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Sacred Grove : Law Lyngdoh At Mawphlang

August 15, 2011
Sacred Grove Mawphlang
As a part of their cultural and religious beliefs the people of Meghalaya practice an age-old tradition of preserving primary forest patches near their settlements .These forests are a deep insight into the history and religious beliefs of the people of Meghalaya .A Sacred Grove is a  rich patch of undisturbed forests that serve as a natural habitat for many endemic, rare and valuable   plants. I had never heard of Sacred Groves until few years back . Located about 25 km from Shillong after an hour of beautiful drive one can easily reach Sacred Grove of Mawphlang , one of the most famous grove that attracts botanists and naturalists from all over the world.This grove has also been named as Nature’s Own Museum as it has a varied form of plants,flowering trees ,orchids and butterflies.Sacred groves serve as Gene Bank of the ecosystem in modern times .
This young boy named John at this ticket check point stopped us .The grove is open to visitors on all days from 9 am to 4.30 pm .After issuing  the tickets John drew our attention to this sign board .Most of the forests of Meghalaya are owned by communities or individuals.
 Khasis have very strict rules and regulations for those who enter the sacred groves and they have been following this for ages.They believe that their Sylvan deities live inside them so any harm procured to the plants or the animals would offend them.No one is allowed to enter SG without prior permission.Vehicles are not allowed after a certain point.Littering is strictly prohibited in and around them.Cutting,peeling ,chopping of any tree or plucking of flowers ,orchids is not allowed.One can not enter the SG without an authorized guide.Hunting ,trapping or killing of living creatures inside the grove is strictly prohibited.
 We also saw another new sign board ready to be installed .It too had many important points to follow. John agreed to be our guide for the tour . He asked for Rs 150 /hour ,to which we readily agreed. .John knew few English words and fewer of Hindi .Pranab and Chandan had little knowledge of Khasi words.Together all of us made an interesting team.From the check point John boarded our car , after covering a distance of approx 100-150 mt  he asked us to stop and  park the car in the nearby grassland.
 As we got down he firmly instructed us  ‘Chalo’ ( meaning Walk — his favorite word through out the tour).We could see  SG from distance , the grove proudly stood in sharp contrast to their surrounding grasslands .These groves have an outer edge of  a densely grown  Castanopsis kurzii trees, which forms a protective hedge which stops the intrusion of Khasi pine which  otherwise dominates all areas outside the sacred groves.The contrast is clearly visible in the picture above.

 We noticed several  ancient monoliths ( Mawbynna in local language) erected in the memory of the departed  respected community members.

 After ten minutes walk we reached near the entrance of the grove which would have been difficult to guess or locate without John’s guidance.

 As we entered the grove it felt like stepping into another world .Words fail to express that feeling ,it was magical. The tall trees cover the area like an umbrella .There was a considerable difference in light ,it was dimmer. The forest really looked untouched .It strongly reminded me of the Florida Disney world Dinosaur ride.There was one strange thing though ,we heard no bird chirping .

 As we looked around in complete amazement John’s CHALO startled us .Where are you taking us i asked him in broken  Hindi “Kidhar zata ?” To which he replied Bhagbaan ( we assumed that he meant ‘Bhagwaan’ the Hindi word for God ).I once again asked him “kitna dur “( how far it is ) to which he replied  “dus minute”(ten minutes).Later we realized that everything was just 10 minutes away according to John.He knew the path by heart .He stressed that we do not loose each others sight .
 The trunks ,branches of the tree and shrubs were loaded with many ferns ,orchids ,lichens and mosses

.The green Foliage of the Sacred Grove changes from deep green to light green, depending on the seasons and availability of rainfall.John told us the best time to come here is spring when the forest is covered with blooms.

 John pointed at this plant telling us that the snakes come here to eat this fruit . I was not very sure if the information was true .Chandan asked him what would happen if one tries to eat it .John pointed at a monolith nearby . His answer was loud and clear.
Many monoliths were scattered through out the forest .The vertical ones are for men, while the horizontal ones represent women.John described each monolith with words like father ,mother,son,daughter .( which meant male ,female ,male child ,female child).

