Tawang the land of Monks and Monasteries. The birth place of sixth Dalai Lama. Seat of 400 years old Tawang Monastery. The booming tourism hill station. Tawang is a small district in Arunachal Pradesh, the North Eastern State of India’s. This gorgeous hill station is perched at 5400 feet altitude in the northeastern Himalayan mountain range . It shares borders with Tibet in the north and Bhutan in south east.
The place provides an unusual and vibrant flavor of its rich Buddhist culture and heritage. The picturesque landscape of Tawang casts spell on you. The unwinding terrain, lush green tropical woods, snow crown peak, Several glacial lakes, mystical hot springs, quaint and sleepy villages, diverse flora and fauna, pious chanting and hymning of monks, fluttering of colorful Buddhist flags , lots of fresh air. What else one can ask for. Tawang is truly magical place.
Tawang is one of my favorite place because firstly part of my schooling was done here, so lots of memories attached to it. Secondly, I’m a mountain girl who loves hills, jungle, waterfall, snow, and a bumpy ride. It’s like my second home. I love the place. I bet you will fall in love too, with the place once you step in here.
Brief History :
Tawang was once a part of Lhomon or Monyul Kingdom from 500 BC to 600 AD. Later, the Mongyul kingdom got merged with Bhutan and Tibet. Apparently, Tawang became the historic part of Tibet.
The Shimla accord of 1914 demarcated the boundary line between British India and Tibet, which is known as the Mc Mohan line. Tawang fall under the Indian territory. Thus, Tawang became an integral part of India since 1914.
The word Tawang is a Tibetan word that means ” the chosen horse “. There is a fascinating story of how this place got its name. One day a Tibetan monk Mera Lama was strolling in the valley, he saw an adorable horse meandering around. When he wanted to get hold of it, vanished suddenly. He went on searching the horse, reached a very serene and soothing place. There he built a monastery called Tawang Monastery. The town developed in and around the Monastery later called as Tawang .
Tribal Life :
The indigenous tribe of Tawang is called the Monpa. Their origin is unclear but it is believed that they had migrated from Lasha( Tibet ). They are the one of most cordial and welcoming tribe in Arunachal Pradesh. They have a great sense of hospitality. Dr. Verrier Elwin has aptly described Monpas “Gentle,friendly,courteous,industrious, good to animals and children’s,you see influence of the compassionate Lord Buddha on the ordinary man“
- Lifestyle: They lead a very simple life. Mostly they do farming and animal husbandry. They are hard-working people. They are also skilled craft men. They make mask which they put on and dance in festivals. They wear hand woven clothes. They weave their own clothes. They make conscious and collective effort to protect their environment. They are peace-loving people and follow non- violence.
- Clothing: Monpa’s attire is very colorful and vibrant. Women wear a sleeveless red gown with a white stripe known as Shingka. They tie a square-shaped red or black color cloth at the rear of the waist. They wear colorful, lavishly embroidered shirt called Kyanchen. They also wear a Tibetan dress called chuba. The traditional dress of men consists of trousers called Dhorna and a shirt called Toh-Thung. They over- layer shirt with a coat known as Khanjar. The distinctive feature of their attire is the headgear
- Houses: They build houses with stone and wood. The floor is made up of plank. They design their doors and windows beautifully. Such houses keep them warm during chilly winter.
- Religion: They follow Buddhism. They are a firm believer of Lord Buddha. They are very religious in nature.Their major festivals are Losar and Torgya. Mostly celebrated in the month of February -March.
Tawang is famous for:
- Sela Pass and Sela Lake: Sela Pass is a high mountain altitude placed at a height of 4170 m in the Himalayan range. It is covered with a layer of snow full year. It is believed 101 glacial lakes exist in and around Sela Pass. Each lake has huge religious significance to the Monpas. Sela Pass is the gateway to Tawang, Tawang is just 78 km away from Sela Pass. The view from Sela Pass is startling. The icing on the cake is Sela Lake. It so stunningly beautiful, therefore, called Paradise Lake. The lake is a glacial lake, frosts during winters.
- Jaswant Garh: It is a memorial of great Indian Sepoy named Jaswant Singh Rawat , who bravely fought lone, 72 hours, against the Chinese armies at Sela in 1962 Indo- Sino war. He was helped by Monpa women named Sela. Hence, the pass is named after her as Sela Pass. You stop by there, have snacks and tea at the army canteen while enjoying the captivating views of Himalayas.
- Tawang Monastery: Galden Lhatse Namgey Monastery is popularly known as Tawang Monastery. This massive three-a stroyed monastery was founded by the Tibetan monk Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1860. It is 400 years old monastery still standing tall and bright. It is the biggest monastery in India and the second largest in Asia. The monastery houses Parkhang hall a library boosts to have rare Buddhist manuscripts Kangyur and Tengyur. Traditional Tibetan painting on cloth called Thanka Paintings is there for exhibition. On the ground floor, there is 18 feet high enormous buddha statue in the prayer hall. Fascinating paintings of the religious importance of Buddhism are exhibited in the hall. This monastery is not just a pilgrim’s place but a center of learning. Every year Buddhist pilgrims throng here. There are lamas who come to learn religious teachings as young as 5 years. It is 2 km away from Tawang’s main town, nestled at the hilltop. A glimpse of Tawang town and the Himalayas from the monastery is hypnotizing.
