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Cherpunji
About Cherapunji

Cherrapunji; presently the historical name Sohra is more commonly used, is a subdivisional town in the East Khasi Hills district in the Indian state of Meghalaya. It is recognized as being the second wettest place on Earth. However, nearby Mawsynram presently holds that record. Though, it still holds the world record for the most rainfall in a calendar month and in a year. It received 9,300 mm (366 in) in July 1861 and 26,461 mm (1,041.75 in) between 1 August 1860 and 31 July 1861.

It is the traditional capital of a hima (Khasi tribal chieftainship constituting a petty state) known as Sohra or Churra.

Cherrapunjee is best known as the wettest place on earth, Cherrapunjee gets rains during rainy season mostly like the rest of the country, and it is only during that time that the rains here are more than any other place on the earth.

The hills around Cherrapunjee are dotted with several waterfalls. Steep straight falls, fall into the narrow gorges between the hills and culminate to become a river in the deepest part of the valley. From the top the rivers look like a tickle of water flowing between green slopes. This delicate little river cuts through the rocky mountains and makes it 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 the neighboring Bangladesh.

Legends and myths can never be too far. One of the falls called Noh Ka Likhai falls have a terrible story behind its name that comes from a women named Ka Likhai who committed suicide here after having eaten her own daughter mistakenly. 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 legend is that his basket was left here upturned and even today stands as a rock. The way the rock is standing between the hills and the plains with its ideal conical top, one almost want to believe the story.

Meghalaya is home to as many as 788 caves, most of which are unmapped and unfamiliar, and some of them the are longest one in the country. Mawsmai caves are probably the most visited ones as they are close to Cherrapunjee. There is a concrete staircase that leads you to the mouth of the cave. There is 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. These natural formations make you wonder at the natures diversity but the way they are maintained you do the same at mans ignorance. Around the cave you can walk through a jungle with wild plants.

Cherrapunjee is now officially called Sohra, which was its original name. Cherrapunjee actually was a British contribution. There are parts of Bangladesh that you can see from some places here and you would be surprised to see that hills suddenly become absolute plains where agriculture is being done like other plains. Ramakrishna Mission has ashram here, where they have a temple and a museum on 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 walls of the building showcase some pictures are associated with the region. Women in traditional Khasi dresses can be seen selling cinnamon and tea.

 
History of Cherapunji

The original name for this town was Sohra, which was pronounced "Churra" by the British. This name ultimately evolved into the present name, Cherrapunji. The word "cherrapunji" means 'land of oranges'. Despite perennial rainfall, Cherrapunji faces an acute water shortage and the inhabitants often have to trek for miles to obtain potable water. Irrigation is also hampered due to extreme rain washing away the topsoil as a result of human encroachment into the forests. The Meghalaya state government has renamed Cherrapunjee back to its original name, "Sohra". There is a monument to David Scott (British Administrator in NE India, 180231) in the Cherrapunji cemetery. The history of the Khasis the inhabitants of Cherrapunji may be traced from the early part of the 16th century. Between the 16th and 18th centuries these people were ruled by the 'Syiems (rajas or chiefs) of Khyriem' in the Khasi hills. The Khasi hills came under British authority in 1883 with the submission of the last of the significant syiems, Tirot Singh.The main pivot on which the entire superstructure of Khasi society rests is the matrilineal system.

 
Causes of High Rainfall

Cherrapunji receives rains from the Bay of Bengal arm of the Indian summer monsoon. The monsoon clouds fly unhindered over the plains of Bangladesh for about 400 km. Thereafter, they hit the Khasi Hills which rise suddenly from the plains to a height of about 1370 m above mean sea level within 2 to 5 km. The geography of the hills with many deep valleys channels the low-flying (150300 m) moisture-laden clouds from a wide area to converge over Cherrapunji. The winds push the rain clouds through these gorges and up the vertical slopes. The quick ascent of the clouds into the upper atmosphere accelerates the cooling and helps vapours to condense. Most of Cherrapunji's rain is the result of air being lifted as a large body of water vapour. The tremendous amount of rainfall at Cherrapunji is perhaps the best-known feature of orographic rain in northeast India.

Occasionally, rainstorms can occur in one part of Cherrapunji while other areas may be totally or relatively dry, reflecting the high spatial variability of the rainfall. Atmospheric humidity is very high during the peak monsoon period.

