We welcome you on an adventurous Journey like none other to Sela Pass and Tawang via Shillong and Kaziranga across the following circuit:
Guwahati ~ Shillong ~ Cherrapunji ~ Dawki ~ Kaziranga ~ Dirang ~ Tawang ~ Bumla Pass ~ Bomdila ~ Guwahati
Keeping into consideration the various adventure journeys across India and the World, the travel from Guwahati to Tawang (covering the Kaziranga National Park and the Sela Pass) is one of the most breathtaking! From capturing your moments with the Endangered Indian One Horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga, the Greenery of the Lush Tea Gardens of Assam, the Unadulterated natural landscapes of Arunachal Pradesh at Dirang, the Snow Covered mountains of the Sela Pass, the Holiness of the Lord at the Tawang Monastery and the exquisite Handicrafts and Handlooms of North East India at Bomdila you feel your time standing still for a moment and get to relive a moment entirely different from the hustle and bustle of the fast paced city life. Amazing Arunachal Pradesh Tourism assures to take you on a journey that allow you to rediscover yourself in the lap of Mother Nature perfectly in tune with one of the famous quotes of Lord Buddha ~ It is better to Travel well than to arrive!
Sela Pass is a high altitude mountain Pass that connects the Buddhist City of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh with the plains of Assam. This Pass is situated at 13,700 feet above MSL and is located between Bomdila and Jung in Western Arunachal Pradesh. The only way one can reach Tawang by road is through Sela Pass. The Sela Pass is covered with snow most of the year and offers excellent heavenly views all year round. Very close to the Pass is beautiful Sela Lake, which could be fully or partially frozen in winter. Overall the Sela Pass is one magnificent place to visit an unparalleled view of the mighty Himalayas. In addition to being a place Tourist Attraction, the Sela Pass is special to the Buddhists. The Buddhists of Arunachal Pradesh believe that there are about 101 lakes in and around the Sela pass that are revered by them.
Sela Pass also has a unique legend attached to it that states, a Sepoy of the Indian Army named Jaswant Singh Rawat fought alone against the Chinese soldiers near the pass during the 1962 Sino-Indian War fought in Arunachal Pradesh. A tribal woman who had brought food and water to him (named Sela) is said to have killed herself upon seeing the dead body of Jaswant Singh Rawat. Singh was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his courage and devotion to duty. Local people around Tawang area believe that he has become a saint and his spirit protects the area. A Shrine (Memorial) has been made at the place where he fought and the place is fondly called as Jaswant Garh. All Indian Army personnel passing by this route from General to a Jawan pay their respects here. Jaswant is treated as if he is alive, his boots shined, linen washed, towels changed. Soldiers who polish his shoes claim that they are often found covered with mud, a sign that he has been walking around at night. The Legend goes that convoys in blizzards have seen Jaswant directing the vehicles through the serpentine bends. He continues to receive his promotions on time even after his death.He even gets letters from people seeking his blessings and help in all types of problems.
Tawang is a beautiful hill town located in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The name ‘Tawang’ is believed to have been derived from the ‘Tawang Monastery’ which is located in the midst of Tawang town and is the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India. Tawang town is inhabited primarily by the Monpa Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh who practice Buddhism as their faith. In addition to varied Flora, Tawang, is also home to a wide species of Fauna and Avifauna of the likes of high altitude birds, mammals, reptile species, snow leopard, musk deer, barking deer, bear, etc.
A town of Festivals and Fairs, the major festivals celebrated in Tawang are the Losar, Torgya, Dungyor, Drukpa and Zhapa Saka Dawa. Most important is the Losar Festival which is celebrated every year in February at the Tawang Monastery and marks the beginning of the Tibetan New Year.
The beautiful town of Tawang is at a distance of approximately 70 kilometers from the Sela Pass driving across the Snow Clad mountains of the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. Inhabited by the Monpa Tribes who are primarily Buddhists by religion, Tawang is a town of a wide variety of tree species, blue pines and Orchids grow in natural splendor in the friendly company of precious herbal and medicinal plants. Tawang has a varied Fauna and Avi-Fauna of the likes of high altitude birds, mammals, reptiles, snow leopard, musk deer, barking deer, bear and other animals.
The name Tawang is believed to have derived its name from the grandiose of Tawang Monastery. The popular interpretation is that the name Tawang was given by his holiness the Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso. TA means Horse and WANG means Chosen. As legend goes the site of the present Monastery is believed to have chosen by a Horse owned by Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso. Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso was on search for an appropriate place to establish a Monastery and was unable to locate any appropriate site. Finally he decided to sit on prayer for a guidance of a divine power. As he opened his eyes after prayer, he found his horse missing. So wearily he went out for searching his horse and found it on top of hill calm and quite. Believed it a good omen, Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso decided to initiate a work for building up of Monastery with the help of people living across the land of Monpa in the later part of 17th century according to the wishes of 5th Dalai Lama.
The Tawang Monastery is the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India and the Second Largest Buddhist Monastery in the World after the Potala Palace in Tibet. The Tawang Monastery stands atop a hill at around 1000 feet above the mean sea level and is surrounded by the green mountains of West Kameng. Appearing like a fort, the Tawang Monastery offers a majestic view of the Tawang-Chu valley. This Monastery is the fountain-head of the spiritual life of the Monpa people of Tawang.
How to reach Tawang:
Tawang can be reached via roadways connecting it from Tezpur in Assam. The town of Tezpur is located at a distance of 312 km from Tawang and the total drive time is around 12-14 hours dependant on weather conditions. It is always recommended to take a halt at either Bomdila or Dirang instead of taking a continuous drive from Tezpur to Tawang. The nearest accessible Airport and Railway Station are at Tezpur itself. But flight connectivity from Tezpur to other parts of India are not regular. It is always advised (if you are travelling by air) to arrive at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati and then plan you drive to Tawang by making a halt at either Bmdila or Dirang for a night before continuing on your journey to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
During your stay at Tawang:
- Sight the Tawang Monastery
- Sight the majestic snow Clad peaks of Tawang
- Visit the Jung Fall and the Madhuri Lake near Tawang
- Visit the India and China Border at the Bumla Pass
- Visit the local Monpa settlement a Tawang
- Taste local savories of the Monpa people of Tawang
- Be a part of the religious festivities at Tawang
To Plan your visit to Tawang with Kaziranga National Park and Shillong please fill the form below:
Sample Itinerary for your visit to Shillong, Kaziranga and Tawang ~
Day 1 ~ Guwahati and Cherrapunji
Arrive at Guwahati Airport in the morning. On arrival you will be received by our representative at the airport offering a warm welcome in traditional Assamese style. From the Airport drive to Cherrapunji. Enroute visit the Umiam Lake at Barapani. At Cherrapunji, visit the Nohkalikai Falls and Mawsmai Caves and Seven Sister Falls. Also visit the Arwah caves at Cherrapunji near your homestay.
Night Stay: Sohra Plaza at Cherrapunji or Similar
Meals Included: NA
Day 2 ~ Cherrapunji – Mawlynnong – Dawki – Shillong
Early morning, depart to the Border of India and Bangladesh at Dawki. Click pictures at no man’s Land at the pillar 1275 at Dawki. Later visit the Asia’s Cleanest Village at Mawlynnong. At Mawlynnong visit the Living Root Bridge of Riwai. Travel to Shillong city for night halt after visiting the Elephant falls in Upper Shillong. Arrive at Shillong and check into your Guest House. At Shillong we will visit the Police Bazaar and Madina Masjid – India’s only Glass mosque.
Night Stay: Sunrise Guest House at Shillong or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3 ~ Shillong – Kaziranga National Park
After Breakfast, we will do local sightseeing at Shillong by visiting the Cathedral of Mary’s Help of Christians. Enroute to the Kaziranga National Park. On the way visit the Don Bosco Museum at Shillong which showcases the rich culture of North East India. Arrive at Kaziranga National Park. Evening free to visit the nearby Tea Gardens of Kaziranga.
Night Stay: Nature Hunt Eco Camp at Kaziranga or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4 ~ Kaziranga National Park and Kaziranga Orchid Park
Early morning go for an adventurous Elephant Safari into the interior of Kaziranga National Park. After breakfast go for a Jeep Safari ride into the interiors of the Kaziranga National Park to spot the endangered Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species from a different range. Afternoon, visit the Largest Orchid Park in India at the Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity Park.
Night Stay: Nature Hunt Eco Camp at Kaziranga or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5 ~ Kaziranga – Dirang
After Breakfast, proceed to Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. On the way visit the Tippi Orchard famous for its orange cultivation. Arrive at Dirang.
Night Stay: Hotel Sundupkhan at Dhirang or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6 ~ Dirang – Tawang
After Breakfast, proceed to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. On the way visit the snow covered Sela Pass and Jastwatgarh. Enjoy the scenic drive to Tawang with snow covered mountains all around.
Night Stay: Hotel Bumla Inn at Tawang or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7 ~ Tawang Monastery – Bumla Pass – Madhuri Lake
Early morning depart to Bumla Pass – the border of India and China. Also visit the Madhuri Lake named after Bollywood actress Madhuri during the shooting of movie Koyla. View the PT Tso lake as well. Afternoon visit the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India at the Tawang Monastery.
Night Stay: Hotel Bumla Inn at Tawang or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 8 ~ Tawang – Bomdila
Depart to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. At Bomdila, visit the Bomdila Monastery.
Night Stay: Gompa Monastery Guest House at Bomdila
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 9 ~ Bomdila – Guwahati
Depart to Guwahati from Bomdila. At Guwahati visit the Holy Balaji Temple.
Night Stay: Hotel Vrinda Residency at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 10 ~ Kamakhya Temple – Guwahati Airport
After an early breakfast we will proceed to visit the Holy Maa Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. After Temple Darshan we will drop you at the Guwahati Airport for your onward destination. Trip Ends. Bid Adieu!
Meals Included: Breakfast
Places of Interest in and around Tawang ~
1| Tawang Monastery Tawang
The Tawang Monastery is the largest Buddhist Monastery in India and the second largest in the World after the Potala Palace in Tibet. The Tawang Monastery is the most popular tourist destination in Tawang and it offers majestic panoramic views of the the tawng valley and the towering Eastern Himalayas. The Tawang Monastery is located at an altitude of 10,000 feet above the sea level. This monastery was built in the year 1860 AD by Marak Lama Lodge Gyantso. The entire Tawang Monastery area appears like a grand fort and has huge doors which measure 925 feet in length and 20 feet high. Once you enter the premises of the Tawang Monastery you are filled with an immense sense of calm and inner peace. The large prayer hall is filled with various artwork depicting the sketches of various Buddhist monks and Saints. Inside the prayer hall there is a large statue of Lord Buddha. A visit to Tawanf Monastery is a must for any traveller to Arunachal Pradesh.
