Meghalaya

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Meghalaya is a small state in north-eastern India. The word “Meghalaya” literally means “The Abode of Clouds” in Sanskrit and other Indic languages. Meghalaya is a hilly strip in the eastern part of the country about 300 km long (east-west) and 100 km wide, with a total area of about 8,700 sq mi (22,720 km²). The population numbered 2,175,000 in 2000. The state is bounded on the north by Assam and by Bangladesh on the south. The capital is Shillong also known as the Scotland of the East, which has a population of 260,000.

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About one third of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its mountain forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests of Meghalaya are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants.

Districts

* East Khasi Hills

* West Khasi Hills

* Jaintia Hills

* Ri Bhoi

* West Garo Hills

* East Garo Hills

* South Garo Hills

Cities

* Shillong East Khasi Hills

* Tura, West Garo Hills

* Nongstoin, West khasi Hills

* Jowai, Jaintia Hills

* Nongpoh, Ri Bhoi

* Williamnagar, East Garo Hills

* Baghmara, South Garo Hills

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Transportation

The partition of the country has created severe infrastructure constraints for the Northeastern region, with merely 2% of the perimeter of the region adjoining the rest of the country. A narrow strip of land, often called the Siliguri Corridor, or the Chicken’s Neck connects the region with the State of West Bengal. Meghalaya is a land locked state with a large number of small settlements in remote areas. Road is the only means of transport within the state. While the capital Shillong is relatively well connected, road connectivity in most other parts of the state is relatively poor. A significant portion of the roads in the state are still un-metalled. Most of the arrivals into the Meghalaya take place through Guwahati in neighbouring Assam, which is nearly 103 km away. Assam has a major railhead as well as an airport with regular train and air services to the rest of the country. The State still has a large number of old timber bridges.

Meghalaya does not have any railhead. It has a small airport at Umroi, about 40 km from Shillong on the Guwahati-Shillong highway. The small size of the airport does not allow the operations of large aircraft and only small aircraft operate from Kolkata and Agartala, the capital of the neighbouring State of Tripura.

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Understand

The British came to Sylhet in 1765. At that time the Khasis used to come at Pandua on the border of Sylhet to trade in silk, cotton goods, iron, wax, honey and ivory in exchange for rice, salt and dried fish. Limestone from the Khasi hills used to fulfill the demand in Bengal then. Soon British officials of the East India Company began trading in limestone and thus came in contact with the Khasis. In 1824, the Burmese invaded Cachar and also appeared at the border of the Jaintia Hills. The British sent a small force to reinforce the Jaintia Rajah’s troops. On 10th March 1824, a friendship treaty was signed by the Rajah accepting the protection of the British. Other Khasi chiefs also allowed the passage of the British troops through their territories. After the Burmese invasion was over, the British demanded a corridor through the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills to connect Assam valley with Surma valley. Most of the Khasi chiefs agreed, and the road was completed in March 1829, but only after quelling an upheaval by U Tirot Sing. The story that followed after putting down the uprising by U Tirot Sing was the signing of several treaties with different Khasi chiefs. In 1862 the Jaintias revolted under U Kiang Nongbah. By virtue of these treaties, the British gradually took control of the mineral deposits and side by side subjugated the chiefs and also took control of judiciary.

Get around

* Any Meghalaya Excursion should start from Shillong or Guwahati for convenience. Local Non-AC Buses, Share Sumos connect several parts of Meghalaya and other destinations of North East. Though cheap but these buses are infrequent and inconvenient for both domestic and foreign travellers. Best is to hire a taxi for a day and cover your destination.Standard Maruti 800 Taxis costs about INR 1200(with fuel) for standard day excursions(Mawsynram, Cherrapunjee, Nartiang) as on Nov 2008. One will have to negotiate if you want to explore more other than regular tourist sites.Shillong City Tour costs about INR 500-700. Being a small state destinations are not very far apart in regular tourist circuit. So retaining a car is not a cost effective idea. If one visits Orchid Lake Resort or Cherrapunjee Resort, cars are not readily available from these offbeat spots.So plan your itinerary in advance and accordingly make arrangements from Shillong for pick up from the resorts in the return leg.Otherwise, you may have to face delays. As tourism initiatives are mostly limited to Shillong and East Khasi Hills, travellers to Garo Hills(Tura, Williamsnagar),Jaitia Hills(Jowai), West Khasi Hills(Nongstoin) should plan their route/itinerary considering the lack of proper tourism infrastructure(Fooding/Lodging/Transport/Road).

* Kickstart Adventures- an adventure tourism firm, has pioneered motorcycle tours in North East India. This adventure motorbike tour covers the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh, giving a traveller to visit to not only popular places but also rural parts of the region to experience first-hand of tribal cultures and traditions. The firm conducts tours all round the year.

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See

* Shillong Peak

* Elephanta Falls

* Wards Lake

* Lady Hydari Park

* Barapani

* Umiam Lake

* Cherrapunjee

* South Garo Hills, Pitcher Plant sanctuary, Siju Caves

* Balphakgram National Park

* ‘Nokrek National Park

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District(s)         7

Established       1972-01-21

Capital             Shillong

Largest city       Shillong

Governor          Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary

Chief Minister   D. D. Lapang

Legislature (seats)         Unicameral (60)

Population

• Density          2,306,069 (23rd)

• 103 /km2 (267 /sq mi)

Language(s)      Khasi, Pnar, Garo,Hindi, English

Time zone         IST (UTC+5:30)

Area     22,720 km2 (8,772 sq mi)

ISO 3166-2     IN-ML

Website            meghalaya.nic.in