The first part of my treasure hunting was through the unexplored Arwah Caves in Meghalaya. The stunning walls, the low ceilings, and narrow crevices were truly an adventurous experience for my entire family. There was a certain thrill in meandering through those caverns that were dimly lit and filled with water streams. It definitely added that punch to the whole treasure trail. However, the exploration was far from being over. Typically in a treasure trail, you have arduous trails and monsters that guard those trails. Right? So, we did our bit with the difficult trail (well! Not so difficult, just being dramatic!). We still had the monsters’ to tackle and guess what – we found them right at the next set of caves – Mawsmai Caves in Meghalaya.
Well, technically, there were no monsters! However, the Mawsmai caves in Cherrapunji had a lot of their formations that resembled monsters and those dreary beasts that typically guard the treasure. It was fun spotting these strange formations and giving them an identity. My daughter found these caves much easier to walk through as there aren’t too many of those crazy turns and twists. “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy” is how she termed it.
Introducing Mawsmai Caves in Cherrapunji
Mawsmai caves in the local language mean “Oathstone caves“. I tried to find the reason behind this name but for the first time, I seem to have hit a dead end as to why it is so-called. I was even more curious after I visited the caves for they definitely have some eerie shapes – that makes you feel as if you are in the world of the undead! (Yes, I do read a lot of those Vampire and underworld creatures books).
Krem Mawsmai (Krem means cave in the local language) are limestone caves that are actually around 250 m long. However, only 150m of it has been open to the public. These caves are possibly the most famous among all the Meghalaya caves and are quite well developed for the tourists. There are little bridges built over the cave streams making it easy for the visitors to navigate through the dark caverns. It has its share of narrow crevices and low ceilings that require you to squeeze or crawl. And at times, you will also, encounter shallow water pools. As for my monster trail, you enter from the mouth of a giant monster and exit from its rear. Do you think I am kidding? See for yourself on this tour of Mawsmai Cave.
Monster One – The Entrance of Krem Mawsmai
Jubilant with our victory at the Arwah caves, the A-team (aka us) walked confidently along the wooden pathway to conquer the next set of caves. Expecting the same body contortions, we felt we were all prepared until we stopped dead in our steps. A large monster with open jaws lay waiting for us.
The guy was ancient with lots of gray wrinkles, some of which was covered with a green beard. His teeth looked like as if he has not brushed for ages. He sat there motionless, staring at us, beckoning us to enter his large belly that we could see from the entrance of Mawsmai caves.
Mawsmai Caves are right in the middle of a lush green forest. The walk to the entrance will showcase a variety of plants including some unique orchids and ferns. The rocky facade actually looks stunning owing to those green highlights. In fact, you must go closer to the rocky surface and see how those little saplings sprout out of nowhere. Of course, here and there, you might encounter a few sparkly spider webs.
Walking into the belly of the monster (Inside Mawsmai Cave)
Definitely, this guy had a bad tummy. I mean look at the whole path strewn with his ingested food. What was even more interesting was that this guy did not just allow humans in but also, his fellow monsters. Some of them looked like snakes, some like dragons and some even looked like a phoenix!
The stalagmites and stalactites are quite well developed in these caves. They dominate the various caverns as masterpieces of natural art. These rock formations take place over millions of years. Arwah Caves too, had tons of these and though, they are dated around 56 million years back, the formations were still a little smaller. With such dominating structures in the present caves, you can imagine how far back the Mawsmai Caves history goes.
The strange shapes kept staring at us as we walked past them till we reached the grand old man, waiting to ask us a riddle. I think he was just so surprised to see us that he was dumbfounded. We quickly walked past him to reach the point that looked like the epiglottis of the cave monster. From here, we seemed to have crossed over to its belly.
Drooling Monsters – the streams in Mawsmai Caves of Cherrapunji
I am really not kidding when I say we had to squeeze past the epiglottis into the belly. A narrow cave passage led us to the most interesting sights. Coated with the gastric juices of the cave monster, the smaller ones within its belly were staring back at us – Drooling!
Basically, these drops of so-called drool were actually the rainwater and the limestone water that kept falling from the cave roof. It had been raining and this water fell along the walls of the caves and made them glisten in the low lights. Here the journey was quite like the Arwah caves but not as raw. We crouched and balanced through the narrow parts of the cave to finally reach a tiny hole.
Squeezing through the gut (Passages of Mawsmai Caves)
This is the part where I felt I had to squeeze through the guts into the open, dark caverns filled with pools of ……Water! What else, you crazy people.
The center of the limestone caves was a little low lying and that caused all the rainwater to form mini pools. There are little bridges that will help you walk over the deeper ones but nonetheless. there is a bit of wading to be done. Trust me! It is fun to walk through them.
Out from the rear – Exiting Mawsmai Caves in Sohra
The crazy ride with high ceilings and small slits of sunlight continued till we reached this point where suddenly, we were out in the open. Our treasure trail ended here This is where the treasure trail ended with us having picked up some memorable gems along the way. This monster’s lair turned out to be a beautiful end to our underworld quest. Once outside, you will also, see a lot of the ancient rock formations around the caves. The Mawsmai caves are an absolute must if you are a geologist.
Personally, I found the Arwah caves more adventurous but the Mawsmai caves were artistic. The experience through them gets your imagination wild – as you have seen in this post. I am pretty sure that what I discovered and saw might look different to you. This is the magic of Nature’s abstract art. I wonder what you felt like as you came along with me. You know where to let me know. And in the meantime, don’t forget to pin this journey to your board.
How to reach Mawsmai Caves in Cherrapunji?
- Guwahati is the closest railway and airport to Meghalaya. You will need to get here and then, take a cab to Shillong or directly to Sohra.
- The North East Explorers helped me with the cab and the stay in Sohra. I had hired the cab from Guwahati back to Guwahati for around a week.
- Mawsmai caves are located close to the Seven Sisters’ falls in Cherrapunji (Sohra).
What is the best time to visit Mawsmai Caves in Meghalaya?
In terms of the weather, it is advisable to avoid the monsoon months – June to September. The caves get flooded during this time and might be closed for safety. The rest of the year is perfect for visiting Krem Mawsmai. The Mawsmai Cave timings are from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm on all days.
- The Mawsmai caves tickets cost INR 20 per adult, provided you are more than 3 in a group. If you are less than 3, then it is INR 60. Check the capture above to know more.
- The caves are slippery and wet. Hence, I recommend comfortable footwear that helps you grip and walk along the cave.
- Please carry a light raincoat or windcheater here. Even within the cave, there is water dripping and you are bound to get wet.
- A torch is advisable as certain parts of the caves are dark
- You should be able to finish these caves in half an hour
- There are restrooms and small cafes here in the parking area.
- Booking.com is great for picking your stay or hotels in Shillong. They have limited options for Cherrapunji.
- Click through to North East Explorers for any tours in North East India. You can take up their packages that even include cabs and stays with a guide or just what you require. I used them to book my cab and stay in Meghalaya and highly recommend them.
- For any of your travel accessories or even home needs click through to Amazon from my website.
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Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings. I have recently published my first book – When Places Come Alive – a collection of stories that are based on legends, landscapes, art and culture of a place which is available in both ebook and paperback format.