“I often think what interesting history we are making for the student of the twenty-first century.”
— William Carey
The people of Meghalaya are cheerful, sociable and hardworking and have exemplary dignity of labour. Physically, they are short, muscular and robust with fair complexions. Predominantly Christian, their society is casteless. They are devout and practice their faith with fervour. On Sundays, the cities, towns and villages wear a festive look as hordes turn up in church in their Sunday best.
The Garo, Jaintia and Khasi tribes who inhabit Meghalaya have a matrilineal society. That is, the inheritance goes to the women of the house. It also means that the men are married into the women’s families. They come to live in their wife’s home and the children bear the surnames of their mothers.
The Garos are of Tibetan stock; Khasis are related to the Jaintias who, in turn, are related to the Shaan tribesmen of Myanmar. The Garos live in western Meghalaya, the Khasis in central Meghalaya, and the Jaintias in eastern Meghalaya. They are said to be one of the earliest ethnic group of settlers in the Indian sub-continent, belonging to the Proto Austroloid Monkhmer race. The Garo Hills is predominantly inhabited by the Garos, belonging to the Bodo family of the Tibeto-Burman race, said to have migrated from Tibet. The Garos prefer to call themselves as Achiks, and the land they inhabit as the Achik-land.
The state is bounded to the south by the Bangladeshi divisions of Mymensingh and Sylhet, to the west by the Bangladeshi division of Rangpur, and to the east by India’s State of Assam. The capital of Meghalaya is Shillong. During the British occupation of India, the British imperialist authorities nicknamed it the “Scotland of the East”. Meghalaya was previously part of Assam, but on 21 January 1972, the districts of Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills became the new state of Meghalaya. English is the official language of Meghalaya. The other principal languages spoken include Khasi, Pnar and Garo. Unlike many Indian states, Meghalaya has historically followed a matrilineal system where the lineage and inheritance are traced through women; the youngest daughter inherits all wealth and she also takes care of her parents.
The state is the wettest region of India, recording an average of 12,000 mm (470 in) of rains a year.About 70% of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its mountain forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants.
Meghalaya has predominantly an agrarian economy with a significant commercial forestry industry. The important crops are potatoes, rice, maize, pineapples, bananas, papayas, spices, etc. The service sector is made up of real estate and insurance companies. Meghalaya’s gross state domestic product for 2012 was estimated at ₹16,173 crore (US$2.4 billion) in current prices. The state is geologically rich in minerals, but it has no significant industries. The state has about 1,170 km (730 mi) of national highways. It is also a major logistical center for trade with Bangladesh.