28 February, 2021

Heart Of The Woods

Meghalaya’s rich forests are role-models for community-based conservation efforts

The Woods Are Lovely, Dark And Deep
The sacred grove at Mawphlang is one of the best protected forests in Meghalaya
Photograph by Arbikos Gallong
Heart Of The Woods

The forest overwhelms your senses—sight, sound, smell. Colourful, flower-shaped mushrooms burst through the thick undergrowth. Moss and lichen cover every inch of the trees. A wren warbler calls out with its distinctive whistle-cry just before crickets and cicadas resume their caco­phony, drowning the soft gurgle of a crystal clear stream as it takes a sharp bend over a bed of rocks. You look up and stare straight at a perfect heart-shape opening in the foliage—it’s a metaphor of the Mawphlang Sacred Grove.

Meghalaya is home to more than 100 such community-owned sacred groves across its hills and valleys, some spread over just one hectare, the biggest over 400 hectares. Mawphlang is about 77 hectares, but it is one of the most religiously protected; a biodiversity paradise just 25 km from the state capital, Shillong. “It’s where our deities reside…and anyone who disturbs the deities is punished,” says Tambor...

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