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