In the village of Mawlynnong in eastern India, tidying up is a ritual that everyone – from toddlers to toothless grannies – takes very seriously. This small town of 600 people in the Meghalaya region is renowned for being the cleanest village in India. It was declared the cleanest village in Asia in 2003 and the cleanest in India in 2005 by Discover India magazine. Mawlynnong, located in Meghalaya, is called “God’s own Garden”.
How to reach Mawlynnong
- By Air: The nearest airport from this village is in Shillong. India Beacons Sojourn arranges transport facility for its guests from ShillongCherrapunjee and Guwahati.
- By Road: Mawlynnong is located roundabout 90 km from Shillong and 92 km from Cherrapunjee. You can reach Mawlynnong from these two cities if you travel by road.
- By Train: The nearest railhead from Mawlynnong is also at Guwahati. Guwahati railway station to Shillong is around 104 km and then Mawlynnong is another 78 km away. You can hire a cab from Guwahati to take you to Mawlynnong via Shillong.
The Khasi tribe is the biggest attraction of this small village. This is a famous tribe and is well ahead of the patriarchal notions. In this tribe, children inherit their mother’s surnames and property is also passed through the matrilineal lines. The youngest girl in a household inherits the property and children take their mother’s surname. Unlike other parts of the country, girls here are free to choose their life partner but within the community. Interestingly, the village boasts of 100 percent literacy rate. There is a primary school in Mawlynnong which has maintained zero student dropout rate so far. Agriculture is the mainstay and besides paddy, villagers grow cash crops like bay leaf, betel nuts and local spices. They also cultivate fruits like oranges, papaya and pineapples. While the entire village maintains a strict cleanliness regime, Khasi women can be seen either washing clothes or cleaning the village roads throughout the day.
Along with a ban on smoking, Mawlynnong also strictly prohibits the use of plastic. Bamboo dustbins are placed on every street, and all waste-disposal is environment-friendly. Spotless paths of cobblestone are lined greenery, and thatched roof houses all maintain bushes of orchids and other flowers in their courtyards. Mawlynnong’s cleanliness is entirely the result of community-based efforts. All residents are mandated to help with cleaning up the village – which they do collectively every morning and evening. Each household is encouraged to partake in a range of eco-friendly practices from reusing waste as compost, to harvesting rainwater. Littering is not just penalized but also looked down upon as a social taboo.
What to Eat
People eat very simple food in Mawlynnong. The menu is fairly simple, one chicken dish served with rice, one potato dish, vegetable, dal, roti and chutney. They even serve South-east Asian cuisine and the traditional tribal food.
Living roots bridges
In an age when the nation talks about science and innovation, here is a man-made wonder that is also a good example of bioengineering. In the hamlet of Wahthyllong, a 10-minute drive from Mawlynnong, a large living root bridge hangs over a gurgling stream. Only found in this part of the country, the living root bridge is the result of the innovation of the Khasi tribes. Locals say the bridge was built to cross the overflowing creek during the monsoon. The thick roots of a variety of rubber (Ficus elastica), grown on either side of the stream, were intertwined by villagers and flat rocks and mud placed on them to form a path. The roots grew for several years, strengthening the living root bridge every year.
What to See
Located a bit away from the Mawlynnong entry point is the Sky Walk, a unique structure that gives a glimpse of neighboring Bangladesh. It is an eco-friendly ladder-like structure made entirely of bamboo poles attached to branches of six trees using jute and bamboo ropes. No nails or metal were used to assemble the structure. A visitor must climb four circular layers of bamboo ladders – spanning tree branches – which extend to a height of 80 feet. At the top of the Sky Walk, there is a square platform, again made of bamboo, from which the flood plains of Bangladesh can be easily seen. The ascent of the Sky Walk takes about 30 minutes. The entire structure is surrounded by tall trees with a small water channel in between, often used by locals to clean clothes and collect water.
SECRET WATERFALL AT RIWAI
Mawlynnong has beautiful little secrets hidden deep within him. One of them is Niriang Falls, located about five kilometers from the Living Root Bridge. It is created by the crystal-clear water of the Wah Rymben River which drops 400m into a deep green pool set in the middle of a thick green forest. Getting there, however, is not an easy task; you have to take a steep hike through a slippery rock path to reach Niriang Falls. The journey is arduous, but a sight of the waterfall can leave any visitor in awe.