The united District (Jaintia Hills District) was created on 22 February 1972, covering 3819 km2. It had a population of 270,352 people (as of 2011). The Meghalaya, subtropical forests ecoregion, covers the area. With the Division of the former Jaintia Hills District into East and West Jaintia Hills Districts, on 31 July 2012, the West Jaintia Hills District was formed with its headquarters in Jowai. Jowai’s heads of state, educational institutions, hospitals, banking firms, and other essential organisations call it home.
West Jaintia Hills District is a district in Meghalaya state, India. The total area of the District is 2115 sq. km. In this District, there are two subdivisions, namely Ranikor and Mawkyrwat. Population wise, it has a population of 94551 according to census 2011, including approx. 53889 males and 46662 females. There are several high-rise buildings in the Mawlai area, the main commercial centre of West Jaintia Hills District. As per census 2001, 72795 people were residing in this region which included 38452 males and 36343 females.
The education system here follows that of the rest of India, where first, 10+2 schooling is compulsory, and the students can opt for technical or non-technical jobs.
There are several private schools here where education up to 10+2 is offered with English & Hindi mediums, respectively.
The Baghmara town is mainly well known for its natural environment, waterfalls like Pumlen Pat, Kangchup-Ii, rice mills, and a marketplace called Bazaar, where different tribes meet on their respective days to trade. Ranikor area has many tourist spots, including Mendipathar, where you can see clouds touching the hills, Ranikor Gamphazat area & Jowai Town, also known as mini Shillong for its scenic beauty.
The District of West Jaintia Hills came into being in 1972 when North-East India was divided on a linguistic basis. Before this, the area encompassed by the present-day districts of East and West Jaintia Hills formed a single entity under one Deputy Commissioner from 1905 until 1971. Under a re-organisation of Meghalaya state’s administrative structure, Ranikor and Mawkyrwat were carved out of the Jowai subdivision to form West Jaintia Hills District.
History of Ranikor: During 1849-1850 British Government established its rule over the Khasi & Jaintia Hills and claimed it to be their possession. At that time, the Garos residing at Dainadubi were attacked by a huge troop of 400 soldiers under Major Brown. The people there decided not to surrender to them and accept their domination. The British then started preparing against them with Chieftains like U Tirot Sing Syiem (chief) of Mylliem, U Nokmasa Syiem (Chief) of Cherrapunji and U Then Syiem (chief) of Nongkhlaw. Chieftains like these were offered money for their fight against the Garos, and as a result, all three attacked them simultaneously and forced them to flee away from Dainadubi to another place which was later known as Ranikor Gaib (Ranikor means Queen's Camp). At that time Ranikor was just between the land of queen Prava Devi (wife of U Tirot Sing Syiem-Mylliem) and queen Rani (wife of U Sabatha Singh-Cherrapunjee). The area is still divided into two parts called 'Rani' and 'Prava'.
Ranikor is a place around which the local legends revolve. It is believed that one Rani Ketumilei of Tikrikilla was heading towards Sohra to pay a visit to the famous Mora Pahanian at Mawphlang, a sacred shrine of the Garos, but tigers attacked her people on their way, and their porters fled away. So she had no choice but to take shelter in Ranikor (which means queen’s camp). At that time, Ranikor was under some bifurcation between Mylliem Queen (Prava Devi)and Cherrapunji King (U Nokmasa Singh), so it became difficult for R Ketumilei to leave Ranikor. She had no choice but to settle down there and start a family with one of her soldiers Rangad Kur. The descendants of this couple are still residing in Ranikor-the Tangsa tribe, who are believed to be the most advanced among the tribes inhabiting the present West Jaintia Hills district. Ranikor area was completely destroyed by an earthquake that struck the region with its full fury on 11 June 1897 A.D. (Monday). Then it came under the East Jaintia Hills district until 1972, when it became part of West Jaintia Hills District.
On 15 February 1838, Andrew Scott Waugh first discovered coal in India at the Mawmluh Hills when he was posted as a Civil Engineer with East India Company’s Bengal Sappers & Miners. Thereafter, coal was discovered in abundance in the Jaintia Hills. The North Jaintia Hills district is rich in coal seams and dolomite rocks.
The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state’s southern portion, including the Khasi Hills and parts of the Garo Hills to the northwest and the Jaintia Hills to the east. To its North and West are Bangladesh and Assam's Surma Valley (or "Cherrapunji") lowland forests; to its south are India's Mizoram, Tripura, and Manipur states.
The Eastern realm falls under the Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests ecoregion, extending eastwards from northern Bangladesh and northern Myanmar eastern India, including Meghalaya and southwestern and eastern Assam. The ecoregion is characterised by semi-deciduous forests, lowland evergreen forests, and riverine communities along mountain slopes and foothills.
The ecoregion’s forests are notable for containing some of the highest levels of endemism (i.e., species found nowhere else) in tropical Asia.
