The adobe of clouds and the land of sprawling green valleys, Meghalaya is one of the most serene and beautiful states in India. Although its religious sites, located in thick forests and caves offer a perfect balance between the divine and the natural environment, they remain quite unexplored. So, we suggest that you plan a trip post lockdown and visit these offbeat destinations for an unparalleled spiritual experience. By Upasana Singh

1. Nartiang Durga Temple

 

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Located in the West Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, Nartiang Durga Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in India. Legend has it that this is the place where Sati Devi’s left thigh fell as Lord Shiva was carrying her corpse that was cut into 51 pieces by Lord Vishnu. With a history dating to around 600 years, the temple is of great religious significance. A unique blend of Hindu and Khasi traditions can be seen during the time of its ceremonies. 

Whether you wish to learn more about the unique customs of this temple or simply visit the religious site to offer prayers, the best time to go is during the annual Durga Puja celebrations. Earlier, human sacrifices were a part of the festival. But now, hundreds of goats are sacrificed by the Syiem or the local chieftain. Open from 07:00 am to 08:00 pm every day, you can reach the temple by train or air. If you are travelling by road, the place of worship is about 50 kilometres away from Shillong. There are several bed and breakfasts in the region but Hotel Highwinds Lakeside is the closest. 

2. Mawjymbuin Cave Temple

 

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The Mawjymbuin Cave Temple is one of the least explored and unknown religious sites of Meghalaya. It is said that the temple has been in existence since the 13th century. The naturally formed Shivalinga inside the cave is made of stalagmite and resembles that of the Amarnath cave in Jammu and Kashmir 

During Shivratri, the cave temple comes to life as local pilgrims and devotees celebrate the festival and pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva. If you love discovering new places and travelling off the beaten path in search of unique spiritual destinations, you must add this place to your bucket list. As heavy rains block the passages inside the cave, we recommend you travel between September and May. The closest railway station to Shillong is in Guwahati, from there you can take a taxi till Mawjymbuin village. Stay at the rustic style Polo Orchid Resort to get splendid views of the Cherrapunjee Valley and the Nongsithiang Waterfalls. 

3. Madina Mosque

 

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India’s first glass mosque, Madina Mosque in Shillong took one and a half years to construct. With its impressive glass dome and minarets, it is one of the largest mosques in the northeastern region of India. Visitors of the site are taken aback by the rare four-storied structure that glitters green in the morning sun. A large garden surrounds the architectural marvel that also maintains an orphanage, a library, and an Islamic theological institute. 

A large number of devotees gather at this holy destination to celebrate the festivals of Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Zuha. The mosque has a capacity of around 2,000 people and a separate area for women to offer prayers. It takes about 15 minutes to reach here from Police Bazar, Shillong’s famous shopping area. If you are travelling via a cab from the domestic Shillong airport, the Islamic site is about 33 kilometres away. The Heritage Club – Tripura Castle is our top pick to stay in the city. 

4. Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians

 

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This cathedral church in Shillong is the principal place of worship of over 3,00,000 Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese. Over 50 years old, its first building was constructed by the German fathers in 1913. With its high arches and glass-stained windows made in France, the church is one of the most beautiful in the city and is a popular tourist attraction. The terracotta reliefs in the structure depict works of art and scenes from the holy scriptures and life stories of several saints. It also has an underground grotto church that is carved out of a hill and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. 

One can visit the holy adobe any time of the year, but we would recommend you witness the annual Christmas celebrations here. You can stay at any of the hotels such as M Crown or Polo Towers in Police Bazaar, and take a cab till Laitumkhrah Main Road from where you can walk to the church. 

5. Mawphlang Sacred Forest

 

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For nature lovers and meditators, this is an ideal site to get some peace and quiet. Located about 25 kilometres from Shillong, the sacred grove in Mawphlang has several species of plants, trees, orchids, and butterflies. It is believed that the forest was earlier ruled by the Blah clan. However, as they struggled to control the massive area, they decided to choose another protector. A woman belonging to the Lyngdoh clan, who had a son, agreed to their demands on the condition that if the five saplings she had planted grew into trees, her son would take over the forest. Over time, the saplings grew beautifully, and the locals kept the mythical story alive by their age-old customs.  

If you are planning to venture out into the wild to get inspired and attain mindfulness, you must abide by one rule — do not take anything out of the sacred grove. Not even a leaf, stone, or a dead log, as it would upset the deity and may lead to death. The autumn months of September and October are the best time to visit the forest. You can stay in Shillong at the Ladybird Hotel and take a cab to Mawphlang. 

Related: 10 Reasons Why You Need To Drop Everything And Travel To Meghalaya This Year