Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tawang: India’s True Shangri-La

Ancient and rich Buddhist culture, unparalleled Himalayan beauty, kind people and lots of hidden treasures are the things that come to my mind when I think of Tawang. Tawang, is a remote, diverse and special hill station that is located in the Eastern Himalayas of Western Arunachal Pradesh. Cheap flights are available to this region of India from all over the world.

Eastern Himalayan peaks overlook the city of Tawang
Tawang’s rich Buddhist culture stems from it’s proximity to neighboring countries of Bhutan and China occupied Tibet, which are one of the oldest Buddhist centers in the world. And its current political setup also stems from the same closeness to its neighbors. Tawang, which is just a couple of hours away from the China border has seen its share of wars and enemy infiltrations and that is why a lot of this town is under the control of the Indian Army, very much like how Leh is in the Western Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tawang Gompa
It is here that the Monpa and the Sherdukpen tribes are found. These tribes are the followers of the Gelupa sect of the Mahayana School of Buddhism, which is preached at the Tawang monastery, one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world. These tribes and their bloodline, who make up for the large part of Tawang’s population are colorful and make for very interesting interactions. Their cuisine, their dressing style, their religious beliefs, their business sense, et al, make for a fantastic study. A visit to Tawang gives you the rare opportunity to explore the Buddhist lifestyles of the unique and remote Himalayan tribal culture of the Monpas.

Decked up Tawang Gompa entrance - as the Dalai Lama had just visited some hours back
And to top it off, this place is a virtual Shangri-La of snow capped peaks, high altitude lakes, lush forests, smiling valleys, gurgling streams and picture postcard villages with lovely people. It is here that one can see the heady mixture of breathtaking vistas of Himalayan uplands, Monpa villages and the rich monasteries.

The Colourful entrance door to Tawang Gompa
So, if you are looking at a holiday in a hill station and don’t have qualms about traveling a bit too far to explore new cultures and vistas, then do keep Tawang right on top of all your options. The Tawang monastery, the high altitude lakes of PT Tso and Sangetsar, the India-China border at Bumla pass, the high mountain passes and snow capped Himalayan mountains, the famous Ani Gompas, the rare Monpa tribal culture, the exotic Tibetan cuisine, the rich handicrafts and ubiquitous natural beauty is something that you will get to enjoy during a Tawang holiday.

The pride of Tawang - Tawang Gompa
For all those who are interested in traveling to Tawang, keep in mind that the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh needs an inner line permit, which can be got at Guwahati or though a travel agent in Arunachal Pradesh. The only way to reach here is by road via Bomdila, Dirang and Sela Pass unless you feel real lucky and wish to fly in the Pawan Hans helicopters.

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