CONTRIBUTED BY PALASH SRIVASTAVA
Sacred forests in Meghalaya are a distinctive human response to the rich biodiversity setting of the region. The one in Mawflang is the crowning glory of these sacred forests, preserved for centuries rich in biotic, anthropological and geological resources. It has remained one of the few links that sustain our connection with the past and hopefully the future. 25 km from Shillong Mawphlang houses a rich repository of trees, shrubs, ferns, creepers, orchids, bushes and such dense undergrowth which is not common for tropical deciduous forests. The ground is decked up with leaves and thick humus. Juicy berries lure visitors who are allowed to eat them but are forbidden from taking anything away or bringing anything along. Animals are generally absent, except for some rodents and a species of jungle cat unique to Meghalaya.
Mawflang forests are also a cultural domain. Megaliths on the periphery of Mawflang provide evidence of human interaction with these forests. These rocks have stood for hundreds of years as mute testimony to the courage of men and women whose memory they commemorate. Men are symbolised by standing stones and women by horizontal ones. There are also some funerary mounds which are well within the forest made to house the relics of the dead after cremation. It is believed that a visit to these mounds was a must before going to war. Most of these mounds are quite old as is evidenced by the thick growth of mosses and lichens. Several rituals are performed around these memorials by the local communities. The forests are hemmed around by luscious green meadows having a number of flag posts which are used to hoist tribal flags during festivities.
The local community believes that these forests are sacred because Gods reside, tread in these forests. This strong belief has protected these forests for over several hundred years now, restricting any kind of human interference with these sacred spaces. Visiting these forests is truly a divine experience. One does not know whether faith moves mountains but it certainly saves forests.
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