In the South-eastern corner of Garo Hills, in the South-Garo Hills District - there is a vast table land know to the outside world simply as the Land of Perpetual winds but of great mythological importance to both the Garos and the Hindu religious belief.
Balpakram, which has been, declared a National Park since 1987 is the land of scenic beauty, lying at an altitude of nearly 3,000 ft. above sea level, covering an area of 200sq. kms. It is a vast tableland of dense forest, teeming with wild life, undoubtedly one of the richest spot in bio-diversity in the country. Many rare and exotic species of flora and fauna some endemic to the area - many almost extinct very rare forms of wild-life found in the area had naturally evoked a lot of interest among the elite circles of naturalist, botanists and zoologist.
167 kms away from Tura, the District Head quarter of west Garo Hills District, Balpakram can be reached by road only. There are however regular helicopter services from Shillong and Guwahati to Tura and road transport facilities, nearest airport and rail head is Guwahati in Assam which is 220 kms from Tura.
Alternatively people going from Shillong can take the border road via Balat - Ranikor which is a much shorter route. However there is no direct communication link from Shillong to Balpakram.
The Garos consider Balpakram area sacred as the land where the spirits of the dead sojourn. So far till now - this aspect has not been properly highlighted to the outside world.
In support of the mythological belief there are more than 45 interesting sites in the area just a few of which are enumerated below.
Memang boldak matchu karam - On the way side there is a hard schimawallichi tree that has mysteriously acquired a depression on its trunk as if weather and worn by constant tethering of animals on its trunk . The belief is that the spirit on their way to their abode of the dead take rest here and tether the animals killed on their funeral. Surprisingly a few years ago, when one tree fall due to strong winds, another tree close to it started getting the same symptoms.
Chidimak-Chianggal - Black Water - It is a pool of water charcoal black in colour. It is believed that spirits wash and take bath in this pool before entering the realm of the dead, and hence the water turned charcoal black from the sins and the soot of cremations.
Matchru anti - Animal market - In the heart of the plateau there is a vast flat rock that bears the footprints of all kinds of jungles animals - big and small, each one of them very easily distinguishable. Mythologically it says, this place used to be the market place of animals. Interestingly, there is the only portion in the whole vast plateau that has the foot-prints embedded in the rock whereas the others surrounding that rock are completely benefits of any imprints.
Bandini Jalang - Stone bridge - A stone bridge over a stream said to be constructed by a legendary hero Bandi.
Dikkini ring - Fossilized beat - To the south of Balpakram near Makadeo village there is a huge flat rock resembling an upturned boat. According to the lore of the Garos, Dikki - a legendary here - was carving a boat but unfortunately before he could complete the task the cock began to crow and he had to abandon the work. It is believed that the spirits work only at night and any incomplete work at cock's crow had to be abandoned.
Areng patal - Magnetic stone - This massive rock with a hollow space on its surface had very strong magnetic force that any animal or bird that inadvertently wonders close to the rock will be magnetically drawn towards the hallow from where they will never be able to come out and die eventually. This magnetic force however has no effect on humans. Close by in the chimitap village, there is a Chimitap stream meaning underground that may perhaps be the shortest stream in the world. The stream comes out and flows for a more 500 yards and disappears underground.
Goncho-dare - The steep rock cliffs of the canyon are believed to be the natural habitats of the gonchos or evil spirits. The gonchos are believed to carry away people and lead them over steep precipices and inaccessible rock cliffs. They however do not cause any harm to their victims.
Rongsobok-Rougkol - To the north east on Khasi hills border there is a beautiful cave, wherein shining pieces of rock in the shape of banana flowers are found. The Hindus believe that it was the house of a Shiva Thakur.
Rongsaljong-Agal - On the Khasi hills border there is a natural water tank of rock measuring about 120ft. X 90ft. The water in this tank is perpetually clear and transparent and remains at the same level throughout the year. It is very interesting and unexplainable how the heavy downpours of rain cannot raise its level not the scorching sun of the summer reduces it. The Garos believed that it is the bathering ghat of Bandis wife sore.
Gitingni Suunte - There are 3 stones close to each other set in a triangle that resemble the crude hearth. Over these 3 big stones there set another rock, which looked, like a huge pot or cauldran. However the top pot like rock was damaged during road construction in 1987. Since the 3 huge stones with the big rock upon them look like something cooking in a big pot over the tripped chullah - it was Gitingni Suunte of the heart of Gitting.
Menggo Kol - From below the wakso Chiring Maheskola river run underground for about 3 kms, and emerge again at Menggo - Kol literally cave of the cat - a spectacular cave with magnificent rock formations around it. Even now some rock fossil that resemble hairs of the cat can be seen. This cave used to be inhabited by a white cats, hence the name cave of the cat.
Wakso-Chiring - One stream in the northern side of Balpakram that resemble the intestines of the pig and has a very bad rotten smell. The legend says that when bandi defeated the monster Wakmangganchi - aragondi - he pulled out its intestine and washed here. Hence the horrible stench of the rotten intestine.
Mebit mebang - Another interesting site in the area. Mebit mebang is a small hillock from where tiny pebbles resembling the seeds of rice, millet and other cereals appear mysteriously. The Garo believed that the side and direction of the hillock from which the seed like pebbles come out predict good honest in that direction. In 1927 it is said that Shri. G.D. Walker the thence Deputy Commissioner of Garo still swept the pebbles away and ordered the rock to be guarded. Next morning he was so astonished to find the pebbles mysteriously re-appeared.
Bandini nagil - A deep pool believed to be the fishing pond of bandi - a legendary hero. The long dam like stone barrier measuring to have been constructed by bandi.
