Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure – Your Ultimate Guide

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure—Your Ultimate Guide

Nestled in the serene embrace of the Himalayas, Tawang is a destination that promises an unforgettable blend of natural beauty and thrilling adventures. Located in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, Tawang offers a mesmerizing experience for travelers seeking to explore the uncharted territories of the Indian subcontinent. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you on a virtual journey through Tawang, helping you discover its hidden gems, cultural richness, and heart-pounding adventures.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

The Legend of Tawang: A Divine Quest for a Monastery SiteTawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

It is about the second half of the 17th century. The Dalai Lama V, the Buddhist head priest living in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, commissioned his disciple ‘Lama Gyatso’ to find a suitable site for the establishment of a new monastery in the then southern province of Tibet. Lama Gyatso rode a horse and reached present-day Arunachal Pradesh, about 500 kilometers south of Lhasa. During the long journey, no suitable place was found to establish a monastery. An exhausted Lama Lama Gyatso sat in meditation at a place to seek the ‘help’ of Lord Buddha. After opening his eyes for a while, the accompanying horse disappeared. Lama wandered a lot to find him. Finally, Lama saw a horse grazing on the top of a mountain called ‘Mandegang’. Taking this incident as a sign from Lord Buddha, the lama decided to build a monastery on top of Mandegang. Built in 1681 AD with the help of local people, the area around this monastery got the name ‘Ta-Wang’. Ta-Wang, in Tibetan, means the place chosen by the horse. At one time, the territory of Ta-Wang (more commonly known as Tawang) was the southern part of Tibet and was known as ‘Monyul’, the abode of the Tibetan tribe called ‘Monpa’.

Tawang: Where History, Religion, and Politics ConvergeTawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

According to history, the first mention of the Monyule is found in the Tibetan epic of the 4th-century king Ling Gesar. After two years of the establishment of the monastery in Tawang in 1681, the sixth Dalai Lama of Buddhism, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born here, so the religious importance of Tawang increased greatly among Buddhists. A religious center for years, Tawang came into political focus when the British East India Company’s occupation was established over Tawang under a written agreement with Tibet in the mid-nineteenth century.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

There was no definite boundary between India and Tibet then. Demarcation was undertaken years later by the British, represented by British bureaucrat Henry McMehon. According to the boundary line he drew between Tibet and India at the beginning of the twentieth century, the territory of Tawang was included in India. The boundary line, known as the McMehon Line, was not recognized by China. Not even today. As a result, that line has become a source of border disputes between India and China.

In October 1992, China sent its army to seize Tawang. Then our soldiers bravely challenged the Chinese Army. Eventually, Chinese cavalry captured Tawang, but the Chinese vacated Tawang after a cease-fire was declared on November 20, 1962.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Tawang, which has seen many ups and downs in history in three hundred years, remained a part of the Indian province known as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) until 1971. In January 1972, NEFA was renamed Arunachal Pradesh, and in February 1987, Arunachal Pradesh got the state status of India. Today, Tawang holds the title of the cleanest district in northeast India. Tawang, the land of Buddhist monasteries, is as clean as it is beautiful.

 

Discovering Tawang’s Natural Splendor

The Enchanting Tawang Monastery

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Our journey begins with a visit to the iconic Tawang Monastery, which is the main attraction here. It is the second-largest Buddhist monastery after Lhasa’s Potala Palace and the largest Buddhist monastery in all of India. Perched at an altitude of 10,000 feet, this ancient monastery not only offers spiritual solace but also provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Don’t forget to explore the beautifully adorned interiors and the serene ambiance that envelops this sacred place.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Quiet peaceful atmosphere, snow-capped Himalayan peaks on all sides, beautiful scenery of the Tawang-chu valley region, serene Tawang-chu river flowing in the valley, beautiful mountain slopes adorned with pine, oak, and cedar trees, etc. offer Buddhists as well as tourists visiting here a rare experience of detachment from the outside world, a heaven-like experience of ethereal divinity at this monastery known as ‘Gaden Namgyal Lahtse’, which means three-storied magnificent monastery.Tawang: Where Nature Meets AdventureTawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide - Your Ultimate Guide

