Before I snake through the mountains of Tawang as a nomad I want to share one of my fantasies as a hedonist. Her smile and the tempting swings of her slender waist from the bollywoood song ‘tanhai tanhai tanhai’ just flashed in front of my eyes. My fellow travel mates… who are much into Bollywood flicks so far got an idea of the beautiful actress I’m talking about.
Okay! Still confused? Lemme give you a fact pinch. It was the first bollywood song that was shot in Tawang in the scenicscape of the Sungester Lake, which is at an elevation of 3,800 meters. You can say that the lake is one of the youngest high altitude lakes in India as it was formed following a major earthquake in the year 1950. Its bed, once a forested slope, sank in the tremor, taking with it the forest of tall pine trees. As water filled in, the trees died but their bare lofty trunks remained, standing sentinel over the serene blue lake that’s encircled by high mountains. Let’s take a glimpse of the Sungester Lake from the following video as uploaded by Miss Dilbarak (fictitious name) from the Bollywood movie Koyla, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit. BINGO! So she is the actress I was talking about. Click on the link below to explore the vicinity of Sungester Lake along with the steps and tunes of the song ‘tanhai tanhai tanhai’.
[Video on Nuranang Falls and Sungester Lake from a bollywood flick]
I hope you enjoyed the pleasing and harmonious melody. Along with the musical chords the video reels you through Nuranang Falls a.k.a. Bong Bong Falls OR Jang Falls that emerges from the slopes of the Sela Pass and falls into the Tawang River. Thereafter, shots were taken in the majestic surrounding of Sungester Lake. Oops! Some mythical facts on Nuranang Falls I forgot to mention. During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat was succoured by two Monpa girls, Sela and Nura. They planted weapons at assorted locations and balanced the volume of fire in such a way that made the Chinese think they were opposed by a body of troops. But later Sela died of a grenade burst and Nura and Jaswant were captured. It is said that the Nuranang River and Nuranang falls are named after Nura whereas Sela Pass and Sela Lake are named after Sela.
As for me, I have a huge curiosity as to what the Himalayan region has to offer that excites nearly all kind of travellers. Ah! Just imagine when you are with your family having a hot cup of coffee overlooking the Sela Lake OR clink of glasses of rum at an altitude of 4,170 meters. It is believed by the locals (mostly Buddhists) that the area surrounding the Sela Pass, which is one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the Indian Himalayan region , comprises approximately 101 lakes including Sela Lake. I hope you can discover some of the unexplored lakes out there… C’ON!!! Reveal the freaking adventurous nature lying dead inside you over years. In the midst of snow just get lost in the mystic mountain solitude… play hide and seek in the mist and if your luck favours a sunny day and clear blue sky then enjoy the panorama of the snowfed mountains. Let’s go through the Sela Pass from the video reeled by Pradip De. The guy will drive you beyond Sela Pass and Sela Lake and hence you will enjoy the following video.
[Video on Sela Pass and Sela Lake]
How about now stepping into the resonating sound of religion? One of the nearby attractions, located approximately 1 kilometer from Tawang, is the Regyaling Gompa, which was founded by the former Rigya Rinpoche. The Gorsam Chorten, which is approximately 90 kilometers from Tawang, is another popular attractions in and around Tawang. It is believed to be founded in the 12th century and is the largest stupa in the region.
Well…something that will excite you when you are touring in Tawang, is the Tawang Monastery, which is the largest monastery in India and belongs to the Gelugpa Sect. It is also connected with the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. Located close to the Tibetan border, in the valley of the Tawang-chu which flows down from Tibet, the three storied monastery comprises 65 residential building and 10 other structures. On the other hand it also houses ancient scriptures, mainly Kanjur and Tanjur; printing press; eight-meter statue of Shakyamuni Buddha; and Thankas of Goddess Dri Devi, locally known as Palden Lhamo. The best time to visit the Tawang Monastery is either during the Losar or Torgya festivals. Losar is quite common amongst the travellers and one of the major Buddhist festivals in India. The festival is the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, which is celebrated for 15 days either in the month of February or March. On the other hand, Torgya is a three days of spiritual celebration that is held on the 28th day of the 11th month of the lunar calendar… just after the end of Tawang festival in October. Words may not influence you so let’s check out the following video on Torgya Festival as captured by Yan Karklin.
