Category Archives: travel

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang is both historically and naturally endowed. It is located at a distance of 183 Kms from Bomdila (140 km from Dirang) and is situated at an altitude of 3500 metres (10000 ft) above sea level. The natural beauty and solitude of Gudpi and Chong-Chugmi ranges, Tawang chu River and Tawang valley are very mesmerizing. Tawang, the beautiful land of the Monpa tribes and a major centre of the Mahayana Buddhist is the headquarters of Tawang district. The cascading waterfalls, the snow-white peaks, sansurban trapping and star comforts of Tawang bring one closer to Mother Nature. The name Tawang derives from some bearings on surroundings. But people’s interpretation is that the name was given by Mera Lama in the 17th century.

Tawang, the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, is one of the most beautiful places in Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang shares its border with Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the south-west and the Sela range in the east.

It has one of the oldest and largest Buddhist monasteries in India, Tawang Monastery. Perched on the edge of the ridge along the western part of this destination, Tawang Monastery is an important learning centre. About 400 years old, the monastery is believed to be home to more than 700 monks. Tawang Monastery was found in 1681 by Merag Lama Lodre Gyatso in compliance with the desires of 5th Dalai Lama, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso. ‘Ta’ means Horse and ‘Wang’ means Chosen. It is believed that the site on which the monastery has been constructed was chosen by the horse, which was owned by Merag Lama Lodre Gyamtso. According to legend, Merag Lama was unable to decide a location to establish the monastery. In order to seek divine guidance for choosing the construction site for the monastery, he was praying inside a cave. When he came out after finishing prayers, he found that his horse was missing. On searching, he saw that horse was standing on a hilltop. On seeing his horse, he considered this as a sign of divine blessing and finalized that location for construction of the monastery. The construction of this monastery was completed with the help of people residing in the neighbouring villages. At present, those same neighbouring villages are responsible for the upkeep of the monastery. Tawang Monastery is also popularly known as Galden Namgey Lhatse, which means celestial paradise. Before the construction of this monastery, Tawang was inhabited by the Monpa tribe. At that time, the Monpa tribe was under the rule of the Mon kingdom, which had their kingdom stretching from Tawang up to Sikkim. However, later the entire kingdom went under the control of Tibet and Bhutan.

When India got its independence from Britain, Tawang was severed off from Tibet. In 1962, Tawang was conquered by the Chinese troops, who destroyed some portions of the monastery. For six months, the entire district was under the control of Chinese nationalist troops. However, after a retreat, it came under the control of India. Later in 1984, the district was separated from the West Kameng District. Owing to beautiful mountains and monasteries along with 100 lakes, today Tawang is one of the most sought out tourist destinations in Arunachal Pradesh. The destination celebrates several festivals throughout the year, which are mostly associated with religion and agriculture of Monpas. Some of the important festivals celebrated in Tawang are Losar, Torgya, Choekor and Dupka Tse-She. The Losar Festival, one of the most important festivals in Tawang, is celebrated by the Monpa community. It is celebrated for around two weeks, usually in February-March, to herald the Monpa New Year according to the lunar calendar. The Monpas belong to the Mongoloid stock and form a majority of the population of Arunachal Pradesh. The festival is marked by feasts and spending time with family and relatives. Houses are cleaned, lamps are lit, prayers are offered and prayer flags are hoisted. Masked dances, known as ‘chaam’, are performed by Buddhist monks in gompas to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The festival welcomes the new, ushering in good health, peace and prosperity. Khapse, a Tibetan biscuit, is prepared during this time. It is made from a dough of flour, sugar and butter which is then shaped into different forms and sizes and deep fried. The most common shape is the twirled rectangular one which is shared with friends and relatives and offered to guests. Other shapes include discs coated in sugar and long hollow tubes.

Situated in the north eastern corner of the country, Tawang has limited connectivity to the rest of the country by air, rail and road. The nearest airport is at Tezpur in Assam, 365 km away, which has direct flights to Kolkata twice a week. The nearest railhead is at Guwahati, 555 km away, which is connected to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore. By road, Tawang can be reached from Bomdila (185 km), Tezpur (365 km) and Guwahati (555 km) through the Sela Pass.

The best time to visit Tawang is during summer, which extends from the months of July to October.

Tourist Points: Tawang Monastery, Bumla Pass, Lakes, War Memorial, Craft Centre and the local markets.

