Location of Cherrapunji and its highlights | Road map and driving directions to Cherrapunji from Shillong
Cherrapunji is at a distance of 56 kms from Shillong. It takes 2 hours to reach Cherrapunji in the narrow roads and high mountains. Visitors who enter Cherrapunji expect to see dense forests. But, would be shocked to find dry grass lands, children and women carrying pots of water etc. The hills are full of coal and limestone mines.
Cherrapunji has an average elevation of 4,283 feet and is a plateau in the southern part of Khasi hills. The original name is Sohra Punj. Soh means fruits and rah means available. This was the main business center for British. Coal, lime stone and sand stone production center. They could not pronounce the name correctly and used to call this place Cherrapunji which gradually became Cherrapunji. Locals call this place Sohra. Many of the uneducated does not even know that their place is called Cherrapunji by others.
Road map and driving directions to Cherrapunji from Shillong:
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Arrival of British to Shillong
In 19th century, British were searching for cool places unable to bear the heat of the Indian summer. They reached Shillong and achieved supremacy over the Khasi tribes. They planted pine, fir and other fruits trees. They constructed buildings and named them after British. Shillong is also called the ‘Scotland of the East’.
The influence of British on the Khasi tribe can be still felt with the number of cathedrals in the town, wood houses, the Khasi script in Roman letters and the rock music heard from every house. Shillong is the birth place of many world famous rock musicians. Heritage hotels which can be seen in Shillong were built by British. Pianos, ball rooms, furniture, cutlery and fire places in the hotels remind the British culture.
Market place and touristic attractions of Cherrapunji
Heavy rains wash out the top soil on the plateau and now Cherrapunji remained as a market place. People of nearby villages come and sell their things here. This market is held for every 8 days. Government offices and hospitals work compulsorily on that day. Taxis and Buses are also over crowded on the market day.
Though rainfall has decreased there are many places to be visited in Cherrapunji. Nahkalikai waterfall is the 4th highest waterfall in the world. Honey, pepper, betel nuts and cinnamon are cheaper here. Nohsngithiang waterfalls which are also called Seven sisters falls are another attraction. This is at a height of 4,500 feet and Bangladesh is clearly visible from this height. Mawsmai caves are located nearby.
Presently main attractions are Cherrapunji are the waterfalls and the limestone caves. Mawsmai is one such cave. The ceiling of this cave is 30 – 40 feet at some places. Water trickles from the ceiling. These caves are very dark. Trekking and adventure caving facilities are available for those who are interested.
Cherrapunji is famous for root bridges. These are formed with the roots of big trees. These bridges can bear the weight of 50 people. October – April is the best place to visit Cherrapunji.
Why Cherrapunji is called Wet Desert?
Since Cherrapunji has many deep valleys, clouds which fly over are cooled and start raining. Wind is cooled quickly because of the southwest monsoon and also from the winds coming from east and northeast directions. These winds hit the Khasi hills and the atmosphere is cooled. But the rain which falls on Cherrapunji is not absorbed by the soil but flows down and reaches Bangladesh through the valleys. Because the soil of Cherrapunji is full of limestone. There is no provision to store the rain water. Illegal mines, deforestation also added to the shortage of water. All the small water bodies around Cherrapunji dry up by winter season and drinking water also has to be bought. That is why this place is called the ‘wet desert’.
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Rainy season and other seasons at Cherrapunji
March to October is the rainy season in Cherrapunji. June and July receive the highest rainfall. Half of the annual average rain is receiving in these two months. On 16th June, 1995 Cherrapunji received a rainfall of 1563mm. Chirrpunji receives 12,000 mm rain annually but in 1974, the average rain fall recorded was 24,555 mm. No place in the world received so much rainfall in all these years.
April and May receive rain with thunders. But this rain does not continue for the whole day. But because of the selfishness and business mind of the human beings the rainfall has been decreasing year by year. Nearby Mawsynram now holds the highest rainfall receiving record. But the local people do not agree with this. Because, rain is part of their life. Raincoats, shoes were daily necessities for them till some years ago. Till 10 years back, daily rain was received in the rainy season. But now Cherrapunji do not receive rain for 5, 6 days in rainy season. Local people are very proud of the hills, valleys, caves, plateaus, waterfall and Orchids and do not like to be compared with a remote area like Mawsynram.
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Must visit places in Meghalaya
Highest place in Meghalaya is the Meghalaya peak and the whole town is visible from here. Local people believe that household God of Khasi tribes U-Blei-shnong is present on this peak.
Water falls, churches, parks, polo grounds, gold course and the archidarium are other places of interest. Shopping can be done in the Bara Bazar, Police Bazar for sweaters and handicrafts. It gets dark in shillong by 5.00 pm in the evening. Night temperature here would be 5 0. Room heaters and fire places in the hotels protect the visitors from the cold.
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