing, water-skiing, sailing, water cycling and boating here. There is a lovely garden near its shores called the Lum Nehru Park, which is also visited by birdwatchers. In addition to being a popular picnic spot, the park is also known for its orchid house, aviary and sprawling lawns. It is dotted with huge pine trees on either side and has a lot of space where children can play.

Mountains Near Shillong

Khasi Hills is a low mountain formation on the Shillong Plateau that are part of the Garo-Khasi-Jaintia range and connects with the Purvanchal Range and larger Patkai Range further east. Khasi Hills, and the whole Garo-Khasi-Jaintia range, are in the so-called Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion. The region is inhabited mainly by members of the Khasi tribe, which have traditionally lived chief-ruled regions known as the Khasi Hill States. Both Shillong and Cherrapunji, the world’s wettest place, are in the Khasi Hills. The region is divided into West Khasi Hills and East Khasi Hills districts. The highest peak is Shillong Peak (Lum Shyllong).

Shillong Peak (10 kilometers south of Shillong, accessible from Upper Shillong or Jowai Road) offers challenging climb, pleasant places to relax and some of the best views in India. Mostly covered in fog, it stands at an elevation of 1,966 meters (6,450 feet) above sea level. The semi-circular peak looks spectacular and resembles a crown placed on top of Shillong Hill. Tourists can either climb or ride to the top to take in the serene views that include the Himalayas to the north and the plains of Bangladesh to the south. Telescopes is also available for tourists. Views are often blocked by clouds.

It is believed that the city of Shillong got its name from this peak and local lore says that the patron deity of the city, Leishyllong, has his abode in these hills. U Shulong is a sacred site, where the main attraction is a ritual that is organised every spring. This place is also an airport base and has a radar station of the Indian Air Force. Shillong Peak is a popular horseback riding area. There are billion riding stables and riding schools nearby

Diengiei Peak (40 kilometers from Shillong) is a popular trekking point Lying about 200 feet lower than Shillong Peak, 1,890-meter (6,200 foot) Diengiei Peak rises to the west of the Shillong plateau. Tourists can get a spectacular view of the Umiam Lake from the peak. Another interesting feature of the spot is a huge hollow, shaped like a cup that is believed to be the crater of an extinct prehistoric volcano. For a height of about 1,000 ft, the gradient is very steep and precipitous and appeals to mountain climbers. Rock climbing and rappelling are some other adventure sports one can engage in. The best time to visit the peak is from November to June.

Waterfalls Near Shillong

Elephant Falls (12 kilometers Shillong) is one of the most popular waterfalls in the northeastern region. The cascading water falls on fern-covered rocks and is surrounded by a verdant forest that is ripping with flora and fauna and is an ideal place to soak in nature at its most intense. Elephant Falls has been named after an elephant-shaped stone at its base. While the rock was destroyed in an earthquake in 1897, the name stuck.

This falls are also referred to as 'Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew' (the three step waterfall) by the local Khasi people as it is a cluster of three waterfalls lying side by side. The first waterfall is quite broad and is tucked amidst dense trees. The second one reduces to thinner streams, while the third is the tallest flowing like a milk sheet on dark rocks. Mattilang Park in Upper Shillong offers a stunning aerial view of Elephant Falls.

Crinoline Falls tumble about 12-13 meters and are located west of the Survey of India office. There is a swimming hole at the base of the falls.

Cherrapunji: the Wettest Place on Earth

Cherrapunji (53 kilometers south of Shillong, just north of Bangladesh) in Meghalaya State is often ranked as the world's wettest place. It receives an average of 1131.40 centimeters (445.43 inches), about 11.3 meters (37½ feet), a year. In 1993, it received 519 inches (13.2 meters). It holds the one month and one year record for rainfall. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it rained 366 inches (9.3 meters) in July 1861, and rained 1,041.8 inches (26.46 meters) between August 1 1860 and July 31, 1861. Many places in northeast India get more than a meter (three feet) of rain between July. Mawsynram, also in Meghalaya, is also very wet.. Another wet place is Waialeale, Hawaii, near an uninhabited peak on Kauai. It receives 459.99 inches of rain annually. Another very wet place is Lloro, Columbia.