 

Tawang War Memorial, Tawang

Timings: 07:00 To 19:00 hrs.

Tawang War Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the soldiers who lost their life in the 1962 indo-china war over the sharing of Arunachal and which still stands a sensitive issue between both the countries. The Indian army is still on guard at all major areas of Tawang being a region of conflict and this war memorial is a mirror to the actual situation and the history behind the indo-china war. There is also a military canteen, where one can purchase souvenirs at affordable prices. It is a well maintained and beautiful war memorial. Location of memorial is excellent with a view of entire Tawang city, Tawang Monastery and spectacular snow capped peaks.

Tawang Monastery, Tawang

Tawang Monastery, also known as Galden Namgyal Lhatse, which is an important seat of Mahayana Buddhism overlooks the wide Tawang Valley at a height of 10,000 ft.. This world famous monastery of the Gelukpa was founded during the 17th century by Mera Lama Lodre Gyaltso who is considered as a contemporary of the 5th Dalai Lama. It is Asia’s second largest monastery and India’s largest which controls 17 Gompas in the region. The highlights of this monastery are the imposing three-storied assembly hall and the 28 ft high golden statue of Lord Buddha. Its vast complex of 65 buildings houses over five hundred Lamas and also a big library which has an impressive collection of ancient books and manuscripts. The famous Buddhist gold inscribed scriptures Kangyur and Tangyur are preserved here. The Tibetan influence here is unmistakable, with the elaborately painted wooden windows and other motifs. Prayer flags flutter in the breeze outside.

The Tawang Monastery is associated with the famous Torgva festival which is held in the eleventh Monpa month called the Dawa Chukchipah (i.e Dec-Jan).

Timings: 07:00 To 19:00 hrs.

 

Tawang Craft Centre, Tawang

It’s a perfect place to witness authentic Tibetan craft made using centuries old techniques, which is not there in Tibet also. You can witness people making those crafts in front of your eyes. You can buy Thnkhas, Statues, Incense and other Buddhist religious items. It sells a lot more things but specializes in these, as AUTHENTIC TIBETAN CRAFTS are only made at 4/5 places in INDIA and 1-2 places in NEPAL. A must visit is the craft centre which produces very fine woollen carpets of colourful designs and masks.

Timings: 08:30 To 19:00 hrs.

Sela Pass, Arunachal Pradesh

Sela Pass is the world’s second highest motorable pass at an altitude of 14000 ft. It is 108 km from Bomdila (4 hrs) & 64 kms from Dirang (2.5 hrs) on the way to Tawang. Tawang is 70 km from here.

The road from Dirang moves along the Dirang River for 10 kms and then climbs starts. Climate change to colder with height as you moved closer to the Pass. The route is sparsely populated and forest is full of alpine trees. After a climb of 54 km for about 2 hrs, you can reach Sela pass. Most of the time, snow is there at Sela Pass and snow fall is common there. It is a heavenly place with snow all around. And the cherry on top is the paradise lake “Sela Lake” just after pass at 14000 ft. The serene crystal blue water natural lake and the surrounding landscape is truly pleasing to the eyes and senses.

Nameri National Park, Assam

Nameri is the most scenic National Park of Assam and is located at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in the Sonitpur District of Assam. It is adjoined by the Pakhui Sanctuary of Arunachal Pradesh on the north-eastern side. This national park is one of the thickest as well as the most threatened reservoirs of flora and fauna in the world. It covers an area of 200 sq. kms and also the core area of Nameri Tiger Reserve (344 Sq. km). It’s beautiful deciduous forests and the adjacent river jia Bhoreli, fringe the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This is therefore a popular stop en route to Bhalukpung in Arunachal, where anglers congregate to fish for the famous golden Mahseer. These deciduous forests are a mixture of tropical and semi-evergreen forests accompanied by cane and bamboo brakes along the river.

Animals found here are Tiger, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Elephant, Gaur, Wild Pigs, Sambar, Barking Deer, Hispid hare, Slow Loris, Capped Langur, Dhole, Sloth Bear,Burmese ferret Badger, Binturong etc. The park is home to several rare bird species including the endangered White Winged Wood duck and a huge variety of butterflies, including the prized Atlas Moth, considered the largest moth in the world with a wing surface area of 400 sq.cms and a 25-30cm wingspan.

