Situated in East Khasi hills, Mawphlang Sacred Forest is home to over 450 varieties of plants and trees. Its an ideal space for nature lovers and those keen on escaping madding crowds
Words and Photographs by Topashish Bhattacharjee
We decided to visit Cherrapunji again though none of us were that keen on a revisit. As we began our journey towards Cherrapunji we came across a signboard showing the way to Mawsynram. We drove about a kilometre towards Cherrapunji but then decided to go to Mawsynram. Better sense takes time to prevail!
Years ago, Cherrapunji was considered the wettest place on the planet. Later on the title passed on to Mawsynram. Mawsynram receives an average annual rainfall of 11,872 millimetres. I have read a lot about Mawsynram but never visited it and exploring this place seemed like an ideal destination too. But before we took a U-turn and proceeded towards Mawsynram I made a few calls to the Khasi friends I know from Shillong to learn more about it and how to reach there.
But destiny definitely had different plans for us in store. As this was the first time we were going to Mawsynram, we couldn’t find anyone on the way just to confirm if we were on the right track or not and instead of reaching Mawsynram we reached Mawphlang! I had heard about this place from my father but had never taken the opportunity to visit it.
Once I reached the place I had mixed feelings of excitement coupled with curiosity. Located about 26 kms from Meghalaya’s state capital Shillong, Mawphlang Sacred Forest is also known as Lawkyntang. According to information available on Trawell.in Mawphlang Sacred Forest is the most well-known amongst all the sacred forests in Meghalaya. This sacred grove has amazing plants, flowering trees, orchids and butterflies.
Situated in the East Khasi Hills, Mawphlang has been preserved by the local Khasis, as part of their religious beliefs. Covering an area of about 80 hectares, this Sacred Grove has rare medicinal plants, such as the English Yew and Chinese Sumac among others. In all, there are about 450 rare species of flora and fauna. It is guarded by only one strict rule and that is that nothing can be taken out of this forest. Not even a leaf. It is said that a curse will follow the person who steals from this forest and they could end up falling ill or worse.
We hired a guide to take us around the forest and as per him, Khasis have been preserving this forest for thousands of years, and believe it to be the abode of the local deity, Labasa. The Lyndoh clan who protect this forest have a belief that Labasa protects their community from any mishap. The space is also used for different rituals and ceremonies by the locals.
As we entered, we noticed that the forest is marked by lush green branches in an interconnected network of trees and plants. Some of these trees are said to be over 1,000-years old. Mawphlang Sacred Forest also has luxuriant foliage of ferns, pipers and aroids. As per our guide ‘there is a widespread belief that some of these plants possess medicinal properties and can cure many diseases’.
In addition to these there are a few Monoliths too in the forest – they are purportedly the largest in the world. Growing up in Shillong I knew about the facts of Monoliths, which were erected to mark the reign of kings and I had the opportunity to explain the same to my friends.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest is a place where one can learn a lot about history and get an insight into ancient culture. It is an ideal site for nature lovers. Must visit.
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Topashish is from Shillong and grew up staying very close to nature that is why he is a nature lover. He is a very passionate about travelling and travels across the year along with his camera.