2| Sangestar Tso (Madhuri Lake) Tawang
The Sangestar Lake was formed by the earthquake of 1950 and is now a very popular tourist attraction near Tawang. This lake came to be known as the Madhuri Lake after the successful shooting completion of the Bollywood Movie “Koyla” here and the lake came to be known as Madhuri Lake after the renowned actress Madhuri Dixit. The Madhuri lake is surrounded by snow covered mountain peaks and beautiful valleys. This is the most popular lake in Tawang district and a leisure walk is the best way to explore the area around the lake.
3| Bumla Pass Tawang
The Bumla Pass is the India-China border that is located at an elevation of 5,000 meters above the mean sea level. The Bumla Pass i famous as this place marked the entry point of Dalai Lama into India. This place instills a spirit of patriotism towards the country in the minds of the travellers as you can see the Indian soldier patrolling the borders under the harshest temperature conditions. However, prior permission is needed to visit the Bumla Pass from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Tawang district. The best way to reach Bumla Pass is to hire a local SUV at Tawang and then travel to the Pass from Tawang on a clear day as the route is not an a plain. Visit the madhuri lake on your way to the Bumla Pass at Tawang.
4| Nuranang Falls/Jung Falls Tawang
One of the most popular waterfalls in North East India, the Nuranang Falls of the Jung Falls on the approach from Bomdila to Tawang falls down from a height of 100m. The water source for the Jung falls originates from the Sela Pass with the Nuranang river forming the waterfall and finally plunging into the Tawang river as the Nuranang falls. As per legends, this waterfall is named after a local monpa girl “Nura” who is believed to have helped Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat who had put up a brave resistance against the Chinese troops during the war of 1962. The waterfall offers majestic views and this is a popular tourist attraction. In addition to being a popular tourist spot, the waters of the Jung falls is used to generate electricity as well and there is a small hydel power plant located at the base of the Jung falls near Tawang.
5| Gorichen Peak Tawang
Situated at a height of 6858 m, the Gorichen Peak is the highest mountain peak of the State of Arunachal Pradesh located in the Tawang district. The Monpa people of Tawang consider the Gorichen Peak to be sacred and they also believe that it protects the community from any evil. A popular tourist spot in Tawang district, the Gorichen Peak offers various activities around its area like camping, trekking and mountain climbing, etc. It is advisable to be a certified mountain climbing professional before you decide to conquer the gorichen peak. This mountain peak is visible on a clear day on your journey from Bomdila to Tawang by road. The best time to visit the Gorichen Peak in Tawang is in the months of April, May and post October.
6| Gorsam Chorten Zemithang Tawang
Another popular tourist destination near Tawang is the Gorsam Chorten at Zemithang. This is a high stupa that was constructed in the 13th century by Lama Pratha who hailed from the Zemithang village. Zemithang is located around 92 km from Tawang. The stupa is 93 feet high and has a base width of 186 feet. This stupa is similar to the Boudhanath stupa in Nepal. Every year during the Gorzam Kora festival, thousands of devotees come to the Gorsam Chorten Stupa to offer their prayers and take part in the festivities that falls on the first month of the lunar calendar every year.
7| The Chagzam Bridge Tawang
The Chagzam bridge is another popular tourist destination near Tawang. The architectural marvel of this iron bridge speaks of fine craftsmanship in metallurgy. The Chagzam bridge is located at a distance of 25 km from Tawang and was built by the disciple of Dalai Lama – Lama Chag-Zam Wangpo (Tangton Gyalpo). Tyangton Gyalpo was accredited with the building of more than 100 iron bridges across the Himalayan region. The Chagzam bridge was built around 1420-1430 and was to be used as a passage between Kitpi and Mukto areas.
8| Tawang War Memorial Tawang
The Tawang War Memorial is dedicated to the brave Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Sino-India war of 1962. A beautiful stupa stands stop paying tribute to the brave souls. The Tawang War Memorial is located at a distance of 1 km from the main town of Tawang and sends a strong message that the brave soldiers of the Indian army always would protect their motherland and keep fighting for the security of their land until their last breath.
9| Hot Springs Tawang
The two hot springs of Tsachu and Thingbu are located nearby Tawang town and are a popular tourist spot for providing unique and pristine views. These springs are drawing tourists as a place for unique health rejuvenation at Tawang.
10| Urgelling Monastery Tawang
The Urgelling Monastery has gained prominence as being the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Tashi. This monastery is located at a distance of 3 km from the Tawang township. The Urgelling Monastery was built in the year 1487 and the Dalai Lama was born in 1683 here. This is a small Monastery as compared the to Tawang Monastery however it holds a great religious significance among the Buddhist people of Tawang and in the World as well. The Urgelling village where this Monastery is located is a very serene place where one can spend their day walking around the village admiring the culture and heritage of the Monpa people of Tawang.
11| Taktsang Gompa Tawang
Located on the way to the Bumla Pass, the Taktsang Gompa near Tawang offers a unique divine and spiritual retreat to any traveller. This Gompa is located at a distance of 40 km from Tawang on a hilly terrain. This stretch takes a drive time of almost 2 hours and a hike of about 30 minutes to reach. The Taktsang Gompa is located at an elevation of almost 13,000 feet atop a cliff. One of the finest religious places to visit near Tawang, the sight and surroundings of this Gompa fills your mind and soul with peace and tranquility. The Taktsang Gompa was visited by Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century where he meditated in the cave here. This Gompa is visited by thousands of devotees every year.
12| Regyaling Gompa Tawang
Another Gompa within the premises of Tawang city is the Regyaling Gompa. The Regyaling Gompa at Tawang came into existence as talks of hardships faced by Rigya Rinpoche came into narration across the people of Tawang. It is a very beautiful Gompa structure, the Reggyaling Gompa is located a kilometer away from Tawang township. The Gompa has been under the care of Chang Sey after the death of the founder of the Gompa.
13| Brahma Dung Chang Ani Gompa
This Gompa is located 8 km from Tawang township and the place offers stay options for tourists and pilgrims. This Gompa near Tawang was built in 1595 by Lama Karchen Yashi Galek and since then this place has offered refuge to visitors. This Gompa also shelters Buddhist nuns from various age groups as well.
14| Banga Jang Lake Tawang
Yet another spot near Tawang that offers majestic views is the Banga Jang lake. Local Monpas of Tawang area believe that this lake is possessed by deities and therefore many pilgrims to Tawang visit this lake and try their luck to catch a glimpse of these deities here. Once you are here you feel very spiritual and would love to spend some quiet time in meditation here.
15| Panganag Teng Tso Lake Tawang
Popularly known as the P.T. Tso Lake, this is a very popular tourist attraction of Tawang. The entire backdrop of the P.T. Tso lake is magnificent as one can see the towering Himalayan Mountain range and the beautiful valleys and rivers, quaint clouds, wet snow covered forests and sweet chirping of birds in the sky. To reach the P.T. Tso lake it is a 17 km drive from Tawang across the Himalayan mountain ranges. Driving further takes you to the beautiful Shong-Tser lake that also offers various picturesque views.
16| Sela Pass Tawang
The Sela Pass is a high altitude mountain pass in the Tawang district that remains covered with snow across the year. The Sela Pass is located at an altitude of 13,700 feet and falls along the way from Bomdila to Tawang. It is an army base as well at the Jaswantgarh base. This popular tourist destination near Tawang is always filled with tourists who halt here to admire the beautiful snow clad mountains view. An interesting feature of the Sela Pass is that the area houses around 101 lakes around the Pass which are revered by the Monpa people of Tawang. Therefore it is also called as the Paradise Lake because of its appeal and beauty. The best time to visit the Sela Pass is during the winters to experience the snowfall here.
Shillong – Kaziranga – Tawang Tour ~
Of all the exotic travel destinations across North East India, the most popular tourist circuit happens to be that of Shillong – Kaziranga and Tawang. Visitors from across India and the World come to explore North East India keeping in mind this tourist circuit of Shillong – Kaziranga and Tawang. All these three destinations are located in 3 different states of North East India at Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, Shillong is the State capital of Meghalaya often referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’. This title was given to the place by the British who came to the place and established it as the then capital of Assam province and they found the landscape of Shillong very similar to that of Scotland. Shillong is a bustling city that shows visitors a balance of the modern and the traditional life. Home to the Khasi people of Meghalaya, at Shillong you get to witness the matrilineal system that exists among the Khasi people of Meghalaya. Numerous waterfalls, mountain peaks, canyons, valleys, etc. complete the landscape of Shillong. The modern city can be seen at the center of the city where visitors get to see the high rise buildings, top class malls, modern markets, etc. The popular tourist attractions of Shillong are Ward’s lake, Umiam lake, Botanical gardens, Police bazar, Cathedrals of Shillong, Don bosco museum, Elephant falls, Shillong peak, Laitlum canyons, Abbey falls, Polo grounds, Shillong golf course, Sweet falls, Butterfly museum, Lady Hydari park, Madina Masjid, etc.
Kaziranga National Park on the other hand is an opposite of a modern city. This place is a dense forest covering an area of over 429 sq km and has one of the richest biodiversity across the World. Kaziranga National Park is located at 200 km from Guwahati and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros. Kaziranga has the highest population of the endangered Indian One Horned Rhinoceros anywhere in the World. Kaziranga also has the highest population of Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes and four Deer species along with a fair population of Tigers, Leopards, Wild Elephants, Boars, Hoolock Gibbons and various species of Birds and Reptiles as well. Kaziranga National Park is the most famous tourist destination of North East India and every year thousands of visitors come here to witness the varied flora, fauna and avi fauna of Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga is also home to the largest Orchid park in India at the Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity Park. Entry into the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park is allowed across four (4) different ranges of the park at the Central range (Kohora), Western range (Bagori), Eastern range (Agoratoli) and the Burapahar range (Ghorakati). While Elephant safari rides are conducted at the Central and Western ranges, the Jeep safari rides into the interiors of Kaziranga National Park are conducted across all the four ranges. We welcome you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Kaziranga National Park.
Tawang on the other hand offers an altogether different landscape from Shillong and Kaziranga National Park. Perched at an elevation of 10,000 feet above MSL, Tawang remains covered with snow around the year. So across this tour of Shillong, Kaziranga and Tawang you can get to witness 3 totally different landscapes along your journey. From the valleys, gorges and waterfalls of Meghalaya to the lush green forest cover of Kaziranga National Park to the snow laden mountains of Tawang. Tawang is a Land of Festival and Fairs as these have always been an integral part of the Monpa Tribes of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The festivals of Monpas are mostly associated with agriculture and religion. Monpas of Tawang district celebrates numbers of festivals every year. Some of the important festivals are Losar, Torgya, Dungyur, Choekor, Ganden Ggamchoe, Drukpa, Tse-ze and Zhepa Saka Dawa.
Two major festivals namely DUNGYUR and TORGYA festival are celebrated in the premises of the Tawang Monastery. The people from all parts of the district come on these auspicious occasions and enjoy with cheer and joy. Dungyur festival is celebrated once in three years. The Torgya festival is a Monastic festival being celebrated in the month of January every year. At the occasion of this festival a monastic dances are performed in the courtyard of the Tawang Monastery.
