Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sacred Grove/Forest : Law Lyngdoh At Mawphlang Meghalaya

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. i so want to visit this place right now! :(

  2. How interesting and fascinating! I bet the air was very clean from the plants giving off oxygen. Everything looks so green there, Kavita. Mahalo for showing us your lovely pictures.

  3. Kavita I spent more than the "Dus Minute" you frequently quoted. AND I didn't need to 'Chalo' on step--grin!

    Kav, your words "As we entered the grove it felt like stepping into another world .Words fail to express that feeling ,it was magical."

    Well, those are my words, exactly. There is nothing to comment except send a photo of myself with mouth wide open in wonderment of the beauty
    of nature. And the beauty of your depictions.

    You must own fines lenses of course...but the kind of photos you send us are composed by an artist. Created by God, shot by Kavita. Visits to your pages are not a "blog session"...they are an EXPERIENCE!

    Thank you so very much. I would like to go there, be there (in the spring?--grin!). Your posts are second only to 'being there'.

    I'd better end this comment(s). but could go one and write about each photo as a mini-masterpiece.

    Steve E

  4. Beautiful.
    A similar but highly constricted version could be found in the sacred groves of Kerala. Increasing pressure on the land has decimated these spots. Few survive near some temples and the old grwoth around ancestral homes. Unfortunately nothing as vast as in Meghalaya.

  5. Kavita, I'm in awe of the stunning beauty of all your pictures!
    I can only imagine the magic you felt as you entered the Grove!
    Must have been so amazing!

    I thank you for another beautiful post!

    Margie x

  6. Kavita Ba, Just read your nice post & thanks for awesome photographs.

  7. Wonderful,place, very scenic. At least by this the forest area will be preserved. This looks like a heaven on earth, such greenery.

  8. absolutely true...the lungs bit...wish the groves remain protected, so beautiful

  9. just fascinating, another world reminds me of rain forests in the Northwest section of the USA. We have in our religion a sacred grove in New York state near Palmyra where the prophet of the restoration had his first vision. It also is a quiet magical place of peace and worship. thanks for sharing your sacred grove with us.

  10. The place looks surreal. Thanks for sharing. Now, we know there is heaven in India.

  11. I feel my eyes have become green now...so much greenery! This place doesn't look like our country at all. Though the villages near my home town have got lot of greenery, but not like this!

    Did you ask John why birds' sound was not there? Did you hear their sounds or see them outside? With so many trees, it must be a heaven for birds.

    I like their temple too...everything blends with nature!

    Thank you once again for introducing these places to us, Kavita!

  12. What a coincidence; my daughter is just back from a photo-field trip in the Sahyadri's and was telling me about the Scared Groves, maintained by the Adivasis, way up in the Hills . Then I open your blog and read this wonderful wonderful post. Our country is so diversely rich in traditions, history and people. I so look forward to seeing some more fantastic photos and narratives on your blog !

  13. wow this is such an amazing world!!

    you have presented it so beautifully!

  14. What a wonderful landscapes,very interesting!Have a nice day

  15. Wow what a place to go,loved the greenery and hope our politicians don't eye these place...

  16. You keep on visiting extraordinary places! The monoliths look very impressive

  17. Kavita, I was thinking of weekend getaways from guwahati...and this place seems ideal. Thanks for introducing us to such unexplored, unspoiled treasures of the North-East.

    totallt unrelated question here... where is your dental practice based? I need some advice. will mail you. tc :)

  18. It's so beautiful there and what an amazing concept. I love the respect they have for nature and enforce it on others too. The green really soothes the soul. The photos are so magical; I can't quite imagine the impact face to face. Really thanks for the lovely journey and the great pics and description.

  19. As always fascinating, I never grow tired of reading about other cultures and religions ...... and as for all that lush vegetation, how beautiful.

  20. This is so interesting and the pictures of the grove were nice. From a distance you would think the grove too dense to enter but you showed us otherwise. Thanks for taking us on another great and beautiful trip with you,

  21. These are some great descriptions and wonderful photos. Meghalaya is fantastic place, though I have only seen it while doing a bus journey from Dibrugarh to Guwahati. I could see the green beautiful Mountains covered in the mist in the morning. It was bliss. :)

  22. WOWOW so much greenery .. I love this place
    and that Fruit for the snake I love that plant ..

    Really amazing I can understand how you felt and cna beleive you that it is magical I cna feel the magic through the pics here .. WOWOW


  23. it is a delight see the picts and know that there still are such beautiful, natural places in our country that hasnt been rubbished by us...

