I have always kicked myself for not visiting North Eastern states of India beyond the State of Sikkim! And after we got this beautifully written travelogue from our guest contributor Rajat Chakraborty on his sojourn with lesser known virginal town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, I have not stopped thinking about going and exploring the unknown! For now, it's over to Rajat as he tells his tale in the most heart-touching manner.........
India’s North Eastern region is the one least explored even by Indians! So when the opportunity to take a sneak peek into these famously beautiful states came, I had to go.
The place of my rendezvous with North Eastern India was Tawang in the State of Arunachal Pradesh and I had never heard of it before. It is about 400 Kilometres (249 miles) from Assam by road. With a little anticipation, I started for that mysterious road-trip. Little did I know that I am about to unfold the secrets of nature that will leave a lasting impression on my mind.
The Journey to unexplored Begins......
Nestled at a height of over 7000 feet, Tawang is a small town at the very end of Arunachal Pradesh. Precisely 392 Kilometers (243 miles) from Tezpur, Assam, Tawang is a small town not known to many, except for the people of North East India, who are familiar with the region. For the rest of India, Tawang seems to be one of those many places that exist on the Indian map. But not many know how it changed the course of Indian History. For me, it was a surprise waiting to be unfurled.
I cranked the engines of my jeep from Mission Chariali (Square), in Tezpur (Assam), from where Tawang is a two-day journey by road. This was also the first time I was heading for the majestic Himalayas, and this made the trip even more thrilling. As the wheels rolled ahead, I could see the edges of the mountain tops inching closer. The scenic views around seemed to engulf me into a beautiful anonymity, something that the traveler in me yearned for long.
Far ahead on the mountains, I could see the clouds gathering up to let some showers loose. Yet, everything on the plains behind me was so sunny and bright. It was afternoon when my vehicle headed through the gates of Bomdilla, where I took a brief halt. The rain was already pouring down. I stopped and got down from the vehicle and looked on the other side of the Bomdilla gate, and I could see no rainfall on the other side but a clear sunshine, while it rained on the side where I stood. Nature had begun to play upon its magical ways and i was already swayed by it!
I drove further ahead and took a sharp left turn. A splash of water fell on the windshield and I instantly ran the wipers to clear out the water. I turned around to see where it came from and what stood in front of me was simply magical. Towering tree lines, hushing sounds of natural springs, birds chirping loudly and a clear stream of Brahmaputra river flowing down in the valley. It was worth taking a slow drive rather than hurrying up all the way, as you do not want to miss out on all those splendid views on the way.
Halting at Tenga-Chu
After a long-distance run through the majestic mountains, it was time to take a break for the day at Tenga valley. A small touristy town, Tenga lets you take a relaxing evening break from the long drive and helps you recoup for the drive next day. It is also a good idea to overhaul your vehicle here, while you try some refreshing tea and Maggi. I rested at a local lodge which was not as stylish, but was good enough to spend the night.
Tenga gets cold at nights and it is recommended that you keep enough woolens and sleeping bags to remain warm at nights. And once you get through the night, the morning will come to you in all its surprising glory. It was 4:00 in the morning when I woke up and stepped out of my room to take a look at the mountains. On the horizon in the east the first glint of sun rays were lazily coming out to wish me good morning. The sky was like a canvas with wild strokes of colors that simply mesmerized me into a trance and i looked on helplessly but absolutely happy.
The entry into Arunachal Pradesh is at the 'Sela Pass', at an altitude of 14700 feet. It only keeps getting chillier as one drives up. As I entered through the Sela gate, a breathtaking view of this lake welcomed me in. After traveling for almost 150 Kilometers ( 93 miles) straight, I was feeling tired, but this view was all I needed to get my energy back! The atmosphere here has a quality about it that calms you down almost instantaneously. There were hills all around as far as I could see and there was no measure of the vastness of nature. This was one of those times when I felt so minuscule in the scheme of nature.
The journey to Tawang from Sela pass only gets better with every mile. The zigzag routes, the sunshine simmering through the misty clouds that cover the gigantic mountains, the valleys filled with cotton-filled clouds, the crystal clear spring waters and the lush greenery. There are places that God has taken his time to create, yet we sometimes forget to take out our time to appreciate them.
Jaswantgarh.........the Martyr Town
Approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) ahead of Sela Pass, I halted at Jaswantgarh to pay homage to the martyrs who laid down their lives in the service of the nation. Jaswantgarh is a salute to Rifleman Jaswant Singh, who sacrificed his life during the Sino-Indian Conflict in 1962. Outnumbered against the massive Chinese Forces, Rifleman Jaswant Singh chose to hold the line rather than retreating, and gave a nail-biting fight to the Chinese forces for two days until the Chinese realized that they had lost almost 1000 men to his machine gun. As I stood at the memorial, the winds whispered in silence the stories of this true legend.
