As the world slowly wakes up to the ravages of climatic change and the human role in it, it is always good to get some inspiration on how we can be in harmony with nature. Look no further than Meghalaya for one of the most endearing cultural practices – one that shines the spotlight on our bond with our environment.
The sacred groves are protected forests and have been around for centuries – long before the dawn of modern conservation. They are dedicated to local deities/forest guardians and are an important part of indigenous religion in Meghalaya. One is forbidden to use the resources of these forests – with some exceptions for religious rituals. People are forbidden to even lift a blade of grass from these groves and these rules are respected by everyone – a reason why the forests have remained untouched for so long. You can however visit and explore them and soak in the grandeur and richness of these verdant havens.
Mawphlang Sacred Grove
A short and scenic drive from the bustling state capital Shillong, one can enter a primaeval realm that has literally stayed untouched for centuries – the Sacred Grove of Mawphlang. The Mawphlang Sacred Grove is one of the most recognized amongst the many that are spread across the state – attracting nature enthusiasts and travellers from all over the world. With the help of a guide, take a stroll into the forest and tread on a sometimes-disappearing stony path laid on soft ground layered with countless seasons of fallen leaves. Explore the flora that abounds under a tall and thick canopy which shuts out the sunrays, and try to follow the hurried flowing sound of a nearby river. The silence of the forest is punctuated by the call of birds – the local guide will also enlighten you on some of the rare species that are found in the grove.
In the sacred grove, you will stumble upon an old coronation site – marked by monoliths and rocks laid out in specific arrangements. It was here that the old kings of the region were given their titles while animal sacrifices were also made nearby.
After wandering about in these pristine environs, you can then head over to the Khasi Heritage Village. Here you will find examples of the traditional architecture. Close to the entrance of the grove, there are erected monoliths, enduring symbols of Khasi culture and tributes to the ancestors of the community.
The sacred groves of Meghalaya are an enigma – there are more than a hundred of them recorded across the state and they are administered by the traditional heads of the respective communities, just like they have been for generations. They are also the last bastion for many rare species of plants and animals. A large number of Meghalaya’s celebrated orchids can be found in these groves, along with many endemic species of ferns and vibrant flowering plants found nowhere else. Sacred groves are also a perfect example of how culture can integrate the values of conservation and respect for nature – a lesson the world can learn from this charming corner of North-east India.
There is much more about the sacred groves that only be best experienced. If you want to add the Mawphlang sacred grove to your Meghalaya itinerary – check out the destination page for more details.