Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Meghalaya is a small state in north-eastern India. The word "Meghalaya" literally means "The Abode of Clouds" in Sanskrit and other Indic languages. Meghalaya is a hilly strip in the eastern part of the country about 300 km long (east-west) and 100 km wide, with a total area of about 8,700 sq mi (22,720 km²). The population numbered 2,175,000 in 2000. The state is bounded on the north by Assam and by Bangladesh on the south. The capital is Shillong also known as the Scotland of the East, which has a population of 260,000.
About one third of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its mountain forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests of Meghalaya are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants.
Meghalaya was formed by carving out the two districts of the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills on 21 January 1972. Prior to attaining full statehood, Meghalaya was given a semi-autonomous status in 1970.
The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes each had their own kingdoms, until they came under the British administration in the 19th century. Later, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835. The region enjoyed semi-independent status by virtue of a treaty relationship with the British Crown.
The State of Meghalaya is also known as the "Meghalaya Plateau". It consists mainly of archean rock formations. These rock formations contain rich deposits of valuable minerals like coal, limestone, uranium and sillimanite. Meghalaya has many rivers. Most of these are rainfed and are therefore seasonal. The important rivers in the Garo Hills Region are Daring, Sanda, Bandra, Bhogai, Dareng, Simsang, Nitai and the Bhupai. In the central and eastern section of the plateau, the important rivers are Umkhri, Digaru, Umiam, Kynchiang (Jadukata), Mawpa, Umiew or Barapani, Myngot and Myntdu. In the southern Khasi Hills Region, these rivers have created deep gorges and several beautiful waterfalls.
Earlier, foreign tourists required special permits to enter the areas that now constitute the state of Meghalaya. However, the restrictions were removed in 1955. Meghalaya is considered to be one of the most picturesque states in the country. It has enough tourism content to attract tourists of many different interests.
Meghalaya has some of the thickest surviving forests in the country and therefore constitutes one of the most important ecotourism circuits in the country today. The Meghalayan subtropical forests support a vast variety of flora and fauna. Meghalaya has 2 National Parks and 3 Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Meghalaya also offers many adventure tourism opportunities in the form of mountaineering, rock climbing, trekking and hiking, water sports etc. The state offers several trekking routes some of which also afford and opportunity to encounter some rare animals such as the slow loris, assorted deer and bear. The Umiam Lake has a water sports complex with facilities such as rowboats, paddleboats, sailing boats, cruise-boats, water-scooters and speedboats.
Meghalaya has an estimated 500 natural limestone and sandstone caves spread over the entire state including most of the longest and deepest caves in the sub-continent. Krem Liat Prah is the longest cave and Synrang Pamiang is the deepest cave, both located in the Jaintia Hills. Cavers from United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Ireland and the US have been visiting Meghalaya for over a decade exploring these caves. Not many of these have however been developed or promoted adequately for major tourist destinations.