Surrounded by a wall about 925 feet long and an average height of 15-20 feet, this magnificent monastery complex has a Tibetan mandapa-style main entrance known as Kakaling, the inner walls of which are richly decorated with Buddhist epic paintings. The main building of the monastery is the hall known as Dukhang which has a large door. Its interior walls are beautifully decorated with life-sized, colorful murals of deities and Buddhist saints. As soon as one enters the hall, to the left is a Thangka (painting on cloth) of Sri Devi (Palden Lhamo) preserved in a silver manjusha. This goddess, in Mahakali form, is worshiped as the main goddess of the monastery. The main attraction of the Tawang monastery is the huge, 25-foot-tall golden statue of Lord Buddha situated on the north side of the hall. A few peaceful moments spent surrendering to Lord Buddha seated on Kamalasana infuse a kind of divine energy in the pilgrims who visit here.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Apart from this, the monastery complex has about 65 residential houses, a school, a library, and a hospital with biologically basic facilities for Buddhist monks, saints, and students. There are also structures, like museums, for tourists. Another specialty of the monastery is its printing house, where religious books are produced by printing on hand-made paper.

Se-la Pass: A Gateway to Heaven

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

For those with an adventurous spirit, a drive through the treacherous yet awe-inspiring Sela Pass is a must. Situated at an elevation of 13,700 feet, this pass connects Tawang with the rest of Arunachal Pradesh. The pass is often blanketed in snow, creating a surreal white wonderland that will leave you spellbound. Take a moment to breathe in the crisp mountain air and capture the breathtaking views of Sela Lake.

 

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

The ethereal view of Se-La Lake and the surrounding white Himalayan mountain range near the ghat is enchanting and leaves a lasting impression on the minds of tourists. One of the beautiful gifts of nature to Arunachal Pradesh, Se-la Ghat is a must for the people of Tawang, as the only way to reach Tawang from Tezpur in Arunachal Pradesh or Guwahati in Assam is through Se-la (La means Ghat (pass) in Tibetian). To ensure that this road can be used in all seasons, the workers of BRO (Border Roads Organization) of India are always working there. Apart from this, there are 101 sacred lakes in the vicinity, due to which Se-la has a lot of spiritual as well as natural significance.

Nuranang Falls – Nature’s Masterpiece

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Tawang is blessed with numerous waterfalls, but the Nuranang Falls, also known as the Jang Falls, are particularly enchanting. Cascading from a height of 100 meters, these falls create a mesmerizing spectacle, surrounded by lush greenery. It’s a great spot for photography and a refreshing break from your exploration.

Near Jang village on the way from Se-La to Tawang, the flow of the falls is impressive, but if the sky is not overcast, the rainbow that formed behind the falls adds to the effect. Provision has been made for hydropower to generate electricity from the gushing water of Nuranang Falls. The attraction of Nuranang Falls has increased among tourists ever since the song ‘Tanhai… Tanhai’ of the 1997 film ‘Koyla’ was shot here.

Captivating Lakes

 

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Arunachal Pradesh, and especially the Tawang area, has many mountain lakes that are a sight to behold. Tourists visit Penkang Teng Tso (Tso means lake in Tibetan) and do not miss to visit the beautiful lakes like Sangestar Tso, known as ‘Madhuri’ Lake, after the shooting of the film ‘Koyala, Chhangmeeling Tso, Thangphel Tso, Sela Tso.

 

The blue sky and sparkling water reflect theTawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide snow. Himalayan range, the mesmerizing backdrop of pink blossoms blooming here and there amidst the green plains, the azure waters of the lake swaying with the cooling breeze, etc. are picture perfect for tourists and especially for photography enthusiasts. The funny thing is that the colors of the water in these lakes vary at different times of the day and according to the seasons. This experience is also worth having.

Bum-la Pass: Peeking into Tibet

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

In order to make the trip more exciting, a memorable visit to the Indo-China Line of Control (LAC) at Bum-La, about 35 km north of Tawang. The view of the Tibetian plateau from the Bum-la post at an altitude of 15,000 feet is very beautiful. ‘Heap of Stones’ is a special attraction here. Tourists visiting Bum-La put stones here, paying respect to brave soldiers and Himalayan sentinels guarding the Indian border. A separate permit has to be obtained from the Commissioner’s Office in Tawang for visiting Bum-La. India-China military flag meetings are held on January 26, April 14, August 15, October 2, and October 30. As a result, Bum-La remains closed to tourists during those dates.

Tawang War Memorial: A Tribute to Heroes

To delve into Tawang’s historical significance, pay your respects at the Tawang War Memorial. This poignant site honors the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. The stupa-like structure stands tall, overlooking the serene Tawang-Chu Valley, making it a place of great historical and emotional importance.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Jaswantgarh War Memorial is located in Nuranang, on the way from Guwahati to Tawang. This war memorial is dedicated to Rifleman Jaswant Singh, a warrior of the 4th Garhwal Rifle Battalion. During the Indo-China War of 1962, Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat’s company was entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the Nuranang area of Se-la. On November 17, 1962, the advancing Chinese army, after conquering the Tawang region, attacked Nuranang with great aggression.

