Meghalaya is one of the north east states of India. It became an autonomous State on 2nd April 1970 and as a full-fledged State on 21st January 1972. The state of Meghalaya extends for about 300 kilometres in length and about 100 kilometres in breadth. It is bounded on the north by Goalpara, Kamrup and Nowgong districts, on the east by Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills districts, all of Assam, and on the south and west by Bangladesh.
Meghalaya, swaddled amidst wraith-like mists is aptly called the abode of the clouds. It is one of India’s prettiest and youngest states having split away from Assam in 1972. Inhabited by the Khasis, Jaintia and Garos, it is best known for the pretty hill station Shillong, which has been Meghalaya’s First City for a long time.
Standing out amongst the other states, not just for its traditional and natural beauty, Meghalaya is also known for its unique matrilineal society, which governs lineage and ancestral inheritance through the female line.
With British conquest, Bengalis came in as admistrators, the Nepalese served in the military and the Marwaris stepped in as traders. Christian missions were established among the Khasis and in the Garo Hills and Shillong was to become an important educational centre, a summer resort and also a garrison station.
Meghalaya’s main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are the Khasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother’s side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly. Traditionally, the Khasis believe that their religion is God given and is based on the belief of one supreme God, the creator ‘U Blei Nongthaw’ A Khasi is a deeply religious person, who has an intense love of life. He believes that life is God’s greatest gift and he has to account for it again in the hereafter. The Jaintias and Khasis have the same religion, although the Jaintias are more influenced by Hinduism. They have a superstition that the Jam, like the Khasi Thlen, is an evil spirit bringing riches to its owner and disease or death to its enemies or victims. The Garos believe in one supreme Creator, Rabuga, who is the sustainer and commander of the world. The other spirits are the representatives of the supreme Creator. The spirits connected to the Garo’s agricultural life, are appeased by sacrifices but never worshipped. The headman is an integral part of the village and acts as religious head. However, many members of the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo communities have converted to Christianity and one can see a number of churches as well as temples, mosques, gurudwaras and monasteries in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya offers an pleasant climate with an unexpected monsoon behavior as well. The climate varies with altitude and is uniquely pleasant and bracing. The climate is warm and humid in the plains and lowlands except in winter. There is a great variation of rainfall over central and southern Meghalaya. At Sohra (Cherrapunjee), the place that receives the highest amount of rainfall in the world has an average annual rainfall as high as 12000 millimetres, but the capital city, Shillong located at a distance of about fifty kilometres from Sohra receives an average of 2200 mm of rainfall annually only.