Shillong (Hindi: िशलांग, Bengali: শিলং) is the capital of Meghalaya, one of the smaller states in India. It is also the district headquarters of East Khasi Hills District and is situated at an altitude of 4,908 ft (1,496 m) above sea level. The city has a population of approx. 260,000 according to the 2001 census. Shillong has steadily grown in size and significance in its own traditional way from a mere village as it used to be when it was made the new civil station of Khasi and Jaintia Hills in 1864 by British. It remained the summer capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam for many years. In 1874, on the formation of Assam as a Chief Commissioner's Province, it was chosen as the headquarters of the new administration because of its convenient location between the Brahmaputra and Surma Valley and more so because the climate of Shillong was much cooler than tropical India. Shillong remained the capital of undivided Assam until the creation of the new state of Meghalaya in January 21, 1972 when Shillong became the capital of Meghalaya and Assam moved its capital to Dispur.
Romantic and picturesque and blessed with an abundance of nature's gifts, Shillong is described as the 'Scotland of the East' because of its striking similarity with that of the Scottish Highlands. Picnic spots in and around Shillong include Elephant falls in upper Shillong, Spread Eagle falls,Beadon/Bishop falls, Sweet Falls, Ward Lake, Umiam(16 km from Shillong), Various picnic spots on the road to Sohra, Umrynjah (near Umroi)and Lover's Lane on the way to Shillong Peak.
There are many opportunities for adventure travel in Shillong. Cave exploration,trekking etc. The possibilities are endless.
Shillong is located at 25.57° N 91.88° E. It has an average elevation of 1526 metres (5006 feet),with Shillong peak being it's highest point, at 1965 metres.
This is one of the few hill stations with motorable roads all around. Shillong has no rail lines. There is a small airport at Umroi, around 30 km) from Shillong; most flights into Umroi are only only certain days of the week. The nearest major airport is at Guwahati, approximately 120km from Shillong. The tourist towns of Cherrapunjee (around 56 km) and Umiam Lake (around 16 km) are close to the city.
As of 2001 India censusGRIndia, Shillong had a population of 132,876. Males constitute 50% of the population and females 50%. Shillong has an average literacy rate of 80%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 83%, and female literacy is 78%. In Shillong, 11% of the population is under 6 years of age.
There are 3 major tribal communities: Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia. Ethnically, Khasis and Jaintias are very similar (as they both speak Mon-Khmer languages) and are collectively called Hynniewtrep (7 tribes) while Garos are known as A'chik. The Khasis are one of the few matrilineal tribes existing in the world today which people mistakenly refer to as matriarchal.
There is also Bengali, Nepali, Assamese, Bihari and Marwari population.
Religion in Shillong
Christianity is the main religion of Shillong and Meghalaya. Various denominations are present here. Unlike other Hill regions of the Northeast, Christian evangelisation was strongly resisted by the Khasis. Under the Khasi Association (Seng Khasi), they managed to stop the cultural cleansing by the missionaries. Seng Khasi assertion forced the missionaries to re-examine their colonial/eurocentric assumptions. Except for a few American funded born again groups, almost all Christian denominations are more or less in favour of acculturation.
Shillong also has a number of Hindus,muslims,budhist,tibetians and Sikhs. A small number of Muslims are also resident in Shillong.
Socio Political phases of Shillong
Shillong’s socio political atmosphere had often witnessed turbulent times. In 1979 there was a communal riot against a particular section of community. The flare up caused causalities in human life and property. In 1987 there was a state wide agitation against illegal migrants led by late Bull N Lyngdoh leader of a student’s organization called Khasi Students Union (KSU). The movement paralyzed Shillong’s robust educational system and imposed a suspension of all academic sessions for schools and colleges that year. In the subsequent years 1988, 1989 and 1990 there have been sporadic violent clashes between student bodies and the administration over other non ethnic residents of Shillong, culminating with a severe riot in 1992, which left several people belonging to a minority community dead or injured. During that period local sentiments poured out in the town’s public places and writings on the wall such as “We are Khasis by blood and Indians by accident” were common.
The Shillong Golf Course
Shillong has one of the largest golf courses (the world's wettest) in Asia and the golf course is called "Glen Eagle of the East". It enjoys the rare distinction of being one of the few natural golf courses in Asia. Not only is the Shillong course scenic and enjoyable, it is also challenging. A group of British Civil Service officers introduced golf to Shillong in 1898 by constructing a nine hole course. The present 18 hole course was inaugurated in 1924.The course is set in an undulating valley covered with pine and rhododendron trees. The tight fairways, carpeted with a unique local grass which hardens the soil, are difficult to negotiate. The number of out-of-bounds streams that criss-cross every fairway makes it all the more trying. Obstructions come in the form of bunkers, trees and rain. The longest hole is the 6th, which is a grueling 594 yards.
