Hey, do you know there is a place in India, where instead of idol worships, people worship nature? Interested...?
Yes, Situated in the East Khasi Hills, very near to Mawphlang village, lies a forest area that isn't too large in wildlife, but in its significance.
This is because this is probably the most well known among the many sacred forests of Khasi and Jaintia hills.
At first glance, it may not seem much magnificent or important, but a local guide will be the best to take you around and explain to you the mystery of this forest.
Or, you can read this blog to know a little before you visit the place.
Okay, first things first! How to reach this place?
Reaching Mawphlang secret forest is the easiest of all the places I have mentioned in my blog till now. The entry to the forest is located ~25 km from Shillong and takes about an hour to reach and from Guwahati, this place is ~135 km and takes 4 hrs to reach. Either way, you can take a cab or a self-drive to reach there. Also, by the entrance, there is a place to park your car with a little parking fee.
There are separate entry fees for each person, and camera charges are extra, so best to inquire accordingly before entry.
You must be curious about what to expect once you arrive? Hold my beer... I'll explain it to you.
It's a forest area, so don't expect ice-cream or gol-gappa vendors. To get an idea of what to expect, let's see the name more clearly. In Khasi language, 'maw' means 'Stone' and 'phlang' means 'grass'. So, together they roughly mean grass on stone. The ground is covered with a thick layer of humus and the old trees make a canopy to prevent direct sunlight. Moreover, the place itself lies in a high rainfall area. All these make the ideal condition for moss and ferns to grow. So, most of the ground, including rocks and tree stumps, are covered with a thick layer of moss and the rest with fern and other small plants that impart a magical vibe to this place.
The forest is an astonishing network of plants and trees, all of which are connected. Not like in the Avatar movie, but close.
More than half of the trees in this forest are over 800-1000 years old. Other than these, there are many medicinal plants including those that can apparently cure many types of diseases. Also, there are many Rudraksha trees, the seeds of which are used in religious ceremonies.
Other than this, you can find different kinds of orchids, ferns, mushrooms, and even some insect-eating plants like pitcher plants. In terms of wildlife, there are multiple species of butterflies, snails, and birds. It is recommended to hire a guide who knows about these, so better ask the guide before the start of the walk.
Okay, there are many forests in India that has all these, but what makes this sacred?
Well, according to local beliefs, a deity known as 'Labasa' inhabits the forest. It takes the form of a tiger or a leopard and protects the people around the place. Once you enter, you'll see structures made of stones. These are sites of sacrifice for the deity and holds the status of temples among the surrounding villages. The animals that are sacrificed are mostly goats and roosters and often takes place in the time of need. eg. natural calamity or serious illness. Also, the bones of the dead are burnt in the forest by the Khasi tribe people.
Entry fees and charges. Entry to the forest is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm every day. The entry fees per person are ₹10 and if you drive a car, the parking is ~₹30. The trek is of two types, a short trek which is completed in approx 30 minutes and a long trek which takes about an hour. The charges for the trek are ₹300 and ₹500 respectively.
The guides speak English so communication isn't a problem.
Where to stay?
If you want to stay here and enjoy/explore the place a little longer, the best option would be Maple Pine Farm bed and breakfast. It is a small family-run bread and breakfast and is a bit off-grid in many aspects. You can read more about them here.
Nearby places of interest.
Opposite to the forest, a Khasi heritage village is set-up by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council. It consists of various types of authentic, traditionally constructed tribal huts. Local foods and toilet facilities are also available here.
The road from Shillong to Mawphlang also heads towards Shillong peak and Elephant falls. The two attractions can be easily visited during the visit to the sacred forest.
The David-Scott trail, one of the most popular treks of Meghalaya is located behind the forest and is a four to five hours trek.
Things to remember while you visit.
There are a few things that you need to keep in mind when you visit the forest.
The ecosystem there is sensitive, so don't create a ruckus when you visit this place. Avoid unnecessary shouting or music.
Nothing is allowed to be taken outside the forest. Absolutely nothing. Not even a leaf or a twig. taking anything outside the forest invites curse. So respect the local rules and don't do anything that is prevented by the locals.
If you are using Google Maps to visit this area, it'll be better to use the offline feature of the maps and note down the names of important places along the route as cell reception is terrible in these areas.
Now that you know about the place, how about you add it to your bucket list of to-be visited list. And, the most important thing, don't forget to tell me about your experience after your visit.
Disclaimer: The pictures on this page are not taken by me and I don't claim any rights on the pictures. The credits go to the respective owners of the pictures.