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Shillong was the capital for composite Assam before independence. It became the capital of Meghalaya after their separation. The name “Shillong” was adopted, as the location of the new town was below the Shillong Peak. This city was the capital of composite Assam till 1969 when the autonomous state of Meghalaya was formed. In January 1972, Meghalaya was made a full-fledged state.
The Shillong Municipal Board has a very long history dating back to 1878. But, one can not find any trace of Shillong in the British era maps dating back to 1878, up to 1900! The British legacy is still visible in the architecture and food habits of the population.
The Assam style houses with slanting roofs, a large number of windows and wooden floors. Due to the reason that this city lies in a place where earthquakes are common.
Shillong: The Scotland of the East was also the subject of the great earthquake that occurred on 12 June 1897. The earthquake had an estimated moment magnitude of 8.1. A strong earthquake had almost wiped out the city of Shillong. The people of Meghalaya rebuilt the city anew with sheer determination and hard work. In 1897, a strong earthquake had almost wiped out the city of Shillong. The people of Meghalaya rebuilt the city anew with sheer determination and hard work.
Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is home to numerous waterfalls. The rolling hills around the town reminded the British of Scotland. And hence the name “Scotland of the East” Shillong lies on the Shillong Plateau. The city lies in the centre of the plateau and is surrounded by hills. Shillong is 100 km from Guwahati, which can be reached by the road along NH 40.
The city centre is 1496m above sea level and currently has a population of around 270,000. A journey of about 2 hours 30 minutes through the hills and the Umiam lake in between. Shillong is also famous as the music capital of India, as many prominent musicians have hailed from this place.
How to reach Shillong?
One can reach the “Indian Scotland” by the following routes:
Shillong Airport, in Umroi. About 40km from Shillong (also known as Air Force Base or Umroi Airport). Flights to Umroi are only from Calcutta). Taxis are also available from Shillong airport to Shillong market (police Bazaar).
Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, in Guwahati. About 104km away from Shillong. Shared cabs (small cars from the airport, and larger Tata Sumos from Guwahati town centre) are available from outside the airport connecting to Shillong.
There are no rail lines in Meghalaya. The nearest railway station is Guwahati, 105km from Shillong (reportedly taking less than 3 and a half hours via taxi). And very well connected with all the major cities of India.
Although some projects are going on. Like, Teteliya-Byrnihat line, 22 km long. From Guwahati’s suburb Tetelia to Byrnihat near Shillong in Meghalaya is likely to be completed by March 2022. From Byrnihat it will be extended further to Shillong in future.
Shillong is well connected by roads with all major northeastern states. Two major National Highways pass through:
- National Highway 40 (India) – Connected to Guwahati
- National Highway 44 (India) – Connected to Tripura and Mizoram (NH 44A)
Private bus operators, as well as state transport buses from other states, come to and from Shillong daily. Taxi services are also available to destinations like Guwahati, Agartala, Kohima, Aizawl and other towns and cities.
The Shillong Bypass is a two-lane road that stretches across 47.06 kilometres connecting Umiam (NH-40) to Jorabad (NH-44). Which then leads to other northeastern Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura.
When to visit Shillong?
No matter what the time of the year, you can visit Shillong!
The official language of Shillong is English. Meanwhile, Khasi is a predominantly spoken language in Shillong. English, Hindi, Bengali, Assamese and Nepali are also spoken in the city. The locals are well-versed in English and Hindi.
The principal languages in Meghalaya are Khasi, Pnar and Garo with English.
Shillong is a hill station. So, it mainly has cold weather.
Summer months in Shillong are from March to June. The weather at this time is pleasant and cool and tourists love the stark difference here, as compared to the bustling cities they have escaped from. The temperature remains between 15 degrees and 25 degrees Celsius. Hotel and flight bookings are expectedly high at this time.
The monsoon months in Shillong are from July to September. There is often heavy rainfall during this season and in fact, the annual rainfall can be as high as 3300 mm. The temperature remains slightly cold between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius. It’s advisable not to visit Shillong at this time as hiking and exploring the city can be quite irksome in wet conditions. If you do happen to visit Shillong during the monsoon, then do remember to carry an umbrella and bring raincoats and mud boots too. Due to the offseason, it is considered to be an excellent time for photographers and nature lovers who can capture the beauty of the city in the rain. Without so much of a crowd.
Winter months in Shillong are from October to March. The temperature can drop down to as low as 2 degrees Celsius. Although during the day, it is a comfortable 22 degrees. Winters have a charm of their own, especially in Shillong. Where the festival season picks up and a charmingly warm ambience fills the cool air. Other than all the usual activities, this is the best time to witness local culture in all its glory. Most people consider this to be the best time to visit Shillong.
Fairs & Festivals in Shillong
Shillong Autumn Festival
Every year during the months of October/November the famous and most popular Autumn Festival is held in Shillong. The entire city comes alive during this festival and attracts tourists from across the globe. The Government of Meghalaya hosts this cultural extravaganza for the inhabitants of Meghalaya. This festival is a means of entertainment and frolic where both the natives and tourists of Shillong take part with equal enthusiasm.
In this festival, many fashion designers showcase their designs which are made out of indigenous fabric that is woven in the state. The government organizes this fashion show in order to provide opportunities to different designers. Other than the fashion show there are events like food and wine festivals, flower shows followed by music and rock concerts, which are organized during the festival.
