Tawang, also known as the Hidden Paradise on earth is a small town in the state of Arunachal Pradesh located approximately 448km north-west of the state capital, Itanagar. The place truly is a hidden paradise because it is one of the most underrated places in India, when it comes to a tourist spot. So, naturally when my father got posted to Tawang, my sister and I spent quite sometime locating this unheard place on the map. And there it was, somewhere on the tip of the state on the farthest corner right next to China. Little did we know that reaching that place was a task in itself. The first stop was Guwahati, in Assam, from where we embarked our journey onward. From Guwahati it takes approximately 10-12 hours by road to reach Tenga from where it takes almost the same time to reach Tawang. Now, the problem is the connectivity, it takes hours to reach the place because of the lack of maintenance of roads. However the plus point, is the luxury of having a picturesque view all along as we travel. Small tinkling streams, frozen lakes, wild flowers all across the valley, certainly brings out the aesthetics. We definitely spend some of the best moments of our Army Brat life in this town. So, if you ever have the opportunity to visit this beauty that resides in the lap of the mountains and the lush greens, here are some of the highlights of Tawang.
1.Shungetser Lake: More commonly known as the Madhuri Lake, this wonder of nature was created when an earthquake struck the area making a natural lake. This lake is absolutely Instagram worthy and it requires no filters, so do not miss a single angle. The beauty of the lake lies in the fact that, the trees which were once there, stand in the lake now with only their stumps. The lake is tucked in the heart of the Himalayan mountains and the crystal clear water is a sight to behold. The area is maintained by the army, and it also offers guests the pleasure to spend a few days there in a cosy yet, luxurious wooden lodge.
2. Noorang Waterfalls: The Noorang waterfalls also known as the Jung falls is at a distance of about 42km from Tawang. It is a largely unknown place, well hidden in the depths of the forests of Tawang. It sure does offer an enticing and pristine experience. The sheet of milky white water gushes from a height of approximately 100 m. On a bright sunny day, you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow in the water. The clear water definitely elevates your spirits and tempts you take a swim in the bitter cold water. My advice: Please do not let your temptation get the better of you, you’ll come back shivering or worse, you’ll be back with a bad cold; I know because, I fell in it, slipped off a rock. Okay, okay, you can laugh.
3. Tawang Monastery: The Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world. It is the fountainhead of the spiritual life of the Buddhists. The monastery is perched at a height of about 3,000 m above sea level and is believed to be 400 years old. The breathtakingly beautiful monastery radiates peace and calm, and holds within it one of the largest statues of Lord Buddha. It is built like a huge mansion and its interiors are beautifully done up with intricate designs and paintings of Bodhisattvas. The monastery is an abode to about 400 monks of all ages. The library in the Tawang Monastery has a lot of valuable scriptures which are well preserved. It is said, that to keep the monastery running, every family of Tawang has to give away their second born son to the monastery.
4. Maitri Diwas: The Maitri Diwas is a festival that celebrates the friendship between the Army and the Civil. The festival is celebrated in a huge ground and is set up like a fair with stalls, music and dances. To enhance the celebrations, the Indian Army adds the requisite military grandeur to the event with its splendid band display and a weapon display. The Army also organizes a free Medical Camp which is heavily subscribed to by the civilian population. The festival is a major attraction for the population of the town as it is symbolic of a close and friendly relation between the Army and the Civil.
5. India-China Bum La Meet: Not quite sure whether this will continue or no anymore but, back when I was eight, India and China were pretty friendly; at least friendly enough to organise celebrations. The Bum La meet was organized twice every year, one on the 15th of August and one on the 1st of October. India organized the meet on 15th August and China did the same on 1st October. Yup, we shared the happiness of our independence with them and now they are hell bent after it. The meet was symbolic of the friendship between the two countries and was marked with a lot of festivities including cultural performances, exchange of gifts and lunch. The Army and the Civilian population from both sides of the border were part of the celebration.
6. Night life in Tawang: The coal black sky with stars that you will never be able to see in any other city of India, is all you have for what counts as night life in Tawang. Just peace and quiet and a galaxy of beautiful sparkling stars surrounding the pristine moon. No club hopping, nothing. The people of Tawang believe in the concept of “Early to bed, early to rise, blah blah, blah.” Quite a foreign concept to our messed up sleep schedule.
Yes, Tawang is absolutely isolated, we called it a place in the middle of nowhere. It is bitter cold there for 365 days. There was no signal, no ice cream, no Lays, no soft drinks, and the restaurants shut down by 7pm. The sun rose at 4 in the morning and it was pitch black at 5 in the evening. But, a place like this with the most friendly and caring people and an amazing scenery did make up for a wonderful change. Two well spent years and I would not give up any bit of it.
This post was written by Samiksha Yadav, IInd year.