Shillong was the capital of Assam, but after the state was split into Assam and Meghalya meaning 'the abode of the clouds', it became the first capital of the newly formed State of Meghalaya. Located in undulating pine covered hills, the city has a milder climate than tropical India. The city centre is 1496m above sea level and currently has a population of around 270,000. Home to several waterfalls, it is also known as the Scotland of the East. The British legacy is still visible in the architecture and food habits of the population. The Assam style houses with slanting roofs, large number of windows and wooden floors look like a piece of art and happen to be a very good idea, considering Shillong lies in an area where rains and earthquakes are very common.
Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than in the rest of India. An umbrella is, therefore, a necessity when packing your bags. Although people avoid the rainy season, it is generally the time when the city is clean rains wash the streets of all garbage and waterfalls are in full strength.
Most of the Shillong population belong to the Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are significant Assamese, Bengali and Nepali minorities. An interesting aspect of Khasis are that they are a matrilineal society - the mother's surname is passed on to the children and the youngest daughter inherits the ancestral property. The head of the family and clan is still the man and the system functions only to protect women from discrimination. However, this has evolved with time and cross-culture marriages where the definition of the society as a matrilineal one is also changing. This is not be confused with 'matriarchal' societies.