Losar festival is also one of the major festivals of Monpa people, which is celebrated in the last part of February and early part of March every year to commemorate the “New Year”.
Across this Tour of Shillong – Kaziranga – Tawang, the places we will cover are ~
1| Shillong – The Scotland of the East, Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya. A bustling city, shillong gives you an insight into the lives of the Khasi people of Meghalaya. Places of prime interest in Shillong are the Ward’s lake, Botanical gardens, Police bazar, Laitlum canyons, Shillong peak, Elephant falls, Don Bosco museum, Cathedrals of Shillong, Polo grounds, Shillong golf course, Abbey falls, Madina masjid, etc.
2| Cherrapunji – The land of valleys, gorges, pristine waterfalls, mysterious caves and the Living root bridges. Cherrapunji is the Second wettest place of Earth. Places of prime interest in Cherrapunji are the Nohkalikai falls, Seven sister falls, Mawsmai caves, Umshiang double decker living root bridge, Arwah caves, Eco park, Dainthlen falls, Cherrapunji local market, etc.
3| Dawki – Dawki is the Border of India and Bangladesh and is also famous for the clear water boating on the waters of the Umngot river. Places of interest at Dawki are the International border of India and Bangladesh, Boating on the clear waters of umngot river, Adventure sports at shnongpdeng, Camping by the riverside on umngot river at Shnongpdeng.
4| Mawlynnong – The cleanest village in Asia – Mawlynnong provides a deep insight into the lives of the Khasi people of Meghalaya and a success story of how tourism can reform a place. Places of interest at Mawlynnong are the Cleanest village in Asia, the Holy Cathedral of Mawlynnong, Khasi traditional homestays, Balancing rocks, Bangladesh view tree house, Riwai single decker living root bridge, etc.
5| Kaziranga National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga National Park is one of the most diverse forest areas in the entire World famed for its success story in the conservation of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species. Things to in Kaziranga are go for Elephant and Jeep safari rides into the interiors of Kaziranga National Park, visit the Kaziranga Orchid Park, visit the Tea gardens of Kaziranga, etc.
6| Dirang – A beautiful valley area in Arunachal Pradesh, Dirang town lies midway between the journey to Tawang from Tezpur. Dirang town has a very picturesque landscape overlooking the towering eastern himalayas. Places of interest at Dirang are the Dirang Monastery, Dirang Dzong fort, Sangti valley, Tippi orchards, Kiwi gardens, Apple orchards, etc.
7| Tawang – The home to the Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang lies at an elevation of 10,000 feet above MSL and remains covered with snow the year across. Tawang is the halt over place to proceed to Bumla Pass. Places of interest in Tawang and on the way to Tawang are Tawang Monastery, Tawang local market, Tawang War memorial, Jung falls, Jaswantgarh, Sela Pass, etc.
8| Bumla Pass – The Border of India and China, Bumla Pass is located at an elevation of 14,000 feet above MSL. The view of the snow covered mountains here is simply breathtaking. Places of interest at Bumla Pass and along the way are the Border of India and China, Pt Tso lake, 102 other small lakes, Madhuri lake, etc.
9| Bomdila – The layover point on your journey from Tawang to Tezpur. Bomdila is famous for the Bomdila Monastery and the Bomdila local market.
10| Guwahati – The gateway to Assam and North east India, Guwahati is the fastest growing city across North East India. Guwahati is an industrial hub and it connects all the major states if North East India via roadways and the states of India across Airways and Railways. Places of interest at Guwahati are Maa Kamakhya Temple, Umananda Temple, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, Deepor Beel, Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, Regional science museum, Assam state museum, Assam State Zoo, Basistha temple, Balaji temple,l Temple of North Guwahati, Hajo, Suwalkuchi, Chandubi lake, etc.
Hosting our Guests from Pune at Tawang, Kaziranga and Shillong
In the month of February 2019, we hosted our guests group from Pune starting from Guwahati, Tawang, Kaziranga National Park, Shillong and back to Guwahati. This was a group of 26 elderly people who had come down from Pune to enjoy their tour of North East India across 10 days. Even though the travellers were all aged 50 and above their enthusiasm was always at the peak and they took the moments to enjoy all of their tour. We started our journey from picking them up at the Airport and we executed the entire tour until dropping them back at the airport. Our team members Krishna and Kaustav accompanied the guests on two 17 seater Tempo Travellers and attended to all their needs. As the group members were elderly, special attention was needed to be provided to the group especially during the high altitude climb at the Sela Pass to reach Tawang. The group members were strict vegetarians so their diet had to be taken care of as well as the places they were travelling to were having a population of non vegetarian diet preferring people. Our detailed Itinerary and travel experience is narrated below:
Day 1 (February 3rd) ~ Guwahati
Krishna and Kaustav went to the airport to reach by 10 AM as the guests were scheduled to arrive at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport at Guwahati at 10.30 AM. The flight was on time and by 11 AM the guests were out of the airport. Krishna and Kaustav greeted the entire group and welcomed them by adorning a traditional Assamese ‘Gamusa’ around their necks. The tempo traveller vehicles were waiting for the guests to board and shortly they started on their journey to Guwahati city. As the guests were hungry we first decided to make a stop for lunch at a traditional Assamese restaurant in Guwahati. We took them to a restaurant at Ambari in Guwahati. The food ordered was vegetarian traditional Assamese thali for the group. The guests enjoyed their lunch and we proceeded to visit the Umananda Temple at Umananda Island. We reached the ferry ghat at Uzan bazar and went to board the ferry to go to Umananda island in Guwahati. The Umananda Island that is home to the Umananda temple is the smallest inhabited river island in the World. This island is also home to the last few surviving species of the Golden langur primate species. We crossed the Brahmaputra river onboard the ferry and reached Umananda Island in 15 minutes. Then we climbed a few stairs to reach the entrance of the Umananda Temple. The group members purchased their puja offerings and then went in to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva inside the Umananda temple. After their darshan it was around 2 PM and we went to check in the guests at their hotel – the Sai Kripa Inn at Chandmari in Guwahati.
After refreshing themselves, thes guests were taken to the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra in Guwahati. The Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra where you can get to witness the rich culture and heritage of the people of Assam. Located in the heart of Guwahati city, the area is spread across a sprawling green campus with a huge garden, a parking area, a museum building, an amphitheatre, office buildings, traditional souvenir shops and a food court as well. We took the group to the main museum building where they got to witness the culture of the varied indigenous people of Assam as well as their way of living as depicted in the models. There were display of various bamboo handicrafts of Assam, the handlooms of Assam as well as the bell metal crafts of Assam. The museum depicted the indigenous people of Assam and their way of living in villages all nearrated in the form of elaborate models. After this, the group relaxed for a while in the green lawn area of the Kalakshetra. We ordered tea and light snacks for the group at the IORA-Canteen and later went back to the Hotel. At the hotel we ordered for their dinner and had a small get to know each other session. After dinner the group retired to their rooms.
Day 2 (February 4th) ~ Guwahati – Dirang
Today we were set to travel to Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh from Guwahati. The group was ready at 8 AM and we went for breakfast at the Hotel. At 8.45 we set out on the drive to Dirang. We crossed Khanapara, Jorhat, Sonapur, Jagiroad, Raha, Nagaon to reach Amoni. At Amoni we made a quick halt for tea and snacks for the group. After half and hour we started on the drive again to go to Kaliabor where we took a left to head to Tezpur and then to Balipara crossing Nameri National Park forest reserve to finally arrive at Bhalukpong. At Bhalukpong we had to validate our Inner Line permits (ILPs) for the group which they had applied online and brought along. It was around 1 PM and we made our halt at Bhalukpong for lunch. We stopped at the Norling restaurant at Bhalukpong. Krishna and Kaustav had already informed the restaurant of our group’s arrival and ordered for the lunch to save time. As the guests wanted a light lunch keeping into consideration the curvy roads ahead to Dirang they had rotis, veg sabji, paneer bhurji and pickle for lunch.
At around 1.45 PM the group started to drive across the towering eastern himalayas now. After about 45 minutes we could see a long line of cars, buses and sumo vehicles waiting ahead of us. Our travellers stopped and Krishna and Kaustav went to enquire the cause for this halt. It seemed that there was a landslide a little while ago and the PWD dept. of Arunachal Pradesh were now trying to clear the roads with earthmover machines. This got us stuck for almost 2 hours and the sun was also setting. Anyways the group started on their drive again and finally arrived at Dirang at 6.30 PM. The stay at Dirang was booked at the Aoo Resort here. This is a nice place to halt in Dirang as it is located along a valley from where you get a beautiful view of the mountains as well as Dirang town. As we reached late we had nothing much to do apart from sitting by the bonfire and speaking. We ordered for the group’s dinner that had rotis, rice, dal fry, gobi manchurian, matar paneer, salad, papad and pickle. Dinner was served at 8.30 PM and everybody got busy eating after a long journey and retired to their rooms.
Day 3 (February 5th) ~ Dirang – Tawang
The next day everybody was up by 6 AM and we took a short hike behind the hotel area where we could see the lush valleys and mountains. Dirang is known for its various bird species both resident and migratory and we were successful in spotting many of the birds as well. we came back to the Aoo resort and had our breakfast of Puri Sabji and tea/coffee. Everyone packed their bags and we started on our drive to Tawang from Dirang at around 8.30 AM. We made our first halt for sightseeing at the Dirang Monastery. A newly constructed Buddhist Monastery, the Dirang Monastery is located at an elevation of 8000 feet above MSL. The spectacular construction is a real treat to a visitor’s eyes. Dirang is home to the Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh who practice Buddhism as their faith and so there are various small monasteries across the numerous small villages around Dirang town especially at Sangti valley near dirang. As we did not have much time in hands we did not include these untouched paradise of a place in our itinerary this time. We do of course conduct various offbeat, cultural and birding as well as hiking tours across sangti valley in Dirang but not on this tour. we explored the Dirang Monastery for 30 minutes admiring its grand architecture and also spent a moment of silence inside the prayer hall and then started on our drive again towards Jaswantgarh and Sela Pass to approach Tawang.
On the way we sighted the Kiwi garden and the Apple orchard from the vehicle itself in the interest of time. We continued on our drive and gradually the roads started to get narrower and the mountains were starting to be seen to be covered with snow. We kept driving to finally arriving at the Jaswantgarh. We made a halt here to sight the Jaswantgarh War Memorial and to have tea and samosas that are served by the brave soldiers of the Indian army. It was really heartwarming to see these brave soldiers surviving the harshest weather conditions and standing tall to serve their motherland. The temperatures were freezing cold and yet these brave soldiers put a smile on their faces and they welcomed us to Jaswantgarh War Memorial. The Jaswantgarh War Memorial stands as a symbol of bravery of the Indian Army as this memorial is dedicated to a sepoy of the Indian army Jaswanth Singh who single handedly gave the Chinese army a tough battle here at Sela Pass during the Indo-China war until the chinese army captured him. Tales of his bravery are still sung in tunes of the soldiers of the army who guard the fronts from any outside invasion. The army soldier guided us across the Jaswantgarh war memorial where we paid our tributes to the brave martyr.