- Madhuri Lake : The Sangester Tso lake is popularly known as Madhuri Lake. It is named after the bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit. The movie koyla was shot there. She was the leading actress of the movie. Tso is a Tibetan word means lake. It is one of the remotest lake in our country, tucked between mountainous Himalaya and a lush green valley. It is located on the way to Bum La Pass, near Indo-China border, 15200 feet above sea level. It’s a two hour ride from Tawang, nearly 30 km. It’s a bumpy ride over the non- metlled road. The lake is created in 1950 due the earthquake. This picture perfect location is off the beat destination, great place for those who love wandering in the wilderness. The hallmark of this lake are the dead trees standing tall in the middle of the lake. It frozes completely during winter, literally you can walk over the icy lake.
- Bumla Pass : Bumla Pass is one of the tourist hot spot in Tawang, journey to Tawang is incomplete without visiting spectacular Bumla Pass, situated at 15300ft altitude, is the Indo-China Border. It is the pass from where Dalai Lama entered India after escaping from Tibet. As you march towards bumla pass, transcending quaint and sleepy villages,paranomic nature’s beauty and holly lakes makes your journey memorable. Bulma Pass is encapsulated with snow through out the year. You can see a flabbergasting view of Tibetan plateau. Seeing the Indian Army guarding our nation 24/7 in such a harsh climatic conditions, love and respect grows millions times more for our brave soldiers. Bumla Pass is one of the four BPM(Border Personal Meeting) points between Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army of China. A telescope and few binoculars are kept near the Indian Army check post for visitors to see what the other part of world looks like. There is a Army Cafeteria for refreshments. A special permit is required to visit Bumla Pass, it can be obtained from the office of Deputy Commissioner of Tawang.
Tourist spots in Tawang Main Town:
- Tawang Market : There are three main market in Tawang. They are Old bazaar, Nehru Market and New Bazaar. You can roam around the market, see beautiful handmade carpets, buy souvenirs, enjoy mouth watering hot and spicy local cuisines. Lots of restaurants are there. Hop from one market to another. Bargain with shopkeepers at Tibetan Settlement Market. Interact with locals. Exploring market by foot make you feel like you are playing snake ladder games because you have to ascend and descend the stairs. Though it is a bit tiring but the best way to explore market is by foot.
- Buddha Park
- Craft Center
- Mask Making
- Dorjee Khandu Museum
Activities for Adventure Seeker :
- Cable Car Ride
- Hiking and Trekking at Gorichen Peak
Activities for nature enthusiast:
- Explore the unique flora and fauna: This hill station offers huge number of diverse flora and fauna. It houses the rare species of flora which is found only in Tawang district, it is rich in medicinal plant too. Tawang is famous for its variety of Rhododendrons species of all colors. Apart from flora, It is a store house of diverse animal life. The fauna of Tawang include Panda’s, Snow Leopards, Serow, Red Goral, Crane, Barking Deer and many more.
- Meditate at Monastery
Must see spots in Tawang:
- Hot springs : Tawang has numerous hot springs of medicinal value due to high sulphur content. A dive in hot spring may cure skin related diseases. Famous hot springs of Tawang are Mago Hot spring, Thigbu Hot spring and Tsechu Hot spring
- Waterfalls : Majestic Nuranang waterfall and Bap Teng Kang waterfall are treat to our eyes.
- Nunneries: You must visit Tsun Con Thogchee Choeling Nunnery.
- Chagzam Bridge.
Best time to visit Tawang:
March to October is the the best time to visit Tawang. It’s get really chilly after October month. Lakes get freezes in winter. Roads get jammed with ice.
Where to stay in Tawang:
Numerous hotels and homestays are there. Government Inspection Banglow and a Tourist Guest House. Book the accommodation online in advance.
Who can visit Tawang:
- Adventures seeker
- Nature Enthusiast
- Wildlife lover
- Peace seeker
It offers all kind of experiences to every traveler. Journey to Tawang scares you because of its serpentine road and lots of narrow hairpins turns, then dazzle you with its scenic beauty and then captivate you with it’s magnificence and elegance. At last makes you fall in love with the place. In that sense Tawang is truly magical.
How to reach Tawang:
Tawang is accessible by Air, Road and Train:
- BY AIR : Reach Guwahati and avail the helicopter service from Guwahati to Tawang. The Helicopter journey to Tawang over Bhutan takes around 55 minutes. You may not get seat on the spot at counter due to limited seats. It is advisable to book online in advance.
- BY ROAD : Reach Guwahati, take bus to Tezpur. The Distance between Tawang and Guwahati is 445 km. From Tezpur hire a cab to Tawang . Hiring a cab would be little expensive but you stop over and click pictures wherever you want. Either opt for daily Sumo and Bus Service from Tezpur to Tawang, it would be reasonable ride. Distance between Tezpur to Tawang is 360 km. It’s a 12 hour journey.
- BY TRAIN : Reach Guwahati railway station, take passenger train to Rangapara. On reaching Rangapara hire a cab to Tawang.
Things to remember before visiting Tawang
- Inner Line Permit (ILP) is required for Indian resident to enter Arunachal Pradesh. It can obtained from Arunachal Bhawan at respective states.
- Journey to Tawang is definitely not a smooth ride. Be prepare for roller coaster bumpy ride.
- Don’t forget to pack warm clothes and body lotions.
- Those who are suffering from respiratory diseases are advised to avoid visiting bumla pass, you may have short of breathe due to lack of oxygen in high altitude.