West Garo Hills District is one of the nine administrative units of Meghalaya. The West Garo Hills District was formed on 1st September 2001 by bifurcating the erstwhile West Garo Hills district. It has an area of 3471 sq km making it the largest district of Meghalaya.
The history of the West Garo Hills District illustrates the fact that the various communities in Meghalaya have co-existed for centuries. The present District is considered to be a confluence of several races, cultures and traditions. The indigenous people known as the Garos were the first inhabitants of this area. After they came people from different parts of India such as Koch, Lushai (Mizo), Rabha and Hajong who settled here permanently.
The West Garo Hills District has an area of 3471 sq km, which makes it the largest district of Meghalaya. The West Garo Hills District is bounded by Assam in the west and Bangladesh in the north. The South Garo Hills District is in the south, while the North Garo Hills District shares a boundary with it in the southwest. The East Khasi Hills District lies to its east, itself forming a part of the Khasi Hills complex.
The West Garo Hills District experiences a tropical monsoon climate. The hot season starts in March and ends in May with the coming of the southwest monsoons. The rainy season commences in June and extends till September. However, winter sets in from November and continues until February next year when summer begins again.
After the establishment of the South West Garo Hills district, six blocks were created in the West Garo Hills region:
According to the 2011 census, West Garo Hills district has a population of 643,291 people, which is approximately equal to that of Montenegro or Vermont. This places it 514th in India (out of 640). The Garo Hills district has a population density of 173 people per square kilometre (450/sq mi). The decade 2001-2011 saw a 24.02% increase in the population of West Garo Hills. For every 1000 males, there are 979 females in West Garo Hills, and 68.38% of the population is literate.
Tura has a diverse population of Garos or Achiks (as they prefer to call themselves), Bengalis, Nepalis, Assamese, members of various ethnic groups including the Hajong, Rabhas and Koches, Bodos, and a sprinkling of South Indians in the Catholic Church, education sector, and paramilitary forces.
The culture of the West Garo Hills District stands out as a unique amalgamation of indigenous tradition and Hinduism. This is reflected in their marriage, society, music, art and architecture. However, these two influences are fast disappearing due to Hindu influence.
The economy of the West Garo Hills District has been traditionally agro-based. Horticulture, pisciculture and silk farming are found in this district. The first two develop on a large scale and dominate the economy. Teak is grown extensively throughout the district and supplies raw material to plywood mills of Meghalaya and adjoining areas. A small quantity of rubber is also produced in this district.
West Garo Hills District is the only producer of silk in Meghalaya. The main cash crops are oranges, ginger, pineapple, black pepper and cardamom. However, horticulture, pisciculture and sericulture have emerged as new avenues for income generation.
A large number of people are engaged in food crop cultivation. Rice, maize, millets and pulses are grown in winter while sweet potatoes, tapioca, ginger and sugarcane are grown during the rainy season. Cash crops include oranges, ginger, pineapple, black pepper and cardamom. Irrigation:
There are no major irrigation projects in the district. However, haor areas and marshy land near Khowang and Rongram have been reclaimed through drainage works under the State Plan Scheme. Some minor canals exist which were dug by farmers themselves for recharging ground water for agricultural purposes.
Small-scale industries have been instrumental in the process of industrialization in the State. The district has a number of small rice mills, sawmills and oil mills besides a number of iron smelting units.
Many rivers flow through the district which are tributaries to the mighty Brahmaputra. These rivers serve as an irrigation system for horticulture and pisciculture, besides reducing erosion and providing habitat for fish.
West Garo Hills District has many beautiful waterfalls. The most famous one is Balphakram National Park and the others are Rongjeng, Ambri, Nokrek and Chibinang.
Rajabala is the only proposed forest under "Project Tiger". Balpakram National Park, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve and Garos Hills Wildlife Sanctuary are some of the other nature reserves in this district.
