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Mawsmai caves - Meghalaya's new tourist destination
by Sutirtha Sanyal

     Cherrapunjee: Meghalaya, which means the 'abode of clouds', is one of the most picturesque states in India. Notwithstanding the fact, that state capital Shillong, is often referred to as the 'Scotland of the East,' and Mawsynram receives the highest rainfall in the world, coupled with the fact that the two-tier living 'Root Bridge' at Tyrna village and lush greenery of the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills lures the visitor to the natural beauty of the hills, Mawsmai caves, a few miles further away from Cherrapunjee is fast emerging as a new tourist destination. The caves, made of limestone, spellbind the visitor the moment he enters the caverns. The entrance is well lit, but as one enters further inside, the eerie ness and the mystery, starts unfolding. Coupled with that, the constant dripping of water from the cave roofs and the formation of stalactites and stalagmites, a phenomena specially found in limestone caves, where the roof and the floor of the cave joins together to form pillars, adds to the beauty of the place. While at some places, the openings are big enough for a person to just about crawl through, at others, the roofs as high as 40 feet! Interestingly, while the entrance is large and roomy, the exit is so small, that a full-grown person has to kneel down for coming out into the open.

     It is perhaps this beauty that attracts tourists to flock to the caves in huge numbers. "Anyone visiting Cherrapunjee must visit these caves. It's very interesting. It's a nice experience. Initially I was a bit claustrophobic and the bulky person that I am, I literally had to crawl through some of the openings. But, it's a beautiful experience inside. It gives a mystique feeling. I will surely tell my friends visiting Cherrapunjee to visit these caves ones," said Amar Mathur, a tourist from Assam. "Initially I thought this was like any other cave, but it is certainly fantastic inside. It's very nice, very beautiful. It gives you a great feeling inside. I have visited the Vaishno Devi caves, but this is better," said Pratima, another tourist from Darjeeling. Though nobody knows how the cave came to be discovered, legend has it that the Khasi tribesmen who inhabit the region, during one of their hunting expeditions, discovered the caves infested with animals, With the passage of time, all the animals living inside were hunted down and the caves were rendered devoid of animals. However, even with the caves becoming free of animals, no human has been known to live inside them. With the large number of people visiting Cherrapunjee making it a point to visit the caves as well, the ancient limestone caves at Mawsmai is fast emerging as a new tourist destination for all those visiting Meghalaya.
-Jan 27, 2005

Kalanaur still retains its magic in this age  (Go To Top)

     Gurdaspur: A mere four kilometres from the Indo-Pak border, steeped back in history, dating to the times of the Mughals lies the city of Kalanaur. Conceived as a twin to Lahore city in Pakistan, Kalanaur retains fading glimpses of the same architecture and design and strikingly retains the same age-old charm, inspite of its prominence having long died down. Vastly shrunken from its original grandeur in prominence, standing as well as geographical expanse, Kalanaur is best known for being the spot where the young Prince Akbar, only 13 at the time, was crowned Emperor of Hindustan. The spot, Takht-i-Akbari, `the throne of Akbar' now stands as a dilapidated testimony a few kilometres outside the city. Though coming under the list of protected historical monuments of India, the site is a pitiful reflection of the lost brilliance of Kalanaur, the mighty province of a few centuries back.

     Om Prakash, the village head said, "Ferozeshah Tughlaq came here in the 14th century. And the town achieved historical prominence when the young Mughal Prince Akbar came here with his general Bairam Khan in 1566. At that time Kalanaur was a separate province. Just like Lahore or Sirhind, Kalanaur too was a district headquarter". Flavours and essences of life's simplicities, things as they were almost a century ago, bubble forth even now. The same old roads, the cluttered urban architecture, with shades of pre-independence nostalgia remain intact even to this day. Kalanaur today, part of Gurdaspur district is at the centre of a number of surrounding villages, and has a population of some 25,000 consisting of Hindus and Sikhs. Before partition in 1947, majority of the people here were Muslims, with one of them migrating to Pakistan during the turbulent period. A sleepy village with any form of business dating back a generation or more, with little to offer for the young, a large section of the populace consists of the old people who live with live with vivid memories of the bygone era reflecting in clear perspective, the other face of Kalanaur. "A large chunk of the population shifted to that side of the River Ravi (Pakistan) and a lot of people came from that side. There was a lot of rioting and killing and bloodshed. Only a small number of people from that time are still alive, belonging to various tribes and communities. They live here after the partition," says the village head. The closeness of architecture and ambience to Lahore city, now in Pakistan, is another distinctive feature, making Kalanaur something of a twin. Peek inside one of the old havelis, that belonged, at its peak, to the wealthiest man in town, and that same old-India flavour, now seen only at the movies, comes through immediately.

     Balwant Ram, who along with his family migrated from Pakiwa in Pakistan following the partition, believes, that at a time when society and culture has changed so much, being part of the historical heritage is an honour and priviledge. "A new way of thinking, a new lifestyle has come about. So much has changed. At one time, this house was considered the pride of the city. And look, today it hardly has any standing. But it is strong as ever, and will remain so for years, " said Balwant. Today, Kalanaur is best known for its spirit of communal harmony, centred in this Hindu temple to Lord Shiva. Established by Emperor Akbar himself in the 16th century and then enlarged by the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Kharak Singh, the shrine has been a place of worships of thousands of Sikhs as well as Hindu pilgrims, both locals as well as outsiders. Even in this age, the magic of Kalanaur lives on.
-Jan 2, 2005

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References: India Travel Times, News, Hotels, Airlines, Indian, Tourism, Tourist, Tour, Ayurveda, Yoga, Hotel,


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