Friday, November 14, 2014

North of Northeast- Part III

Another beautiful morning in Shillong. We have some more sight seeing to do before Lunch, after which we start our return journey back to Assam. Historically speaking, Christian missionaries have been active in the entire Northeast area of India from early days of British Raj or even earlier. Meghalaya was no exception. Christian organizations,besides their religious activities, have been also carrying out philanthropic and cultural activities in this state. “Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous cultures” is one such organization set up in Meghalaya. This centre has established a state of the art museum in Shillong, which can aptly be called as pride of Shillong. This museum, totally dedicated to tribal cultures of Northeast India, occupies 5 floors of a building specially built for it and leaving aside some superfluous galleries such as “food gallery” it still has as many as 15 individual display galleries that interest me and in addition there is a skywalk on the terrace.

Before we start, I have a look again at some of the beautiful flowers blooming in the hotel porch area. I can not avoid the temptation of clicking photographs of some of them today, which I had avoided so far. We start after some delay and finally are on our way to see the Don Bosco museum. The museum entrance is from a large court yard bound by several large buildings except for on one side, where the approach road has been constructed. The entrance gate to the museum, located in one corner, looks quite deceptive as it appears to be that of a chapel. The entrance gate leads to a long curving passage with several garishly painted fiberglass statues, placed in recesses created on both sides of the passage. The museum brochure says that these 22 statues, descriptive of tribal and other people of northeastern states, welcome the visitor and calls the area as Alcoves gallery. At the end of this passage, there is a restaurant specializing north-eastern food, a reception cum sales counter.

We are welcomed here by an asst. curator of the museum, who explains the theme of the museum; to highlight all facets of the culture of north-eastern states such as geography, people, weather, crops, dances, history, arts and crafts and finally traditional technology.

As I mentioned earlier, the museum occupies five floors, two in basement and three above ground. Fortunately there is an elevator to give some relief to our tired feat. Here is a listing of some of the galleries, which I like .

Pre- history gallery describing the pre-history of tribal world and its significance to south-east Asia.
Land and people's gallery that introduces topographical richnes of region
Fishing and hunting gallery displaying number of creative tools used for fishing,hunting and gathering used by tribal people.
Traditional Technology gallery that looks at the economic life of the people of this region
Crops and agriculture gallery.
Basketry weaving gallery
Musical Instruments gallery
Costume and ornaments gallery- One of the most popular and favoured galleries.
Weapons gallery

After spending couple of hours at the museum, we all collect at the auditorium on the top floor, where we see a film about people from north east. A door on the side of this auditorium leads me to an open terrace on top of the building. A well designed stainless steel caged walkway, called as skywalk by the museum, takes me round the terrace, offering fabulous views of the beautiful city of Shillong.

After the visit is over, we all return to the hotel for a quick lunch and checkout. As our car flotilla moves out, my mind is filled with sadness for having to leave this beautiful city, but the car driver tells me that we have yet to visit Shillong's most popular tourist spot, “Bara Pani.”

Bara Pani”or Umiam Lake is a huge water reservoir, located in the rolling Khasi hills, about 15 km to the North of Shillong. It got created when the Umiam river was dammed in the early 1960s. The lake is so huge that the principal catchment area of the lake and dam is spread over 220 square km. Our cars stop near a visitor's spot. I get out of the car. Spread ahead of me, is a vast blue sheet of water with little islands with a few trees, in between. Because of the natural greenery that has grown around, it has developed into a stunningly picturesque and pristine sight that comforts the eye and is simply unforgettable. The lake provides many recreational facilities such as boating. Reluctantly, I move back to the car as we have a long way to go today.

In no time, we are back on that terrible Meghalaya-Assam road or Highway number 6 to Jorbet. On the entire stretch of about 70 Km, I see excavators moving around with their big shovels, people breaking stones and operating road making machines. Maybe 3 years down the line this road would become a beauty of a road, but today it is a world of sand, gravel, boulders and too much of all pervading dust.

Only by around 3 PM we finally end the ordeal and torture of this road, as we cross into Jorbet and join the beautiful 4 lane highway NH 27 that joins Guwahati with Nagaon in the east. We decide to have a cup of tea at a roadside dhaba and somewhat freshened, are back on the road. It's already dark when we cross Nagaon and shortly enter one of India's most famous forests “Kaziranga.”

The resort, located towards the west part of this jungle, is quite spacious and rooms are comfortable. After the chilly weather of Shillong, warm jungle weather provides a sudden change, but there are ceiling fans, which appear to be adequate for now. It has been a long day and tomorrow is a day of rest for us with no serious sight seeing planned. We all relax, have dinner and get into our beds. The eerie jungle silence engulfs me like dense fog, before sleep finally comes over.

14th November 2014

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