Among the Garo tribe of Meghalaya, Wangala Festival is one of the most important celebrations which is celebrated among them. Wangala Festival is a harvest festival that is held in honour of Saljong, the Sun-god of fertility and is characterized by sacrifices made to please the Sun God. This is a must-see event in Meghalaya during which beautiful dances are performed by locals, who adorn themselves in colourful costumes and feathered headgears.
Nongkrem Dance Festival is held annually during October/ November, at Smit, the capital of the Khyrim Syiemship near Shillong. This festival is celebrated in order to offer gratitude to the almighty God for the good harvest, peace, and prosperity of the community.
During this dance festival, ‘Pomblang’ or goat sacrifice is offered by the tribe to the Syiem of Khyrim, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi State). The dance is performed by young women and men and witnessed by a large crowd.
Shad Suk Mynsiem
Shad Suk Mynsiem is one of the major festivals that is celebrated in Shillong. This is a thanksgiving dance festival where people dance out their hearts with joy. Shad Suk Mynsiem festival is held in Shillong in April and lasts for three days. Men and women dress in traditional fineries dance to the drums and the flute and celebrate the festival in full swing.
Behdieñkhlam is an important festival that is celebrated by the people from Jaintia, a Tribe of Meghalaya. This festival is celebrated to chase away the Plague annually in July after the sowing period. Women of the tribe offer sacrificial food to the spirits of their forefathers. The festival is held at Jowai and is one of the most well-known festivals in Meghalaya.
Transportation/Stay to prefer
You can use buses for commuting within Shillong. There are two kinds of buses in the city – the Shillong City bus and the Bazar bus. The city bus is for tourists and locals, whereas the Bazar bus is for villagers coming to Shillong. The buses are economical but slow.
Places to visit in Shillong
Umiam Lake, a beautiful lake north of Shillong. It resembles the ‘Lochs‘, or lakes of Scotland, and is a must-see for all tourists. There is a water sports complex. There is a garden ( Lum Nehru park) by the side water sports complex.
Wards Lake is an artificial lake surrounded by a fairly large garden. Boating facilities are available in the lake. It has a wooden bridge in the middle. One can find lots of colourful fish in the lake.
Sweet Falls, located in Happy Valley. It is a very steep fall. Extreme caution is advised as there are no barricades and rocks are nearly always slippery (due to rain or dew). Bishop & Beadon Falls, located in Suna valley. These two are very beautiful falls. Suna is the home to wild animals such as deer, leopards, langurs, wild cats and numerous bird species. Elephant Falls is in the Upper Shillong area. The scenic fall is not continuous and more of a collection of smaller falls. It has a footpath leading to the bottom of the fall where it reaches a small lake. Its name elephant falls was given by the British because there was a rock by the side of the fall which resembled an elephant.
Mahadev Khola Dham is a great attraction during Mahashivratri. It is in a cave. And so this makes interest to adventure lovers and history buffs. There are some other temples in the vicinity to add to the religious significance of the place.
Lady Hydari Park. It has a variety of local flowering plants and orchids. Children will like it as there are few swings, sea-saws, slips for them. It is a famous picnic spot for the local population. This park is named after Lady Hydari, the first lady of the state, wife of the Governor of Assam.
Cuisines to taste in Shillong
There are a variety of restaurants in Shillong. Most of the better ones are in the Police Bazaar area. Chinese, Indian and Tibetan foods are popular here. Besides, most eating places close early (before 9 PM) so have your dinner early. Dhabas also provide good and cheap food. Shillong also has a few pubs and clubs where you will easily get alcohol.
Bamboo Hut in RAPs’ Mansion MG Road is one of the famous hangouts and also the CITY Dhaba near Earl Holiday Home. One should definitely try Momos. They come as small momos and big momos and are very popular snacks. Cafe Shillong Heritage serves an amazing plate of momos.
Shillong has a predominantly Christian population. Pork, chicken and fish are easily available in restaurants run by local Khasis, beef isn’t as abundant in restaurants. Cleanliness also remains an issue in smaller food outlets.
Khasi and Tibetan recipes use very few spices (including salt) unlike the cooking style of the rest of India and emphasis is on boiling or roasting rather than frying in oil. For Indian snacks, one can try Delhi Mistaan Bhandar in Police Bazaar which some think has the best jalebis in the world. Stick to the freshly made jelibeis since they are worth it, but avoid anything else here.
Things to do in Shillong
Things that you must do while a visit to Shillong is stated below in reverse order.
- Boating in Umiam Lake
- Trekking in the calm and composed trails
- Horse Riding
- River Rafting
- Angling at Dawki
- Waterfall Rappelling at Elephant Falls
- Explore the Caves
- Shillong Golfing
- Rock Climbing
- A walk around Wards Lake
- Hangout at Nokrek National Park
- Walking in the Clouds at Cherapunji
- Shopping at Police Baazar
- Visit Asia’s Cleanest Village
Souvenirs to buy in Shillong
Shopping in Shillong could be a very nice experience. If we have enough cash in hand and have the knowledge from where to buy.
- Shawls and Stoles
- Scottish Clothes/ Scottish Dress Material
- Khasi Scrubs
- Organic Products
- Designer Winter wear
- Wild Orange tea from the Polo Towers Gift Shop
- Traditional bamboo handicrafts
- Art-crafts made of wood and bamboo furniture