Come Walk with Me- Sacred Grove, Mawphlang

by Lita Hazarika.

Photo Credit: Sankar Hazarika

It was a cold breezy November morning when we decided to go to Mawphlang and visit the Sacred Grove. Mawphlang is the one of the sites of the Sacred Groves of Meghalaya, which are fragments of forests that are protected by the local communities for religious purposes. These places are very rich in plants, birds and mammals as well as spiritual centers for the people of Meghalaya.

We travelled from Guwahati to Mawphlang by car on the NH6 and the journey took us around 3½ hours.

 

It’s a treat to visit Mawphlang at this time of year as the Upper Shillong road is lined with blossoming pink cherry trees.

Page-1-Image-1Photo Credit: Sankar Hazarika

As we crossed Upper Shillong we reached an intersection, where the road to the right lead to the Elephant Falls, the one on the left to Cherrapunji and the one in the middle to the Sacred Grove, Mawphlang. The route meandered through small villages dotted with neat little cottages, with lacy curtains, flowering geranium pots and neatly hung laundry that is so typical of the place. The road suddenly opened out onto rolling, undulating, low hills covered with dried brown grass, as it was around the onslaught of winter there. It was breathtakingly beautiful! We parked the car and walked down to the Grove. The hike is so refreshing that we didn’t feel like walking but running down like children and feel the breeze brushing against our cheeks.

Page-2-Image-2Photo Credit: Sankar Hazarika

We took a young local boy as a guide who explained to us the history, beliefs, rituals as well as the plant and animal life of the Grove. There are legendary stories about the Grove that date back 700-800 years. The local people believe that the Sacred Groves are the abode of deities. These deities protect their people, cattle and land, while keeping the evil spirits at bay. According to the legend if anybody breaks the traditional norms of these groves by felling of trees, plucking of fruits, flowers, leaves or twigs that person will have to face the wrath of the deity and a curse will befall on him or her.

Stepping into the Sacred Grove the first thought that came to mind was ‘Shinrin –yoku’. Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term, which means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ or ‘forest bathing’. As we slowly walked under the canopy of this silent living forest, with full sensory immersion, breathing the pure air, feeling the forest energy, a mystical sense enveloped us. In that moment we became a part of nature.

Page-3-Image-3Photo Credit: Sankar Hazarika

The entrance was paved for a short distance, and then onwards we stepped onto the rich humus covered floor of the forest. As we entered deep into the grove we were amazed by the richness of the flora and fauna. The trees were covered with ferns, aroids and pipers. Orchids were there in plenty. The guide explained to us the different trees with their botanical names and the medicinal value of some of them. Some of the trees were hundreds of years old. We came across a few fallen ones too, covered with fresh green moss and mushrooms. Midway through the hike we stopped to admire the area where the rituals for the coronation of the King of the tribe took place in ancient times. Monoliths, both big and small, honoring fallen heroes of the tribe adorned the area.

Photo Credit: Sankar Hazarika

As it was cold inside the forest we looked out for areas where the sun’s rays fell and stood there for a while enjoying the warmth of the sun. Those little rays of sunshine were oh so welcoming! As we walked further down we came across a quiet little stream that we walked along and after sometime instead of going straight onwards, we took a pathway to the left, going up a slope. At the peak of the path was a viewpoint. What we saw was a feast for the eyes. It was part of the David Scott’s Trail that encompassed hills covered with trees of different hues, making it a truly picturesque view. We walked down again and continued on our path till we came out of the exquisite Grove back into the world. Later we enjoyed some tea made by a Khasi lady, with special cupcakes made of rice flour, in a small teashop outside the grove with thoughts of the blissful experience. Rejuvenated thus, mentally and physically, we started back home. Given the choice, I’d rather spend some more time there!

Come walk with me’ is an initiative of Fitness Vector Gym, a family health club in Guwahati, Assam that encourages both young and old to take nature treks to promote not only physical but also the psychological well being of people. Both senior citizens and young ones thoroughly enjoy these walks as they introduce them to the wilderness, away from the monotony of everyday life. Besides being challenging, the treks also act as a stress buster thanks to the healing power of nature. Through these walks you can feel yourself absorbing the natural energy that refreshes your body, mind and spirit!

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