The major part of the rainfall at Cherrapunji can be attributed to the orographic features. When the clouds are blown over the hills from the south, they are funneled through the valley. The clouds hit Cherrapunjee perpendicularly and the low flying clouds are pushed up the steep slopes. It is not surprising to find that the heaviest rainfalls occur when the winds blow directly on the Khasi Hills.

A notable feature of monsoon rain at Cherrapunji is that most of it falls in the morning. This could be partly due to two air masses coming together. During the monsoon months, the prevailing winds along the Brahmaputra valley generally blow from the east or the northeast, but the winds over Meghalaya are from the south. These two winds systems generally come together in the environs of the Khasi Hills. Apparently the winds that are trapped in the valley at night begin their upward ascent only after they are warmed during the day. This partially explains the frequency of morning rainfall. Apart from orographic features, atmospheric convection plays a vital role during the monsoon and the period just preceding it.

Culture of Cherapunji

The locals living in and around Cherrapunjee are known as Khasis. It is a matrilineal culture. After the wedding, the husband of the youngest daughter goes to live with his wife's family, who own the property of the family, while others live on their own getting a bit of the share. The children take on the surname of the mother.

Cherrapunji is also well-known for its living bridges. Over hundreds of years the people in Cherrapunji have developed techniques for growing roots of trees into large bridges. The process takes 1015 years and the bridges typically last hundreds of years, the oldest ones in use being over 500 years old.

Climate of Cherapunji

Cherrapunji has a mild subtropical highland climate (Kppen Cwb), with monsoonal influences typical of India. The city's yearly rainfall average stands at 11,777 millimetres (463.7 in).This figure places it behind only nearby Mawsynram, Meghalaya, whose average is 11,873 millimetres (467.4 in). Cherrapunji receives both the southwest and northeast monsoonal winds, giving it a single monsoon season. It lies on the windward side of the Khasi Hills, so the resulting orographic lift enhances precipitation. In the winter months it receives the northeast monsoon showers that travel down the Brahmaputra valley.Temperatures average 11.5 C (52.7 F) in January and 20.6 C (69.1 F) in July, and the annual mean is 17.3 C (63.1 F)

It holds two Guinness world records for receiving the maximum amount of rainfall in a single year: 22,987 millimetres (905.0 in) of rainfall between August 1860 and July 1861 and for receiving the maximum amount of rainfall in a single month: 9,300 millimetres (370 in) in July 1861.

Geography

Cherrapunji is located at 25.30N 91.70E. It has an average altitude of 1,484 metres (4,869 ft) and sits on a plateau in the southern part of the Khasi Hills, facing the plains of Bangladesh. The plateau rises 600 meters above the surrounding valleys.

Soils on the plateau are poor owing to deforestation and washout caused by heavy rains. Owing to winter droughts, the vegetation in this location is even xerophytic in spite of the fame of Cherrapunji as an extremely wet place. Additional pressure on local ecosystems is created by the rapid increase of the population from a Sohra-area population of 7,000 in 1960, it grew to over 100,000 by 2000.

Valleys around Cherrapunji, however, are covered with lush and very diverse vegetation, containing numerous widespread species of plants, including Meghalaya subtropical forests.The Shillong Plateau is an uplifted horst-like feature which was bounded by the E-W Main Boundary Thrust(MBT) to the North, the N-S Jamuna fault in the west, and the NW-SE kopilli fracture zone in the east.

Food of Cherapunji

Cherrapunji is well-known for its oranges. Apart from this, rice is the staple food of this region. Fish and meat are also consumed. Khasis also ferment rice-beer, and make spirit out of rice or millets by distillation. Use of rice-beer is a must for every ceremonial and religious occasion.

Best time to visit Cherapunji

During the period of May to August, heaviest rainfall takes place. The whole region is full of dark, menacing clouds. Hence, it is worthwhile to visit this place in the months of September and October.

 
Tourist Attractions in Cherapunji

The hills of Cherrapunji are untouched by the dull hands of busy metropolis lives. This region is not yet exploited and this fact adds to their charm, giving all tourists a chance at exploration. Cherrapunji is the only place in India that experiences monsoon season throughout the year. Tourists love to visit this place because of its hazy valleys, foaming rivers, rolling clouds and healthy flora and fauna. It has various amazing waterfalls, parks and caves that intrigue a travellers. The view of these falls become extremely worthwhile during the monsoons.