We came out at the small shop area here near the war memorial to have black tea that is served free of cost to all travellers here. We also bought hot samosas as lunch was not sure due to the climate conditions. There is a shop here that sells army goods like gloves, woolen wears, cpas, jackets, etc. The group members got busy with shopping for a while and then we left Jaswantgarh to continue to Sela Pass. The roads now were getting covered with snow. After about an hour we reached the summit of the Sela Pass. A breathtaking view caught our eyes and the entire area of mountains was covered with snow. We stopped our vehicles here and the visitors were all very excited to see the snowfall here. They immediately got down and started playing with the snow here. It looked like as if we had brought a group of teenagers here who were happily playing for the first time in snow. They made snowballs and started hitting each other with it. Some elders even started chewing the snow while Krishna and Kaustav stood there shivering. It was really nice to see them lose their worries of a busy life and living in the moment. They went down for sightseeing as well where they saw the frozen Sela lake. After sometime we started on our drive to Tawang crossing the valleys and mountains and we finally arrived at Tawang at 7 PM. It was pitch dark and the markets and shops were all closed. We checked into our Hotel at Tawang – Hotel Monyul and everybody were allocated their rooms. The dinner was ordered and people had to eat the food on serving as it was very very cold and the food would get cold very fast. Visitors got to their rooms and immediately turned on the heater to beat the cold. They asked for their dinner to be served in their rooms as they did not want to come to the restaurant in the cold. Everyone finished their dinner and retired for the day.
Day 4 (February 6th) ~ Tawang – Bumla Pass – Tawang
Today we were all scheduled to go to the Bumla Pass near Tawang that is the border of India and China. The Bumla Pass is located at an elevation of 15,200 feet above MSL and it connects India with Tibet as well. The 14th Dalai Lama has come to India via this route itself. The Bumla Pass remains covered with snow across the year and it is advisable to go here on a clear day only due to snowfall and the narrow roads. The Bumla Pass is heavily guarded by the soldiers of the Indian Army and BSF on the Indian side and the Soldiers of the People Liberation Army of China on the other. This place is also one of the 5 designated official meeting points of both these armed forces as they meet here once a while to discuss better relations. Special permission is required to go to the Bumla Pass from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Tawang district and also the same has to be stamped by the Indian army cantonment in Tawang. Also you cannot go to Bumla Pass with the vehicle you take from Guwahati or any other vehicle you hire from another place. You will have to hire local SUV vehicles at Tawang to go to your onward journey to Bumla Pass from Tawang and back.
We had our documents ready and also our SUV rides (Mahindra Bolero – 8 nos) were ready at 7.30 AM to take us to Bumla Pass from our Hotel in Tawang. The drive is further up the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and it would get even more colder so the group members were adequately briefed to carry all woolen clothing. We started on our drive from Tawang at 8 AM after having tea and biscuits to continue to Bumla Pass. After driving for about 2 hours we reached the Y junction. At the Y junction we made a stop at the Indian army outpost here. Here too the Indian army serves free tea and Hot samosas (on purchase) to keep the travellers motivated along the journey. The group headed for a short sightseeing time here and came back soon to have tea and samosas for breakfast. After tea we continued to head straight to go to Bumla Pass. The roads were getting narrower and the climb steeper. We reached the Pt Tso lake shortly and also many other lakes we crossed on the way. After driving for another hour we finally arrived at Bumla Pass. The Bumla Pass was heavily guarded as usual by the brave soldiers of the Indian army and the Border Security Forces (BSF) as this is the border of India and China. The group got down from the vehicles and went out for sight seeing of the India China border and the snowfall all around. We explored the place for sometime speaking to the army personnel and thanking them for guarding our frontiers for us so that we could get a good night’s sleep. The always smiled and thanked us back shouting slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’! A sense of pride fills your heart once you see these brave men battling all odds thousands of mile away from their homes surviving in the chilly weather of these frontiers.
We left Bumla Pass at around 12 PM to continue to drive back to the Y junction. This time at the Y junction we took a left to go see the Madhuri lake. The drive from Bumla Pass to Madhuri lake is about an hours time and along the total drive we sight a total of 102 lakes which are considered sacred by the Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh. We finally reached Madhuri lake at around 1 PM. A beautiful place, this lake is named after the Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit who had come here in 1997 to shoot for the Bollywood movie Koyla starring along the Indian Superstar – the Badshah of Bollywood Shahrukh Khan. The lake was partially frozen and the group got to clicking their pictures here. After this we all gathered at the Army Canteen here for lunch as there is nothing else. A simple yet delicious meal of roti, sabji, pickles was served here and we enjoyed it and started on our drive back to Tawang. We reached Tawang at 4 PM and we headed straight to explore the Tawang Monastery. The largest Buddhist Monastery in India and the second largest in the World, the Tawang Monastery is an architectural finesse that leaves visitors awestruck! We went inside the monastery and started exploring the place. The Buddhist monks were all immersed in their prayers and devotion and we found the place very peaceful. After exploring the Tawang Monastery we all returned back to our Hotel in Tawang town.
Day 5 (February 7th) ~ Tawang – Bomdila
Today morning we were set to leave Tawang after a memorable time here to embark on our return journey via Bomdila. We left Tawang at around 9 AM after breakfast to travel to Bomdila after having to cross the Sela Pass. We continued driving and reached Sela Pass at around 12 PM. To our bad luck, this time we were not lucky and got caught up in heavy snowfall at Sela Pass. Vehicular movement was completely stopped. Due to high altitude some of the elderly travellers began to feel altitude sickness as well. The Indian army offered help and we took the elderly lady to the army camp where she was provided with oxygen mask to breathe in fresh oxygen as the level of this gas was low at higher altitudes. The Tempo drivers tied ropes on the wheels to the vehicles to increase the grip on the snow covered roads. Finally at 5 PM the Indian army was successful in clearing the roads for travel at Sela Pass and we started on the drive to Bomdila. By the time we arrived at Bomdila it was almost 9.30 PM. Our stay at Bomdila was arranged at Hotel Elgin and Krishna informed the hotel staff to prepare our dinner and keep it ready. The tired travellers checked into their rooms and dinner was served to them in their rooms itself. They had their dinner and retired to bed after a long and hectic journey.
Day 6 (February 8th) ~ Bomdila – Kaziranga National Park
Today was our final day in Arunachal Pradesh and due to the experience the previous day the travellers were excited to finally enter Assam and reach the plains. After breakfast we started on our drive to Kaziranga National Park. We had a plan of visiting the Bomdila Monastery but the group wanted to get out of Arunachal Pradesh as soon as possible and so we skipped our visit here and proceeded on our drive to Kaziranga National Park. We arrived at Tezpur at 12 PM and we made a halt here for lunch at the Spring Valley resort. We had our vegetarian lunch here and then left Tezpur to reach the Kaliabhomora bridge. This time we went underneath the bridge to go to a place for River Dolphin sighting. The river dolphins were once found in abundance across Assam in the waters of the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries. But due to uncontrolled hunting their numbers have reduced drastically and are now classified under the endangered category with their populations limited to the protected areas in Assam. One popular spot to sight these river dolphins is near the Tezpur area under the Kaliabhomora bridge. The man who runs this small camp like area welcomed us here and we got down from the vehicle to go for river dolphin sighting. We took our seats here and in sometime spotted a river dolphin jumping out of the waters of the river. After sometime another one and in total we spotted about 6 of them. It was a memorable experience to watch these beautiful mammal species swimming around freely in the waters. We finished our sighting and started on our drive to Kaziranga National Park.
We reached Kaziranga National Park at around 4 PM and we headed at first to the Kaziranga Orchid Park – the Largest Orchid Park in India. At the Kaziranga Orchid Park we admired the various indigenous orchid species of Assam as well as the various traditional handicrafts and handlooms of Assam. The visitors got busy with shopping at the souvenir area here and they bought tea, rice, herbal medicines, etc. We were up for the closing ceremony of the day at the Kaziranga Orchid Park and various cultural performances would be now displayed at the open stage area here. We saw the bamboo dance, mishing dance and the bihu dance as well. We ended our visit at the Kaziranga Orchid Park at 5.30 PM and went to check into our place of stay for the night at the Dhanashree Resort in Kaziranga National Park. The visitors were allocated their rooms and they retired for the night to get up early at 5 AM to go for their Elephant Safaris here in Kaziranga National Park.
Day 7 (February 9th) ~ Kaziranga National Park – Shillong
The guests were up at 5 AM and took their time to get ready to go for the 6.30 AM Elephant safari slot from the Bagori Safari range here at Kaziranga National Park. We left Kohora at 5.45 AM to reach Bagori at 6.10 AM. Krishna and Kaustav led the group to the Bagori Elephant Safari office and collected their passes and they proceeded for their Elephant Safari rides. Elephant safari rides for Indian Nationals are allowed in the Bagori (Western) range of Kaziranga National Park and so the group climbed atop the Elephant and went in the forest reserves for their safari rides. After about an hour they came out of the park interiors with a smile on their faces and we understood that they enjoyed their Elephant safari rides here at Kaziranga National Park. We travelled back to the Dhanashree resort where the group had their breakfast and got ready for the Jeep Safari ride into the interiors of Kaziranga National Park at the Central (Kohora) range.
The Jeeps picked us up from the Resort and took us to the safari entry point at the Kohora Safari range. After making an entry at the gate we started on the Jeep safari ride into the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park. On the ride we spotted various animal species like the One Horned Rhinoceros, Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Hog Deers, Deers, Wild Boars, Elephants, Jungle Fowls, etc. We also sighted snake species and various bird species as well. We finally finished our ride and came out of the park at 10.30 AM. The group went to pack their bags and at 11.30 we started on our journey to Shillong from Kaziranga National Park. At around 1 PM we reached Nagaon and we made a stop for lunch at the Seven Sisters dhaba here. A traditional vegetarian thali meal was ordered for the group and it was an elaborate presentation. The group loved the traditional Assamese lunch and after lunch we started on the drive to Shillong. We reached Jorabat at around 3 PM and took a left to go towards Shillong. We crossed Nongpoh, Umsling to finally arrive at Barapani at around 4 PM. Here we made a stop to view the waters of the grand Umiam lake near Shillong. Umiam is the largest man made water reservoir in North East India and the waters here look very crystal clear. We ordered for tea and biscuits for everyone here and the group clicked their pictures near the Umiam lake. We started on our drive to Shillong again and finally arrived at the Pine Hill Homestay at Upper Shillong at around 6.30 PM. The group checked into their rooms and Krishna ordered their dinner. The Pine Hill Homestay is located away from the hustle and bustle of Shillong city and is a beautiful place to spend a night. Dinner was served at 9 PM and the group retired to their rooms after dinner.
