Traditionally India’s reflections has been limited to busy streets of Connaught place in New Delhi, illustrate of love-Taj Mahal of Agra, slums of the Dharavi in Mumbai and the beach parties at Goa. But there’s a much preserved India, somewhere far from the hectic immortal dreams; somewhere far from the much corrupted mainland culture and somewhere far from the much screened Bollywood’s India.
An India that is just Wow! Be it the beautiful faces with the strongest natural physiques, be It the vibrant & charming clothes in the world of jeans and tees, be it the unique yet simple flavours of bhaat and fish, be it the bamboo houses with paddy straw floors or be it the multiple yet exclusive dialects in each of its corner; everything is just a Wow! In a world where external influences are just a click away, it is a primitive’s abode!
Having an itchy feet to travel has always kept me on a run. Being a domiciliary of the North, currently settled in the West and having traveled south just last year essentially meant I was voyaging east. Then my friend asked how far is North East? How far from the mainland India?
Well geographically a little bit. Guwahati, gateway to the Northeast lies about 1900 km from New Delhi. The region is incompletely separated from the mainland by Bhutan from above & Bangladesh from below. The harsh and hostile terrain makes it even more inaccessible. This is countered with a reasonably good connectivity both by the air and road at the least for major cities.
But again how far is North East? How far from the ‘advanced’ prosperity of mainland India? To explore this we decided to visit the three major states of the region- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya. Come explore with me the idea of spellbound India!
Destination 1: Arunachal Pradesh –the land of dawn lit mountains!
DAY 1 : We landed in Guwahati on a fine sunny morning of Indian winter. From there hiring a private vehicle we set out towards north. Our first destination was Bomdila, a town in the western Arunachal. While travelling from Assam to Arunachal you will find a clear distinction here between the plains of the first and the mounatins of the later. It almost took up the entire day reaching there so much so that by the time we reached Bomdila, all we could manage to get was a jug of hot water for our ‘ready -to-eat‘ meals.
Morning view of the town Bomdila.
DAY 2 :Waking up the next morning, the first thing we saw was the fine view from our hotel balcony. Being an extremely chilly morning of January, the entire town was fast asleep without any eagerness to start their day. Contrary to them, we had to rush to reach to Tawang before the sun sets.
But before we took the road we decided to visit a local Buddhist Monastery. And luckily for us the prayers had just begin.
The Magnficent Bomdila Monastery
Monks reciting their morning prayers. Though the language was out of our reach, the faith and the goodwill could well be discerned.
And then our journey for Tawang began! First we reached Dirang, a small town midway located at a relatively lower altitude on the banks of river Kameng. Tourists either prefer Bomdila or Dirang for their overnight halt enroute Tawang and back. The road is relatively good except at some places until we started our ascent for Sela.
As we approach Sela, roads get more adventurous. The narrow cuts and the blind turns, the deep valleys and the snowing of the tar is bound to raise your adrenaline.
The sharp blind turn en route Sela!
The snow clad coniferous vegetations.
On our way a misty snowfall greeted us. We took a halt to enjoy the weather, while our driver wrapped the rope across the surface of tyre. Snow chains are commonly employed for increasing the traction between the tyre and the snowy/muddy roads.
AND SELA PASS FINALLY!!
Sela Pass situated at an altitude of 13,700 feet connects the Tawang with the rest of India. A beautiful door in lines with the Buddhist culture welcomes you to the land of Monpas. Chilling winds, snow clad peaks and mesmerised tourists are all you find here.
And also you would you find a family run small cottage, serving you the much needed hot and spicy Maggi and hot beverages. In addition you also get to warm yourself sitting around the Bukharas and making new friends and listening to their stories –every little thing nothing short of a bliss!
Travelers sitting around the Bukharas, eating hot spicy noodles while enjoying the warmth of burning woods.
Food cum travel goal: check!