 We saw many beautiful orchids there .

Nobody collects anything from the forest, not even fallen branches of trees .The humus-covered grounds likewise harbour myriad varieties of plant life, many of which are found nowhere else.

 John showed us this spot which we at first thought was again a cluster of monoliths.He said ‘ye bhagabaan'( meaning here is the Gods/Diety). All  three of us removed our shoes ,sat down on the ground in front of the dieties and paid our respect .
We spent about forty five minutes inside the SG exploring more .John wanted to show us something more .As i saw Chandan and John leave the SG ,it almost felt like i was looking at them through a secret forest window .Once again bright light hit the eyes and we were back to our usual world.
 We had no other option other than to follow John’s ‘Chalo’ .Only ‘dus minute'(ten minutes).It took us more than twenty minutes to reach the spot he wanted to show us .We crossed this ground where local festivals are celebrated by the villagers.
 We looked back at our car  that was very far away .Soon we reached the highest point over a cliff from where this beautiful view awaited us.
The point offered a breathtaking view of  villages nearby .We had many rounds of ‘Dus Minute Chalo’ afterwards . Saw many similar views over the area .
As we moved back to our car i once more captured Sacred Grove in my camera .
 We thanked John for his company and dropped him at the check point .There are many sacred groves in Meghalaya hills.I hope they remain untouched and  protected and not fall prey to urbanization.Sacred groves harbor great genetic diversity. Sacred groves act as “lungs” to the surrounding areas as well, providing much needed   environmental cover.
  1. Very interesting. I am learning about these sacred groves for the first time. There is a community in Rajasthan known as Bishnois. They too are nature lovers and would give their life to protect their environment.

  2. Great photos and write-up. Sorry for being so late to visit, but did not have internet access for the last few days. Been busy with the transfer and then caught viral fever. Among the many cultural traditions that Kerala share with the Northeast is the Sacred Grove. Most of such groves in Kerala have been cleared by 'developmental' activities but a few still remain. As ever, you took me along all the way!

  3. The more we get to read about all these unexplored regions, the more one desires to see them in person. Beautifully described and you are really lucky to have been there.

  4. So good to learn of a culture in which the preservation of forests is so important, thanks for such an informative post Kavita.

  5. nice collection!

  6. Quite informative. Wish I could visit this place. The sacred grove reminded me of the sacred tree in the movie Avatar. I hope the industrialists do not plunder it for economic reasons.

  7. Kavita, This is spectacular. I'm so glad I can visit these places thanks to your blog. Hopefully, I'll come to see these wonderlands myself soon!

  8. such brilliant people!How wise.again you make us wise and happy with your wonderful post, KavitaAloha from Waikiki;Comfort Spiral > < } } ( ° > ><}}(°>< ° ) } } > <

  9. Loved reading it. Last December, I had a quick trip to Shillong but it was mostly work. I had wondered about the monoliths but had received no answer. So it was good to learn so much more. Thanks.

  10. It's extremly a beautiful place … it just doesn't seem like india – rather looks like some latin america jungle. i would definately love to visit this sacred grove (in person) – otherwise u have shown the place through splendid photos !!

  11. Your travel writings are wonderful. Keep travelling and keep

  12. My greetings from France! After visiting your blog, I could not leave without putting a comment.I congratulate you on your blog!Maybe I would have the opportunity to welcome you on mine too!My blog is in french, but on the right is the Google translator!good daycordiallyChris CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

  13. is there any places to stay near mawphlang any resort or something like that…

  14. Abhinandan you can stay at Shillong as it is only an hour away .

  15. thanks a lot….sorry for being late in replying late…

  16. thanks a lot…sorry for being late in replying…

  17. nice snaps…i wish snaps of the little incredible watersource was also there….the place in really incredible

  18. i like the snaps you have taken and i would like to say that it encourages touristers to visit SG

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