It is no surprise that Cherrapunji (also called Sohra and spelled Cherrapunjee and Charrapunji) lies in an area with misty valleys, foaming rivers, swirling clouds and gushing waterfalls. 'Cherrapunji' means land of oranges, and it was first used by tourists visiting from other parts of the country. The road journey there offers splendid views of rolling green landscape, rice paddies, barren moors, coal mines, deep glens, orange orchards and a multitude of waterfalls.

Cherrapunji is located at an elevation of 1,370 meters (4,500 feet) and is home to 12,000 people. Most are Khasis who live in tin-roof houses. There is no telephone service. Electricity is erratic. The British established a hill station here in 1835. The remoteness of the place and the unstoppable rain, led many bureaucrats stationed here to commit suicide. Around the town are steep cliffs to give them ample opportunities. Later it became a missionary center. There are still many churches and schools here. The area is rich in coal and limestone, and mining and deforestation in the region has stripped it of its topsoil and vegetation.

Rain in Cherrapunji

Most of this rain in Meghalaya falls during the monsoon season from April to September when winds blow heavy moisture-laden clouds against an escarpment above Bangladesh in the Himalayan foothills where the town is located. Cherrapunji is located at the edge of a plateau at a convergence point of winds, clouds and an oddly positioned mountain range that traps monsoon clouds moving north from Bay of Bengal. [Source: Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times. August 2004]

The rainfall varies from light to medium to heavy and is present much of the year. According to the India Ministry of Tourism, it rains mostly at night and day activities are not disrupted too much by the weather, but I’m not sure if that can be believed. The heaviest rainfall is mostly from June to August September and during this time Cherrapunji becomes a sea of tiny rivulets.

Sometimes the rain comes in downpours. Sometimes it is an omnipresent drizzle. The air is so saturated with water, moss grows inside houses and black mildew covers the outside of buildings. Paint peels, food rots. To stay dry local people use unique umbrellas that look like upside down rattan chairs. After heavy downpours relent, when or if the sun peaks out, the vegetation turns vibrant green and rainbows may appear.

Ironically Cherrapunji, suffers from water shortages. In the winter it is bone dry and looks like semi-arid desert. The grass is brown. There are no tall trees. Boulders are strewn about. Often no waters comes from the taps. Villagers walk for mile to collect drinking water in buckets. Some is brought in from trucks. They can't irrigate their crops. Baths are limited to once a week.

This is because heavy deforestation causes the water to quickly run off and flow towards Bangladesh rather than be absorbed in the soil. Even in the rainy season there are shortages because the town doesn’t have a reservoir or system to capture the run off. Its water tanks are cracked and pipes that carry water from springs have rusted and fallen into disrepair because of lack of maintenance. Most blame the problem on poor water management. In the early 2000s, the water system was being repaired and upgraded

The rainfall varies from light to medium to heavy but and it rains all year round. Interestingly, it rains mostly at night and day activities are not disrupted too much by the weather. The heaviest rainfall is mostly from May to September and during this time Cherrapunji becomes a sea of tiny rivulets. After heavy downpours relent, when or if the sun peaks out, the vegetation turns vibrant green and rainbows often appear.

Sights Near Cherrapunji

Mawsynram (16 kilometers from Cherrapunji) is another one of the world’s wettest places. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it receives 1,187 centimeters (467.44 inches) of rain a year, which works out to slightly less than 11.8 meters (39 feet). Residents of Cherrapunji sniff at Mawsynram’s claims because the rain measurements are not taken by a government-sanctioned meteorologist.

Thangkharang Park (15 kilometers south of Cherrapunji) is a popular tourist spot that is managed and maintained by the State Forest Department. One can find many rare and exotic orchids along with species of plants that are endemic to the region. On a clear day, one can even see the beautiful plains of Bangladesh from here. The park is situated on high rocky cliffs and one can get splendid views of the imposing Kynrem Falls. Tourists can also visit the sanctuary located at Thangkarang, which is popular among birdwatchers.

Eco Park is one of the most important tourist sites of Cherrapunji. Established by the state government and boasts various hybrid and indigenous varieties of orchids in its greenhouse that have been given to it by the Shillong Agri-Horticulture Society. From the park there are views of the Sylhet Plains in Bangladesh and the Green Canyons. The southern part of the park is the origin point of the popular Nohsngithiang Falls.