The eco region of the park is a part of the North Bank Landscape and is regarded as a Mega Biodiversity Hotspot of the Eastern Himalayas. It is known for having some of the world’s best plant functional type and complexity. The park experiences tropical monsoons causing an average annual rainfall of 3400 mm.

These deciduous forests are a mixture of tropical and semi-evergreen forests accompanied by cane and bamboo brakes along the river.

How to reach : Nameri National Park is 210 kms from Guwahati, 40 kms from Tezpur, 215 kms from Jorhat, 110 kms from Nowgong and 125 kms from Kaziranga.

Best season for visit : November to April

River Rafting: River Rafting down the river Kameng, which borders the Nameri National Park is a great experience. Rafting trips can be day long or can last just half a day. Nameri Eco Camp organize river rafting for you. The route is around 18KMs (duration 2-3 hrs) on serene Jia Bhoroli. You can also combine your rafting with a picnic (duration 4-5 hrs in this case) on the banks of Jia Bhoroli in between the rafting. This is one of the best activities you can do in entire Assam.

Jungle Walk: In addition to rafting, Nameri Eco Camp arranges for supervised jungle treks in the company of knowledgeable forest guides and armed forest guards. These jungle treks are an adrenalin rush as it allows you to get real close to a wild elephant. These treks are also a great way to spot the rare species of white-winged wood ducks and the great hornbills. In terms of cost, there is a small forest fee for entrance, trekking and for photography. The guide and guard charges are separate, but extremely nominal. You might want to tip the guard and guide depending on your satisfaction. These guys earn very less from the government and hence appreciate any amount of tip.

Nameri Eco Camp is the only place to stay near Nameri National Park. You can book your accommodation in advance by calling Ronit Roy at 91-9435145563 and/or Vinod Sharma at 91-9854019932/ 91-9859547605.

on +91-9854019932 or the landline number +91-3714 292644. Cost is around Rs 1800 per night. The camp could become fully booked on weekends or national holidays well in advance.

The Nameri Eco Camp is situated about 45 km from Tezpur and about 1 km from the banks of the Jia-Bhoroli river. It offers the shortest route into the Nameri National Park. The entire place is set amidst dense green surroundings. In terms of accommodation, they offer the tourist the options of luxury tented cottages, simple tented cottages and dormitories. Food is served at a common dining hall.

Majuli, Assam

Majuli is the biggest inhabited river island in the world. It is located in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra River in Assam. Initially, this island was spread over an area of about 1250 square kilometers, but due to erosion, its size has now decreased considerably to an area of about 421.65 square km only. Originally, the island of Majuli was a long and narrow piece of land, which during ancient times was known as ‘Majoli’, meaning ‘land in the middle of two parallel rivers’. It was called so because it had the River Brahmaputra flowing in its North and the River Burhidihing flowing in its South. Both these rivers met at Lakhu. During 1661–1696, frequent earthquakes occurred, which led to a momentous and destructive flood in 1750. Due to the flood, the Brahmaputra got divided into two branches, one of which continued to flow along the original channel, while the other started flowing along the Burhi Dihing channel, which lead to the formation of the Majuli Island. The island is popular as a ‘pollution free fresh water island’, and is located at a distance of about 20 km from Jorhat town.

It can be reached by River ferry only, from Nimati Ghat (15 km from Jorhat). First River ferry is at 0830 hrs to Kamalabari Ghat. This ferry transport vehicles along with passengers. The ferry trip is one hrs duration.

An abode of Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture, there are many ancient satras in the destination. Besides, there are several sites associated with Lord Krishna. In the 16th century, Sankardeva, the founder of Vaishnavism, a monotheist form of Hinduism, established various monasteries and hermitages across the islet, known as satras.

There are over twenty-five neo-Vaisnavite centers in the destination, the most noteworthy being the satras of Garmur, Kamalabari and Auniati. On a visit to the satras dating back to 500 years, tourists can explore the rich cultural heritage of the region. The satras have preserved several articles of cultural and historical importance, which include weapons, ornaments, utensils and other artifacts.

Several articles displaying Borgeet, Matiakhara, Jumora dance, Chali dance and Noyua dance can also be found in these satras. Besides, Nande Vringee, Sutradhar, Ozapali, Apsara dance, Satria Krishna dance and Dasavater dance are also illustrated in the neo-Vaisnavite centres.

Pottery in Majuli is also very famous because it is made from beaten clay that is burnt in ovens fired with driftwood, which is quite similar to the ancient Harappa Civilization. The culture and dance forms of this place remain unaffected by modernization even today. The handloom work done by the tribes living in this place is well known.

