This 400 year old monastery is the largest in India and the second largest in Asia. An important place for the Mahayana sect of Buddhism, this monastery is the chief tourist attraction in Tawang. Also known as the Galden Namgyal Lhatse, it is situated at a height of 3500 m. The complex is huge with around 65 building inside, one of which is an amazing library containing old manuscripts. There are around 450 lamas and 700 monks living here currently. This is the single Buddhist structure of such size and magnificence in the country. This monastery is also a center for social and cultural events of Tawang. All in all it forms an essential part of life in the Tawang valley and its beauty and serenity can be compared with very few structures.
Tawang is made up of high mountains, thick snow, deep valleys and crystal blue lakes. One such lake is the Pankang Teng Tso lake. Located 17 kms away from the main town, this lake is a great place for spending some time with nature. The picturesque landscape is a sight for sore eyes. The beautiful blue water running amidt the wilderness, snow capped peaks that glitter with the falling sun rays, chirping birds and gushing water, all make a visit here worth the time. It is hard to come across so much beauty at once and in that aspect Pankang Teng Tso does give it all to you! Note- The best time to visit is in summers since the lake remains frozen during winters.
Hidden from the gaze of many travelers, the Nuranang falls is one of the most spectacular show of nature in the North east. It is situated in a small village of Jang and therefore also called as Jang falls. The falls originate from the sela pass and fall to meet the Tawang River. We were here for hours at a stretch gazing at the roaring waters and taking in the fresh aquatic small that loomed in the air. Since there was almost no tourist there, we had this spectacle all to ourselves!
Dirang is a small village near Tawang famous for its hot water springs and the local tribe. We made this stop to get to know the tribe mostly and it turned out to be a great experience. The Monpa tribe has been occupying this place for about 500 years now with the Dzong fort being built in the 17th century. We also stumbled upon Dirang Dzong, a former Tibetan prison now converted into a residence. The monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, but there was no more information there to explain what the place was about. Guess that is due to the lack of tourism here.
Embedding the war torn history of this place, this memorial is dedicated to Jaswant Singh Rawat, the local hero. There are quite a few legends around how he fought and how he died. He is said to have singlehandedly fought the Chinese soldiers for 72 hours in the Indo-China war. Some say he hanged himself after the Chinese finally closed on him while some claim that the Chinese caught and killed him. Immaterial of what is true and what is not, he is revered and even worshiped in one sense by the Indian soldiers posted here as well as the locals. There is a bust of him that is garlanded and the memorial is filled with people paying their respect to Jaswant Singh's heroism. A journey to Tawang is incomplete without this piece of history.
Finally to the adrenaline part of this trip. The sela pass is teh second highest motorable pass in the world. Time for some adventure travel. Situated on an altitude of 14000 ft, this drive is scary and gorgeous. Sela pass is a great way to enter Tawang to Guwahati. In fact, this is the only road that connects Tawang to the rest of the country. The pass takes you through lakes, monasteries, mountains, valleys, meadows and all there is to the Himalayas. It is literally a ride through the Himalayan beauties. Some consider the road a bit scary to drive on but, I couldn't et enough of the view to divert my attention anywhere else.
This lake was formed during the earthquake of 1950. Situated in the Eastern Himalayas, this lake is considered to be holy by the Buddhists. The lake is also known as Madhuri lake, after a famous song from a Bollywood film starring the Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit was shot here. We enjoyed the sight of the lake nestled in the mountains.. It was also really cold and windy but the weather just added to the fresh beauty of the place. This is one of the few remotest high altitude lakes in the area and is quite close to the border of China. Since the lake is sacred to the Buddhists of India as well as Tibet, both come here on pre-defined days. The lake is quite a beauty though.
I have always wondered why the most beautiful places are also the least visited ones. In the case of Tawang, the pretty little Himalayan town in Arunachal Pradesh, I pretty much get the reasons. For starters it is situated in the most neglected part of this country- the north east. Tawang is also a very remote place and getting there needs a lot of permits and proper guides to the roads (The best way to get into Tawang is through the Sela Pass.) Tawang is also a very disputed area politically and geographically. China has always claimed Arunachal Pradesh was a part of their territory and Tawang was an important target during the Indo-China war. Today, marks of that war still lie on Tawang's soil in the form of the McMohan Line.
But, all of these reasons seem redundant once you enter Tawang's beautiful landscapes. The unexplored and raw charm of Tawang draws you in as you enter the cradle of the Himalayas. There is just so much to cherish in Tawang, natural and cultural, that in one sense it fits into almost all of the traveler's fantasies. Tall mountains, Glittering white snow, Deep blue lakes, warm and welcoming locals, an untouched culture and ancient monuments. It is hard to imagine how all of these aspects can fit so carelessly in one place. But, that is before you reach Tawang Valley.
Apart from absorbing the beauty of the place, there are quite a lot of places to visit in Tawang Valley. Most of them can be reached very easily. There are too many lakes here and it might be difficult to visit all but the Madhuri Lake and the Pakang Teng Tso are not to be missed. Moreover, the Jung Falls will make you feel grateful that you visited Tawang altogether. So will the local tribal people, with their love.
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