Eco Park
Eco Park is situated in the east Khasi hills district in Cherrapunji, it was established by Meghalaya Government. It offers a breath taking view of Sylhet Plains of neighbouring Bangladesh. There are several varieties of hybrid and indigenous orchids in the green house in the park.

David Scott Memorial
It is monument which was erected by the British in recognition of David Scott who was considered as the most zealous, able and intelligent servant of that time.

Dainthlen Waterfalls
Dainthlen Waterfalls are located at a distance of 5 km from Cherrapunji, they act as ideal picnic spots, furnishing a pleasant drive full with picturesque beauty to look around for, in order to reach here. Rangjyrthej is a village that lies near these falls that is worth a visit. There is an exciting legend related with the falls. It is believed that people killed a enormous snake living in the caves nearby this place and the natural rock carving made by the snake can still be seen.

Double Decker Root Bridge
This bridge is the foremost attractions of Cherrapunji. It is located in the Tyma Village and acts as the delight of successful bio-engineering. Basically, it is a 100 feet long, two-tier living root bridge. It gets across at least 50 people or more at one point of time. For such a bridge to become fully functional, a period of 10 to 15 years is required. The best quality about it is that it gets stronger everyday.

Nohkalikai Waterfalls
These waterfalls lie at a distance of 5 km from Cherrapunji. They are very popular as they have earned the title of being fourth highest waterfall in the world with a height of 1100 ft. The view of these waterfalls falling off a steep cliff is imposing especially during the monsoons.

Thangkharang Park
It lies at a distance of 12 km from Cherrapunji. This park is directly under the control of the State forest department. This park overlooks the plains of Bangladesh, and provides a beautiful view of them. There is a nominal entry fee too.

Khasi Monoliths
For people seeking little adventure, these monoliths are a must. Many monoliths that were built in the memory of ancestors lie scattered around Cherrapunji. One of them in particular, has beautiful elaborate structure of interconnecting underground passages that lie beneath old caves.

Krem Phyllut Cave
This 1002 m long cave has 3 entrances and two river passages and is among the major attractions which is situated towards the south of Cherrapunji in Mawsmai village.

Krem Mawmluh Cave
It is just half a kilometer to west of Cherrapunji and is believed to be India's forth longest
Cave which is situated at a height of 4503 m. The main attractions of this cave include a pool formed by five rivers which are entering the cave and the main entrance which is at a height of 10 km above sea level.

Kynrem Waterfall
These waterfalls can be seen from the Thangkharang Park, as they are placed at an altitude of 1000 feet.

Ram Krishna Mission
There is a special performance known as Shad Suk Mynsiem or 'Dance of the Joyous Heart' organized here during the month of April which one should try not to miss. It was
founded in the year 1939.

Nongsawlia Presbyterian Church
This famous church was founded by Rev. Thomas Jones in 1846 who brought Christianity in this region.

Mawsmai Falls
They lie at a distance of few km from Cherrapunji. They reach a height of 1035 feet and are supposed to be fourth highest in India.

Khoh Ramhah or the Basket of the Giant
If you move a few kilometers ahead from Thangkharang Park, you will spot an enormous stone resembling a Khasi basket. Local people of Cherrapunji believe that a giant used to carry this huge stone and hence its name, Khoh Ramhah or the Basket of the Giant.

How to Reach Cherrapunji

Cherrapunji lies in the state of Meghalaya. Meghalaya is linked to all parts of the nation. Its capital Shillong, has its own airport that caters to the need of all tourists. The drive from Shillong to Cherrapunji is a pleasurable one. There are many taxis and buses that ply to this route. These places are at a distance of 60 km from each other.

By Rail
Guwahati acts as the nearest railhead to Cherrapunji. Although it lies at a distance of 181 km from this region, buses or taxis can be availed from the railway station. Guwahati railway station is well connected to the entire country and regular trains carry passengers to and from.

By Road
The state transport bus station lies in Paltan Bazaar, near Guwahati Railway Station. A tourist can catch Assam state and Meghalaya state transport buses to Shillong. Apart from this, there are many private luxury coach operators nearby, who also ply their buses. There is also the tourist taxi stand that provides tourist taxis up to Shillong.

By Air
Shillong (Umroi) airport is the nearest to Cherrapunji. Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and is well connected to other major cities of the nation. Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati is the nearest international airport to Cherrapunji.

 

 


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