Day 8 (February 10th) ~ Shillong – Dawki – Mawlynnong – Cherrapunji
The next day morning we started on our drive to Dawki from Upper Shillong. Dawki is the International border of India and Bangladesh and is also renowned for boating on the clear waters of the Umngot river here. We crossed Pynursla and finally arrived at Dawki at 11 AM. We went to the border area here where the group crossed the Indian border to reach no man’s land at pillar 1275. here they clicked their pictures and we next came to the boating point at Dawki. We had arranged for 5 boats for the group and they went for their boat ride experience on the waters of the Umngot river at Dawki. The boat ride on the clear waters lasted for about 45 minutes and at 12.45 PM we started on our drive to Mawlynnong – the Cleanest Village in Asia to arrive at 2 PM. At Mawlynnong, at first we had our lunch and then took a walk along the cleanest village in Asia. After this we sighted the balancing rocks and then went to see the Living Root Bridge of Riwai here at Mawlynnong. The visitors were all excited to see this man made bioengineering marvel of the Living Root Bridge here at Mawlynnong. At 4.30 PM we started on our drive to Cherrapunji. We reached Cherrapunji at 7 PM and checked into the Saimika resort at Cherrapunji. The group were allocated their rooms and dinner was served at 9 PM. After dinner they retired to their rooms.
Day 9 (February 11th) ~ Cherrapunji – Guwahati
The next day we were all set to explore Cherrapunji before heading back to Guwahati. We started at 8.30 AM by first exploring the Nohkalikai Falls – the tallest plunge waterfall in India. The beauty of this waterfall left everyone amazed. The group explored the area around the Nohkalikai falls and clicked their pictures. After this we went to the Mawsmai Caves and the Seven Sister Falls. After admiring both these beautiful places we went to the Arwah caves at Cherrapunji. A prehistoric cave area the Arwah caves is a much deeper cave to explore compared to the Mawsmai cave and has various fossils, stalactites and stalagmites inside the caves. The group was all excited to enter the Arwah caves and we took a walk inside this majestic caves. We completed our visit at Cherrapunji at 12 PM and proceeded for lunch at the Orange Root Restaurant in Cherrapunji. We ordered for masala dosas and lassi for everyone and by 1 PM started on our drive back to Guwahati. We crossed Shillong shortly and finally arrived at Guwahati at 6 PM where the group checked into the Sai Kripa Inn. Krishna and Kaustav returned to their homes in Guwahati.
Day 9 (February 12th) ~ Kamakhya Temple – Guwahati Airport
The final day we were scheduled to visit the Maa Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati before dropping the guest group at the Guwahati airport for their flight to Pune. We started at 8.30 AM after breakfast to proceed to the Maa Kamakhya Temple located atop the Nilachal Hills. The Kamakhya Temple is the holiest temple shrine in North East India and is also one among the 51 Shakti Peethas. Krishna bought VIP entry passes for the group and they began their darshan accompanied by a Temple Panda. They completed their darshan at around 11 AM and we headed out from the Kamakhya Temple to go to the Guwahati airport. We dropped them at the airport at 12.30 PM for their afternoon flight to Pune thereby ending an eventful Tour of Shillong – Kaziranga National Park – Tawang.
Additional details about Tawang District ~
The Tawang district that was carved out from the subdivision of West Kameng on October 6, 1984 and is located in the westernmost part of Arunachal bordering the country of China to its north, Bhutan to its south and the Sela Mountain range to it west. The entire district of Tawang is filled with mountains and valleys with average altitudes varying from 3500 feet to 22,500 feet. Several prominent mountain peaks are present in Tawang district with the most renowned ones being the “Gourichen” at an altitude of 22,500 feet and the “Chongchong Ma” at 14,000 feet respectively. These mountains remain snow capped across the year and look beautiful onlooking the Tawang district. The main rivers flowing across Tawang district are Tawang Chu and Nymjag Chu that are fed with numerous tributaries flowing down from the mountains.
A beautiful land filled with high mountains, deep valleys and gorges, gushing rivers, snow clad mountain peaks, etc. Tawang is a prominent tourist destination in the North east of India today. Tawang is gradually gaining importance as a prime tourist destination of India and visitors from across the World visit Tawang. This has made tourism an important source of revenue for the local people of Tawang along with other occupations of cultivation. Other occupation of the Monpa people of Tawang are carving on wood and bamboo woven handicrafts, painting, carpet weaving, etc. The monpas of Tawang follow Buddhism and this is evident from the presence of various monasteries across the district of Tawang that have a very soulful and pacifying ambience. Festivals are an integral part of the monpas of Tawang characterized with ritualistic songs and dances. The prominents festivals of Tawang are Losar, Torgya and Choekhor.
The staple diet of the monpa people of Tawang is Zam which is a flat bread served with vegetables or meat. Other popular dishes of the people of Tawang are momos, thukpa and gyapa khazi speaking of the characteristic tibetan influence on the food habits of the people of Tawang.
Tawang was earlier ruled by the Kings of the Monyul kingdom until the 6th century across a period of over a thousand years. After the Monastery was built here as per the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, the people of Tawang gradually adopted Buddhism as their faith. This has further led to abundance in prosperity in the region of Tawang as Buddhism has an innate ability to absorb and integrate nature’s faith to create prosperity and unity. Tawang today is a town of both cultural and commercial importance to Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang is a major town connecting the border of India and China at Bumla Pass and hence is a town of strategic National security interest.
Many Monasteries and Gompas surround the area of Tawang town. The famous Gaden Namgyal Lhatse Monastery or the Tawang Monastery is the largest in the Tawang district as well as in India. The Urgelling Monastery at Tawang was built in the 15th century and is also the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama. The Ami Gompa in Tawang is a 500 year old Nunnery in Tawang area that houses many Buddhist nuns. The Khinmey Monastery in Tawang is the shrine of the Nyingmapa sect of Tawang region. Around Tawang town area there are many artistic landscapes to be enjoyed as a tourist. The Bumla Pass is a beautiful place to sight the breathtaking frozen lakes. The Zemithang village is a perfect place to witness the heritage and culture of the local people here. The Gorsam Stupa is a sacred site that resembles the Boudhanath statue of Nepal.
Around Tawang town one can find many community development projects being undertaken. These projects help in social upliftment of the local people. Two such initiatives are the Manjushree Vidyapeeth and the Jhamtse Gatsal. At both these programmes visitors can volunteer to assist the children in their field of interests.
Popular Hotels in Tawang
1| Hotel Bumla Inn Tawang
2| Tawang Guest House Tawang
3| Monyul Lodge Tawang
4| Hotel Tawang Holiday Tawang
5| Siddhartha Hotel Tawang
6| Hotel Ugyenling Tawang
7| Tawang View Hotel Tawang
8| Gayki Khang Zhang Hotel Tawang
9| Tashi Ga Tsel Motel Tawang
10| Hotel Mon Paradise Tawang
11| Hotel Taktsang Tawang
12| North Hill Homestay Tawang
13| Dolma Cottage Tawang
14| Jambey Villa Homestay Tawang
15| Arunachal Pradesh Tourist Lodge Tawang
Popular Restaurants in Tawang
1| Woodland Restaurant Tawang
2| Dragon Restaurant Tawang
3| Orange Restaurant and Lounge Bar Tawang
4| Dharma Coffee House and Library Tawang
5| Hotel Mon Valley and Restaurant Tawang
6| Hotel Mandela Fooding and Lodging Tawang
7| Sno yak Restaurant Tawang
8| Cafe Suburb Tawang
9| Greenwood Restaurant Tawang
10| Tawang Food Court Tawang
11| Cafe Nirvana Tawang
12| Blue Pine restaurant Tawang
Exploring Tawang on a Road Trip from Kaziranga National Park ~
In the month of April 2017, after the tourist season at Kaziranga National Park was almost over for the year, my friend and I decided to go on a road trip to Tawang from Kaziranga National Park. We finished organizing most of our tours, Jeep Safaris and Elephant Safari across Kaziranga National Park and we wanted a break. As it was almost summers approaching across Assam we decided to go towards a colder place and we didn’t have much time in hand so we decided to explore Tawang since my last journey here was ten years back in 2007. I had been to Tawang with my family that time and the infrastructure to travel was not very good and no proper accommodation options were available. I still remember that my father had planned our visit in the month of December when the temperature was extremely cold and we had a tough time covering the area in the smaller car that we had hired. We had to get stuck at many places due to snowfall and therefore we chose to travel in the month of April this time when even though it would be cold but unlike December. We had planned the following route for our journey.
Kaziranga National Park – Bomdila – Tawang – Zemithang – Thembang – Kaziranga National Park – Guwahati
On April 20th, my friend and I started our car a Tata Sumo vehicle to go on our way to Bomdila from Kaziranga National Park. We packed in all essentials needed for our trip to Tawang from Kaziranga National Park. Bomdila is located at a distance of 200 km from Kaziranga National Park and we were scheduled to make a stop at Bhalukpong to enjoy the view of the river Kameng here as well and to try our luck at fishing here. As the roads are across mountains we planned to leave early to Bhalukpong so that we could reach Bomdila much ahead of sundown. We started at around 7.30 AM on our journey from Kaziranga to Tawang via our scheduled stop at Bomdila today. After driving for 1 hour we reached the town of Tezpur in Assam. Known to be the knowledge city of Assam, Tezpur has a rich history that dates back to the mythological era. Since we visited Tezpur a couple of times earlier, we did not make an additional stop here in the interest of time and headed towards Balipara area near Tezpur. After reaching Balipara we headed straight towards Bhalukpong in Arunachal Pradesh driving further close to our final destination of Tawang. We reached Bhalukpong at around 10 AM and we had to stop at the State border to validate our Inner Line Permits (ILP). ILPs are a mandate for Indian Nationals residing out of Arunachal Pradesh to make a visit to Arunachal. We both had our ILPs ready and showed them to the security officials who let us through the checkpoint after verifying our documents. Next up we reached the Bhalukpong local market.
It is a beautiful local market here at Bhalukpong that draws a huge number of vendors and buyers everyday. Various traditional handicrafts, handlooms, local products, vegetables, meat and fruits are sold at Bhalukpong market. Being home to the Aka tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, Bhalukpong market showcases the possessions of the people of this tribe like their unique collection of silver ornaments. The Bhalukpong market also has on sale the various colorful dress patterns of the Aka tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh. This market is a must visit if you like collecting rare things from the indigenous people of India.
