Mawphlang – the Fangorn of Shillong
Mawphlang is an amazing place around 25 km from Shillong. This is a forest that stands out from the surrounding area and the grasslands. The name Mawphlang means stones with moss. It is also called the Sacred Forest by the local Khasi people.
In this entire region the tribes follow the tradition of having a Sacred forest.Almost every tribe or kingdom has its own preserved and protected sacred forest. Mawphlang is perhaps the most famous of these.
Before visiting Mawphlang I read about the forest, about the unique scenery inside it, the flora and fauna. I had no doubt that this would be a paradise for photography.
I am a big-time fan of the monumental work “The Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien.
As I stood on the grass cover leading straight to the forest, a single word came to my mind – Fangorn! I was standing right in front of Fangorn. In the next three hours as I trekked the forest, every single moment I lived in the Fangorn and various other paths of LOTR. As the scenery changed and the slopes changed, my experiences changed from Aragorn to Legolas and back!
Mawphlang has stood the test of time for over 1000 years. It is protected by the Khasi tribe. It is the sacrificial place for the villagers. The forest is believed to be protected by a deity named Labasa. The forest is absolutely unspoiled and in every sense in its natural form. The single reason for this preservation is the faith of the locals that the forest is protected by God. No one is allowed to take anything out of the forest. And anything, includes even a dried twig or a dry leaf from inside. There are also a lot of stories associated with Mawphlang. Right at the entrance there are large monolith structures representing different deities.
I had a schoolboy accompanying me as my guide. He told me a very long story about these monoliths. Unfortunately, I could not understand half of it and the remaining half was names which I do not recollect! But what I did remember was complete and true faith that the boy had about the stories he narrated.
I took a deep breath and took my first few steps into the Sacred Forest. I must have walked around 20 meters, and the world around me completely changed. From open grassland to dense, dark and humid terrain with tall trees. Trees seemed to be of various species. Sunlight had to find its way through the thick foliage. It was green everywhere. Green leaves, green grass, green moss, green ferns of different types . And there was a fairy tale path to walk on. The backlit tree trunks looked mesmerising with their sides shining with rich green moss lace.
And in that darkish ambience, vibrantly bright coloured mushrooms stood out like jewels. I could not resist the temptation of going down on my knees to take photos at low angle. I was almost on the ground, careful not to break any of the mushrooms, almost surrounded by them. Suddenly my young guide came running towards me. He was shouting “Come out. You die.” I asked him what was wrong. He said the mushrooms are so poisonous that if you touch them you would almost certainly die. What an irony! Amazingly beautifully coloured mushrooms, almost inviting anyone, turn out to be fatal. But then, that is how the nature works. Through the forest I saw many beautiful and colourful species of mushrooms.
As I walked along, I came across interesting arrangements of monolithic rocks. Of course, covered with moss. These were, I was told, the discussion places for the wise before carrying out sacrifices to the God. Then, I saw a large vertical monolith that appeared yellowish in colour as the sun was behind it. This was the main place of sacrifice. In old days, the boy told me, the sacrifice used to be of a bull or cattle. In recent times though it has changed to sacrificing a rooster in most cases.
An interesting thing about the sacrifice was, even the meat of the animal could not be brought out of the woods. The priest and the wise had to finish it or leave it there. As the saying goes, if the deity was pleased, it would appear as a leopard and if angry, it would come out as a snake!
The Wise would discuss here…
The main sacrifice stone
Clear water streams
Green ambience at Mawphlang
The magical walk through Mawphlang was an endless experience of nature’s beauty at its best.
The clearwater streams, the moss laden rocks, barks of old trees – every element adding to the thrill of natural beauty.
Thanks Shridhar for sharing your experience. Amazing details with supporting pictures.