Best time to visit is in winter.

Jaswant Garh, Arunachal Pradesh

Jaswant Garh is a memorial erected in the memory of Veer Jaswant Singh of the 4th Garhwal Rifles and a recipient of Mahavir Chakra (Posthumous) who alone stopped the Chinese Army for 72 hours during the 1962 aggression with the help of Monpa girls Sela and Nura. The location of this place in itself is very enchanting. The memorial is located on a mountain slope between Sela Pass and Jang Fall. Jaswant garh lies about 20 km away from Sela Pass (45 minutes drive) and 50 km from Tawang. The temple-like Jaswantgarh memorial falls on your left as you travel towards Tawang from Sela Pass. The memorial is maintained round the clock by the Indian army. It has a garlanded bronze bust of Jaswant Singh who is referred as Baba by soldiers, a portrait of the war hero and his belongings including the Army uniform, cap, watch, belt, shoes and even his bed. Jaswant is treated as if he is alive, his boots shined and his personal belongings cared for by Army personnel posted at the shrine. The earthen lamp before the portrait of Jaswant Singh burns round the clock. A marble plaque commemorates him and 161 other men of his battalion who died in the battle of Nuranang, which was awarded to Garhwal Rifles as a battle honour. Other than the memorial building, a lot of bunkers and artillery pits from the 1962 war have been preserved at the site. You feel honored to pay homage to Baba Jaswant Singh and to Indian Army. The landscape around the Jaswant garh memorial is amazing. Surrounded by lofty mountains and beautiful valleys, the view is absolutely breathtaking.
Across the road the soldiers run a snack counter where free tea is served for all travelers. Hot tea is very much required after crossing Sela Pass & long journey from Dirang. They also sell Samosa at Rs. 5/-.

Timing: Open all days – 08:30 To 19:00 hrs.

A journey towards the picturesque Tawang town through pristine hills of Arunachal Pradesh cannot be complete without a stopover at Jaswantgarh.

Jang Fall, Arunachal Pradesh

Jang Fall (also known as Nuranang Fall), about 100 metres high is located in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Situated at a height of 6000 ft above sea level, it is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in India. Due to its relative anonymity, few travellers know about it. The waterfall is located about 40 km from Tawang town. It lies some 2 kilometres away from the town of Jang on the road (1 km from main road) connecting Sesa Pass and Tawang after crossing Jaswant Garh.
The Nuranang river originates from the Northern slopes of the Sela Pass. It forms the waterfall before plunging into the Tawang Chu (Tawang River).
What a sight it is! The spectacle of huge volumes of milky white water hurtling down into the river below throwing up sprays upto several ft high provides an exhilarating experience. There is a small hydel plant located near the base that generates electricity for local use. You can trek down to the base of the falls and visit the plant.
It is said that this is the waterfall that features in the song ‘Tanhai Tanhai’ from 1997 Sharukh – Madhuri film ‘Koyla’.
Jang falls is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered in one of the lesser known and remotest parts of the country.

Shivadol, Sibsagar

Shivadol is one of the tallest Lord Shiva Temple (180 ft tall & 195 ft diameter) in the world. It was built by Queen Ambika, wife of King Shiva Singha in the year 1734.  It is located in the Heart of Sibsager (or Sivasagar, as it is now called), Assam and 97 km from Dibrugarh Airport.

The word ‘Dole’ means temple in Assamese. It attracts tourists for its gigantic architectural and religious values. The walls of the temple are sculptured with statues of numerous Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It is not only one of the most sacred place in North-East India, also the beauty of the place beyond words with three temples standing tall by the bank of a large pond ‘Sivasagar Tank’. It is caped seven feet high large Golden Dome on the topmost part of the dole.  This giant temple is located few feet higher than the normal town level. The other two great doles in the same campus are Vishnu Dol and Devi Dol. It is visible from most of the corners of the small town that adds real charm to the whole town. Every year these temples attract many national and international tourists to the town. Shiva Dole is pride of not only Sivasagar but also of whole Assam.

Maha Shivaratri is the most celebrated puja of this temple. Thousands of devotees come to the temple in the Shivaratri.

Unlikely any other popular Hindu Temple across India, Shive Dole carries less crowded and very calm ambience. The temple is a real place of religion and peace.