[Video on Torgya Festival]
Now let’s take a walk through the Tawang Monastery, which is one of the major sightseeing in Tawang. The video on Tawang below from the lense of Jesse’s Travels will give you the interior glimpse and showcases the intrinsic diorama of Tawang Monastery.
[Video on Tawang Monastery]
Close to Tawang Monastery, the Hotel Gakyi Khang Zhang is one of the best places to stay in Tawang. Along with comfortable and clean rooms, the hotel serves both veg and non veg delicacies and one can expect a cordial reception. It is located near D.C. Office.
Coming back to the Tawang travel genre… I cannot jump to other attractions of Tawang without mentioning about the Tawang Festival. It is a five day festival and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. As someone rightly said… “The Tawang festival is a complete package comprising echo, adventure, religious, spiritual, health and cultural tourism for holistic growth of the vast potential tourism sector to benefit the people of the hilly district along the Indo-China border.” The festival includes various dance and music programs that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the state and pulls in foreign and domestic tourists. The below video on Tawang Festival, shot by Karken Riba, gives a glimpse of the Dancing Devils performance.
[Video on Tawang Festival]
The Yak dance, which is a traditional dance of the Monpa people, won’t escape the notice of the travelers. The Monpas are the original inhabitants of Tawang and are generally adherents of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. You will be surprised to explore their rich culture… wood carving, Thangka painting, carpet making and weaving are some of the unique art works; and festivals like Choskar harvest, Losar, Ajilamu and Torgya are celebrated with great fervor. Let’s move with Mamta Srivastava onto the following video on Monpa dance during the Losar Festival.
[Video on Monpa dance during the Losar festival]
Before we go into the culinary chapter of Tawang… I would like to introduce you to the Thangka painting from the below video as taken by Dolma Sherpa. Although this video is not related to Tawang but it reels the process of Thangka painting of the Buddhists.
[Video on Thangka painting]
The culinary history of Tawang is all about chillies and fermented cheese used by the Monpas. Momos and Thukpa are the ones to relish OBVIOUSLY but DON’T forget to try out ZAN, which is a kind of flat bread made of millets or barley served with vegetables or meat, and cheese or soybean as garnishing. On the other hand, the Gyapa Khazi is also a MUST TRY OUT delicacy. Now we head onto the following video … as Lakshmi Nair trying out some local delicacy at Tawang.
[Video on food of Tawang]
Well… if you are seeking to try out such delicacies then step into the quaint Dragon restaurant that serves authentic Indo- Tibetan dishes. Some other options are Hotel Buddha on Old Bazar Road and Orange Bar and Restaurant, close to the Main Market, which also serves exotic beverages.
I was almost to conclude here but I think the Tawang War Memorial, a.k.a. Namgyal Chorten, is worth a mention. The 40 foot high multi – hued structure is a memorial that is dedicated to the martyrs of the 1962 Sino – Indian War. Located in a picturesque ambiance, in the midst of high mountains, the memorial houses all the used rifles, guns, bullets, and other amenities used during the war. Let us take a short tour (vocal and video) on Tawang War Memorial and Jaswant Garh from the below video as shot by Must See India.
[Video on Tawang War Memorial and Jaswant Garh]
From the video above we got a glimpse of Jaswant Garh, another prominent tourist destination in Tawang, which is 21 kilometers from Sela Pass and is dedicated to Jaswant Singh, who sacrificed his life during the battle fought against Chinese soldiers in the year 1962.
Your North – East India tour to Tawang is incomplete without the 14 Days Trek along the “Baily trail”. The journey moves through the ancient trade route and six major mountain passes and also cuts through the vast ecosphere dotted with coniferous forests, high grasslands, Juniper, Rhododendrons, and desolate high Himalayan pastures. It is one of the unexplored treks in the North East Indian Himalayan region that offers spectacular view of surrounding peaks like Gorichen and Kangto and also dilates the remote lifestyle of the Monpas inhabiting in the villages. Another popular trek in the region is the Sela – Tawang Trek that pulls in amateur trekkers from different corner of the world.