June 27, 2018
Shillong is a famous tourist destination for white dreamy clouds around the hills and super curvy roads. For the people from sun-baked states even the summer in this hill station is a blessing as it represents the winter season with windy cloudy weather throughout the year. Along with the natural beauty Shillong also has many stories and heritage, inherited by generations. One such place you must not miss if you are in Shillong is this forest called as “Mawphlang Sacred Forest”, 25 kilometers from Shillong.
The Forest Now
The lush green forest is apt for rainy season trekking and jungle adventure. The word maw means “stone”, maw phlang means “grassy stone”. The forest is in 3 parts out of which the 2nd area is open for tourists considering the other two are very dense and not safe for people new to the place. Rains are frequent visitors so be prepared accordingly. This place is mainly famous for rare plants and stories around it.
Currently it is taken care by Lyngdoh clan. The people in the clan elects the leader who rules till his death. This tribe believes that the woods and its people are blessed and guarded by the spirits or the Gods. No one should take anything outside of this place. Not even a broken old leave should leave else they will face curse. Even the clan people do not dare to take anything from this place. One can use the same and leave in the jungles. Locals has many incidents when a flower or a rock was taken out of the forest which made life difficult for the person who took it. They strictly follow “Respect the Forest” Rule.
The jungle is more than 900 years old, and initially ruled by Blah clan. They used the forest to offer sacrifice to the spirits or the Gods of the forest. The first part was used to prepare and perform the sacrifice ritual. As the rule changed to Lyngdoh clan they used 2nd part of the forest for the ritual, we can see the preparatory area and the actual sacrifice area in the forest. If you trek to the center of the forest you can also see the area where the males participating in the sacrifice. Used to prepare the sacrificed animal as food offer to the Gods and then eat amongst. They are many stories of those who had disobey the forest rule and their punishment.
We were also told about the expansion and the reason Lyngdoh clan used 2nd part of the forest. When the place was ruled by Blah clan, the then chief struggled to get the successor as he was not able to manage the clan and the place all by himself. He heard about a lady, now termed as ‘first mother of Lyngdoh clan’, who was very clever, she knew the statesmanship and how to rule very well.
The chief of Blah clan approached her as he wanted the son of the lady to rule the place, the lady did not agree but after been persuaded she agreed on one condition. She planted 3 trees on the land and promised to give her son as the chief only if in 5 years the three trees grow well. The trees were taken take care off and they flourished well hence the forest is now ruled by Lyngdoh clan, this was approx. 800 years ago and since then Lyngdoh clan has taken care of the forest.
Close to Nature
The guide belonged to the same clan and had many stories to say, he answered all our curiosity based questions. So he showed us where the sacrifice was prepared and the sacrifice tombs. There were 5 tombs and one tomb per sacrifice was used. He informed us that after the sacrifice the blood drops to other 4 sacrifice tombs. Lastly to a final rock tomb which they consider sacred rock. The clan heads who took part in the ritual also waited for a particular bird to come to know if their sacrifice has been accepted by the Gods. After this the same group cooks and eats the sacrifice as symbol of blessings.
There are way too many things to learn and understand the history of a place and how people ensure to continue their culture and believes throughout generations. Ensure to mark this forest must visit if you plan to go to Shillong. But go prepared for a muddy yet amazing trek into the forest where rains can pour any time. I wish we had more readiness to trek to the middle of the jungle with our guide but somethings can be left for the next time.
If you want to read my Meghalaya journey Mesmerizing Meghalaya