Peace and Awe in the Land of the Rising Sun
Natural phenomena are par for the course in the frontier town of Tawang in India’s unimaginably beautiful state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Text & photographs by Ravinder bawa
It was in the land of the Monpas (pronounced “Memba”) in North-east India’s remote Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh that Indians first got a glimpse of the spectacular engagement of the sun with the earth.
In total congruence with its name which means “land of the rising sun” in Hindi, it is in Arunachal Pradesh that the light of dawn first hits India.
But in Tawang, or for that matter, anywhere in Arunachal Pradesh, one does not have to wait for decades for such a natural phenomenon as one saw on July 23. Awesome vistas greet you everywhere you go in this beautiful and exotic land where nature exists in all her pristine beauty, untouched by man.
Quite literally, it is India’s last frontier – both ecologically and politically - as it is located in the easternmost Himalayas bordering Tibet. Blessed with a landscape reminiscent of mythical Narnia, Tawang is all blue skies, clear lakes, tall peaks, bubbly rivers and greenery and in winter the brightness of these colours is heightened by dazzling white snow.
Arunachal is home to a dozen aboriginal tribal groups who have their own languages and customs with dialects changing every few kilometres. Among them the Monpas – all Buddhists – are the most advanced culturally and one of the rare few to have their own script which is similar to the Tibetan and Pali scripts.
This diversity of cultures is best experienced if you travel by road from Guwahati, which is the nearest airport (550 km). You should do the journey leisurely with stopovers in smaller towns on the way - Bomdilla, Dhirang, Junge - till you reach Tawang. On your way back you can take a helicopter service. This way you get to see the best of all views both from the land and the sky.
The journey is rigorous but full of beautiful stretches of lush green sloping valleys and flowery forest covered mountain peaks. It becomes more exciting after Sela pass (13700 ft).
Despite being a border town its roads are in pretty good shape as they cater to the Indian army. Not surprisingly, on the way you will encounter army contingents, camps and trucks. Their hospitality is legendary. Almost always tired travellers can expect a warm welcome at roadside canteens providing steaming tea, coffee and delicious snacks like samosas, pakoras and biscuits.
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