Mawphlang: Meghalaya's Sacred Enchanted Forest

The Mawphlang Sacred Forest, located near a settlement called Labasa that shares the same name, is thought to be inhabited by a Khasi Diety named Labasa.

This forest, also known as the "Nature's Museum," is one of the oldest and most famous sacred groves in Meghalaya, with a variety of blooming and medicinal plants, trees, mushrooms, birds, and insects. The forest is in Mawphlang, a Khasi settlement that means "moss-covered stone" and is named after monoliths. Members of the Lyngdoh clan guard an area of 193 acres on which the forest extends. The locals believe this place to be the dwelling of Labasa, the Khasi Diety, who is said to have defended the clan and their settlement against harm and invaders. "There can't be a kingdom without a sacred forest, and no sacred forest without a kingdom," as goes the native adage.

The Oldest Mountains on Earth

The Mawphlang Sacred Forest is part of the Khasi Hills, which are among the oldest mountains on Earth, dating back more than 540 million years. The forest is a protected area under Indian law and is managed by the Lyngdoh clan. It is open to visitors from 8 am to 4 pm daily. The cost for a full guided trek is Rs 500 and for half a trek is Rs 300 or so.

Sacred Areas

On approach, visitors are captivated by the area's natural beauty: lush green fields that stretch out for miles, with the woods hidden in a nook. The forest is divided into three parts, of which only the first and second can be visited. Guided walks are a necessity if you want to learn more about the forest and its historical significance, and the inhabitants of Mawphlang. You may opt for a half-trek of 20-30 minutes or a full trek of 40-60 minutes.

Things You Can See and Do

The first set of monoliths is found at the entrance to the Mawphlang Sacred Forest, consisting of three standing stones and one seated stone. This is where village elders seek permission from the godsend to perform the sacrificial ceremony within the forest. If a leopard appeared, it was seen as an excellent omen, allowing the ceremony to proceed as planned. However, if a snake appeared, it was considered bad luck and the ritual would be abandoned.

The branches of the ancient trees form a "green tube-like opening space," which leads you into the forest. Inside, the only audible noises are the sweet chirpings of birds, buzzing sounds of bees, crackling sounds of crickets, and humming sounds of dragonflies, alongside the almost silent gurgles of the flowing streams that run through and across the forest area.