Waterfalls Near Cherrapunji

Nohkalikai Falls (15 kilometers west of Cherrapunji) is the tallest free-falling waterfall in India, plunging 340 meters (1115 feet). When viewed from a helicopter or drone during June–to-September monsoon season it looks as the entire kilometer-long cliff side is a giant waterfall. Nohkalikai Falls is fed by rainwater that collects on the top of a plateau. Though overwhelmingly beautiful, this falls lying in East Khasi Hills District, Sohra, has a tragic story. It is believed that a grief-stricken mother plunged to her death in this falls after her husband murdered her daughter. The water cascades down from the top of a gorge into a green pool below.

Nohsngithiang Falls (near Mawsmai village, four kilometers south of Cherrapunji) is also called Mawsmai Falls. The falls’ name is attributed to its southwesterly position that makes it viable to get illuminated by the sun from dusk to dawn. The myriad colors of sunlight dancing on the waters make the falls a truly glorious sight.

Dainthlen Falls (five kilometers from Cherrapunji) is a scenic waterfall in the East Khasi Hills and is known for its beautiful rock carvings. The waterfalls derives its name from 'Thlen' (a gigantic mythical snake), which is believed to have dwelt in a cave nearby. According to legend, people killed the snake here and ended its reign of terror. Adjacent to the very spot where the snake was killed is Dainthlen Falls.

Jowai and Jaintia Hills Area

Jowai (66 kilometers from Shillong) a picturesque town circled by the Myntdu River. On the way to the town is the beautiful Thadleskein Lake, which according to legend was dug with bows from rebel arm of General Jaintia Raja. Jowai is the administrative headquarters and commercial center of the of Jaintia hills, the traditional home of the Jaintia people, also known as the Pnar, a Khasi subgroup. .

Among the attractions of and around Jowai are the bustling market of La Musiang and the Jowai Presbyterian Church. Nearby Tryshi Falls is often compared with Elephant Falls. A bridge connects the waterfalls with expansive paddy fields, where can get panoramic views of the Pynthor Nein. Hikers used to wet conditions can trek to the bottom of the falls. A four-day festival, called Behdeinkhlam, is held in the monsoon month of July and is quite popular.

Umlawan Cave (60 kilometers east of Jowai) s believed to be one of the longest cave systems in the Indian sub-continent and is joined by two caves: Umskor and Kot-Sati, which have a combined length of about 21 kilometers. This unspoilt and unexplored cave system boasts many stalactite and stalagmite formations. It has 24 horizontal and vertical entrances so no part of the cave is more than one hour from the nearest entrance. During monsoons, the main entrance to the cave is submerged and one has to swim to enter it.

Jaintia (embracing Jowai) is one of the 11 districts in Meghalaya. Situated along the Myntdu river, it covers an area of 3,819 square kilometers and is bordered on the south by Bangladesh and on the east by East Khasi Hills District. The region is quite rich in minerals and natural beauty. Jowai is the most developed town in the region along with being the district headquarters. The Jaintia hills have two districts: the West Jaintia Hills and the East Jaintia Hills. These hills are also home to the Krang Suri Falls, one of the most beautiful in India. The hills are bordered on the north and the east by Assam.

Dawki (95 kilometers from Shillong) is a major trading center at the border of India and Bangladesh. Located in the Jaintia Hills, this town entered through deep gorges and ravines. It lies on the Umngot river, the venue of the annual boat race held in March-April at Umsyiem. The suspension bridge over the Umngot river was built by the British in 1932. In the river you can fish for catfish, golden carp and silver carp

Nartiang Monoliths (in Nartiang, Jaintia Hills) is the biggest collection of megalithic stones in one single area. These consists of Menhirs (Upright stones), flat stones in the horizontal position. Within the perimeter of these Megalithic collection stands the tallest Menhir erected by U Mar Phalyngki a trusted lieutenant of the Jaintia King between 1500 and 1835.

