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The Story Behind Elephant Falls

First step of Elephant Falls seen through trees
First step of Elephant Falls seen through trees
The second step and the most negligible fall
The second step and the most negligible fall
The last and the highest fall at Elephant Falls
The last and the highest fall at Elephant Falls
View of the third and the last fall from a bridge
View of the third and the last fall from a bridge
A shop selling everything from food to souvenir items near Elephant Falls
A shop selling everything from food to souvenir items near Elephant Falls
Seats and food give some respite to visitors after the climb
Seats and food give some respite to visitors after the climb

Near Shillong’s highest Peak, (i.e Shillong Peak) a small road deviates a little further to the edge of the mountain. Out of nowhere, a stream rises from the higher plateau and sloshes downstream, running on rocks forming the Elephant Falls. These falls are just 12km from Shillong and few minutes drive from Shillong Peak. 

I managed to bring down the taxi fare to Rs.500 after bargaining, for both Shillong Peak and Elephant Falls. It was late evening by the time I reached Elephant falls. The last of the golden light lingered on the horizon. The taxi stopped abruptly at a parking lot surrounded by souvenir shops and small tea hotels. I could already hear the sloshing sound of the waterfall; it was close. 

Steep steps lead down to the waterfall and I am first met by a ticket counter. As I stare at the ticket, I wondered at the unusual name of the waterfall. Like the name of many other places in Meghalaya that have their origin in English, I wondered if at all the name was given by the British. The British colonized many places and give names as if they were entrusted with giving names. For one I was sure it wasn't the Khasis who named the falls. There were no elephants in this part of the State. The locals usually come up with names they can relate to in their own world. 

As I reached the first fall, I was educated by a signboard that reads, ‘Why Elephant Falls?’

The original Khasi name for the falls was ‘Ka kshaid lai pateng khohsiew’ (three steps water falls), because of the fact that the water falls in three steps. Of course it was the British who named it ‘Elephant Falls’ because of a stone that resembles an elephant near the falls. But the stone was destroyed by an earthquake in 1897. But the name hasn't changed.

The first fall is broad and hidden between trees. The second fall is tamed and almost negligible in winter, when the water level recedes. The last and the third waterfall is the tallest. Elephant Falls is characterized by clear water flowing over dark jutting rocks with no particular forms. The steep steps can be too much trouble for kids and elderly folks. 

4 Responses to “The Story Behind Elephant Falls”

  1. Kai Chongloi says:

    Amazing pictures! Love it.

  2. Shivani Parihast Das says:

    Dear Jim,

    I enjoyed reading what u have written. Your style of writing is very lucid, vivid and the personality of Shillong comes alive. Thanks a ton for all the information that u have posted here.
    Cheers!
    Shivani Parihast

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