Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tawang - A Paradise Is Found

Tawang Monastery
Beautiful are the hills and lovely are the simple eyes of people that made my days in Tawang. I don't know how life can be redefined again and again, but my experiences in hills and with its people, I can only say, life is simple and addictive. 2009 autumn, I traveled far to north east of India and experienced a part of my spirit in the silent valley of Tawang, a hilltop Buddhist circuit in Arunachal Pradesh where you can find your paradise if you feel. You can mesmerize by the cloud-kissed mountains, yellow mustard fields, dense forests and glistening rivers at every turn. Surreal experiences where you get lost in the beauty of untouched landscapes and in the brilliant hues of mountains.

Stark mountain terrains in Tawang
It was on 10 days leave from the monotony of my plastic life when I decided to venture into some untouched yet exciting place. I didn’t take much time in argumentation with my mind to decide the destination; for sometimes I had this urge to explore some North Eastern mountains. Thought quick, packed up swiftly and booked my ticket and reached Guwahati (Assam) in almost 60 hours. (as usual train was late!)I stayed in Guwahati for couple of day, seeing Kamakya temple, zoo and spent time with lots of sadhus out there. After spending two eventful days, I started a long journey to Tezpur in the next day afternoon and reached the transit before reaching our destination, Tawang, at a distance of 400 km uphill nestled at 10000 ft.

Old Mompa Woman with a prayer wheel
There was a bit of unrest and some heavy security at that time. Everything seemed shut and a grim silence hung around the place. It was disappointing but a bit expected as I was told there was a political strike going on. Though disappointment but I was high already with excitement, so this dull beginning wouldn't affect on me much. I overnight stayed in Tezpur and that was a blessing in disguise. For the record, my birthplace was Assam so I had this opportunity to see the place after 25 years.

Jaswant Garh War Memorial en route
On the second morning heavenly sunlight enlivened my adventurous spirit, and I started my journey to cross into Arunachal Pradesh from Assam. Dirang, en route to Tawang was my first destination. I covered the route with the glimpse of mighty Brahmaputra and stopped a while in a beautiful garden, overlooking the river was once the prison of a princess.

I continued the journey and gradually the landscape had changed from rough hill to golden mustard fields, lush dense forests, gushing streams, waterfalls and colorful orchids filled the landscape as we reached Diranga hill station, tucked away in a valley of orchards. The cold had just set in…that was exactly the journey I was looking for.

 People called Kashmir a heaven in earth and I realized that this place was the real one. A valley of clouds hid everything from mountain peaks to grasslands, flowers and birds, and touched our cheeks gently just as we got down to capturing it on our lens. On the third day, I was driving from Dirang, a small hill station in Arunachal Pradesh towards Tawang, set high in the Eastern Himalayas. The mountains curved steeply around us River Kameng flowed along with us.

Tawang Monastery dance
The journey was tough but the view could allay much of my tiredness. I enjoyed the Sela Pass, where history and romance meet at 13,700 ft. At the peak of Indo-China war in the 1960s, Sela was a local maiden who had fallen in love with Jaswant Singh, an Indian soldier. She died a martyr and the pass was named after her and was marked as a boundary between India and China. There are little shops lined the road and trace of local people there. For lunch I had some local noodles and a cuppa.

Sun was playing hide and seek with clouds and the temperature was freezing cold. I already put triple layers but still somehow this torturous wind passed through the sheets of clothes and penetrated deep into my bones.

Giant Buddha statue in Tawang Monastery
I reached Tawang almost at the time of dusk, but it was already pitch dark, and silence around the valley already gripped my spirit. Tawang, which literally means chosen horse, is full of monasteries and mystical gompas on one end and a war memorial on the other. The monastery once belonged to the Mompa people who reigned in the Mon kingdom that stretches from Tawang right to Sikkim, was founded in 17th century. Tawang is known for its lakes and waterfalls and we set out looking for them.

I witnessed several bunkers used by the Indian Army way back in the 1960s. The war memorial was a tribute to the martyrs. Watching closely while crossing several tombstones on the way was a different kind of intense experience. It is a scary thought that this peaceful place was once a battlefield. My love for this place grew as I was discovering the landscape more and more. However, there is always an end to every journey as so as mine.

Fact File

Getting there

By air: The closest airport is at Guwahati. Jet airways has regular flights to Guwahati from across the country.
By rail: The nearest railhead to Tawang is at Rangapara, Assam.
Route to Tawang
By road: The best bet is to get to Tezpur, then drive to Bhalukpong in West Kamend district and from there to Dirang/Bomdila and Sela Pass and finally Tawang. It is advisable to break the journey and stay in Bomdila or Dirang en route to Tawang.


Government tourist lodges at reasonable rates are available at Bomdila and Tawang. At Tawang Inn provide good accommodation and other facilities. Smaller hotels, lodges are available at both the places.

Travel Tips

Any domestic tourist coming to Arunachal Pradesh has to obtain an Inner Line Permit. Inner Line Permits can be obtained from officers of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh.


  • Becky GlobalGrasshopper says:
    December 21, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    Wow this place looks so incredible, amazing photographs!

  • Vicki - Way Out Far says:
    December 21, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    This looks amazing - very inspiring as it makes me want to go now!

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