The West Garo Hills District has all types of relief features viz., hilly region, plain areas and also marshy lands near rivers and streams. Due to the variation in topography vegetations covers a wide area and change from place to place. The vegetation consists of:
There are some hot springs in this district that indicate that the water is not only used for domestic purposes but also for therapeutic purposes. The important hot springs are found at Mawkynrew, Rongram, Rongrang Pariong and Amlasol Colony.
Earthquakes, cloud bursts and landslides are the main natural calamities in this district. The earthquake occurs mostly during the rainy season and cloud bursts and landslides occur due to excessive rainfall which causes erosion.
There are many mountains and hillocks in the district. Some of the most famous ones include:
There are many religious sites in the district. Some of them include:
There are many natural and man-made caves in the district. Some of the important ones include Mawkynrew Cave, Mawjymba (Mamu), Ghatakona and Barombikgiri Caves near Dalu, Nokrek Cave which is about 800 feet deep, Rymbai and Buyabokgre Caves.
West Garo Hills District has many tourist attractions including waterfalls, rivers and rivulets, mountains and hills etc. Some of the more popular ones include:
- Balpakram National Park which is known for its scenic beauty and rich biodiversity,
- Garo Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which has many endangered species of flora and fauna,
- Nokrek National Park with its flora and fauna,
- Ganol Waterfall on the Simsang River which is located in the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve.
Other important places of interest include Rongrenggiri, Baghmara, Amlasol Colony etc.
The Garos form the dominant community in this district. There are many tribes and communities that live here such as Hajongs, Rabhas, Koch and Boro etc.
There are many folk dances and folklores in the district. Some of the famous ones include:
- Chambil Mesara or 'the Dance of Festivals' which is popular among Garo tribals,
- Cherreng Ceremony which is the traditional dance form of Hajong tribal community,
- Singju and Durka Dandari which is performed by Garo and Hajong tribals.
- Chambil Mesara of the Garos,
- Cherreng Ceremony of the Hajongs,
- Singju and Durka Dandari of the Garos and Hajongs,
- Pomba Gomang of the Rabhas,
- Mwphangkangwe and Elakkiya of the Koch.
A'Tong, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by 10,000 people in Bangladesh and India, is spoken in West Garo. Apart from Garo language, which has the most speakers in the district, many people speak Deshi (a dialect of Assamese) and Bengali languages. Assamese is the most common language of study for Muslim non-tribals, Rabhas, Koches, and Hajongs in the plain belt, whereas Hindu non-tribals mostly learn Bengali as their MIL. In the district, there are only a few hindi speakers.
Since this district is connected to other parts of India through national highways, many people use their own vehicles or public transport which are easily available here. Some of the best road routes include:
- Tura to Dhubri via National Highway 6 in Assam,
- Tura to Agartala via National Highway 40 in Tripura,
- Tura to Baghmara via National Highway 40 and State Highway 10A in Meghalaya,
- Rongram to Chokpot via State Highways 11 and 11D in Meghalaya.
There is a good network of bus services that connects the district with other parts of India. The district also has a good railway network which connects it to important cities of India.
The nearest domestic airport is at Guwahati and the nearest international airports are at Kolkata and Bagdogra.
- The closest airport is at Guwahati.
- A new airport has also been built in Shillong.
- Tura is the main railway station of West Garo Hills District, which connects it to many important cities of India such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Chennai.
- The district also has a railway station at Rongrenggiri which is near Baghmara as well as at Mawkynrew which is also known as Nimon Hadem.
- There are many other railway stations in the district that connect it to important places in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
- There are many State Highways in this district that connects it to other parts of India.
- Baghmara is well connected with other parts of the district by motorable roads.
- National Highway 40 also runs through Rongrenggiri of the district which connects it to other important places in Meghalaya.
- National Highway 6 also passes through this district and connects it to Assam.
The best time to visit this district is from October to March.
Khasi Hills Division
Garo Hills Division
Jaintia Hills Division