The Marvel of Meghalaya: Mawlynnong

In the abode of clouds, Meghalaya, nests the cleanest village of Asia called Mawlynnong, a model in itself. Visiting this marvel of North East is one of the most exhilarating experiences one can undertake.

As soon as I boarded the cab from Shillong airport to Mawlynnong village, I felt as if being transported to a different world. Coming from the smog filled mornings of Delhi, I felt as if I was in heaven with the sky stunningly clean above me. There was no trace of dust in the air. My flight landed at 9:30 am in the morning and a spell of rain had just washed the lush landscapes, making them even brighter and alluring. The surreal beauty of the place was just starting to dawn on me.

I felt even more welcome when the pure golden sunlight filtered through my car window panes. It was like clouds withdrawing to open the curtains for the sun to shine through. As the car started traversing the bends of Khasi hills, I could no longer afford to stay sleepy. Having woken up quite early to catch the morning flight, my eyes were still wide open by the lush flora on offer. True to its name Meghalaya, the clouds were hovering and floating in the valley. It was like a painting was unfolding live before me.

Little did I know what awaited me in Mawlynnong was even more heavenly. After a picturesque drive of two-and-half hours, I was finally making my way into Mawlynnong. As the saying goes, all good things come with a price tag attached;  one must pay Rs 50 to enter this tiny hamlet of 100 houses, each neatly tucked in a clean nook in this cleanest village of Asia.

The spic and span village was like a museum. I felt as if I was standing in a very exotic location. Mawlynnong turned out to be truly unique.

Starting young
Cleanliness is a way of life here and the responsibility is as much on young shoulders as on the adults. I was astonished to see young children getting up in the morning to broom the alleys and their school yard. The children had been entrusted with cleaning the roads and compounds of the houses everywhere I looked.

Immaculately clean surroundings made me connect with this place instantly. The completely litter free, clean cemented roads lead to sprawling wooden houses. Each house was different from the other yet there was some uniformity – in the form of glass windows and a cutesy, conical, bamboo dustbin placed outside the boundary of each house. Every house also had a bamboo and shrub fencing instead of brick-and-mortar boundaries.

Savouring local cuisine
As I stood fixated admiring the beauty, cleanliness and natural oneness of one such house, the gracious owners came out only to insist I come inside. I was more than thrilled to be visiting a house in Mawlynnong, but their warm hospitality bowled me over. Before I could even settle down properly and exchange notes with them on Meghalaya and Mawlynnong, I was served Jadoh, the popular street food of Meghalaya, with rich flavours of red rice cooked along with meat, chopped vegetables, pork and aromatic spices. As I am a huge Biryani lover, Jadoh won my heart for being totally drool-worthy.

There are many homestays and simple restaurants in Mawlynnong that one can try. These places serve food using organically grown vegetables and meat from home bred poultry. Indeed, you will be spoilt for choice in Meghalayan food while staying in the cleanest village of Asia. You can savour typical pork with bell peppers and greens, freshly-cut and smoked banana-flower and a delightful mesh of fermented soybeans, bamboo leaves and local spices popularly known as Tungrymbai amongst others.

The wondrous living root bridge

As I was almost about to doze off after this scrumptious meal, my utterly gentle hosts suggested me to visit the living root bridge about a km from Riwai. Meghalaya is increasingly gaining popularity as a destination for many due to these living root bridges. The Khasi and Jaintia tribes make these living root bridges from the aerial roots of the rubber fig tree. These roots get strengthened as they age, making the bridges even stronger. The thoughtful vision of ancestors to create these bridges out of natural resources made them absolute geniuses for building in this manner even before engineering or technology could reach there. These bridges truly portray the close relationship of the people of Meghalaya with their lush forests. Mawlynnong is indeed an example of giving due respect to nature and its treasures.

The people here value and maintain cleanliness with plastic being reused and recycled. One does not see any litter on the roads, with bamboo dustbins outside every house. Most importantly, people are naturally ingrained with a sense of cleanliness. Mawlynnong has also achieved 100% literacy rate. This place with a ‘mind’ of its own was declared the cleanest village in Asia in 2003 and the cleanest in India in 2005 by Discover India magazine.

After visiting the living roots bridge, I came back to Mawlynnong to spend the night at a comfortable and clean home stay. One can either simply head back to Shillong after spending a day in Mawlynnong or decide to stay back. I preferred to stay back since I wanted to experience a morning in this clean, serene village of India.

To my delight, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise with abundant mist and coo-cooing of birds with a warm cup of organic green tea in my hand. It was truly a blissful experience, soaking in the divine beauty of the place that Mawlynnong is – clean, green, and its people who know only one lifestyle, live clean and live close to nature!




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