Abode of the clouds

Meghalaya is one of north-east India's most attractive states. It has a wealth of rolling green, thickly forested hills that nurture an amazing ecological diversity, populated by tribal groups who follow a matrilineal system of inheritance.

Meghalaya's capital Shillong presents quite a contrast to the easy going tribal village lifestyle. Hip and happening with its fancy shops and eateries, Shillong is a pulsating hill town whose local bands offer the latest in rock and rap.


The charming hill station of Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya. The city spreads on hills covered with English-style country houses. Shillong's Golf Course is considered one of the best in India. It is situated in the center of the city, close to the polo ground.

56 km from Shillong, high up in the hills, is Cherrapunji, one of the rainiest places in the world. It is a pleasant drive from Shillong, with several places to stop and see roaring waterfalls leaping into deep gorges, such as the famed Nohsngithiang Falls. Sohra is the original Khasi name for Cherrapunji.

Eastern and Central Meghalaya are mainly populated by the closely related Jaintia, Pnar and Khasi peoples, originally migrants from Southeast Asia. Western Meghalaya is home to the Garo tribe, belonging to the Bodo family of the Tibeto-Burman race, said to have migrated from Tibet.

Despite their different ethnic backgrounds, these two groups both use a matrilineal system of inheritance. Descent is traced through the mother, but the father plays an important role in the life of the family. In the Khasi society, the woman looks after home and hearth, the man finds the means to support the family, and the maternal uncle settles all social and religious matters.

In the Khasi society, it is only the youngest daughter who is eligible to inherit the ancestral property. If the mother dies without any daughter surviving her, her next elder sister inherits the ancestral property, and after her, the youngest daughter of that sister. Failing all daughters and their female issues, the property goes back to the mother's sister, mother's sister's daughter and so on.

Many Khasi women wear a dress called 'Jainsem' which flows loose to the ankles. The upper part of her body is clad in a blouse. Over these, she ties both ends of a checkered cotton cloth on one shoulder, thus improvising on an apron.

The staple food of Khasis is rice. They also eat fish and meat. Like the other tribes in the North-East, the Khasis also ferment rice-beer, and make spirit out of rice or millets by distillation. Use of rice-beer is a must for every ceremonial and religious occasion.

Weaving is an ancient craft of the tribals of Meghalaya - be it weaving of cane or cloth. The Khasis are famous for weaving cane mat, stools and baskets.

The Khasis are now mostly Christians. But before that, they believed in a Supreme Being, The Creator - and under Him, there were several Gods of water and of mountains and other natural objects. It is still customary for Khasis to sacrifice chickens and goats at an annual festival to ensure the return of the sun.

In the Khasi Hills are a number of ancient monoliths and table stones, which are either memorials where the ashes of the dead are deposited in cairns or cenotaphs, commemorating memorable events.

Local Khasi `monarchies' are still nominally ruled by a syiem (traditional ruler). Although they might lack political power, the main Syiems remain a considerable economic force.


Entry permits aren't required for Indians or foreigners.

2 tours found




Shillong & Cherrapunji Abode of the clouds

Carved out of Assam in 1972, Meghalaya means `Abode of the Clouds', and they rarely go away. It is a cool, pine-fresh contrast to the warm Assam plains. Meghalaya boasts the delightful hill station of Shillong, as well as one of the wettest places on earth, Cherrapunji. Most of this precipitation falls April to September, creating some very impressive waterfalls.

4 Days

EUR 485

Frontiers of India An exploration of Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya

This is a fascinating tour to one of the lesser known and visited parts of India, the remote north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Visit tea plantations in the far east of Assam, explore tribal villages in northern Nagaland, sail on the mighty Brahmaputra river, look for the rare one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga, and travel through the beautiful hills of Meghalaya.

19 Days

EUR 2,357