As we mentioned in our previous article, we didn’t really cover everything about Meghalaya. This article too cannot provide an exhaustive list of Meghalaya facts because there is way too many facts to write about. So, instead of even trying to give a complete list, we will try to accommodate as many important facts as possible about this unique state of the Seven Sisters of India. These facts will be somewhat weird and will be a bit difficult to digest but hey, they are pretty interesting too as they give a glimpse of the treasures hidden in the Abode of Clouds!
Seven Sisters of India Facts – Meghalaya Facts: 1-5
1. We spoke of the Sacred Groves of Meghalaya in our last list of Meghalaya facts. But did you know that the tribal folks of this state actually think there is a mystical animal, perhaps a tiger or a serpent (snake) that is responsible for preserving the forests from miscreants (we humans)?
2. Every Sacred Grove in this state has an altar – a sacred one. Altars may vary from one forest to another. Some may be monoliths. Others may be altars with massive stone covering from all sides with a small entrance space in the front. You don’t really enter such altars using the small opening left in front. Those opening are meant only for the purpose of thanksgiving.
3. In 2015, Meghalaya hosted the Indigenous Terra Madre (a food gathering of indigenous tribes across the world). That event entered the Guinness Book of World Records. Well, that itself is a fact but did you know that while the preparations were being made, an alternative road was being constructed that paved its way from back side of Mawphlang’s Sacred Grove? It wasn’t easy building the road because of shortage of space and the construction company asked the workers to cut through a patch of land that belonged to the Sacred Grove. The work was halted for 1 full day when suddenly, out of nowhere, snakes started emerging out of that land patch. Mysterious, ain’t it? What really happened next is not really known. No records for that anywhere. It might be safe to assume that company was perhaps forced to leave the land patch untouched. Or, did they cut through it to bust the myth (it at all so)? If you know about it, let us know. We will be happy to update the same.
4. “U Ba-sa Ryngkew” is the God of the land of Meghalaya and when it comes to Sacred Groves, people don’t really break the rules laid down by their ancestors fearing that U Ba-sa Ryngkew will punish them in every possible manner.
5. And yes… don’t you even dare to take anything from the Sacred Groves because they are forest property. Don’t forget! Non-adherence to rules will mean very severe punishments if not death.
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Seven Sisters of India Facts – Meghalaya Facts: 6-10
6. Coming to the indigenous Khasi tribe, their favorite breakfast every morning is a cup of tea with a hint of sugar and guess what? A bowl of rice with a couple of pieces of either pork or chicken. So, it is tea, rice and meat!
7. It might be a common sight to find stones in bathrooms of Khasi people. They do use loofah but yes, they prefer the stones over loofah. It is a bathing stone found only on the banks of Umngot River. The reason why stones are preferred over loofah is that if they aren’t dried properly, bacteria accumulation will take place, making it unhealthy. The stones on the other hand are better in this aspect. Did you know that the Meghalayan word for loofah is ‘Sohprew’?
8. While you may come across websites that say that only the youngest daughter of the family inherits all the family wealth, the truth is that they believe in the concept Khun Khatduh. The concept simply means that the person in the family who will take care of the parents and elders (that is, takes the burden of looking after the elders) is the one who gets to inherit the property. Khun refers to that person who can be a son or even a daughter. Khatduh on the other hand means taking the burden.
9. Weddings among Khasi people are usually big ceremonial weddings. People outside the family also contribute to these weddings because they just feel being a part of those weddings. That doesn’t necessarily mean that “Ka teh synjat” (that is ceremony of tying knots) is never an internal family matter. Such marriages do occur and are small family weddings.
10. While weddings are pretty common, don’t be surprised to see that live in relationships are also abound. However, such relationships usually require family acceptance and instead of the father, it is the uncle who acts as family head in such cases and provide consent. Did you know that live in relationships between Khasi people is a very old practice whereas people in mainland India’s modern landscape are still not very open to such relationships?
Seven Sisters of India Facts – Meghalaya Facts: 11-15
11. Meghalaya is also known for being a Matriarchal state wherein children of the family get their identity from their mothers and not from their fathers. Why so? We aren’t very clear on this but as far as we understand, this system comes from the live in relationships. Men may move out from such a relationship but by the time they move out, they may father a child with their female partners. Fortunately, since Khasi people actually consider the first child in a woman’s womb as a gift of God, the woman whose live in partner moved out will still give birth to the child and will take care of the child. However, children will always know their father’s name as even after separation of the parents, children are still supposed to show respect to their paternal family. Infact one of the most important norms among Khasis is ‘Tip kur tip kha’ = ‘Know your family, both maternal and paternal’ [As pointed out by one of our readers through out comments section].
12. English is Meghalaya’s official language. In schools, English remains the medium of instruction but other languages like Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Khasi, Garo, Mizo, Nepali and Urdu are also taught as optional languages [rectified after one of the readers pointed out a mistake].
13. With no intention to offend anyone from Meghalaya, women in that state are really pretty. Khasi women? Well, look at their red and pink cheeks and you will simply love that attribute. But did you know that Khasi women – especially the young ones will always wear Jainkyrshah – a long cloth piece – across their left shoulder. That’s a way of showing respect to elders of the family and also to the male members of the family.
14. When in Meghalaya, if you earn a Kwai, you are pretty lucky. You don’t just get it. You need to earn it. So, what is Kwai? It is nothing but a betel leaf and areca nut. Though it may not mean anything to it, DO NOT disrespect it. Kwai is sacred for Khasi people as it is given only and only when they accept the beginning of a new relationship. So, if you get one, consider that you just made a friend who holds you in high esteem and considers the relationship with you as sacred.
15. And then… there is Duitara – a plucked string instrument, which is an important part of both the Khasi people and the Jaintias. It has four strings and is a very popular instrument used for folk music. It is said that people who can play duitara are the ones who have tread the depths of sadness.
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Seven Sisters of India Facts – Meghalaya Facts: 16-20
16. Back to river Umngot from where the people of Meghalaya get their bathing stone… did you know that the river water is so clean that you can literally see bottom of the river?
17. To give you a better glimpse, stand on Dawki Bridge and you can still see the river floor. Yes, that’s the degree of clarity you find in that river.
18. One more thing… look at the boats floating on the river. They will appear as if they are floating in air and casting a shadow down below. Yes, you can actually see the shadow of the boat on the river bed!
19. For the fiscal year 2013-2014, Meghalaya, which is also known as the Meghalaya Plateau, earned the status of India’s fastest growing state with a Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of 9.7.
20. Did you know that before Meghalaya was formed, Garo Hills, Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills were actually independent kingdoms? However, when British people took charge during the colonial era, these three regions got incorporated into Assam and later Jaintia Hills and Khasi Hills became the two districts which were used for formation of Meghalaya. Later Garo Hills also came back in newly formed Meghalaya state.