Monday, February 23, 2009


Monpas and Gompas

Your very route to this 11,155 ft hill-station - Tawang, will hint you about what to expect. Picture postcard landscapes flaked with sprightly colored monasteries (Gompas) and the sound of thundering waterfalls and hot water springs freeze your senses and you will have to shake your head to remind yourself, “This is real”! Bathed in the quintessential halo of Buddhism, Tawang is still more Tibetan than Indian. The grandiose of the myriad orchids and the warmth of the local Monpa tribes help you ward off the bone-numbing breeze of the Himalayas. God, the Himalayas and the devoted jawans (army-men) stand as undaunted sentinels protecting this land from the Chinese and evil-eye.


Tawang Monastery : ‘Dramatically outlined’ against the verdant landscape is the 400 years old Galden Namgyal Lhatse, popular with the tourist-tongue as the Tawang monastery. It is said that the whole structure was brought from Tibet, piece by piece, on horseback and assembled here. Besides its famed assemblage gold lettered Buddhist scriptures, images, tapestries and the rare hand-written and block-painted thankas or manuscripts of revered books (in the Parkhang Hall), it is held significant in the Mahayana Buddhist world for the 26-ft high gilded Buddha housed in its inner sanctum over headed by a mural rich ceiling. The name of Tawang means “horse chosen”, a reference to the way in which Meera Lama’s horse wandered off on its own and discovered the perfect spot on which the monastery now stands.

Urgelling Mobastery : The 6th Dalai Lama was born of a Monpa mother in this monastery, 5 km away from Tawang.

Nunneries of Tawang : The Brahma Dungchung Ani Gompa, the Gyanganga Ani Gompa and the Singsur Ani Gompa are the important ones amongst the flock of nunneries near Tawang whose nuns are known to follow stricter norms than their male counterparts.

Se La Pass : Your very route to Tawang will be via this enigma perched 13,714 ft high (world’s third highest). The vista is best termed ‘enrapturing’ -- raise your head some 45° and behold the Se La Peak; next droop it 90° to discover the glorious curves of the Se La Lake.

Zimithang & the Lakes :
The impressive Gorsam Stupa, the Tatsang gompa, the Khinme monastery and the Singshur nunnery here attract tourists visiting Tawang to this place just a stone-throw away. As your vehicle grinds its way up to the “Heap of Stones”, the LAC with China, lakes appear - bright turquoise or brooding gray according to the mood of the sky. The Sangeshar Lake, more popular as the Madhuri Lake after the Bollywood actress who starred in a film song (Koyla) canned here is one must-replenish beauty. The Lake freezes in winters.

Tawang for Adventurers : The rivers Tawang-Chu and Namjang-Chu are ideal for river-rafting activities. There is also an option for rock-climbing, paragliding, skating and other winter sport activities.


The Craft Center of the Tawang Monastery produces fine woolen carpets in various colorful designs. Items that could make excellent buys are Serdukpen shawls, Apatani jackets and scarves, Adi skirts, Mishmi shawls, blouses and jackets, wancho bags.

There are Craft- Centers at Bomdila and Tawang producing very fine carpets of colorful designs and works. Carpets in ethnic Tibetan designs are very popular, made of pure wool.


Tibetan food is what you will find here at Tawang’s every eatery. Related Chinese cuisine, and lately, due to tourist demands, Indian food of the plains is also served. Apong is the local drink made from rice or mallet. Butter-tea is an Arunachal speciality and momos, a local favorite. The restaurants of your hotels are the best.


Bhalukpong (52 km): En route Tawang from Tezpur, you can stop by at Bhalukpong before or after your main destination. Another postcard-perfect locale, for the North-Eastern vacationers this is one of their favorite weekend picnicking joint. The Pakhul Sanctuary’s wildlife embellishments and the Orchid Research Center at Tipi with some 600 species (including indigenous ones like “Ladies Sleeper”), are the prides of Bhalukpong, besides its gurgling streamlets.

Dirang (143 km): A concoction of some unique attractions make Dirang an excellent stop-over on your trip back from Tawang. Look out for the Kalchakra Monastery, Ngingmapa Monastery, kiwi and apple orchards, hot-water springs, Yak Research Center, medicinal plantations, Dirang Dzong (former Tibetan Jail), Sangti Valley (home of Black Neck Siberian Crane during winter). Dirang hosts the Buddha Mahotsav Festival every February-end with activities like Monastic Dances, Bay-Warrior dance, Sherbang Procession, flower and orchid show, food festival, hiking and trekking, traditional games and sports, you name it!

Bomdila (190 km): Another orchid-apple love-story will arrest your jaunt on your way to Tawang. Bomdilla is just excellent for your trekking, picnics and eco-tourism camps and the plummetted orchards, monasteries, forests, waterfalls and more than inviting for a day-long exploration - all on foot. The Craft center here is recommended for your souvenir buys. Irresistible, yes, but better save it to douse your Tawang hangover on your way back.

Bum-La (la, incidentally means a pass): This is where the Indian and Chinese force commanders on either side of the border meet every six months to sort out any minor problems. Bum-La does not have the non-commercial innocence of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh separated from the plains by the Brahmaputra, reserve forests and the gradually ascending Himalayas. At Jaswant Singh Garh, near the Bumla Pass, the story of heroism of some Indian soldiers is retold. This is where Jaswant Singh of the 4th Battalion Garhwal Rifles held off the enemy for 72 hours single-handedly. Army convoys on the way to the border make it a point to stop and pay homage at the beautifully maintained memorial. The jawans (soldiers of the Indian army) at the outpost treat everybody passing through with tea.

Location :
At 11,155 ft near Indo-Burma border, Arunachal Pradesh

Go there for :
Treks, Angling, Monasteries

Climate :
Max 29° C; Min (-)5.5° C

When to Go:
Mar-April, Sep-Oct

Tawang - 10,000ft, Thingbu - 11,000 ft, Lumla - 8,000 ft


STD Code :
+91 - 3794

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