Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Meghalaya's Offbeat Trail- Nartiang Monoliths

Meghalaya, the land famous for its bio engineering wonder- "The Living Root Bridges" which are many in number and all of them absolutely breathtaking, was the topmost reason we wanted to visit this state. However, our quest for off beat places made sure we explore not just the Root Bridges but other lesser known hidden treasures which are off the tourist radar. One such gem of a find was the 'Nartiang Monoliths' in the Jowai region of Meghalaya and is 80 km from the state capital, Shillong.

You can find monoliths erected pretty much all across the state of Meghalaya. However, the largest cluster of Monoliths can be found at Nartiang Village.

At Nartiang, there are hundreds of monoliths that were erected during the rule of Jaintia Kings between 1500 AD - 1800 AD. The park has a massive cluster of monoliths towering several meters high and massive stone slabs are precariously placed on small stone columns giving us a feel of a massive throne. The vertical stone slabs aka  menhirs (Ki Moo Shynrang) signify male and the horizontal stone slabs signify female aka Dolmens (Ki Moo Kynthai.) We stood there wondering how difficult it would have been to erect such a complex structure. 

Though this site reminded us of Willong Khullen in Manipur, the sheer volume of monoliths here are mind boggling. The tallest one is 8 meters high and 18 inches thick!

The tallest was erected by Mar Phalangki, a lieutenant of the king to mark victory in battle. Legend has it that he tried to erect the monolith several times but failed. It is widely believed that after a human sacrifice he was able to erect the monolith successfully. The ritual of human sacrifice continued for many years and it was only a couple of decades ago that the ritual was banned.

A couple of kilometers away from the monoliths stands an age old pretty looking Durga temple which was infamous for human sacrifices where the severed heads used to roll down a tunnel that opened into the flowing Myntdu River. Though these superstitious beliefs have now been banned, even now unfortunately goats are sacrificed instead of humans. To continue with their superstitions they have gone to the extent of placing a human mask on the goats face before sacrificing it. Like if God existed S/he wouldn't know the difference!

It would be a monumental challenge to get rid of superstitions that are so deeply embedded in Indian society. Even the so called well read and educated folks believe in superstitions and end up ruining lives of their loved ones. Schools and parents should be more responsible and teach children not to believe in assumptions but ask for evidence.

One can club this with a visit to 'Thadlaskein Lake,' a very beautiful lake dug centuries ago by thousands of faithful warriors under the command of 'Sajar Nangli' using nothing else but the tips of their battle bows. The commander in chief had differences with the king of Jaintiapur and hence left the kingdom along with his followers. This was the last but everlasting memorable gift left behind by the warriors to their motherland and people. 

Breezy and wide roads that are in best shape is a boon for any traveler and in our experience Meghalaya offers some of the best and comfortable roads and Nature has generously thrown in very beautiful valleys and landscapes. This region is known for its orange trees and during our trip in December almost all orange trees were in full bloom. We were very tempted to pluck one right off the tree. The entire Nartiang village is very beautiful and dotted with very pretty looking homes and their nurseries. 

On the way to the monoliths our car was stopped by school children who were collecting donation for their school. It was really sweet of them to work tirelessly for the benefit of their school. We happened to meet the Principal and the teachers of the school who had organized a fare for the children to enjoy and have fun. It was a pleasant gesture on their behalf and it looked like a small happy family working together.

On our way back, our cab driver treated us to their local fruit known as Sohphlang, a sour fruit which tasted pretty much like the water chestnut fruit but not as sweet. It was a little sour and was mixed with salt and red chilli powder. This fruit has medicinal properties and is considered very good for all stomach ailments.

All three attractions could be clubbed together and could be done as a one day excursion from Shillong. There is no public transport to this place, hence hiring a car is the only viable option. Also, keep in mind there are no places to stay or dine here so a day pack with snacks and water is must.


  1. Wow, I did not know about these monoliths. Would love to check these out.

    1. They sure are a wonder, and definitely is worth a visit. Hope you have a wonderful time there :)

  2. Hope I can visit them someday!
    You have captured them really well!

    1. Thanks Arun, make sure to visit other amazing places around too.