Garo Hills

The Garo Hills are part of the Garo-Khasi range. They are inhabited mainly by tribal people, of which the the majority are Garo people. Garo Hills Conservation Area (GHCA) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2018. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Garo Hills is “the western most limit of the Indo Malayan Biodiversity Hotspots.” and “is bounded on the North by the Goalpara district of Assam, on the South it shares international boundary with Bangladesh, on East by the District of Khasi Hills, Meghalaya and Kamrup, Assam and on the West by the district of Goalpara, Assam and Bangladesh.[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The GHCA comprises of three legally designated Protected Areas - Nokrek National Park (49.44 square kilometers), Balpakram National Park (220 square kilometers) and Siju Wildlife Sanctuary (5.18square kilometers); and the Reserved Forests of Tura Peak (4.19 square kilometers), lmangiri (8.29 square kilometers), Rewak (6.47 square kilometers) and Baghmara (43.9 square kilometers). The total core area of the proposed nomination is 337.48 square kilometers...The property also falls within the nationally designated Garo Hills Elephant Reserve (3500 square kilometers). The buffer area includes Baghmara Pitcher Plant Sanctuary (0.027 square kilometers), Angratoli Reserve Forest (30.11 square kilometers), and several Community-owned Forests.

“Prior to 1986, Balpakram National Park was a land owned by the local Garo community where they practiced Jhum i.e. slash and burn shifting agriculture and lived in small settlements. Keeping in mind the biodiversity richness and connectivity of the landscape, Government of India proposed to the communities that some area be set aside as Protected Area. After surveys and consultations, land owner communities were compensated by the government for their land and Balpakram became a National Park in 1986 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. What is seen in Balpakram today is a mixed forest type with secondary regrowth of the jhum areas as well as primary stands.”

Nokrek National Park is the core of Nokrek Biosphere Reserve (820 square kilometers) declared by the Government of India in 1988 and recognized under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) in 2009. Nokrek Biosphere is the home of a very rare species of citrus locally known as Memang Narang or orange of the spirits. Memang Narang (Citrus Indica) is considered to be the most primitive and progenitor of all other varieties of citrus plants in the world. The Nokrek National Citrus Gene Sanctuary demarcated for the in-situ conservation of Citrus indica is located in the buffer area of the MAB.

Baghmara (280 kilometers from Shillong) is the headquarters of the South Garo Hills district, lying in the southern part of Meghalaya. It is the only town in the district. Rich in flora and fauna, Baghmara is enveloped by rivers, hills and lakes. According to legend the town was originally called Barokar and got renamed Baghmara (bagh: tiger and mara: killed) when Bong Laskar, a militiaman, killed a tiger by crushing its jaw. One has to cross Baghmara to go to the famous Siju Cave, which is said to the third-longest cave system in India. Another attraction nearby is Baghmara Reserve Forest, which is popular for sightings of elephants, langurs and birds.

Garo Hills Geology

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Northeast India is significant in the study of the India-Asia continent collision, estimated to have happened 56 - 60 Million Years Ago (mya). This collision precipitated significant upheavals of geology, climatology, oceanography and paleobiology. Sediments are well developed in the eastern Tethyan realm in the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hills and makes Meghalaya globally significant in the understanding of early foreland basin evolution. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Within this, the Garo Group (Simsang, Bagmara and Chengapara formations) is the youngest formations of Cretaceous-Tertiary sediments in Meghalaya. The Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary (KTB) is significant in earth's history because of the catastrophic mass vertebrate extinctions across the globe, most famously of the dinosaurs, about 65 Million Years Ago. In northeast India, the KTB event has been recorded from Meghalaya. Rare nanofossils have been recorded from the Siju and Rewak formations (Singh et al 2016). In the Mahadeo Formation dominated by sandstone, the Late Cretaceous fossil content includes foraminifera, plant remains, dinosaur bones and trace fossils. (Mishra and Sen 2001, Tiwari et al, 2010)5. Within Balpakram, the Mahadeo river rocks have been observed to bear ammonite and plant fossils. The Mahadeo gorge, in addition to being aesthetically grand, also has massive exposed cliff faces where the rock strata display earth's history in a stratigraphy cross-section.

The nominated property has limestones which are highly fossiliferous, containing bands of foraminifera, corals and bivalves (Singh et al 2016). The limestone also forms extensive cave systems. Caves are productive sites for the study of paleoclimate and speleobiological diversity. Paleoclimate records based on oxygen isotopes and microfacies of growth layers have been obtained from speleothems (cave deposits) from other sites in Meghalaya and those in the GHCA are as yet unexplored natural laboratories. The Siju Cave, which has received relatively more research attention, has the distinction of being the type locality for a Braconid wasp of new genus (and species) Neontsira typica (Wheeler 1924) and a new species of loach fish, the Siju Blind Cavefish Schistura sijuensis (Mervin 1987).

Garo Hills Ecosystem and Wildlife

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The forest types as classified by Champion and Seth (1968) are Tropical Moist Evergreen, Tropical Semi-evergreen and Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest and largely come under the regional classification of Tropical Moist formation (Holdridge and Grenke, 1971). Due to its unique shifting agricultural practices (locally termed as jhum), the landscape consists of primary and secondary forest growth, interspersed with degraded/regenerating bamboo forests. The terrain is hilly with deep gorges and limestone formations (Wanniang & Thiek 2007). Elevation ranges from 100 to 1500 meters amsl with Nokrek Peak (1586m) being the highest and Chutmang Peak (1150m) within Balpakram National Park the second highest peak in the Garo Hills.

The nominated property falls under Biogeographic Zone 8B i.e. Northeastern India, which is one of the biologically most diverse regions of India. The Garo Hills are also western-most part of the Jndo Malayan Biodiversity Hotspot and harbors a range of endangered species. The GHCA has 'tropical Moist Evergreen, Tropical Semi-evergreen and Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests. There are also three large grasslands (Balpakram, Agal Bisa and Pindengru), and riparian 'shola' forests on the plateau in Balpakram. The terrain is hilly with limestone formations, plateaus, cliffs and deep gorges.

Fifty-two species of mammals have been recorded here so far from Balpakram Landscape, of which twenty-one are carnivores. It holds one of the largest and most-threatened populations of Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus). Other large herbivores are the Gaur (Bos gaurus), Sambar (Rus unicolor) and Red Serow (Capricornis rubidus). The large carnivores here are the Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Leopard (Panthera pardus) and Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus arctos). Five species of civet occur here - Large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha), Small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata), Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hemaphroditus) and Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica). The first camera-trap record in India of the Small toothed palm civet (Arctogalidn trivirgata) was obtained here. Other elusive and lesser-known species found here are the Asiatic Golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), hog badger (Arctonyx spp), Large-toothed ferret badger (Melogale moschata) and the endangered Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus). Seven primate species also occur in the landscape - the endangered Hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock), Capped langur (Trochypithecus pileatus) Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides), Northern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca leonine), Assamese macaque (Macaca assarnensis), Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) and Bengal Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis). A complete checklist of rodents and bat species remains to be done.

The different forest types, hill streams, rivers and caves within the property provide a diversity of habitat for an enormous diversity of species of invertebrates, 298 species of butterflies, 448 species of moths, 26 species of amphibian, 45 species of reptiles and 347 species of birds.

The State has 3331 plant species recorded of which 1319 Angiosperms (around 834 (25.04 percent) ethnomedicinal species are estimated to be used in healthcare sector). Among which 116 species were either under threatened or endemic. 17 species are endemic to Meghalaya, 113 Pteridophytes, 248 Bryophytes. A recent survey reveals a total of 436 Rare, Endangered and Threatened plant species have been recorded from Meghalaya representing 13.09 percent of the state's flora. Few of the Critically Endangered plant species of Meghalaya are Gastrochilus calceolaris, Gymnocladus assamicus, Illichium griffithii, Pterocybium tinctorium, Saurauia punduana, Taxus baccata and Vatica lanceafolia are The state has also recorded 352 species of orchids belonging to 98 genera representing 27.08 percent of the country's orchid flora. Few notable examples are Aerides multiflorum, Coelogyne corymbosa, Cymbidium elegans, Dendrobium devonianum, Dendrobium longicornu, Paphiopedilum insigne, Rhynchostylis retusa, Phaius tankervilliae, Thunia marshalliana and Vanda coerulea are few of the exotic orchids of Meghalaya.

The germplasm of Citrus indica is conserved in-situ at the National Citrus Gene Sanctuary in the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve the area is noted for other wild varieties of citrus fruits as well that provide a gene-pool for commercially produced citrus. The insectivorous plants include two species of Drosera (Sundew) and the endemic and endangered Nepenthes khasiana (Pitcher plant). The property is rich in endemic medicinal plant species, with 14 and 6 species recorded from Nokrek and Balpakram respectively. The cave systems in the property are crucibles of ongoing biological evolution, with species having been isolated for long periods. These have not even begun to be documented, but represent an outstanding opportunity to do so, as indicated by the new species recorded from Siju Cave.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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