Mawphlang Sacred Forest

About an hour’s drive away from Shillong , is the sacred forest of Mawphlang. The Khasi tribe revere this site and narrate stories of its importance for rituals performed  to appease divine forces, especially before war and at the time of epidemics.

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A few feet away from this sign board , one can hire the services of a guide and opt for a one hour quick informative tour or a leisure walk into the grove which might last a little over two hours. We opted for the latter. Before one enters the forest , the guide warns us against taking away anything from the forest , not even a leaf . They believe it brings bad luck and has proven to be fatal .

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Years ago ,we are told , this site was frequently visited by men of the tribe ,  once they had crossed a certain age and only if they sported a beard . These men would make their first halt at what is now called ‘ the preparation site’ to check if they had with them all they needed to perform their sacred rituals . Once this site was crossed , there was no turning back without the successful completion of the ritual as they believed it would anger the divine and bring them ill luck.

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The stones in the picture above mark the place of preparation. As we walk towards the sacred site of rituals ,  we are shown the Khasi pine , snake like plants , a variety of mushrooms and rhododendron trees . The largest among 200 sacred groves in Meghalaya , Mawphlang is a treasure trove that attracts botanists and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.

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Khasi pine

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Our guide ( who insisted we call him ‘wish’ , since his Khasi name was a tongue twister that none of us could get right ) kept pointing out to little mushrooms peeping from dark nooks and wet branches and explained the botanical names of each , none of which I remember !

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‘Wish’ was my wish come true . Unhurriedly , he let us marvel at trees , feel , stop and question. He patiently answered us , helped pick us up when we slipped and struggled with our raincoats and let our two year old pretend she was spidey climbing trees horizontally or splash around in a stream we discovered behind the thicket.

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The picture above is one of the sacred sites for the sacrifice / rituals .

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Someone had arranged these leaves on a stone and I couldn’t resist clicking them. For me it sums up Mawphlang , like the different colours of the leaves , Mawphlang has something for everyone – history , tradition , stories ,  the enchanting forest , bird song , mushrooms , colours , silence and peace and for our two year old , this was better than any jungle gym in the world .

With bruises , a few bites and mud stains all over , we left Mawphlang feeling blessed .

Mawphlang magic to continue ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Malshej Ghat : Not just a monsoon destination

If all you want is rolling mist , the trill of birds , green pastures with cattle grazing and if you have a high tolerance for volatile weather , then Malshej is perfect . Most websites suggest a trip to Malshej after the initial monsoon spell has washed the rugged Sahyadris clean and the benevolent mountains ( that is what Sahyadris are called ) wear their prettiest greens .

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Driving towards Malshej

July is when tourists throng to Malshej to take a dip in one of the innumerable waterfalls that bring this place to life . Since we were travelling with our 16 month old , we thought it better to travel before the peak monsoon season and landed there in the second week of June .

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Thankfully , when most places have long lists of things to do and things to see , Malshej is an exception. Do what you want , see what is there to see – the broken ranges , the dark clouds looming over them , trees dancing in the breeze ( it can get extremely windy ) , drive down to the dam at Pimpalgaon ( about 5 km away from MTDC , Malshej ) , sit and feel at peace . These are things that I did , am sure you will find your own sights to see and experiences to have once you get there .

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Towards the lake . The narow road to get to the lake .

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The white particles you see , strewn over the rocky shore, are mollusc shells .

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Walking around
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I had my Heidi moment

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The place behind MTDC , the view from my room.

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On the last evening there ,  I saw one of my favourite images – an old couple walking hand in hand to enjoy a few quiet moments with the mountains. It made me feel happy and hopeful 🙂

For me , Malshej was not about the magic of monsoon , but about my little girl watching the majesty of the mountains in awe , her clapping when she saw a bird fly by and  her giggling when the breeze made her curls tickle her cheeks !

 

 

Spices , feni and more

Sahakari spice garden , Goa.

After our guided tour and a delicious lunch , we were allowed to wander about in the spice garden . A look at what we saw ….

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A large centipede . The largest I’ve seen till date
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Flowers of a love apple tree add a lovely dash of pink . 
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Coffee bean plant
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Peri peri chilies  

A little section of the garden is dedicated to explaining how Feni – a locally produced spirit which is made out of cashews or toddy palm is distilled. Fermented cashew juice is distilled thrice to get what is sold in the market as feni.

This was definitely an afternoon well spent.

Bright and Beautiful in the City of Joy

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A quiet afternoon in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in Kolkata didn’t seem like a good idea at first , but there I was in front of the garden.With no plan for the day, I decided to take a quick walk. The auto driver did mention ‘the great banyan tree’ , supposedly one of the largest in the world , with a circumference of about 350 metres! What was intended to be a hurried visit, turned out to be a leisurely amble and an afternoon of all things bright and beautiful ! Not on the regular tourism circuit , but definitely worth a visit for nature lovers.

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Take off

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Perched
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One of the many lakes

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The Great Banyan Tree from a distance
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Roots and Trunks – A closer look
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Paddle and pose !

 

 

Lamahatta : One with nature

Lamahatta , about 23 km away from Darjeeling , is a bewitching place. Tall trees competing for faint golden rays , glittering blades of grass , a forest shrouded in fog and lots of prayer flags , this place lives up to its name ‘monk’s hermitage’.  Let’s walk…

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I was reminded of the poem ‘Babes in the woods’
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Blur Blade

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View from the Lamahatta roadside garden
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A beauty spotted in the garden

 

 

There’s beauty in Manic Mumbai !

Nature never did betray the heart that loved her – Wordsworth

A walk around Aarey colony , one of the greenest patches in Mumbai, always leaves me rejuvenated . I have been going to Aarey almost every weekend for the past two months now . This Sunday I explored an area that I hadn’t seen before and it was a delightful two hours spent ! Let me know what you think of this beautiful side of Mumbai .

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Solo !

I enjoyed watching this myna !

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Gulmohar !

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And for a moment I couldn’t believe this is Mumbai !
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There’s beauty everywhere …..if only we stop and see .

— that mishmash