Here, Jaswant Singh’s army retaliates against two successive Chinese invasions with stout resistance. After two unsuccessful attempts, a third wave of attack was launched by an entire battalion of the Chinese army with medium machine guns, most of the Indian contingent having been wounded or killed in the previous two Chinese attacks.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

The Indian contingent was down in numbers. However, Jaswant Singh, Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi, and Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusai came forward with no regard for life and killed 5 Chinese soldiers and captured their medium machine guns. However, while doing so, Lance Nayak Trilok Singh and Rifleman Gopal Singh were martyred. Rifleman Jaswant Singh, who was badly wounded by bullets, was yet to perform. With enemy machine guns, they reached their post anyhow. He fought single-handedly against the Chinese army for 72 hours and finally succumbed. Due to his prowess, the Chinese army could not advance beyond Nuranang, and more areas of India were saved from falling into the hands of Chinese. Rifleman Jaswant Sing Rawat, who displayed unprecedented bravery at an altitude of 10,000 feet, was awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously, and the Nuranang post was named Jaswant Singh in his memory. A magnificent war memorial was also erected. The war memorial has a bronze statue of Jaswant Singh and a plaque with the names of 161 heroes who died in the Battle of Nuranang.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Another memorial celebrating the bravery of Indian army warriors is in the Tawang-Chu Valley in Tawang. it is built in the shape of Stupa (Namgyal Chorten in local language) about 40 feet high. The names of all the 2,420 martyrs who died in the 1962 war are inscribed in golden letters in 32 black granite stones in the inner circle of the memorial. Moreover, the statue of Paramvir Chakra Subedar Joginder Singh, the golden statue of Lord Buddha, and the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols painted on the wall are particularly worth seeing.

The visitors must visit both of these places during their trip to Arunachal Pradesh to express their gratitude to the soldiers who laid down their lives just for the sake of protecting the motherland and without any personal interest. Arunachal may seem far away compared to the tourist destinations of North, West, and South India, but being an Indian, one must visit the sacrificial land where our soldiers shed their blood in the 1962 war.

Monpa artists who are experts in making masks:Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Tawang is a very rich region in the field of handicrafts. Thangka-style paintings, handmade paper, woodwork, handicrafts, hats, and incense sticks are the specialties here. What is special about this is the variety of colorful masks. This art of the Monya people shows the Tawang region’s cultural connection with ancient Tibet. Before the advent of Buddhism in Tibet, the Bon religion was widespread, in which masks of various animals were made and worn on religious and social occasions to show respect for nature and its creator.

Even today, such seals are made in Tawang and are very attractive. And since those faces are raised, they look 3D.Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Masks (Mukhotas) have religious significance for the Monpa people, so special care is taken to make them, and certain rules are followed. Religious masks are worn only once a year on religious occasions for the sake of sanctity. On other days, they are installed and hung at a specific place in the monastery. On the other hand, there are no such rules for making masks related to characters in folklore or social occasions. Therefore, from the point of view of compositional diversity, such masks are particularly attractive. They are used in dance, folklore, drama, singing, etc.

Masks are mainly divided into three types:

(1) Masks of deities and demons, (2) Masks of animals such as yak, horse, yak, etc., (3) Human masks such as farmer, herdsman, ascetic, witch, old man, etc.

Also, various colors depict certain qualities and temperaments. As such, yellow is indicative of foresight and profound knowledge. The color red symbolizes bravery and intelligence. Green is indicative of virtue, kindness, etc., on the contrary, black is used for mistrust, ferocity, and cruelty. Peace, prosperity, and auspiciousness are represented by the white color in masks, followed by boldness and heroism by the brown color!

A visit to a handicraft center allows you to witness the making process of the masks in person while visiting Tawang. Masks can also be purchased as souvenirs.

Adventure Awaits

Trekking in the Tawang Valley

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Tawang offers trekkers a multitude of trails that wind through its pristine valleys and dense forests. The Bum La Pass trek, in particular, is an adrenaline-pumping experience that takes you close to the Indo-China border. As you traverse through the rugged terrain, keep an eye out for the diverse flora and fauna that call this region home.