  24. K , fascinating piece as usual.
    Sacred groves were an intrinsic part of the folklore and life in Kerala until the myopic change called development took over.

    Well, the grove you have on your post must be a treasure trove for a botanist.

    But what surprises me is your statement,"no bird chirping".

    I feel that aspect needs to be explored. There may be a reason, that will be a revelation!

    Grove sans birds?

  25. nice pictures..and lovely green area..the path looks fresh and terrains are so very perfect....I bet we can easily loose each other if not careful..
    it will be scary at night!..
    a lovely insight..thanks for sharing.

  26. Loved it! Indeed it was magical!

  27. lovely pictures. was looking like we are also having a ride through ur pics.

  28. As usual you get it so right that I kinda felt I just explored a SG. Its a wonderful experience to read through your wowful Posts..

  29. wow...thats some scenery...awesome landscape :) nice post...

  30. Kavita, I love it that you and Chandan are taking these trips to discover these wonderful places and then sharing them with us. I'm in awe! What an amazing country you live in. It's so different from the crowded cities that you mostly hear about.

    We do have a dear friend who just Skyped us from India, telling us he and his family were going to Agra. My son says it's absolutely awesome!

  31. I would love to walk into this grove....


  32. kaviiii...haha..dont get scared..shouted for u just like that..cheers

  33. Awesome didi..as usual..Saw the post some days back but couldn't read it(i was a kinda busy).

    "Chandan asked him what would happen if one tries to eat it .John pointed at a monolith nearby . His answer was loud and clear".
    The above lines reminded me some very dramatic movie scenes. :)

    "sacred groves in urban landscapes act as "lungs" to the neighboring areas as well, providing much needed vegetation cover."
    Very true.

    So keep rocking didi..waiting for your next post.

  34. Just amazing, seems to be an out of the world place... Never knew something like this existed, India is truly a land of many unknowns!!!
    The monoliths take the breath away, the whole scenery is eye catching...
    Well presented too!
    Have a wonderful day Kavita:)

  35. these kind of sacred groves are also found in kerala

  36. Thank you, Kavita for sharing this interesting place with us.

    I would love to visit the Sacred Grove. It looks fasinating!

    Strange that birds don't occupy the trees, I wonder why that is.

    Your photos are wonderful and give us a great insight to this magical place.

  37. Drrrrrrrrrrr..hey again shouted for u...u r such a dear friend..isliye.hehe

  38. Kavita, you live in a very beautiful part of the world. John looks like he could be walking the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. Many ancient religions contain the idea of a sacred grove. Hank, Honolulu

  39. nice pics
    thanks sharing about this tradition

  40. This is so beautiful Kavita Didi !! I am back after a long time on your blog but now on regular basis for sure !!

    Padharo Rajasthan

  41. Dear Kavita
    I just came by to say "thank you for all your visits to my blog and your support and kindness"
    I'm taking a break from blogging till October.
    So till then, be well, my friend!
    Be happy!

    Margie :)

  42. Wonderful. If I am to choose the best blog that I know of, it will be yours.

  43. You get to see such nice, serene, GREEEEEN places. I love reading up your travel posts. Devour them actually. :)

  44. °º✿
    º° ✿
    ✿♥ ° ·.
    Olá, amiga!
    Passei para uma visitinha...
    Belas fotos.
    º° ✿
    ✿♥ ° ·.
    ° ·.

  45. That hill view photo is very good. Nice to know that people are protecting their forest - Hope that the Govt will leave these areas as such and not interfere with the locals.

  46. Kavita,
    I never knew Meghalaya has so many beautiful places to see. I'm in awe of the stunning beauty of all your pictures.

    And yes, it is always fun to be a part of a team which is a mix of several languages. :)

  47. Stunning place and gorgeous pictures!

  48. 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.

  49. 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!

  50. 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.

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

  52. 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.

  53. 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!

  54. such brilliant people!
    How wise.

    again you make us wise and happy with your wonderful post, Kavita

    Aloha from Waikiki;

    Comfort Spiral
    > < } } ( ° >


    < ° ) } } > <

  55. 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.

  56. 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 !!

  57. Your travel writings are wonderful. Keep travelling and keep writing.


  58. 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 day

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

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

    1. thanks a lot...sorry for being late in replying...

  61. thanks a lot....sorry for being late in replying late...

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

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