the-south-asian.com April 2003
Page 2 of 2
PRAYER FLAGS IN THE CLOUDS
The actual journey to Tawang starts from Guwahati - the capital of Assam. Here one can avail a bus or a taxi to Bomdila. Past the Dirang Valley with its old dzong [fort], the road climbs sharply to the Sela Pass. At 4,249 metres [13,940] feet], this is the second highest motorable pass in the world - the highest being in Ladakh. This barren, desolate landscape is softened by a serene lake that lies below the Sela Pass.
There are beautiful lakes around Tawang, the most picturesque being Pankang Teng Tso lake. It is a beautiful natural site providing the tourists a chance to commune with nature. Other eye-catching lakes are Sangetser and Bangachang.
The area around Tawang became a cause of disagreement between India and China. The monastery was badly damaged by the Chinese invasion of 1962, with priceless murals and Tankhas being destroyed.
Namgayal shows us a memorial to a valiant Indian soldier who held up the advancing Chinese army during the India-China war of 1962. The road near the memorial descends to a beautiful, wide valley. The monastery, dramatically located on a spur surrounded by snowcapped peaks, dominates the valley.
When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, his route into India was through Tawang, and he still visits the area regularly to hold special prayers.
The Bramdungchung Nunnery, associated with Tawang Monastery, is located 12 km northwest of Tawang. The road to the monastery, which can be reached by jeep, reveals a stunning landscape of snowpeaks and monasteries with their fluttering prayer flags. A long prayer wall marks the approach to the nunnery, guarded, as are most monasteries in this region, by fierce Tibetan mastiffs.
Tawang has one main street and a warren of alleys to the houses that climb up the hillside towards the towering monastery. It also has one quaint little bazaar that sells products ranging from talismans and prayer wheels to garish sunglasses and transistor radios. The snack stalls are aplenty offering solja the yak butter tea, thupka and hot mo-mos, the delicious steamed meat dumplings with chilli sauce.
Medicinal herbs grow in abundance in and around Tawang. The locals believe that many of these have amazing magical qualities. Though a tourist may or may not be able to authenticate that, but there is magic all around in this ancient region. Standing atop the Tawang Monastery the landscape can truly take the breath away - strategically placed between China, Tibet and Myanmar but very Indian!
HOW TO REACH
Accommodation in the middle to low budget range is aplenty. Tariffs start
at Rs200 to Rs500. There is a modest Government Tourist Lodge and a Circuit
House as well. Tourists can relish traditional Tibetan food in Tawang.
1] Arunachal Bhawan, Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.
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