Basic facts of Meghalaya
Meghalaya "the abode of clouds", became a full-fledged State on January 21, 1972. It is bounded on the north by Goalpara, Kamrup, Nagoan and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam State, and on the east by the Districts of Cachar and North Cachar Hills, also of the State of Assam. On the south and west is Bangladesh. Meghalaya lies between 20.1 ‘N and 26.5 latitude and 85.49 ‘E and 92.52 "E longitude.
The total area of the State is 22,429 square kilometer with a population of 29,64,007 (2011 census). The State is now divided into seven administrative districts. They are (1) Jaintia Hills District, created on February 22, 1972. (2) East Garo Hills District and (3) West Garo Hills District created on October 22, 1976. (4) East Khasi Hills District and (5) West Khasi Hills District created on October 28,1976. (6) Ri Bhoi District created on June 4, 1992 and (7) South Garo Hills District created on June 18, 1992. They are predominantly inhabited by the Khasis, the Jaintias and the Garos. These tribal communities are the descendents of very ancient people having distinctive traits and ethnic origins.
The Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills which form the central and eastern part of Meghalaya is an imposing plateau with rolling grasslands, hills and river valleys. The southern face of the plateau is marked by deep gorges and abrupt slopes. Water falls rush down steep slopes and carve deep valleys through which swift flowing rivers descend to the plains. At the foot of these slopes, a narrow strip of plainland runs along the international border with Bangladesh.
The northern section of the plateau has an undulating topography with a series of hills rising to almost the same height, extending northwards to slope gradually, merging with the plains of Assam. The accordant summit of these hills vary from 170 m to 820 m. Nongpoh village lying half way on the Guwahati-Shillong road, stands on a flat top of 70 m high on this hill section.
The height of the central plateau of the Khasi hills hovers around 1500 m with the Shillong Peak (1965 m), the highest point in the plateau, overlooking Shillong Town.
The Garo Hills which form the western part of Meghalaya are lower in elevation. The greater part of Garo Hills range in height from 450 m to 600 m and drop steeply to the Brahmaputra valley on the north and to the plains of Bangladesh on the south. Nokrek Peak (1412 m) east of Tura Town, is the highest peak in Western Meghalaya.
A number of rivers, none of them navigable, rain this mountainous State. In the Garo Hills, the Manda, the Damring and the Janjiram flow towards the north while the Ringge and the Ganol flow in the westerly direction. Those that flow to the south are the Simsang, which is the biggest river in Garo Hills and the Bhogai.
In the Khasi and Jaintia hills, the rivers that flow in a northerly direction include the Khri, the Umtrew, the Umiam, the Umkhem besides the Kupli on the border between Jainita Hills and North Cachar Hills. The Kynshi, the Umiam Mawphlang and the Umngot flow to the south into Bangladesh.
The state of Meghalaya is directly influenced by the south west monsoon and the northeast winter winds. The four seasons of Meghalaya are: Spring - March and April, Summer (Monsoon) - May to September, Autumn - October and November and Winter - December to February.
During March and April, the atmosphere gradually warms up with the advent of Spring. From the middle of April the temperature starts rising to the maximum in the month of June and then decreases gradually. This period may be termed as the Summer (Monsoon) Season. The maximum temperature recorded is 34 Celsius at Tura and West Garo Hills District and 28 Celsius at Shillong.
October and November are the two months when the climate is cool and temperate. After November, the winter season sets and continues upto the end of February. During these months the temperature comes down to as low as 2 Celsius in the Khasi Hills.
Rainfall starts by the third week of May and continues right up to the end of September and sometimes well into middle of October. The maximum rainfall occurs over the southern slopes of the Khasi hills, i.e over Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram platform which receives the heaviest rainfall in the world. The average rainfall in the State is 12,000 mm.
Meghalaya’s capital, Shillong and also the district headquarters of East Khasi Hills District is situated at an altitude of 1,496 meters above sea level. The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India, over a century ago.
According to legends, Shillong derived its name from a deity named "Shyllong" whose dwelling is also known as Shyllong Peak from whose niece the Syiem clan of Khyrim, Mylliem, Maharam, Malaisohmat, Bhowal and Langrin sprang up.
The city is one of the few hill stations with motorable roads all round. Shillong has its own charm, different from other hill stations, and presents a natural scenic beauty with waterfalls, brooks, pine grooves and gardens. The place, the people, the flora and fauna and the climate all combine to make Shillong an ideal resort throughout the year. Shillong offers arrangements for tourists with good hotel accommodation, facilities for sports, fishing and hiking.
Shillong is connected by a good arterial road with the rest of the country through Assam. A good road connects Shillong with Sylhet in Bangladesh, it is also connected with other important towns of the State like Jowai and Tura. An airport at Umroi, about 30 kilometers from Shillong, connects Shillong by air with the rest of the country.
Shillong is also the headquarters of the North Eastern Council, the Eastern Air Command, the Assam Rifle, the Assam Regimental Centre and 101 Comm. Zone. Here, there is the North Eastern Hill University and the official residence of the Governor of Meghalaya. A bench of the Guwahati High Court has been set up in Shillong.