After exploring the local market for a while we went to the banks of the Kameng river near Bhalukpong where we would try our hand at fishing. Bhalukpong was earlier a favorite destination of visitors interested in fishing the prized golden mahseer. This fishing practice has gradually declined now but the traditional fishing is still practiced here. We went to the area of the picnic spot where various adventure tourism sports are conducted here in Bhalukpong. The picnic spot is a favorite destination for travellers coming for a picnic to Bhalukpong especially during the winter season. But as the rainy season had almost started now this crowd had reduced and so we among the few visitors here today. We contacted a local person by the name Namchi who assisted us to arrange for a fishing trip here in Bhalukpong. But when we reached here Namchi told us that the weather was not favorable and therefore fishing was not being allowed at present in the interest of safety of the visitors here at Kameng river near Bhalukpong. We tried to persuade him to do something but he informed us that it was for our own safety as there were reports earlier of visitors drowning in the river due to the fierce current of the Kameng during rains. So we had to change our plans and instead we decided to visit the Bhalukpong fort.
We reached the Bhalukpong fort at around 11.30 AM and it was a ruin from the 10th century. This fort is an ancient structure with certain remnants of brick structures. The Bhalukpong fort was the seat of King Bhalukpa who was the ruler of the Salasthambha kingdom. Later on this fort was under the control of the Palas of Assam. We explored the ruins admiring the architecture of an ancient time. In sometime we headed to the Tipi Orchard garden cum Research Center on our way to Bomdila from Bhalukpong.
The Tipi orchard center is a one of a kind garden that houses around 1000 species of orchids here in Arunachal Pradesh. The Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park is however the largest orchid park in India. The Tipi orchard center gives visitors a unique opportunity to sight various indigenous orchid species of North East India. This place is located across a huge area spread over 10 hectares and the place also houses a museum, tissue culture lab, gardens and offices. The orchids are well displayed in a glass house along with a fountain. It was really interesting to see these many orchids here. We admired the area around the Tipi orchid garden and at 12.30 we bid goodbye to the place near Bhalukpong to continue to Bomdila.
We wanted to visit the Pakke Tiger Reserve near to Bhalukpong but as the season had ended we had to skip this part along with the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary near to Bhalukpong. So we started on the drive to Bomdila along the Chariduar-Tawang road. We had our lunch at a small shop after the Tipi Orchard Center. The meal had rice and chicken curry and a leafy vegetable along with tomato chutney. It was a simple yet delicious meal. The drive from Bhalukpong to Bomdila is an uphill drive and the distance to be covered is 97 km but the drive is almost around three and a half hours. We planned to reach Bomdila before 4 PM but the unplanned stops made it seem difficult. We continued on the drive along the Chariduar-Tawang road continuously without making any further stops. The entire journey is across the majestic mountains of the Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh. The beautiful valleys are a real treat to any visitor’s eyes. We gradually crossed Dedza and continued on our drive. The Tenga river gradually approached as it flowed along the road towards Bomdila. After about 2 hours we approached Nag Mandir Jamiri where we made a quick stop at the Nyezino resort here for a cup of coffee.
We knew the owner here who had come to Kaziranga National Park once and stayed with us and had invited us over to to his place at Nag Mandir Jamiri. A beautifully constructed resort, it offers accommodation as well as fine dining experiences to the visitors here. The resort has an amazing view overlooking the rivers and valleys. The owner welcomed us here and we spoke about the location and the place as well and after the coffee we bid goodbye to continue to Bomdila. Next up we crossed Dahung, Tenga market and Dakhupamir to reach Pedung and finally arrive at Bomdila at 5.30 PM. It was already pitch dark as the sunset happens early in this part of the country. Our stay at Bomdila was booked at Hotel Seagull. The manager was a friend as we keep sending many tourists here at Bomdila from Kaziranga National Park and arrange for their accomodations at Hotel Seagull. It is a nice place located near the market area of Bhalukpong. The manager had booked a deluxe room for us and arranged for a wonderful evening tea along with snacks as a way of saying thank you for our business with him.
Bomdila is a beautiful town located in the west Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh that acts as a perfect stopover on your long journey to Tawang. Tourism is gradually catching up in Bomdila with the place attracting many bird lovers at the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary located here. Bomdila also offers magnificent views of the Kangto and Gorichen peaks of Arunachal Pradesh. The popular spots to visit are the apple orchards and the orchid farms here. The Bomdila Monastery is also a soulful attraction here which we planned to visit tomorrow on our way to Tawang. It was getting very cold in the evening and there was nothing much to do. There were another four guests at the place and the manager had lit a small bonfire behind the campus of the Hotel. The guests were all present there. We too went near the place to get little warmth from the cold weather. The guests had bought along two bottles of rum with them and they offered us a glass to help keep ourselves warm. The guests had ordered onion pakoras and chilli chicken as starters that came along shortly. The guests were from Dirang and they were on their way to Guwahati. As it got dark along their journey they made a halt at Bomdila to start early next morning to Guwahati. They spoke to us about their place Dirang which is another tourist spot on the way to Tawang from Bomdila.
Dirang is a tinsel town midway between Bomdila and Tawang. A paradise of a place that had a confluence of towering mountains, lush valleys, river flowing across and a beautiful countryside as well. Dirang also acts as a stopover on your long journey to Tawang with a few hotels and guesthouses that accommodates travelers. Located close to Dirang is the Sangti valley which is home to the Monpa tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and is a fast gaining popularity in the tourist circuit of Arunachal Pradesh as an offbeat destination perfect for ecotourism. Sangti valley offers its visitors a chance to witness how man lives in harmony with nature keeping a perfect balance in the ecology. People in Sangti Valley use the produce of Mother Nature to do all sorts of activities like building homes, use for cooking, making handicrafts and in turn give back by planting more trees not disturbing the parts of forests in a severe manner. There are many apple orchards and kiwi orchards here in Sangti Valley owing to the pleasant weather and climatic conditions. Sangti Valley can be best explored on foot around. However, the most renowned this about Sangti is the arrival of highly revered black necked crane here during the winter months from November. The Monpas of Sangti valley revere this bird species and pray to it for a good fortune the year ahead. This is what attracts many visitors to Sangti Valley from around the World. Sangti is also home to the various other migratory birds as well as resident species. This was a gist of what the visitors had told us about Dirang and Sangti valley during the course of our conversation by the fire. Dinner was served shortly and it had offerings of rice, dal, mixed veg sabji, chicken curry, salad, papad and pickle. A simple yet delicious meal. We retired to our rooms after thanking everyone and went to bed in sometime.
The next morning we were up early to continue on our drive to Tawang crossing Dirang, Sela Pass, Jaswantgarh and Jung. We were scheduled to depart by 7.30 AM as the weather conditions along the road from Bomdila to Tawang is never predictable so its better to start early. Although the road distance to Tawang from Bomdila is around 180 km, the drive takes around 6 hours keeping in mind the mountainous terrain and the narrow roads. Army convoy trucks keep plying on the road and when the convoy passes cars along the journey have to wait and allow them to pass through. We were also scheduled to make a stop at the Bomdila Monastery as well. We ordered a quick breakfast of bread toast, omelette and tea and after bidding goodbye to the manager of the Hotel Seagull we headed to the Bomdila Monastery along the Tawang route. We reached the Monastery at around 8 AM and we decided to quickly explore the Monastery as we did want to cross Sela Pass before 1 PM as Sela Pass being a high altitude mountain pass loses light by afternoon itself. We also had to make stops at Jaswantgarh and Jung before reaching Tawang.
The Bomdila Monastery was built in the year 1965 by the 12th incarnation of Tsona Gontse Rinpoche. It is a beautiful and artistically constructed Monastery that looks very attractive from the outside and inside it has a large prayer hall and along the Monastery there are residential quarters of the Monks. The Bomdila Monastery follows one of the most prominent centers of Lamaistic faith of Mahayana Buddhism. The Bomdila Monastery was blessed by his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in 1997. A beautiful campus we could see various young monks here at the Bomdila Monastery. As per Buddhist customs, the young monks enter the Monastery from a very early age are taught about the various traditions and practices of leading a monastic and religious life. We visited the altar at the Bomdila Monastery where there is a huge statue of Lord Buddha along with the backdrop of other Buddhist Gods as well. There were prayer offerings at the Altar with candles on bronze cups. We admired the Bomdila Monastery for a while and at 8.45 continued on our drive to Tawang.
We crossed the small town of Munna and reached Dirang at 10.30 AM. We did not make a stop at Dirang and only saw the beautiful Hotels from the road and crossed the Dirang market. A beautiful valley greeted us after Dirang and we continued on our drive to Sapper and Baisakhi. Finally at around 12.30 PM we reached the magnificent Sela Pass. A beautiful sight greeted us once we arrived at Sela Pass. There was snowfall to be seen along the Sela Pass and we halted to admire the majestic view of the Sela Lake that is present near the Sela Pass. The lake was partially frozen and offered wonderful view of the backdrop scenery. As per beliefs of Buddhism, there are around 101 lakes around the Sela Pass and these are considered to be sacred. Temperature at the Sela Pass was quite cold. We admired the area for a while and then continued to head on our journey to the next stop at Jaswantgarh. When we were approaching Jaswantgarh we could see the various army outposts heavily guarded by the brave men of the Indian Army. A sense of patriotism dawns inside any traveller once they see the soldiers of the Indian Army patrolling our borders in the harshest conditions possible. We made a stop at Jaswantgarh to admire the bravery of a brave soldier who single handedly protected the area from the Chinese invasion of 1962 and fought till he was captured by the Chinese soldiers. A war memorial has been constructed here to pay tribute to the bravery of this soldier.
We did not go inside the war memorial but made a stop to have tea and snacks at the canteen run by the Indian Army Personnel. They serve hot momos, samosas and other bakery items here. Hot water and tea is served complimentary to all travellers who make a stop at Jaswantgarh on their journey to Tawang. We had momos and samosas along with tea. There is also a small shop that sells winter gears to travellers at subsidized army rates. IO bought a jacket and a pair of gloves to help me keep myself warm on the journey to Tawang and further. After spending a little more time near the army pont at Jaswantgarh we headed on our journey to Tawang. It was already dark as mentioned earlier it happens here at high altitudes. It was already around 2.30 PM and we had to reach Tawang in another 2 hours drive time. We decided to skip our halt at Jung to view the Nuranang Falls/Jung falls this time and instead head directly to Tawang. We continued on our drive following the other vehicles that we ahead of us. The roads were slippery due to snowfall so we had to drive slowly as well.
At 5 PM we finally reached Tawang after a long 8 hour drive from Bomdila. We headed to the Tawang Guest House in Tawang where our stay was booked. The manager welcomed us in and this place too was known to us from our earlier bookings in Tawang. He alloted us our rooms and we headed straight in front of the heater in our room as it was freezing cold in Tawang. The manager brought us hot tea to help keep us warm. I put on my jacket and gloves that I had purchased in Jaswantgarh. It did bring in a sigh of relief from the cold. My friend jumped into bed and covered himself with the warm blankets to stay warm instead. The manager called us for dinner at 8 PM and the meal had rice, dal, matar paneer, chicken curry, potato fry and salad. We enjoyed our meal and headed back to our room to retire for the night.
