In Meghalaya, sacred forests promote environmental conservation based on sustainable tradition. It is also the source of cultural traditions of this hilly state. Meghalaya is full of numerous sacred groves. These natural treasures are rich in biodiversity and a variety of flora and fauna.
There are around 125 sacred forests, covering almost 1000 sq km of forest areas. Among them, Mawphlang sacred forest is the most famous and available for tourists. It is interesting that till now people are not allowed to pluck twigs of plants or take fruits, flowers, wood anything from the sacred forests.
Mawphlang sacred forest is one of the well-known sacred forests in Meghalaya and it is spread across 78 hectares of land. The word Maw means ‘stone’. Mawphlang represents ‘grassy stone’. Along with other nature-touched wonders like the double-decker living root bridge, this sacred forest is a must-visit place in Meghalaya.
How to reach Mawphlang Sacred Forest?
To reach the forest you first need to come to Shillong. Shillong is well connected by road with Guwahati. From different parts of the country, you can come to Guwahati by train to the railway station or by flight to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. The forest is situated at a 25 km distance from Shillong which you can easily access by car.
To enter the forest you first need to hire a local guide with you. You will know every single detail of the forest and the religious beliefs of the tribes from your guide as you walk through the beautiful forest trail. In the dense tropical forest, you will feel like you are in another world by cutting off communication with the outside world. The silence of the forest will fascinate you.
The legend of Mawphlang Sacred Forest, Meghalaya
The Khasi people believe that there is a deity popularly known as ‘Labasa’ that protects the forest. In Khasi “La” means God. According to their belief, Labasa can take the form of a Leopard or Tiger. They strongly believe during a crisis Labasa guards the villagers and save them. In ancient times, once a man was attacked by a group of anti-socials near the Mawplang sacred grove. To protect himself the man took shelter in the forest and spent the whole night there. And the man returned home unharmed. Since then, their belief in divine protection got strengthened. To please Labasa, the villagers sacrifice goats or roosters.
The local people guard the forest strictly so that nothing goes out of the forest. They believe that if anybody takes anything, even a dead leaf out from the forest, then severe illness swallows him. Behind this thought, there is an amazing story.
As per locals, there is a doctrine prevalent that in 1970, the Indian Army tried to take out timbers, and logs for construction from the forest. The local villagers warned them but they ignored the folks. The trucks which carried the woods after several attempts did not start and finally, the army gave up. This is the reason, nobody dares to pluck anything from the forest. The outsiders are strictly warned to follow this rule.
You can see Monoliths scattered in some special places in the forest. The vertically raised stones are considered masculine and the horizontally laid out stones are feminine. Khasi people worship the monoliths as God and sacrifice animals to the stones. You are not allowed to touch the stones.
Just outside of the forest, the Khasi heritage village is another significant place. The village is ruled by a king who is chosen by a democratic election. According to the belief of the villagers, if the deity is pleased with the chosen one then the sun will shine on the day of his anointment, or else it will rain.
Untouched Natural Beauty of Mawphlang Sacred forest
Because of being protected for ages, Mawphlang sacred forest is rich in flora and fauna.
The forest is full of shrubs, oak, ferns, and moss such as Lindsaea Odorata, Botrychium, and many other plants. The ground of the forest is covered with thick humus. There are almost 450 species of plants in the sacred forest. It is said that some plants are used to cure disease. Two species of rhododendrons bloom in spring and it looks spectacular. Rhododendron Formosum, R. Arboreum, and Pyrus Pashia are the main flowering trees in the forest.
Also, you may find the flower Cobra lily in this damp forest. In the middle of the trail, you will be amazed to see the three-faced Rudraksha tree. You will witness a variety of orchids, vibrant mushrooms, mosses, and lichens of different colours and textures on your trail. Moss-covered small stones increase the beauty of the trail.
The forest is a shelter of around 70 species of birds. Some threatened bird species are found on the site. Small mammals like squirrels, rats, and moles roam in the forest. If you are a birdwatcher and planning to visit the forest, bring your binocular and camera.
Best time to visit Mawphlang Sacred Forest, Shillong
The beauty of the forest attracts tourists throughout the year. But the best time to visit Mawphlang sacred forest is autumn around September and October. The greenery with pleasant weather will make your tour more beautiful.
You can also visit there at the end of winter (Jan-Feb). The greenery will be a little faded at this time.
Where to stay near the sacred forest?
You can stay at Maple Pine Farm, a beautiful farmhouse nestled in a valley below in the o of the Sacred forest, encircled by a stream in Mawphlang.
Riverside Resort, La serene, and Woodstock Farm House are well-maintained stays situated very near the forest. The forest is very near Shillong. So you can also stay at Shillong and arrange a day tour in Mawphlang Sacred Forest.
Tips to remember in the forest
- Mawphlang Sacred Forest opens at 8 AM and closes at 5.30 PM. Try to visit the forest as early as possible.
- Don’t enter the forest without any guide.
- Though the forest is open throughout the year but tries to avoid monsoon time to visit the forest.
- Carry water with you.
Mawphlang sacred forest is one of the most beautiful places if you visit Meghalaya. Nature lovers find this place amazing because of the unharmed lush green forest. Remember not to pluck anything from the forest, not only to respect the local legend but also to maintain the biodiversity and ecosystem. If you plan to visit there, also check out Dawki, Mawlynnong village, Laitlum Canyon, Elephant Falls, and Cherrapunjee.
So, what are you waiting for? Book a hotel, pack your bag, and travel to Mawphlang sacred forest!