Ranikor was a princely state under British rule in India, now part of West Jaintia Hills district in Meghalaya State. After India became an independent nation, Ranikor joined Indian Union on 14 October 1947 and later became a full-fledged member of the Indian Union on 15 April 1948.
West Jaintia Hills District is a comparatively newly formed district in Meghalaya state. The Khasi Hills was earlier under the District of Assam. Still, after 1956 it became a part of Assam and later on, after 1972 when Meghalaya declared its statehood, this region came within the jurisdiction of Shillong (Meghalaya) District. In 1976-77, it was turned into an independent district.
The boundaries of West Jaintia Hills District are with Bangladesh in the West and south and with Assam in the East & North. The capital city of this district is Baghmara, also known as mini Shillong due to its scenic beauty. This town has gone through massive improvement over the last few years with substantial infrastructural development.
West Jaintia Hills District is surrounded by the West Khasi Hills District in the North, South and East. The District of Karbi Anglong lies in the West, which is across the international border with Assam state. It has a total land area of 2187 sq km. Major tourist attractions include Pumlen Pat, Kangchup-Ii Waterfalls, Zeliangrong village etc. Here you can see mountains covered with green vegetation & clouds touching them at one point called Mendipathar or locally known as 'Umshiang', which you can experience only in India (places like this are also available in Darjeeling).
There are mainly three kinds of climate prevailing in the region that includes Kharif, Monsoon and winter. Black gram, maise, & different species of vegetables are the main product of this region, including rice during the rainy season. The climate here is pretty humid and warm throughout the year.
West Jaintia Hills District is divided into three administrative Circles/Blocks.
According to Census 2011 information, the total population of West Jaintia Hills District is 1,21,891, out of which 56,561 are male and 65,330 female. The literacy rate here is 83.13 per cent, where Male Literacy stands at 85.78 per cent & Female Literacy is 81.64 per cent as per the census report of 2011.
The main occupation in this region mainly includes agriculture and forestry besides small scale business activities for livelihood, including zardozi work by local people from Surma Valley (Cherrapunjee). This place has also been known for many fruit farms like orange & strawberry run by Kashmiri migrants who came to this area during British regime time till now though they have shifted to other places elsewhere.
The prominent Tribal Community of the District is Jaintia, and it also has other communities like Dimasa Kachari, Kaibarta (fishermen community), Nepalis and Bengalis.
West Jaintia Hills District's economy mainly depends on agriculture and forestry. Meghalaya is a hilly region with abundant forests; hence this region has a large percentage of people working in the agricultural sector. Rice, maise, black gram are some of the main crops being cultivated here, besides other vegetables also being grown by farmers all over year-round.
West Jaintia Hills District is bordered by Barak River in the East, which flows towards Bangladesh. Borpani is also known as Simsang River in the North, flowing towards Assam. The rivers Manda & Myntdu meet together at Kalain and flow southward to merge into the Brahmaputra River. Khri ("Cremation Place" of The Jaintias) falls here near Thadlaskein.
Pumlen Pat Waterfall: Pumlen Pat is one of the biggest waterfalls in this region. It has a height of approximately 1 km and stands around 200 feet tall from its base. The sound produced when a big block or stone fall here is like that of an earthquake! This place is also known for adventure activities like Trekking, Rappelling etc.
Kangchup-II Waterfall: Kangchup II (2nd) waterfall is 30 km away from Bangsar village under Ranikor circle, where you will find many resorts/ homestays for overnight stay.
Hazreng Falls (Balat): Also known as the waterfall on the border of Bangladesh, this place is famous for its unique geographical importance. This falls makes part of Tripura but falls in Meghalaya due to Meghalaya's extension towards the south. The name 'Hazreng' means 'falling into Bangladesh'.
There are a few nature reserves in the Ranikor circle of West Jaintia Hills District. Some of them include -
Jyntong Parvat Nature Reserve: This is a beautiful scenic spot found 25 km from Ranikor town towards the south. The word ‘Jyntong’ means ‘mountain with green grass’. This place also offers some adventure activities like Rappelling, Trekking etc.
Harvest Field (Tingrai): Tingrai Rice Research Centre has the widest variety of rice species in Meghalaya, where research on cultivation of different types takes place.
Tynrong Hot Spring: This is a natural hot water spring located at Tynrong village in West Jaintia Hills District. It has an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius & it also offers some facilities like changing rooms, restaurants etc.
Banachiew: It is a peak on the border of Bangladesh & India.
Raja Parvat: This is a peak with an elevation of 2,000 ft above sea level located at 45 km from Ranikor towards the south.
Jangramparvat: It has an elevation of 4,500 feet.
Khawsak-Sialsmukh Peak: Khawsak-Sialsmukh Peak is the highest peak in Meghalaya, with an elevation of 5,423 feet above sea level.
Pnar (Syiem) Village Church: It is the largest Church in Meghalaya, and it was completed in 1912. It is located in Pnar village. The village chief, also known as ‘Syiem’, plays a vital role in the administration of this region. This place is located 22 km from Mawlai towards the southwest by crossing Baghmara town, 638 ft above sea level.