River Rafting in the Kameng River

For water enthusiasts, the Kameng River presents an exhilarating opportunity for white-water rafting. The river’s tumultuous rapids and scenic surroundings make for an unforgettable adventure. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced rafter, the Kameng River offers thrills for all.

Bird-watching Extravaganza

Tawang’s lush forests are a haven for birdwatchers. With over 500 species of birds, including the elusive and endangered Bengal Florican, this region offers a paradise for ornithologists and nature lovers. Pack your binoculars and embark on a bird-watching expedition you’ll cherish forever.

Tawang’s Cultural Tapestry

Tawang Festival: A Cultural ExtravaganzaTawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

To immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Tawang, time your visit with the Tawang Festival. Held annually, this vibrant event showcases the colorful traditions, dance forms, and handicrafts of the Monpa people. It’s an excellent opportunity to interact with the locals and savor their delectable cuisine.

Monpa Cuisine – A Gastronomic Delight

Tawang: Where Nature Meets Adventure - Your Ultimate Guide

Speaking of cuisine, don’t miss the chance to savor authentic Monpa dishes. Try Thukpa, a hearty noodle soup, and delicious dumplings that are a local favorite. These dishes offer a taste of the region’s unique flavors and culinary expertise.

Good to know Before you plan your Trip:

When visiting Tawang, there are several important points to consider to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable, and memorable trip:

Perfect time to visit: June is the best period. The splendor of Tawang increases manifold during the Losar festival held at the end of February or the beginning of the route, the Tibetan New Year, and the Buddha Jayanti Saga Dava festival held in the month of May.

Transportation: The nearest airport is Guwahati. From here, one can avail of the Arunachal Pradesh Helicopter Service to reach Tawang, which operates on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays of the week. However, the online ticket booking option is not yet available for this service. The Kamakhya and Dwarka trains run from Gujarat to Guwahati, the nearest railway station, once a week. There are many train options available from Calcutta. Tawang is 450 km from Guwahati, which takes 14–15 hours to cover. 

Permits and Documentation: Ensure you have the necessary permits to visit Tawang, especially if you are a foreign national. These permits can be obtained from the Arunachal Pradesh government or local authorities.

Accomodation: Hotels and homestays to stay in Tawang are also affordable for the pocket. Link: tinyurl.com/umvywwa

Weather Conditions: Tawang experiences varying weather conditions throughout the year. Check the weather forecast before your trip and pack accordingly. Winters can be extremely cold, while summers are relatively mild.

Altitude Sickness: Tawang is located at a high altitude, so acclimatization is crucial. Spend a day or two in lower-altitude areas like Bomdila before heading to Tawang to help your body adjust to the altitude.

Road Conditions: The journey to Tawang involves challenging roads, especially if you are traveling by road from Assam. Be prepared for long and winding journeys, and hire an experienced local driver if possible.

Accommodation: Book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Tawang has a limited number of hotels and guesthouses, and they can fill up quickly.

Local Customs and Etiquette: Respect the local customs and traditions of the Monpa people. Dress modestly when visiting monasteries, remove your shoes before entering religious sites, and ask for permission before taking photos of locals.

Monastery Etiquette: When visiting monasteries, maintain a respectful and quiet demeanor. Do not disturb monks during their prayers or rituals. Follow any specific rules or guidelines provided at each monastery.

Photography Restrictions: Some monasteries and sensitive areas may have restrictions on photography. Always ask for permission before taking photos, and respect any signage indicating no photography zones.

Safety Precautions: Be cautious while trekking or engaging in adventure activities. Ensure you have the necessary gear and inform someone about your plans. Carry a first-aid kit and any medications you may need.

Cultural Sensitivity: Learn about the local culture and history to better appreciate your visit. Engage with locals respectfully and learn about their way of life.
Environmental Conservation:

Tawang’s pristine natural beauty is its biggest asset. Dispose of waste responsibly, avoid littering, and contribute to the preservation of the environment.

Language: While Hindi and English are spoken to some extent, the local language, Monpa, is prevalent. Learning a few basic phrases in Monpa can enhance your experience and interactions with locals.

Conclusion

Tawang, with its awe-inspiring landscapes, adventurous activities, and rich cultural heritage, is a destination that truly offers the best of both worlds. Whether you’re seeking spiritual solace, heart-pounding adventures, or a glimpse into a vibrant culture, Tawang has it all. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore this hidden gem in the Himalayas. Your journey to Tawang promises to be an experience of a lifetime, where nature seamlessly meets adventure.


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