Institutions in Shillong
- Shillong is the headquarters of the North Eastern Council.
- The main university is the North Eastern Hill University with campuses in Tura and Shillong- HQ
- A bench of the Guwahati High Court has been set up in Shillong.
- Shillong is a major educational center in north eastern India. The major colleges in Shillong are:
- Some of the most famous schools in Shillong are Pine Mount School, Loreto Convent, St. Edmund's School, Shillong and St. Anthony's School, estabished in the early 20th Century.
- An Indian Institutes of Management|IIM (Indian Institute of Management) has also been sanctioned for Shillong.
- Shillong has a centre of the CIEFL (Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages) which has its headquarters in Hyderabad.
- Shillong also has many offices of the Geological Survey of India.
- The Anthropological Survey of India and the Zoological Survey of India also have their presence here.
- It also has the HQ of the Eastern Air Command of the Indian Air Force
- The HQ of the oldest paramilitary force in India - the Assam Rifles
- The Assam Regimental Centre of the Indian Army
- The 101 Area of the Indian Army.
- Army School Shillong, 101 Area
- The Gurkha Training centre of the Gurkha Regiment of the Indian Army which trains raw recruits and converts them into feared soldiers.
- Union Christian College,Barapani (Umiam Lake)
Eminent personalities associated with Shillong
People who have been associated with Shillong include
- Swami Vivekananda, social reformer, philosopher and world renowned patriot monk had spent his last moments in Shillong.
- Dr. Prosperly B. Lyngdoh is the first khasi graduated from the Billy Graham School, Louisville, KY. USA. Dr. Lyngdoh was born and brought up in Jowai Jaintia Hills. Dr. Lyngdoh presently work as a professor.
- Queenie Rynjah, Padmashree & educationist
- P Mukhim who received the illustrious Padmashri prize
- S Jain who received the prestigious international Alfred P. Sloan award
- the poets Robin S Ngangom and K S Nongkynrih
- the former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma studied in St. Anthony's College.
- Former Chief Election Commissioner James Michael Lyngdoh is from Shillong and had studied at St. Edmund's College but has settled in Hyderabad.
- Lt. Keishing Clifford Nongrum, 25, 12 J&K Light Infantry, was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (India's Second highest military award for gallantry) posthumously for bravery during the Kargil War 1999
- Lou Majaw, the Bob Dylan of Shillong. Lou and Eddie Rynjah had started celebrating Bob Dylan's birthday in Shillong on May 24 1972. It has become an annual event and gets extensive coverage on national and international TV Channels.
- The actor Victor Bannerjee is also a product of St. Edmund's School.
- Utpal Dutt the famous actor and a radical communist was also born and brought up in Shillong.
- Famous film critic Amita Malik is from Shillong.
- Poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote his famous play "Shesher Kobita" (the last poem) when he was in Shillong.
- Nirad C Chaudhuri has written extensively about Shillong in his book 'Autobiography of an Unknown Indian'.
- Anthropologist and tribal expert Verrier Elwin had settled in Shillong and he lived here till his death.
- Multi-faceted Mrs. Rita Saikia Das, who now, is promoting the Assamese Cuisine internationally was brought up in Shillong. She also helps noted actor Victor Bannerjee another eminent personality, run a Blind School in Assam.
- Mr L P Singh one of India's last ICS (Indian Civil Service) Officers was governor of Meghalaya and other North Eastern states during the seventies.
- Dhruba Hazarika (1956-) former student of St. Edmunds College. Recipient of the Katha prize for story writing. Presently based in Guwahati. His first novel 'A Bowstring Winter' has been published by Penguin India in May 2006.
- Historian A.L.Basham was married in Shillong.
- Lila Majumdar (1908-2007) famous Bengali juvenile classicist and a noted personality , (by relation she was Satyajit Ray's aunt) spent her childhood in Shillong.
- Dr. Zohurul Hoque (1925-)internationally recognized translator of the Qur'an in 3 languages. Currenty resides in Guwahati.
- Air Marshal Pranab (Lalu) K. Barbora, born in Shillong, is presently holding the rank of Air Marshall in the Indian Air Force, and he is the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command.
- Noted writer and Booker Prize winner, Arundhati Roy was born in the KJP Synnod Hospital in Shillong.
- Prabhat Dey Sawyan,prominent industrialist and architect,recently honoured by The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTAC);designed and launched boutique resort 'Ri Kynjai' incorporating traditional khasi roof forms into a modern architectural setting.
- Brother Eric D'Souza, former principal of St. Columba's School, Delhi, recipient of President's Award for the Best Teacher is one of the most respectable citizens of Shillong.
Out of sixty three mission cities eligible for Central Funds for city development plans under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Shillong stands out as only one of three cities not to submit its plans to the Urban Development Ministry.