Mawjymbuin Cave Temple: Located on Jowai - Laitlyngkot road at Mawjymbuin, this cave temple holds historical significance as one of the oldest temples in Jaintia Hills District. Here you will find giant elephants carved out of stone. You will also see traditional Jaintia ornaments, Jyot ln phun (Jaintia lamp) etc.
Tynrong Cave: Located in Tynrong village in West Jaintia Hills District, this cave hosts a beautiful waterfall known as the ‘Greatest Food Provider’.
Kamal Doreen Gamari (Mawjymbuin) Cave: This is one of the longest natural caves in Meghalaya, declared as a National Heritage Site by the Meghalaya Tourism Board. It holds immense significance for being used as a hideout by tribal chiefs. Knives & other traditional tools used during hunting & farming can be found here.
Chyllan Namok, Mawmranggiri, Jahtiang are some other caves located at different places under the Ranikor circle.
West Jaintia Hills District is famous for its scenic beauty. There are many tourist places, adventure sports activities and village homestays/resorts available here to plan a trip. There are many tourism places to see here like Pumlen Pat (peak), Kangchup-II Waterfalls, Zeliangrong village etc., which you should not miss.
Nongkhnum Island: Nongkhnum is an island located in the eastern part of Bangladesh, which you can reach via Cremation Place (Khrri) near Thadlaskein town of West Jaintia Hills district. During the British regime time, it is said that some officials & their family members were cremated on this island, so it was named ‘Cremation Place’. Today it is one of the popular tourist destinations among locals.
Kha Nong Bumphaw: This beautiful place offers a fence-like view of paddy fields and is surrounded by mountains. It also holds historical importance as it was the site of many battles between Jaintia tribes & British Troops in 1847, 1848 during the First Jaintia Hills War led by Khasi Chiefs.
Jaintias: The original inhabitants of Meghalaya are the Jaintia tribes. They were mostly found in Shillong, Jowai and surrounding areas.
The Karbis: The second-largest tribe in West Jaintia Hills District is the Karbis or Rongmei. A majority of them reside at Narpuh village that lies on the border, between India and Bangladesh.
Garos: Garo tribe found in West Jaintia Hills District along with Khasi, Hajong, Koch, Synteng etc., are communities living here since time immemorial. Various tribes like Hajongs inhabit more than 50 villages under Ranikor circle, Kochs etc., comprising garos, Khasis & nokmas.
The Pnars or Syiem: The Pnars or Syiem is a well-known tribe living in East & West Jaintia Hills.
Dance in Jaintia Hills District: Folk dance is an integral part of the North-Eastern states. With hundreds of folk dances, Meghalaya tops the list. Some famous folk dances are War Dance, Khumulwng Bwiswmuthiary Nongkrem Dance, and the Shad Suk Mynsiem.
Festivals in West Jaintia Hills District: Sekrenyi & Peng Seng is a famous festival among locals. People devote their time to playing different sports tournaments and cultural events over three days at Mawlai Mawroh during February.
Pawl Kut is another famous festival celebrated by the Pnar tribes, which falls on the 5th day after Christmas. It is a four-day-long festival celebrated by tribes with traditional dances, sports events and folk songs.
There are mainly three languages spoken here: Jaintia dialect & English (second language) and Assamese (third language). One can find a good mix of different cultures among these communities as each one seems to have its own distinct identity.
There is no railway line in this District, which means the only means of transport is the road. The main roads here are SH-44 and NH/NSTC Khliehriat Road, interconnecting with other parts of Meghalaya & Assam via Lumding to Guwahati section of Indian Railways, which passes through this District at Nongpoh (NH 44).
The primary means of transportation in West Jaintia Hills District is a road only. NH-44 connects to Assam and other parts of India, while NH-40 connects it to Aizawl via Jowal & Nartiang. The nearest railway station to this District is at Bajengdoba The train from Lumding/Badarpur meets with a broad gauge line that extends up to Garo Hills in Meghalaya and then onwards towards Tripura state.
By Rail: The nearest railway station to West Jaintia Hills District is Bajengdoba which falls under the Lumding/Badarpur section of Indian Railways.
By Air: The closest airport to this District is Shillong Airport at a distance of 90 Km from the main town, Khliehriat.
By Road: Regular bus services connect West Jaintia Hills with most parts of Meghalaya and Assam. Daily buses ply from Guwahati to Shillong via Nongpoh (NH 44), and also daily buses connect Tura, Garo hills to most parts of Meghalaya via the newly built NH-44 (New NH 40).
Since the climate here is pleasant year-round, you could visit any time of the year. But, the best time to visit this District would be from November to February as it remains cool and dry here during this period.
West Jaintia Hills stands out for its scenic beauty and fantastic architecture. Most people who live here are involved in agriculture and allied activities, with very few working in the service sector. This entire District has a rich history behind its existence, starting from pre-historic times of the tribal communities of North-East region until now following their unique lifestyle of living, which makes it so special being part of an amicable state like Meghalaya.