Introduction: The city derives its name from Leishyllong the Superpower or God who is believed to reside on the Shillong peak, overlooking the city. he romantic city of Shillong has been one of the important tourist destinations in the northeast. It is often referred to as the ?Scotland of the East? due to its striking similarity with the Scottish highlands. History: Shillong was a small village until 1864, when it became the new civil station of the Khasi and Jaintia hills. It remained the summer capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam for many years. In 1874, on the formation of Assam as a Chief Commissioner?s Province, it was chosen as the capital of the new administration. An earthquake destroyed the city in 1897, necessitating its complete rebuilding. In January 1972, Shillong became the capital of the newly formed state of Meghalaya. Description: Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than rest of India. An umbrella is therefore a necessity while packing your bags. Although people avoid the rainy season, it is generally the time when city is clean (rains wash the streets of all garbage) and waterfalls are in full strength. Most of the Shillong population belong to Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are significant Bengali and Nepali minorities. An interesting aspect of Khasis are that they are a matrilineal society - the mother is head of family, youngest daughter owns all the property and mothers surname is passed on to children.
Shillong Quick facts
Shillong Geography and Climate
Geography: Shillong is located at 25.57� N 91.88� E. It is on the Shillong Plateau, the only major pop-up structure in the northern Indian shield. The city lies in the centre of the plateau and is surrounded by hills, three of which are revered in Khasi tradition: Lum Sohpetbneng, Lum Diengiei and Lum Shillong. Climate: Shillong is subject to vagaries of the monsoon. The monsoons arrive in June and it rains almost until the end of August. The climate is hot and humid during summers but quite cold during winters. October-November and March-April are the best months to visit Shillong.
Best time to visit Shillong
October to November and March to April because the place comes alive after monsoons with sunny days and a little nip in the air that makes quilts inviting as autumn gives way to winter. Spring in Shillong means lovely little flowers everywhere and the most important Khasi festival, Shad Suk Mynsiem. An important October attraction is the Ka Pomblang Nongkrem - virgin dances, goat sacrifices et al.
Shillong is on several hills. Police Bazaar is in the center of town, and the government bus stand, lower-end and middle hotels, restaurants, and shops are located in this area. The northeast area, where Ward?s Lake and the botanical garden are located used to be the British area. Some higher-class hotels are located in this area. About 1� km west of the center of town is Bara Bazaar and the private bus stand.
Shillong Near Getaways
Sacred Forest (or Mawphlang as called locally): These are groves around 25kms away from Shillong. These are considered sacred by Khasis and people were forbidden to enter them earlier. This ensured protection of a dense growth of several kinds of trees including the Khasi pine. The heavily covered grounds around the forests facilitating growth of ferns and orchids most of them endemic.
Shillong is 3719 km from Thiruvanathapuram, 3025 km from Srinagar, 2502 km from Shimla, 487 km from Agartala, 2698 km from Ahmedabad, 3120 km from Bangalore, 2148 km from Bhopal, 1731 km from Bhubaneshwar, 2947 km from Mumbai, 1251 km from Calcutta, 2383 km from Chandigarh, 727 km from Darjeeling, 2134 km from Delhi, 725 km from Gangtok, 100 km from Guwahati, 2554 km from Hyderabad, 520 km from Imphal, 514 km from Itanagar, 2164 km from Jaipur, 410 km from Kohima, 1610 km from Lucknow, 2929 km from Chennai, and 3266 km from Panaji.
How to reach Shillong by Road
Both Deluxe and ordinary bus services are available. Meghalaya Road Transport also run regular bus services in Meghalaya.
How to reach Shillong by Rail
Guwahati is the nearest railhead and is well-connected to the rest of the country.
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How to reach Shillong by Air
Guwahati is the nearest airport from where Shillong can be reached by bus or car. Daily buses also connect Shillong with Guwahati airport. Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd, under the aegis of the Government of Meghalaya, has commenced regular helicopter flights connecting Shillong and Tura to Guwahati.
