Cherrapunjee also called Cherrapunji is best known as the wettest place on earth. So we studied in our geography lessons. The image that we have is that of a place where it is constantly raining. All you would be able to see is rain and rain. We soon discovered it is not so. Cherrapunji gets rains during the rainy season mostly like the rest of the country. It is only during that time that the rains here are more than in any other place on the earth.
We were surprised to learn that the place is dry during the winter months. And faces a major water crisis. Now can life get more ironic: Wettest place on earth goes dry for months every year. I wonder if they ever tried any water conservation methods. Did they face any challenge in doing so or they just accepted this as a part of nature their hills give them? Both ways life is tough – when it rains and when it does not.
India’s No. 1 Waterfalls – Nohkalikai Falls at Cherrapunji
Clouds will be your constant companions as you roam around the place. You can walk in the clouds literally, feel them on your skin and smell them. Clouds not just flirt with you, they also keep creating the scenery around for you. Sometimes they will camouflage the waterfall and you will only hear it. Then they will show you a bit of it and raise your curiosity and then they will suddenly move away and let you admire the gorgeous waterfall falling into a deep blue lake. Nohkalikai Falls is at about 1100 ft height or a deep plunge waterfall ranked as the number one waterfall in India.
Then they will show you a bit of it and raise your curiosity and then they will suddenly move away and let you admire the gorgeous waterfall falling into a deep blue lake. Another constant feature is colorful flowers. You would see bright pink flowers flanking both sides of the road throughout your drive. All along the valleys and in front of every house – big or small. They do not look planted or force-fitted but they seem very much a part of the place along with hills, clouds, and humans. We spotted many varieties of flowers that we usually do not see in other parts of the country.
Hilly Terrain – Abundant Nature
We spotted many varieties of flowers that we usually do not see in other parts of the country. Amongst the Blue sky, white or grey clouds, green hills, and flowers add brightness to the scenery with their vibrant colors.
The hills around are dotted with various waterfalls. You can stop around any valley and you would be able to hear or see a waterfall. Some of the waterfalls are a part of the standard itinerary that you are taken around and have interesting stories about them. Steep straight falls, fall into the narrow gorges between the hills. And culminate in becoming a river in the deepest part of the valley.
From the top, the rivers look like a trickle of water flowing between green slopes. Sometimes you will wonder at the might of this delicate little river that cuts through the rocky mountains and makes its way, you will envy it for its independence to be able to go anywhere on its will, to be able to cross borders as most of this water goes to neighboring Bangladesh.
Video of Nohkalikai Waterfalls at Cherrapunji
Do watch this short clip of the wonderful waterfalls, you must visit later in the monsoon season if you plan a trip to Meghalaya in north-east India.
Legends & Myths of Nohkalikai Falls
Legends and myths can never be too far. One of the waterfalls called Nohkalikai Falls has a tragic story behind its name. That comes from a woman named Ka Likai who committed suicide here after having eaten her daughter mistakenly.
Legend of 200 ft Monolithic Rock
A huge 200 ft stand-alone rock formation that looks like an inverted Khasi basket is said to be a basket that belonged to an evil giant who used to trouble the people. Once they served him a meal full of nails and killed him. And the legend is that his basket was left here upturned and even today stands like a rock. The way the rock is standing between the hills and the plains with its perfect conical top, you almost want to believe the story.
Meghalaya is home to as many as 788 caves, most of which are unmapped and unexplored. Some of them are the longest ones in the country. Mawsmai caves are probably the most visited ones as they are close to Cherrapunji. There is a concrete staircase that leads you to the mouth of the cave. You see a huge hall kind of formation that leads to a very narrow pathway, where at most one person can pass through. And then again a cave comes and you come out on the other side of the cave.
These natural formations make you marvel at nature’s diversity but the way they are maintained you do the same at man’s ignorance. Around the cave, you can walk through a jungle with wild plants. We saw Mawsmai caves towards the end of the day. It is then it started raining after a long dry day. It felt as if the trip is now complete, as you have soaked yourself in its identity – its rains.
The place is now officially called Sohra, which was its original name. Cherrapunji’s name was a British contribution. There are parts of Bangladesh that you can see from some places here. You would be amazed to see that hills suddenly become absolute plains where agriculture is being done like other plains.
Ramakrishna Mission has an ashram here, where they have a temple and a museum in the Northeast. The museum shows pictures of all the falls in the region and tells you a bit of history about them. There is a small weaving center where some young man and women were weaving their traditional weaves. There is a temple behind the main building and the walls of the building showcase some pictures associated with the region. Women in traditional Khasi dresses can be seen selling cinnamon and tea.
Despite being such a huge tourist place, tourism infrastructure is almost not there. You cannot even find a decent lunch unless you are staying in a rare resort here. Since most people come here for a day trip from Shillong, a couple of good restaurants that serve basic meals are a huge need. As of now you only have small stalls that sell you small snacks only. Even getting the quintessential tea is not that easy in a land not too far from the land of tea.
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