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
It is the traditional capital of a hima (Khasi tribal
chieftainship constituting a petty state) known as Sohra or
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
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 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.
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.
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, 1802–31) 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 (150–300 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
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.
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 10–15 years and the bridges
typically last hundreds of years, the oldest ones in use
being over 500 years old.
Cherrapunji has a mild subtropical highland climate (Köppen 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.
Cherrapunji is located at 25.30°N 91.70°E. 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
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
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
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
Tourist Attractions in
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 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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.