It is old and it is decrepit,
Yet still it is the most beautiful place for me;
It is where I am closest to thee.
The ‘Barapani’ which translates as ‘the big water’ is a huge expanse of water (lake) cached among the ranges of the scenic Khasi Hills, in a place called Umiam in Ri Bhoi district just before entering the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, one of the scenic states in Northeast India. It is situated along the NH 40, in the Guwahati-Shillong highway, just about 20 km before reaching Shillong, the capital town of the state. Spread across a catchment area of 221.5 sq. kms, the lake is formed by the Umiam river. The lake came to be commonly called the ‘Barapani’ because of its huge expanse. It is a major tourist attraction in Meghalaya.
There is an interesting folk lore that is associated with the Umiam river that feeds the lake. In Khasi, the language of one of the indigenous tribes of Meghalaya, ‘Umiam’ translates into ‘water of the eyes’ meaning tears. The river gets its name as ‘the river of tears’ from a fable that is popular among the local people. The story goes that two sisters from heaven who were inseparable descended to earth one day. One of the sisters landed in the land of clouds, Meghalaya, but the other got lost on the way and never made it to earth. Heartbroken and stricken with grief on having lost her sister, the lone sibling cried and cried until her tears ran as a river. The river thus came to be known as ‘Umiam’ – the river of tears.
And here is my take on the lake of tears.