Sometimes, I think what makes an ordinary man so weak and frail? Why does he not stand and fight against the wrong? Why does he continue to keep his eyes closed to adversities?
When life acquaints you to legends like Jaswant Singh, you realize they too are the same ordinary men from among us. They too came from similar ordinary families with as ordinary dreams in life as ours. But it is the choices that made them extraordinary. Choices they made in the face of adversity that made them legendary! They chose honor over death, and that's what made them truly extraordinary
Jung........where you are on cloud nine!
Just 500 meters from Jaswantgarh memorial, I came across a vast vacuum of Jung valleys filled with fluffy clouds. The clouds rise up from the infinite depths of the valley and almost seem to overflow the bowl. I walked to the edge of the valley to feel the clouds rushing out of the bowl of the valley.
This is what you call ‘Clouds at your feet’...
It was evening when I finally entered the small town of Tawang. The ‘wow’ spilled from my lips wa almost instantaneously. There was no time to rest. I just checked-in to my stay and threw my bags at a side; splashed my face and was back on the wheels. I simply didn’t want to miss out on any part of this experience, Tawang was this alluring!
Tawang Market (Nehru Market)...... Big things come in small packages!
Don't get carried away by the size of the Tawang market. It may seem to you that you can live through it over a day’s walk, but there is more beneath the surface. A rather uptown market with impeccable taste and touch of modernity, Nehru Market is a place where you can find almost everything! It is a perfect place to pick some gifts and souvenirs, titillate your taste buds with enticing food, electronics and computers, splurge on some fashionable clothes and accessories! In this seemingly small place, you can shop like you shop in a metro city, yet it retains the mysterious simplicity of life in the hills.
A giant bell stands at the corner of the market, constantly in motion depicting the auspicious chants ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, which as per the Tibetan tradition is believed toaccumulate wisdom and positive energy continuously. I wrapped up the evening after bidding a goodbye to everyone here. There was still more to explore the next day and i could not wait!
The best part about traveling farther East is that the sunrise keeps knocking at the door earlier and earlier! I woke up early again to peep out of the window of my cozy room. The sun enveloped the mountains in front as the white mist floated between the tiny houses at a distance.
I drove down to Tawang Monastery, to uncover the mysteries of Tibetan culture. The second largest in Asia, the Tawang monastery is home to more than 700 monks and students and is the pride of the town. The monastery has a statue of 'Lord Buddha' towering to approximately 30 feet. The statue stands to a height of three storeys with balconies on the either side from where the statue can be overlooked standing over the balconies.
Sitting in the lotus position, Lord Buddha is also seen to be holding a bowl in the centre. The monks here believe that if you make a wish and toss a coin over the balcony and if it falls straight into the bowl, your wish comes true. As I stood up there on the third floor balcony, one of the monks asked me to try tossing a coin into the bowl. I tried a few times, well..I guess it was not this time my wish would be fulfilled. What did I wish? Let it come true, and I will tell you soon.... :) :) I guess I will have to give it a try another time.
The best part of coming to Tawang monastery is witnessing the craftsmanship of the monks as they make intricate decorations with wax and colors inside the temple. The Lamas spend hours patiently, chiselling out this wax pattern on the floor. I bid adieu to the monastery and moved further ahead to an even more unheard place - the Sangetsar lake aka the 'Madhuri Lake'.
The mystical Sangetsar Lake lies further ahead, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Tawang. Nestled between the mountains at a height of 15000 feet, this serendipitous lake is nature's own way of painting its canvas. Numerous tree spikes jut out of the water surface, as the mist gently floats through them. Far behind, the thin rays of sunlight filter through the mist creating vivid shades on the canvas. If there is a moment you want to search for the meaning of true inner peace, you will undoubtedly find that moment here.
My journey here had come to an end his time, but not forever. I would drive down again to be among those mountains, and get enchanted once again. I guess once you travel there, you cannot stay away from them for long.
This journey had unfolded secrets of the unexplored I had never thought of before. Finally, as I made my way back out of Tawang, I was left with an unforgettable experience .My camera was full with all the glimpses of the nature that I could ever capture, and yet there was urge for more...And the urge still remains! To turn the wheels and go back to one of the best places I have ever traveled for it connected me to my true inner spirit.
About Rajat from the man himself
Hello, I am Rajat Chakraborty, a traveler from Nagpur, Central India. An Ex-Serviceman, I always liked traveling and my profession took me to places where I could have otherwise never traveled. I have been traveling since 2000 and my journey in past one and a half decades took me to more than 200 small town and cities in India, the names of some I had never heard before.
In 2012, on just another usual day, when I sat down with my family members rejoicing the photo memories, they inspired me to record my stories . Initially just writing these stories in my diary, I came across travel blogging and the journey began. I have been traveling and writing ever since. MY website is www.trawellblogging.com