I woke up with a start. The clouds thundered, electrifying and streaking the distant skies with lightening, each of which was spaced just seconds away from each other. The rains created a noisy ruckus, pouring over the tin roofs. The noise was spectacularly frightening, as I was startled awake from my disturbed sleep every few minutes, fully shaken. It was as if the heaven was about to fall. Tucked away in a cosy homestay in Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, I tossed and turned all night, as the spate of rain and thunder didn’t seem to have an end. It is for no reason that Meghalaya is called The Land of Clouds! I was upset with the rains as I had been forced to stay inside all evening, interfering with my plans to enjoy the place. Luckily the rains gods showed some mercy, the dawn broke with clear skies and clouds were tucked away for another day.
Walking through the village, I felt the place was right out of a fairy tale book. The winding paved paths lined with lush green broomstick plants & betel nut trees make for an awe-inspiring, plush, clean, meadow like feel to the village. A distant cry from any other village in India, where cleanliness is often found wanting, Mawlynnong village begs one to stand corrected on that perception. Being credited as Asia’s cleanest village is no mean feat. It is one of the finest examples of sustainable, eco-friendly community living. With about 100 households in the village, it is each villager’s pre-occupation to keep the village clean. Rotational community service is compulsory for all villagers and goes a long way in ensuring ownership towards cleanliness of the village. Dustbins made of bamboo were placed along the roadsides for people to throw the wastes. Recycling of waste matter is the norm and everything that can be reused & recycled is valued. Use of plastics is banned and tourists cannot litter or dump any plastic wrappers, bottles etc. in the village, else they stand to face a fine as deemed fit by the villagers! The community is notoriously obsessed with cleanliness, earning them the much deserved tag of being the cleanest village.
Walking though the village, everything seemed fresh & new. Later I learnt many things, including the houses are made of bamboo and all that gets destroyed or damaged in torrential rains is remade again the next year. No wonder the village looked so neat and clean as if it were made just yesterday! The fields of the villagers are on the hillsides surrounding the village, where they grow betel nut trees & broom-stick plant apart from other smaller crops. Walking through the fields via a paved path, leads one to edge of the hill from where one can see the plains of Bangladesh. The same spectacular view of the Bangladesh plains can be seen in from a tall 80 ft sky view treehouse made within the village itself. A small drive away is a living root bridge, where bamboo tree roots are intertwined and shaped over decades to make a bridge to cross the river. (Mawlynnong’s Living Root Bridge is the 2nd most famous, the most famous one being Nongriat’s Double Decker Living root bridge. To read more about this, please click ->: https://thevisastampcollector.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/nongriat-living-root-bridge/). Back in the village, a quaint church plays an important role in the life of the villagers who are all Christians. Small tea shops lining the road made with bamboo & creepers are the perfect places to sit back, relax and feel the nature consuming you in this quaint beatific village.
The credentials as cleanest village has also bought in lot of tourisms thats brings with it many associated opportunities and problems. Many houses are converting themselves to homestays to capitalise on the tourism opportunity. Cement is fast replacing bamboo! Plastic finds its way inside the village in form of bottles and snacks, making waste disposal a problem. The village could fast lose its authentic charm, but for the eco-friendliness & cleanliness obsession that is ingrained in the DNA of the villagers, who are doing everything possible to maintain the inherent beauty of their community. The village doesn’t thrive amongst nature; every effort is made to make nature thrive in this village. Where else will one come across such a village with its winding paved roads, lush greenery, small springs & waterfalls that swell up during monsoons, charming bamboo houses and a notorious obsession for cleanliness & recycling. It is a village to get lost and get consumed by nature. No wonder the board welcoming tourists to the village, proudly proclaims Mawlynnong as ‘God’s Own Garden’. It is indeed a picture of what heaven could look like, on Earth.
How to get to Mawlynnong:
Mawlynnong is a 2 hr drive from Shillong. Private Taxis, shared cabs and buses ply between the two places. Guwahati airport is connected to other major cities and it will be a 4-5 hr drive from Guwahati.
Where to stay:
Many homestays are available in Mawlynnong. Expect basic accommodation & food. Nothing Fancy.