Cherrapunji Knowledge Guide


The history of the Khasi people – native inhabitants of Sohra – may be traced from the early part of the 16th century. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, these people were ruled by their tribal 'Syiems (rajas or chiefs) of Khyriem' in the Khasi Hills. The Khasi hills came under British authority in 1883 with the submission of the last of the important Syiem, Tirot Sing Syiem. The main pivot on which the entire superstructure of Khasi society rests is the matrilineal system.The original name for this town was Sohra (soh-ra), which was pronounced "Cherra" by the British. This name eventually evolved into a temporary name, Cherrapunji, meaning 'land of oranges', which was first used by tourists from other parts of India. It has again been renamed to its original form, Sohra. Despite abundant rainfall, Sohra faces an acute water shortage and the inhabitants often have to trek very long distances to obtain potable water. Irrigation is hampered due to excessive rain washing away the topsoil as a result of human encroachment into the forests. Recent developments of rain-water harvesting techniques in the area have greatly helped the town and its neighbouring villages. There is a monument to David Scott (British Administrator in NE India, 1802–31) in the Sohra cemetery.


The locals living in and around Sohra are known as Khasis. It is a matrilineal culture. After the wedding, the husband of the youngest daughter goes to live with his wife's family, who own the property of the family, while others live on their own getting a bit of the share. The children take on the surname of the mother.Sohra is also famous for its living bridges. Over hundreds of years the people in Sohra have developed techniques for growing roots of trees into large bridges. The process takes 10 to 15 years and the bridges typically last hundreds of years, the oldest ones in use being over 500 years old.