Well, there are many more interesting site in Balpakram - for any tourist willing to explore. Each of the unusual has its own story, myth or legend - connected to it. Not only the Garo but the Hindus also consider Balpakram a secret Place. It is believed by the Hindus that Laxman was critically injured during a fight with Ravans, Hanuman found the life saving herb on top of Balpakram but not knowing which plants to take, he broke the top of the hill and carried it away to save Laxman's life. The Balpakram remains a topless vast tableland since then and the deep canyon was created from where he removed the hills. Even the 5 rivers that originate from this tableland have been given Hindi names like - Mahadeo, Maheshkola, Goneswari, Kanai and Chimite-rivergod. The nearby Chitmang hill is known as Kailash to the Hindus and is considered to be the Abode of Lord Shiva.
During Autumn the tableland look like bleak and dreary. Even the lone tree a top of hill looks eerie and spooky. At night when the spirits comes you can hear spine chilling eerie sounds that confirm that presence of spirits. Some believed that there are mat-meinang - animal spirits and domemang - bird spirits that have lured many unsuspecting hunters only to mysteriously disappear when shot-at.
However when spring comes Balpakram tableland is dressed in its natural best. Acres and acres of vast tableland covered with ground orchids and others herbs and bushes in multi-colour blooms is a sign never to forget. Also mid- April to mid-June it is the best time for bird watching and wild life study.
For accommodation there is a forest Guest House before entering the National Park and Forest Guard to guide you.
Best time to visit - Mid-April to mid-June.
Clothes - thin light clothing.
Not Admissible to venture alone anywhere without a trained guides wild animal abound and may even come to the premises of the guest house.
Anyway Balpakram will offer you an exciting unforgettable experience.
Some of these mysterious sites are :-
Boldak matchu Karam :- On the wayside there is a sturdy Boldak tree (schimawallche) that has a mysterious depression around its trunk as if eroded by the constant tethering of animals on it. The Garos believed that the spirits of the dead tie their animals slaughtered for their funeral to this tree while taking a rest close by hence when one such tree was felled by strong winds, soon after another tree close by started having the same symptoms.
Chidimak :- There is a small pool in Balpakram which is absolutely charcoal black. It is believed that the spirits of the dean wash themselves here before entering the realms of the dead. Hence the clear water turned black from their sins and soot's of cremation.
Matchru :- Anti or animal market. In the heart of the vast plateau there is a big stretch of flat rock that is full of foot impressions of all kinds of animals big and small. It is not understood how only that stretch of rock have thousands and thousands of footprints embedded there whereas the nearby rock are completely bereft of such prints. Mythologically of course it is said that it used to be a market place where all kind of animals gather for their weekly markets.
There is another place of similar nature and story in Lawbah in Khasi Hills 25 kms from Mawsynram. This place in Lawbah is much bigger in dimension that the one in Balpakram.
Areng patal :- Is a massive rock with a hollow space on its surface that is believed to have powerful magnetic powers. This hollow space acts as a veritable death trap to any bird or animal (except for man of course) that goes near it. Any living being that goes near it is magnetically drawn towards the hollow from where it can never comes out and die eventually.
Goncho Dare :- The rock cliffs of the canyon are said to be the natural habitats of goncho, the evil spirits who like to take away people from their homes. These gunchos lead their victims over steep precipices and inaccessible rock faces without causing any physical harm.
Dikkini ring :- To the Southern side near Mahado Village there stands a massive flat rock in the shave of an upturned boat. It is said that one night when Dikki a legendary hero was making this boat, the cocks started crowing before he completed the task and hence the incompleted boat turned to stone. The legend says that spirits work only at night and have to complete their work before cock crow.
Rongsaljong-Agal :- On the Khasi hills border there is a natural water tank of rock measuring about 120ft . X 90ft. The water in this tank is perpetually clear and transparent and remains at the same level throughout the year. It is very interesting and unexplainable how the heavy downpours of rain cannot raise its level not the scorching sun of the summer reduces it. The Garos believed that it is the bathering ghat of Bandis wife sore.
Rongsobok-Rougkol :- To the north east on Khasi hills border there is a beautiful cave, wherein shining pieces of rock in the shape of banana flowers are found. The Hindus believe that it was the house of a Shiva Thakur.
Apart from the above mentioned sites there are many more mysterious places which you can explore yourself. Indeed Balpakram is so steeped in myths that even the Hindus believed that it is a sacred place. They believed that when Laxman was serious injured during the war with Ravana and a very rare life saving herb was required, Hanuman found it here but not knowing which plant to take also in his haste to returned broke the top of the hill and carried it away. The missing portion of that hill became a deep awning canyon.
Balpakram has been declared a National park some years ago. This place is about 220 sq kms in a area and is 167 kms from Tura. This is a place of not only mythological importance but also the natural habitat of many rare and exotic animals and plant life. It is also believed to be the original of the rare citrus plant meemang narang mentioned before in Nokrek Biosphere. Balpakram is exquisitely beautiful when ground orchids and herbs are in bloom. The best time to see is from April to mid June. There is the guest house at Hattisil at the entrance to balpakram run by the Forest Deptt.
Emangre :- This is the only village where the traditional wood carving on the posts and beams of the nokpante - the bachelor's Dormitory still survives.
Dombe Wari :- 3 kms from Eman Asakgre there is a legendary lake on top of the hill believed to have been created by a merman when the eloped away with a beautiful wife of one boastful man. Some people say dombe the beautiful woman is still alive in the underground water Kingdom.