The next morning we were scheduled to explore Tawang Monastery and the market area of Tawang. We were originally scheduled to visit the Bumla Pass today but the weather conditions were not good and hence the manager advised us against it and told us that hopefully tomorrow would be a better day and he would make all arrangements for us before we can head out to the Bumla Pass. We had our breakfast at 8.30 AM and headed out to the Tawang Monastery. It is a slight uphill drive from Tawang town to reach the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India – the Tawang Monastery. The Tawang Monastery is the most popular tourist destination in Tawang and it offers majestic panoramic views of the the tawng valley and the towering Eastern Himalayas. The Tawang Monastery is located at an altitude of 10,000 feet above the sea level. This monastery was built in the year 1860 AD by Marak Lama Lodge Gyantso. The entire Tawang Monastery area appears like a grand fort and has huge doors which measure 925 feet in length and 20 feet high. Once you enter the premises of the Tawang Monastery you are filled with an immense sense of calm and inner peace. The large prayer hall is filled with various artwork depicting the sketches of various Buddhist monks and Saints. Inside the prayer hall there is a large statue of Lord Buddha. A visit to Tawang Monastery is a must for any traveller to Arunachal Pradesh. We offered our prayers here at the Tawang Monastery and at 11 AM we came out from here.
Next we stepped into the local market of Tawang town where we could see various vendors selling local goods. We took a walk around the market where various Monpa people were buying and selling goods. Their local handicrafts and handlooms were a sight to watch out for. There was a food section as well where people were selling meat of ‘Mithun’ and some dried fish items. We spotted a small local restaurant here that was selling hot thukpa and momos. The thukpa in an originally tibetan dish which is basically a noodle soup. This is a very popular dish among the Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh as it helps to keep the body warm in the severe cold climate of Tawang. We were served with chicken thukpa while other meat options are also available here. Momo is another popular dish from tibet and had found place in the hearts of the people of North East India especially Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Momos are basically a dumpling filled with meat and onion and often served with a spicy chutney and hot soup. These two food varieties speaks of the Tibetan influence on the people of this place. It was a very tasty meal especially as it was served fresh and hot. The chillies in the thukpa made the dish more appealing. We finished by 4.30 PM and then we went ahead to visit the Tawang War Memorial. We had to travel for 20 km further to reach the Tawang war Memorial. The place is a tribute to the brave 2140 soldiers who laid down their lives in the 1962 Indo-China war. The entire place is gracefully maintained and speaks aloud of the bravery of the soldiers of the Indian Army. A sense of patriotism dawns inside you once you visit the Tawang War Memorial. We admired the place and at 3 PM we left the place to return to our guest house. The manager told us that he had arranged for the permission from the DC Office at Tawang and also a separate local vehicle for us to go to the Bumla Pass the next day. We thanked him for his efforts and just explored the area around the guest house. We were served tea in a while and hot chicken pakoras were arranged for us too. We had bought a small bottle of rum to be had with warm water to help keep us warm. The manager lit a small bonfire behind the place and only the hotel staff and we were there. It was pretty cold outside and the rum technique didn’t work out to keep us warm so we decided to eat our dinner and retire to bed to prepare our visit to the Bumla Pass near Tawang the next day.
We were up early the next day and we took a walk nearby the guest house. We were scheduled to leave to Bumla Pass at around 8.30 AM as it was an easy 2 hour drive to the place and weather conditions are never predictable here so it is always advisable to start your journey to Bumla Pass in the morning and then on the way back explore the Madhuri Lake and the PTSO lake as well and return to Tawang. Our driver of the local vehicle Mr. Thapa came to the guest house at 8 AM and greeted us and along with it described us the road ahead of us to Bumla Pass. He was carrying chains along with him in the car as it might be necessary to wind these across the tires to get a better grip of the snow covered roads. We had a quick breakfast and at sharp 8.30 started on our drive to the Bumla Pass near Tawang. The roads were windy and we had to climb up further elevation to the Bumla Pass. The Bumla Pass is situated at a height of 15,200 feet above the mean sea level and acts as a connection between India and Tibet. The Bumla Pass was reopened in 2006 and business started happening between the two countries. The Bumla Pass is covered with snow mostly across the year. The area is heavily guarded by the Indian army personnel and it is always advisable to seek their permission before setting out to explore the area. We reached the Bumla Pass at around 11 AM. The vehicle stopped at a distance and we had to walk about 500 m to view the border of India and China. The army personnel checked our passes and we were allowed to see the Pass. It was severely cold and it immediately speaks of the lot about the dedication of the soldiers who spend day and night guarding the international border here. We enjoyed the view for about 30 minutes at the Bumla Pass and then headed on our way back to Tawang with stops at the Madhuri lake and the Pt Tso lake. By the time we arrived back in Tawang it was almost 4 PM. We thanked Mr. Thapa for his skilled driving and bringing us safely back to Tawang. We also thanked our Hotel manager for arranging everything for us as well. After dinner we retired to bed early as it was a long and hectic day as well.
Today morning we were all set to bid goodbye to a wonderful stay and amazing experience at Tawang to head to Thembang village after making a stop at the Nuranang/Jung falls on the way. We started early at 7.30 AM in order to cross Sela Pass before afternoon and to reach Thembang village before sundown. We reached Nuranang falls by 9 AM and it was indeed a wonderful sight to view this waterfall. The water here was crystal clear and it reminded us of the Nohkalikai falls at Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. We finished exploring the Nuranang falls and then headed on our journey to Thembang village after crossing Jaswantgarh and Sela Pass. The weather was bright and sunny and the roads were clear so we did not have trouble driving today. We admired the drive all along and finally arrived at Thembang village at 3 PM. We stayed at the local homestay here in Tawang. The next morning we explored the Thembang village as per the inputs provided by our friends we had met in Bomdila and then headed on our way to Kaziranga National Park to arrive by late afternoon. It was a very memorable drive and holiday in Tawang and we shall cherish it forever.
The Monpa people of Tawang and the West Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh are descendants of Tibet and Bhutan who have over the years migrated from their places of origin and settled here. But knowing as to certain when their migration happened has not been dated and it must have happened in phases over the centuries. However the oldest record could be said to be that in the 4th century when King Ling Gesan had defeated King Shingtri of Mon. The term ‘Mon’ is referred to ‘Monyul’ that happened to be encircling the areas of Tawang and West Kameng districts in Arunachal Pradesh. From a certain part of Michael Aris’s book ‘Hidden treasures’ there can be a derivative of the people of Bhutan migrating to Tawang. And even with the cultures and practices, life styles and food habits of the Monpa people of Tawang and West Kameng areas of Arunachal Pradesh it can be noticed their similar touch to Tibet and Bhutan and so it is an easy derivative of their ancestors belonging and later migrating to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh via the famed Bumla Pass.
The Monpa people of Tawang are primarily Buddhists who follow the Mahayana sect of Tibetan Buddhism who follow the Mahayana sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Before they adopted and started practicing Buddhism in as their faith they were primarily belonging to the Bon religion. The Monpa people of Tawang believe strictly in the principles of Karma and based on ones deeds in the present life be it positive and negative that will decide their next life. The Monpa people of Tawang are very religious and they practice the guidelines of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism in a strong order. Every home will have a prayer hall in Tawang when the family members ensure to offer water, butter lamps and light incense in the praise of Lord every morning. Their age old practices are especially particular when it comes to the health of the Monpa people of Tawang because they believe that sickness and death are because of one’s own karma. They do not believe much in the modern healthcare systems and believe that many diseases are caused by supernatural beings that can only cure the disease. They also believe black magic to be one of the sources of sickness being inflicted on a person and once the cause is identified the monks perform a sequence of rituals and recite sacred texts to get rid of the disease here in Tawang. Even after performing these rituals if unfortunately the sick person dies then another set of rituals are performed to see to the benefit of the dead.
To witness the rich heritage and culture of the Monpa people of Tawang along with a glimpse of the largest Buddhist Monastery in India and some of the most beautiful and natural places in the World one had to plan their visit to Tawang and the West Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh. To reach Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh the best way to arrive is at the Guwahati airport/railway station in Assam and plans your journey either by road or by helicopter. By road, Tawang is approximately 543 km from Guwahati and regular flight from major metros connects to Guwahati. The helicopter service operates from the Guwahati airport itself and is operational on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The seats are however limited (approx. 10-12) and it is necessary to priorly book the tickets on the hour long ride from Guwahati to Tawang. By road, the approximate time to reach Tawang from Guwahati is around 15-16 hours and this is due to the mountain terrain. A road break is necessary to undertake this journey and the preferred halt points are either Bomdila or Dirang that is if you are starting from Guwahati early in the morning. However if you arrive at Guwahati late and still want to continue on your journey it is advisable to halt either at Tezpur or Bhalukpong.
The areas of Tawang and rather the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh falls under a restricted area and hence prior permission is needed to travel to the places here and this permission comes in the form of Inner Line Permit (ILP for Indian Nationals) and PAP (Protected Area Permit for Foreign Nationals). The ILP can be applied online at arunachalilp.com and generally takes about 2 days for issuance after the visitors furnish their details and requisite documents. The PAP for foreign nationals can be obtained from the Indian Missions abroad as well as the Foreigners Regional Registration Office at Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Tawang region is blessed with immense natural beauty and visitors to Tawang can get a chance to witness this beauty and the local customs and practices of the people as well. But for many tourists a visit to Tawang is special to witness the snowfall in the region. So if you are an admirer of the landscapes and nature then the best time to visit Tawang is during the months of October and November. To experience the snowfall in Tawang the best time to visit is from December to March. But be rest assured that these months are very cold and it is absolutely necessary to carry adequate warm clothing on your travel to Tawang. It is also compulsory to mention that due to the high elevation of Tawang many visitors often experience altitude sickness and therefore it is advisable to halt for a night at either Bomdila or Dirang to get acclimatized with the weather conditions before continuing on their journey to Tawang and further upto Bumla Pass. Once you reach Tawang and get to witness the rich culture and heritage of the Monpa people you might want to visit any of the local markets at Tawang to carry a souvenir or memento of your visit back to your hometown. Tawang had three important market areas Old market, new market and Nehru market. The oldest among these is the old market and this market had numerous stalls selling handicrafts, handlooms, traditional Monpa clothing, general goods, etc. Visitors can also visit the Govt. Handicrafts emporium and Craft center to buy the traditional handicrafts of Tawang as well.
When it comes to flora and fauna, due to its different topographical type from the rest of the state, Tawang harbours an immense wealth in terms of the variety of flora and fauna. The beautiful forest cover of Tawang region changes with the elevation and these are respectively Blue pine, rhododendrons, Fir, Pine, etc. The Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh is also a storehouse of very rare and powerful medicinal plants and along with these there are species of high altitude orchids to be found as well. With the sparse population in the Tawang region due to extreme climatic conditions nature has ensured to keep its prime available due to lack of urbanization in the area.