Shillong Festivals and culture
The festivals vary according to the tribes. Christmas, Easter, Good Friday and the New Year Day celebrations are the most important. Ka Pomblang Nongkrem, or the Nongkrem dance, is one of the most important Khasi festivals. Shad Sukmynsiem is another important festival of the Khasis. Behdiengkhlam, the festival of the Jaintias, is celebrated in July. Wangala is the festival of the Garos and is dedicated to the Sun God
Shillong has a blend of cultures, as its populace comprises of the three major tribes and other communities too. A large percentage of the population of Shillong belongs to the Khasi tribe. A Khasi woman usually wears a "jainsem" - two pieces of material pinned at the shoulder and a "tapmohkhlieh" or shawl. Earlier men wore dhotis, a half coat and a turban but this attire has taken a change to the English attire - trousers and blazer or shirt. The Khasi tribe comprises of the various clans comprising of various families sharing the same family name or a group of family names bonded together as a clan. The concept of bonding of clans is to knit families together and to avoid incest. The children take the mother's family name and clan. The father's clan is much respected as they are said to have given life but the children do not take his family's name. The Khasi society is also known as a matrilineal and patriarchal society. This is because the lineage of the family is traced through the mother while the eldest brother has a say in most of the family decisions. After marriage it is the groom who comes and stays at the brides home and after three days they visit the groom's home. Other than the youngest daughter, all other daughters have to build their homes after marriage, though they do get a share of the ancestral property.
Shillong Religious Places
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christian: At Laitumkhrah, it attracts devotees and visitors alike. Sri Ramakrishna Temple, Ramakrishna Mission, Shillong Matri Mandir (Kali Temple), Shillong Sri Ramakrishna Temple, Ramakrishna Mission, Cherrapunjee Mahadev Khola Dham (Shiva Temple), Shillong
Mawjinbuim Cave: Around 50 kms from Shillong, the capital of the state of Meghalaya is the beautiful tourist spot called the Mawjinbuim caves. Apart from the natural beauty it offers a marvel in a cave. There is a stalagmite Shiva Lingam formed here which receives steady drops of water from a stone formed like a breast.
Shillong Entertainment and Night Life
Meghalaya Tourism's Adventure wing arranges guided treks and caving activities amongst other adventurous forays into the hills. The trekking opportunity in Shillong is outstanding for the fact that, the terrain is very challenging like in Himalayan areas but with the advantage of not being snow-wrapped. Smit : The trek begins from State Library and after passing the Crinoline Falls, it ascends till it reaches Laitkor. This two-day trek includes some parts along the metalled road. Weiloi to Ponkung / Pongkung to Umngi : One can reach Weiloi village from Shillong by car / bus. On the way from Weiloi to Umngi there exist two natural mineral water springs. The Hot Spring of Umngi has the potential for becoming a health resort. From Weiloi, one can also opt for a less exhausting shorter route via Mawblang.
The main shopping areas are Police Bazaar, Bara Bazaar and Laitumukhrah. On Iewduh, the first day of the eight-day long Khasi week, people from all over eastern Meghalaya come to sell their products here. In the centre of Police Bazar, on the corner of Kacheri road, there are shops selling finely woven baskets of all sizes. For hand-woven shawls, handicrafts, orange flower honey and cane work, one can visit the various emporia like Meghalaya Handicrafts, Khadi Gramodyog and Purbashree.
Famous To Eat at Shillong
Chinese, Indian and Tibetan foods are popular. One should definitely try Momos (steamed Tibetan pancakes filled with cabbage and pork). Khasi and Tibetan recipes use very little spices (including salt) unlike cooking style of rest of India and emphasis is on boiling or roasting rather than frying in oil. While at Shillong you may try the traditional Khasi delicacies that include pig's brains with ginger and fried rice flavored with pig's blood.
Shillong Museum and Hill Stations
Shillong Peak: An ideal picnic spot, 10 km. from the city, 1965 m above sea level, offers a panoramic view of the scenic country side, and is also the highest point in the State. Obeisance is paid to U Shulong at the sanctum sanctorum at the peak's summit every springtime, by the religious priest of Mylliem State. In the evening the city lights below appear like a star-studded abyss. Cherrapunji: 56 km from Shillong, situated in one of the rainiest rain-belt in the world, 1,300 m above sea level. A pleasant drive to see roaring water falls leaping into deep gorges, including the famed Nohsngithiang falls. The lovely town is also famous for its limestone caves and orange honey. Centre of Khasi culture and literature, it also has the oldest Presbyterian Church and also an establishment of the Ramkrishna Mission. Sohpetbneng Peak: 1,343 m, 20 km from Shillong, regarded as sacred by the Hynniewtrep people, is set amidst a beautiful scenic view against the backdrop of a sacred forest. This 'Navel of Heaven' as per Khasi mythology is a heavenly peak which offers to fill the spiritual void and emptiness, to those who seek and desire solace and peace of mind. The State Museum of Meghalaya: The museum has a habitat section showing the living places of tribes, instruments used for hunting, fishing appliances, weapons, agricultural implements, transport equipment, domestic articles like pots, spoons, water jug, tobacco box, baskets. Butterfly Museum: xThis is about 1 km from Shillong. Meghalaya is home to numerous variety of butterflies, in exotic colours and patterns. If you have not yet seen them, the do visit this museum, which displays a wide spectrum of butterflies found in Meghalaya. Arunachal Pradesh Museum: About 3.5 km away from Shillong is the Arunachal Pradesh Museum. The museum is here to display the exquisite items of Arunachal Pradesh. If you are not able to visit Arunachal Pradesh, then do visit this place.
