Meghalaya is one of the north-eastern states of India, about 300 km in length and 100 km in width. The state is surrounded by
Assam in the north and east, and Bangladesh in the south and west. With 7 districts, Meghalaya covers an area of 22,429 sq km. Forests occupy an area 8,510 sq km. Total population is above 1.7 million.
The name 'Meghalaya,' meaning 'the abode of clouds,' derives from the Sanskrit words megh (cloud) and alaya (home). Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is located at an altitude of 1,496 m above sea level. Principal languages are
Garo and English. The population of the state is predominantly tribal -
Jaintias and Garos are the original inhabitants.
The climate of Meghalaya varies with altitude. The temperature averages between 18° and 20° C. The climate of Khasi and Jaintia Hills is neither too warm in summer nor too cold in winter. Over the plains of Garo Hills, the climate is warm and humid, except in winter. Average rainfall varies - about 2,600 mm over western Meghalaya, between 2,500 and 3,000 mm over northern Meghalaya and about 4,000 mm over south-eastern Meghalaya. Sohra (Cherrapunji) gets an average annual rainfall of over 12,000 mm, one of the highest in the world.
Weaving and making cane mats, stools and baskets are the major occupations of the people. A special kind of cane mat called '
tlieng,' which guarantees a good utility of around 2030 years, is their major product. The Garos weave the material used for their costumes called '
dakmanda.' Khasis and Jaintias also weave cloth. The Khasis are also involved in extracting iron ore and manufacturing domestic knives, utensils, guns and other warfare weapons.
Wangala (or 'dance of hundred drums') is performed in honor of Satyong, the god of fertility. Doregata dance, Chambil Mesara or Pomelo dance,
Nongkrem dance and the Lahoo dance are the major varieties of dance. 'Ka Shad Suk Mynsiem' (or 'dance of the joyful heart') is the most important festival of the Khasis. The main dance festival of the Jaintias, celebrated annually in July after the sowing period, is called 'Behdiengkhlam.'