Having a cold climate the year around, Tawang region is rich in animal life as well. Varied animal species are a pride of the Tawang region like snow leopard, musk deer, wild yak, sambars, wild boars, barking deers, etc. Varied bird life is also present in this region and their likes include cranes, sandpipers, partridges, doves, pigeons, babblers, etc. In addition there are 15 species of butterflies and various amphibian species to be found in the Tawang region as well. The Monpa people of Tawang revere the nature around them and most of their worship is based on the elements of nature as well as earlier they were practicing ‘Bon’ a their religion that believed in the existence of Gods and spirits. This had made them fearing of nature and they believed that if mankind messed with nature then nature had the power to cause disasters if it was offended. So the people in and around Tawang revere nature and they even consider the 101 lakes around the area to be sacred. The black necked crane that comes to the region every year during the migratory winter season is highly revered by the Monpa people of Tawang and its arrival is considered to be good luck to the people. The Monpa people of Tawang are mostly Buddhists and they carried their age old traditions and blended them with the Buddhist traditions including they absorbed a number of Bon deities into the Buddhist rituals who they considered to be their protectors of faith. The establishment of the Tawang Monastery in 1681 and the birth of his Holiness the 6ht Dalai Lama also added further importance to the spread of Buddhism across the Tawang region.
The beautiful Tawang Monastery was founded in the year 1680-81 by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso and the actual name of this Monastery is Gaden Namgyal Lhatse. Located at a picturesque view about 10,000 feet above MSL the Tawang Monastery is built on the spur of a hill overlooking a ridge in the north and a gradual slope on the east. The Tawang Monastery has a tremendous socio cultural influence on the Monpa people of Tawang and it affects the day to day life of the people of the area. The Tawang Monastery is the largest Buddhist Monastery in India and the second largest in the World after the Potala Place in Tibet and owing to the fact the Potala Palace is not functional the Tawang Monastery can be said to be the largest functional Buddhist Monastery in the World. The aspiring structure of the Tawang Monastery in itself makes every visitor to this place left in awe. The Tawang Monastery houses a huge prayer hall at the centre and a big huge library as well along with the quarters of the monks who live here and it is said that it can house upto 700 monks at a time. The approach to the main monastery is from the north side and at the entrance there is a huge gate that welcomes the visitors here. Near the entrance of the Tawang Monastery there is a building from where water is fetched for the use inside the Monastery premises. The eastern side of the Tawang Monastery has 60 quarters of the monks and interestingly each of these quarters has been constructed voluntarily by local villagers who also look after the maintenance speaking highly of how much the local Monpa people revere these monks at the Tawang Monastery.
The library area of the Tawang Monastery where various ancient religious scriptures are kept is on the western side of the Monastery and the eastern side there is the kitchen called locally as ‘Rhum Khang’ where the cooking and various food offerings for rituals are prepared. During the ritual days at the Tawang Monastery, various ritual offerings are also prepared at this kitchen here. Of all the buildings at the Tawang Monastery, the most imposing among all of these is the main assembly hall that is called as the Dukhang. This place is a 3 storied building and the inner walls of this building at the Tawang Monastery are painted with murals of various Buddhist saints and divinities. The altar area occupies the northern part of the hall and has a huge statue of Lord Buddha that is richly ornate and decorated. The huge statue almost 25 feet in height is seated on a lotus throne and Lord Buddha’s statue is accompanied by statues of his principal attendants Maudgalyayana and Sariputra. The altar occupies the entire northern part of the hall at the Tawang Monastery and there are several Thankhas of Goddess Sri Devi who happens to be the principal deity of the Tawang Monastery. For better information to the tourists at the Tawang Monastery a museum has also been setup with various old artefacts and a photo gallery as well. Apart from this there is also a courtyard area that is basically a stone slab court and various religious dances and ceremonies are held at the courtyard at the Tawang Monastery.
Monasteries and Gompas around Tawang region
Another beautiful Monastery around the Tawang region in addition to the Tawang Monastery is located around 7 km away from the Tawang township across the highway to the Y junction and is known as the Urgelling Gompa. Initially built in a moderate design and construction, the Urgelling Gompa was later rebuilt into a grand structure at the vision of the royal father. A part of this monastery near Tawang was destroyed in the year 1714 and had to be rebuilt. The Urgelling Gompa today is a two storied structure covering an area of 180 sq. m. Every year on the 6th of July the birth of the 14th Dalai Lama is celebrated with great pomp and fervour by the local people of Tawang region here at the Urgelling Gompa.
Another important monastery located at the Tawang district is the Khinmey Monastery that was founded by Kundun Sange Yeshe and the area where it is situated belonged to Sonam Rinchin. It is believed that earlier the area was filled with wild animals and the local hunters often lot their dogs out loose to control these animals. One leading hunter Sonam Rinchin had once found a monk in meditation and he was so influenced that he became his disciple and gave away his land for this monastery to be setup at Yubu village near Tawang and so this place was established in 1440. Across the years this beautiful monastery near Tawang had undergone several reconstructions and today over 100 monks study ancient Buddhist Literature and modern studies as well.
Gyangong Ani Gompa
This Gompa is located about 10 km away from the Tawang Monastery. The area of the Gompa is located in a beautiful area with lush forest and abundance greenery filled with pristine beauty of the Tawang area. It is believed that as no women were allowed to reside inside the Tawang Monastery so the founder of the Tawang Monastery built a meditation cave for his sister nearby and the provisions were provided from the Tawang Monastery. Over time the number of nuns embracing this place as a sole source of meditation started to increase and hence this place was eventually turned into a nunnery to be called as the Gyangong Ani Gompa at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
This unique place is located close to Tawang viz 18 km enroute to Sela Pass and is considered to be one of the holiest places in lho Mon. As 1010 lakes surround the Sela Pass and these lakes are considered as holy by the local Monpa people and as this monastery is located in the area it also overlooks these lakes as well near Tawang. The Monpa people of Tawang are said to have worshipped these lakes by burning of butter lamps, apparition of Gompa and hanging of fluttering flags around the area.
The Monpa people of Tawang fall under the Bodic group of Tibeto Burman linguistic group and they have a few dialects that differ from group to group. For example the dialect spoken by the people of Zemithang is not understood by the people of Tawang and this is not the case only in Tawang area but across Arunachal Pradesh and North East India as there are over 200 indigenous communities who have their own dialect and in addition they have a common state language in which everyone can communicate and understand each other. To make this approach simpler across Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh, the Tibetan language of Bhati was introduced as a third language in school by the Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh and student from class I to VIII were to study this language that was earlier known only to the lamas and nuns. This language has helped the local people in the Tawang areas to grasp the ancient culture and history and also serves as a medium to communicate among them.
The Monpa people of Tawang are well accustomed with the cold weather and climate of the Tawang region and their distinct attire helps them to adapt to the environment easily. The Monpa men of Tawang have forms of woollen short and full length trousers to protect them from the cold and a traditional black woollen cloth called as Khajan helps to keep their body warm. During the severe winter time they also wear a red cloak called as the Chupa. The woman attire of the Monpa people is very grand and is weaved with coarse Eri silk and is called as the Shinka. Certain married women also wear a multi coloured Apron called as the ‘Pangten’. The footwear for both men and women are similar and it comprises mostly of traditional boots known as Tsem-lham. These boots are made with woollen cloth and the sole is made with cow or yaks hide. The Monpa people of Tawang also wear elaborate headgear to protect their ears and this headgear is called as Ngama-Shom that is made with yak hair. Both Monpa men and women also wear a traditional cap as well.
Ornaments also form an integral part of the Monpa attire as well and these ornaments are similar to the ones worn by Tibetan people. Some of these ornaments worn by the people of Tawang are finger rings made of gold or silver, bangle made of gold of silver, earnings, silver clips, silver brooch, etc. The Monpa people love their food and they have many unique preparations that is acclaimed with the climatic conditions. They use a lot of green chillies as an ingredient in their food and this helps to keep them warm as well. Some of the local popular cuisine of Tawang are Zan, Khura, Momos, Thupkas, Puta, Bresi, Krazi, etc.
Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh witnesses numerous festivals both religious and non-religious that occur across the year. While many of the festivals of the Monpa people of Tawang are based on religious background and so each of these festivals have a history and significance of their own. Some of the popular festivals celebrated across Tawang are:
Celebrated during the month of Feb-March and mostly on the 1st month of Lunar calendar, the Losar festival is the prime festival of the Monpa people of Tawang area and it is the celebration of New Year. The Losar festival is celebrated with great festivities at the Tawang Monastery. The preparations to celebrate this New Year Festival by the Monpa people of Tawang begins during the mid of the 12th month itself wherein people gather sufficient food stock like meat, butter, flour, edible oil, fruits, etc. to be prepared during the time of the Losar festival. As per the rituals on the 29th day of the last month the houses in the locality are cleaned and white washed and preparations are on for hosting a grand dinner. On the 30th day of the month the Monpa people of Tawang begin decorating their houses where they hang colour paper flowers from the ceilings and paint wall with auspicious signs with flour or lime. On the day of the Losar the Monpa people of Tawang wear new clothes and keep biscuits, loaves, fruits, liquor, etc. at the dinner table and as an offering in the home chapel as well. All of these rituals of the Losar festival are as a sign of good omen for the upcoming year.
On the first day of Losar the family members go to fetch water from a nearby stream and bring the water to cleanse them. The first day the family members pray for a better year and spend time at home drinking, having good food and playing traditional games while people staying at Tawang town go to the Tawang Monastery to seek blessings. On the second day Monpa people of Tawang region visit the homes of the neighbours to wish them a happy new year. Sumptuous meal is prepared across the households for the guests and between meals family members and neighbours play games like dice, mah-jong, etc. The Losar festival of Tawang region goes on for almost 15 days.
The Buddhist people of Tawang area consider the fourth month of lunar calendar as a very holy month and this falls during the month of May. This month is the birth month of Lord Buddha and also the month where Buddha attained enlighten as well. The Monpa people of Tawang engage in praying to seek better fortune and also to cleanse one’s sin and earn merit.
One of the very important festivals celebrated at the Tawang Monastery is that of Torgya. The Torgya festival is held for 3 days and it generally falls in the month of January and the main motive of celebrating this festival by the Monpa people of Tawang is to drive away evil forces and also to ward off any natural calamities for a prosperous life. During the three days of the Torgya festival hundreds of Monpa people came and gather at the Tawang Monastery in their colourful attires making this festival a carnival of colours. During the festival days sacred dances are performed and the monks of the Tawang monastery dress themselves in colourful attires and wear masks depicting various divinities and characters.
Tags ~ Kaziranga to Tawang, Tawang to Kaziranga, Kaziranga Tawang Tour, Tawang Kaziranga Tour, Tawang Tour, Visit Tawang, Tawang Hotels, Tawang Resorts, Tawang taxi, Tezpur to Tawang Taxi, Bomdila to Tawang Taxi, Kaziranga to Tawang Taxi, Tawang to Madhuri Lake, Tawang to Bumla Pass, Dirang to Tawang, Tawang Tourism, Shillong Kaziranga Tawang Tour