Gardens and Parks at Shillong
Botanical Garden: A secluded but captivating spot with plethora of indigenous and exotic plants and is located just below the Ward's Lake. Lady Hydari Park: A popular charming tourist draw, the adjacent mini zoo is an added attraction. Balpakram National Park: This huge park is most untouched by the tourist invasion and as a result one can see the animals in their actual natural habitat. It is located south of Tura, and features the canyon of the Mahadeo River. It has been the home for the wildlife such as the tiger, elephant, barking deer, and gaur. The park is also known for its medicinal herbs. Another reason for its isolation is the myth surrounding the park.
Lake at Shillong
Ward lake: The Ward Lake is an important tourist site of Shillong. It is a horseshoe-shaped artificial lake lying beneath the Raj Bhavan (Governor?s Residence) and the Accountant General?s (AG) Office, with little isles and a bridge over it. The lake abounds in fish (grass carps) and feeding the fish from the bridge is a favorite pastime of the tourists. Umiam or Barapani lake: Seventeen kilometers before Shillong is situated Umiam or Barapani?a large lake formed after a hydroelectric dam was built across a stream. In recent years, this has become an increasingly popular place for outings and weekend visits. Orchid Lake Resort: The Orchid Lake Resort, designed by the famous architect Charles Correa, and constructed amongst pinewood, overlooks the lake. There are facilities for water sports here: from kayaking and water skiing for the adventurous to water cycling and simple boating for the less brave. The Orchid Lake Resort, run by the Meghalaya Tourism Department, has pleasantly appointed rooms with balconies, a restaurant and bar. Bishop and Beadon Falls: Both cascade down the same escarpment into a deep valley, the mass of water dissolving into misty sparks. Elephant Falls: 12 km on the outskirts of the city, the mountain stream descends through two successive falls set in dells of fern covered rocks.Elephant Falls Spread Eagle Falls: A soothing setting amidst the calmness of nature-a treat to the eyes. Sweet Falls:Situated near Happy Valley, most suitable for a day's outing and picnic. Explore it! Crinoline Falls:Near Lady Hydari Park, a cool spot within the city limits. This is a must visit place in Meghalaya.
Rice and maize are the main foodgrain crops of the state. Wheat, other millets and pulses are grown to a small extent. Rape and mustard seed are the important oilseed crops, while the important plantation crops include spices and arecanut. Ginger, turmeric, black pepper, dry chillies and tezpatta are the main spices grown in the state. Potato, sweet potato and tapioca are the important tuber crops of the Meghalaya state. The major horticultural crops are pineapple, citrus, temperate fruits, banana, papaya, onion, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, lady's finger, brinjal, carrot, tomato, turnip, bottle gourd and radish. The livestock population in the state has also grown significantly.
Shillong Travel Tips
Meghalaya is not called the 'Abode of the Clouds' for nothing. So carry an umbrella with you at all times, no matter when you go. Travel healthy. Once on the road (or in the air ), take all precautions that will keep you from that running nose, dizzy body temperatures, giddy hangovers etc. Make sure you don't embark on a trip even if there are some early signs of a sickness. While shopping never, never believe the touts (they hang around the tourist-y spots and cities) who promise to take you to the best shop around and get you the best bargain. They usually have their handsome commissions built into the cost. Carry a first aid kit with adhesive bandages, thermometer, water-purification tablets, antibiotics, antiseptic creams and mosquito repellents.
Shillong Tourist Offices
Directorate of Tourism, Govt of Meghalaya Nokrek Building Lower Lachumiere, Shillong Tel: 0364-2226054
The State Bank of India (223-520), Kacheri Rd, near Shillong Club; and Indian Overseas Bank, change US dollars and British pounds and Thomas Cook and American Express TCs.
Must do at Shillong
Take a walk through Iewduh (Bada Bazar) - It is one of the biggest market in North-East India. There are separate areas dedicated to vegetables, fruits, iron works, fish, beef, betel and so on. Visit the State Central Library - Located near Dhankheti, it was started at the time of British Raj and holds many rare books and almanacs. For British searching for clues about ancestors in this area, it is a gold-mine. Unfortunately with time and poor management many books are being lost. Explore the forest around Shillong peak - There are no large or dangerous animals and forest is full of rare and exotic plants - orchids, pines and others including the famous insect eating pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana).