As locals from Meghalaya, the information we are sharing about Meghalaya is validated by our own personal experiences too.
First things first – I am sure you must be wondering who we are. Here you go…
Chillibreeze is on a journey to release the people potential of Meghalaya and unveiling the undiscovered potential of the land.
An organic diversification for Chillibreeze was the launch of a food products company in 2015, Zizira. The vision was to bring to the fore the hidden agricultural potential of Meghalaya in such a way that it improves the livelihood of its small farmers.
Following which Muezart was born, in 2019, to regenerate the local cottage industry of Eri silk. Again, the objective was to improve the livelihoods of the many villagers who know the art of Eri silkworm rearing. They have the skill and the knowledge, which is being passed from generation to generations, but lack a steady market.
Both in Zizira and Muezart the focus is on sustainability and the use of traditional, eco-friendly practices.
Meghalaya is our Home
So, when we talk about Meghalaya, we do so with a passion as it ‘belongs’ to us and we are proud of our land, its culture and can see that there is a lot of hidden potential.
Let us tell you more about our nature blessed state which retains a lot of its naturalness, side-by-side with development.
Meghalaya means the ‘abode of the clouds’ in Sanskrit, and it stands up to its name – rolling clouds, verdant undulating hills, a number of waterfalls and natural springs, all of which make it a personification of natural beauty.
Where is Meghalaya?
It is one of the 8 states that form the northeast region of India.
The northeast is a bit removed from the rest of India, like an extended arm attached to the torso by a shoulder joint. Northeast of India shares only around 50 km of border with India, and over 5000 km with other countries like Myanmar, China, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.
Meghalaya’s southern and a bit of the western borders are shared with Bangladesh, and the rest nestles in the state of Assam.
So, Meghalaya is a secluded region. In a way this remoteness has kept the richness of this state hidden from the public eye. Remoteness is a challenge too – as it is not easy to reach the markets of the rest of India.
Meghalaya: Biodiversity Hotspot with an Agrarian Economy
Here are some quick facts about Meghalaya:
- Meghalaya covers an area of 22, 430 Square Kms and has a population of around 3 million (Census 2011).
- It has eleven districts. East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi, East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills, North Garo Hills, South Garo Hills, East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills.
- Its capital is Shillong in the East Khasi Hills district.
The state of Meghalaya is part of a biodiversity hotspot of India. The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in the West Garo Hills and the Balphakram National Park in the South Garo Hills are biodiversity-rich. In fact, the Nokrek has the first species of citric fruits in the world!
- Has thick forests, rich with flora and fauna. About 70% of the state is forested, and a large part of the forested area (68%) is dense primary forest. The forests of Meghalaya are home to a vast variety of flora and fauna.
Talking of forests, perhaps the most valued temperate treasures are the unique, one of a kind. ‘Sacred Groves’. Spread across the Khasi and Jaintia Hills districts they are a legacy of the ancestors and a compendium of the spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices of the Khasi tribe.
Read about this and other temperate treasures of Meghalaya.
- Meghalaya has very fertile soil and is home to a variety of herbs, spices and many medicinal plants.
- The state has 16 waterfalls and over 20 rivers, which not only provide water, but add to the state’s value as a tourist destination.
- A number of natural springs flow in Meghalaya – some of which are used to irrigate fields.
Springwater irrigate chilli fields in Dulongnar, Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya
- Meghalaya receives one of the highest rainfalls in the world. Mawsynram in east khasi hills is said to have the highest rainfall in the planet.
- An agrarian economy: About 80% of the population of 3 million depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of the farmers hold small family farms, are hard working, and follow traditional farming methods.
- Home to Lakadong Turmeric which is valued for its high curcumin content, of between 6 to 10%. We should know as our sister concern, Zizira, is working with the small farmers of Meghalaya and creating a market for their produce.
Meghalaya’s Rich Cultural Heritage. Its Tribes and Languages
Meghalaya has three main tribes, the Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo.
Garo are believed to be the descendants of Tibeto-Burmar race who came down all the way from Tibet to the north eastern states while the Khasi and Jaintia are the descendants of Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race. (Source)
While English is the official language of the state. The most spoken languages in Meghalaya are Khasi (33.82%) and Garo (31.60%) followed by Pnar (10.69%), Bengali (6.44%), Nepali (1.85%), War (1.73%), Hindi (1.62%), Hajong(1.40%) and Assamese (1.34%). (Source)
The official language is English, but the spoken language is largely Khasi.
The people of Meghalaya retain a lot of their traditions and culture. The annual festivals are rich with colors, music and dance and are held in an ambience of reverence.
Some of the important festivals are: Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance, Nongkrem Dance, Behdeinkhlam Festival, Wangala Festival and others. Read more about these.
Meghalaya is a Tourist Destination
Shillong, which is the capital of Meghalaya rests at the top of a plateau. In fact, the Shillong peak is the highest point in Meghalaya.
Shillong was referred to as the Scotland of the East, by the British, as its rolling hills and the greenery reminded them of Scotland, and, the name stuck and is used to this day. To make it more like Scotland the Britishers created a golf course in Shillong in 1889, and it is still functional.
Meghalaya Has Many Tourist Attractions
- The Umiam Lake
Umiam lake in meghalaya is the state's source of hydroelectric power generation.
- Mawphlang Sacred Forest
As the name suggests, this forest is sacred. This is where the tribal communities perform rituals and religious meetings. This sacred forest has been preserved through ages.
- A number of waterfalls like the Elephant Falls, Nohkhalikai falls etc.
- Living Roots bridges are a fascinating study in nature-human partnership. These are found in East and West Jaintia Hills district, and in the East Khasi Hills. They are handmade with live roots of trees using a technique that has been passed down generations. Mostly these are made from the roots of rubber tree. The most well known is what is called the ‘Double Decker’ root bridge of Nongriat Village, in East Khasi Hills.
- The Traditional Market Places of Shillong add to the Charm of the city. Iewduh, the wholesale market in Shillong, is an absolutely must visit if you happen to be in that city. It is also called Bara Bazaar (the big market) and is one of the oldest markets in Meghalaya. It is always a hub of activity. The market is divided into smaller markets like fruit market, fish market, beef market, pork market, vegetable market and so on. The retailers too set up small shops here. The displays, the people, the variety of goods and the colors will thrill you.
Meat and fruit market in iewduh bazar
If you're looking to buy clothes, shoes, street foods, household essentials then you should definitely visit Police Bazar, the commercial hub of Shillong.
Almost every local and tourist shops here.
- Eating traditional Khasi Food is an attraction for tourists too.
A traditional khasi dish
A typical Khasi dish is filled with rice (fried or plain), vegetables (fresh or fried), chutneys (fish or bamboo) and meat (fatty pork, beef intestines, pork intestines, pork salad, beef salad).
Thanks to a 4-lane highway meandering through the hills which connects Guwahati in Assam to Shillong the inflow of tourists to the picturesque state of Meghalaya has gone up manifold.
Shillong Offers Numerous Walking Trails
If you love nature and like to go on treks, then Shillong is worth a visit.
Shillong has many trekking trails of which the David Scott’s trail is very well known and is named after a British Administrator of Khasi Hills who served for nearly 30 years in early 19th Century. He created this trail which goes from Cherrapunjee to Bangladesh.
Do you now agree that Meghalaya is a nature blessed state?
A few more facts of interest about Meghalaya.
Land of Organic Tea
Both Assam tea and Darjeeling tea are known for their flavor. Meghalaya has tea gardens too. Its cloud kissed mountains, and wet climate makes it a favorable destination for highland teas.
A quick look at the history of tea in Meghalaya:
- Tea in Meghalaya is relatively new. The British had identified the potential in Meghalaya for tea cultivation close to 200 years ago.
- In the 1st half of the 19th Century, East India Company sent a prospecting team, and their report was very favorable. But it was only after a visit in 1974 by members of Tea Board of India that this idea moved forward.
- The 1st trial plantation of Meghalaya tea started in 1977 at Umsning, in the Ri Bhoi District; Tebronggre, in the West Garo Hills District; and Riangdo, in the West Khasi Hills.
- Quality of the tea produced here was excellent, and this encouraged more tea plantation to come up.
Here are two reasons for the unique flavour and taste of Meghalaya's tea.
- Meghalaya tea grows in elevations of over 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level. Most high-quality tea is cultivated at this or above this elevation.
- These tea plantations areas are on virgin, pristine land.
Treasure Trove of Medicinal Plants
The listed and identified medicinal plant species in Meghalaya is more than 800. The potential of many are untapped.
Thanks to the numerous medicinal plants, traditional healing is widely practiced. Read more about them.
Meghalaya is home to Eri Silk
Eri is the most respected fabric of the local tribal people of Meghalaya. From Queens and Kings to the every-day villager, Eri silk is the fabric worn with the most pride. Maybe that’s why hundreds of villages raise these silkworms and have the Eri silk supply chain and eco-system at their core.
In fact, everything from the perennial plants that feed the Eri silkworms, to the rearing, processing of cocoons, and production of hand spun yarns happens in the Khasi villages of this pristine north-eastern Indian state.
Eri silkmoth and eri cocoons. the moth naturally emerges from the open-ended cocoon. The male and female moth mate. eggs are layed. Then the moth dies. The cycle continues.
Meet some of muezart's eri silk weavers and spinners
Read more about Eri silk here.
Heritage Pottery From Meghalaya
A remote part of Meghalaya is home to unique terracotta black pottery.
Two villlages, Lyrnai and Tyrchiang, are known for their terracotta pottery.
Black clay rounded bowls
Black clay cups
Is that not a long list of what Meghalaya has to offer at its natural best?
Are we not justified to be extra proud about our state, its people, culture and traditions?
The Eri Silk fiber and apparels that we have in our store are handmade by network of Eri silkworm rearers and weavers who continue to use the craft they have learnt from their elders. Many new villagers are eager to get trained and learn the craft. We sincerely hope this is a pointer to a possible regeneration of the heritage cottage industry of Eri silk, which will be in keeping with the mission of Muezart.