But while talking to the locals we were informed that there has been heavy snowfall in the past couple of days on the other side of Sela and the conditions were harsh. So as we moved ahead on the road our fears came to real. There was approximately a foot deep snow on the roads and vehicles were getting difficult to move. At few places vehicles got stuck, but all the tourist showed exemplary courage in helping each other, as if a family working together.
Passing through the Nurong Neng valley.
A frozen waterfall.
As the sun had already set atleast apparently our rush against time became fierce, but the rope across the tyres limited our speed. But finally around at evening 6 we could see the lights of Tawang. Roads became better, visibility improved and untying of rope made us reach Tawang around by 8.
What next? Well, good food and cozy bed!
DAY 3: As the morning broke up, I started early. Accompanied by one of my friend, we took a stroll through the streets. A gentle yet chilling breeze kept soothing our souls when the morning sunshine inspired us to the core. There was this amazing calm that this place had, where all you listen was the inner you! It was indeed one of the best mornings i ever woke to! We climbed to this huge Buddhist Statue, which in itself is an identity of Tawang.
26 feet high majestic Buddhist statue.
And the gods within the God!
The statue has a prayer hall within it where people of the town offer their daily prayers. Also it exhibits beautiful architecture and wonderful colours of their ancestral Monpa dynasty. Also as this place is on a raised earth, there is this scenic picturesque of the entire city you may see from here. You also get to see the divine sunshiny tops of the main Buddhist Monastery from here.
The main Budhhist Gompa as viewd from the place of the statue.
The beautiful city of Tawang blessed by the virtues of Buddhism
Later in the day we went to Lady Monastery which is situated at quite a distance from the main Tawang city. To travel by road you’ll need around 2-3 hours but we went by rope way. A 15 minutes ride and we were there! This monastery is maintained and governed by the female monks who have their quarters by its side!
The female Buddhist Monastery
The female Buddihst Monastery (Inner view)
And then we finally we were at the famous Tawang Gompa. Home to number of monks, this is the largest monastery of India. Tawang Monastery in Tibetan is known as Galden Namgey Lhatse which translates to ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. The Monastery gives a view of the Tawang river valley and surrounding it lies the alpine forest with the snow clad peaks in their backgrounds. Here are some of the glimpses
The entrance gate of the Gompa. Such doors are a usual sight across the region.
The monks learning theirs lessons for life.
Buddhist prayer flags. These are of 5 colours representing the five elements of Budhhism. It is widely believed that winds passing across them carry the prayers written on them and goodwill across humanity and beyond.
Approach road to the Gompa.
Buddhist prayer flag pole.
Art of the Monpa dynasty painted on the walls having beautiful doors.
The steps towards Moksha (Salvation) be like!
An artistic three dimensional chandelier.
The main prayer hall.
As the sun approached to set we traveled back in time. To 1962 when the Dragon declared war against the Elephant. There was a disputed border between the two Asian giants and as India adopted its Forward policy & granted asylum to the Tibetan leader DALAI LAMA and his government in exile, the Chinese reciprocated. As it was completely unforeseen from the Indian context, the Indian defence was breached. Heavy bloodshed occured on either sides and eventually Indian forces surrendered. China invaded Tawang momentarily but later receded back bringing back Tawang into Indian administration. To commemorate the martyrdom of the Indian heroes a Sino Indian War memorial has been build in Tawang. Names of all those 2420 heroes have been engraved on the rock that would inspire genrations to come.
Sino Indian War Memorial
The Ultimate Sacrifice
The badges and the flags of all the wings of Indian Defence, representing our strength and preparedness to fight the enemy today at any moment of time.
Later we visited a Buddhist stupa nearby and came across cute little monks to be…
Cute little monks to be!
Ever imagined what monks read? Well this!
Well the end of the day was the best! With a local beverage we had red rice and churpa (a local milk based delicacy), Thukpa (Tibetan Noodle soup) and the staple food of the mountains, MOMOS!! If you are planning to travel never miss the Momos and the Thukpa!
Red Rice and Thukpa
What next? Well a cozy bed!!
To be continued……