The district of Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh is the land of the Monpa tribe and is a rather unusual hill station that packs in adventure options for the outdoor buff. It is a major centre for the Mahayana Buddhist sect. Tawang is located at a height of 12,000 ft. above the sea level and shares its border with Tibet and Bhutan. There are a number of high altitude lakes in Tawang but not all of them are accessible.
The army has a strong presence in Tawang and it restricts movements in certain areas but that is because the district shares a highly sensitive border with China. The Himalayas tower over this picturesque hills station, puncturing the impossibly blue sky with their snowy hills and peaks. Tourism in Tawang is best suited for people looking for adventure as it has interesting trekking trails for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Tawang got its name from the Tawang Monastery. The monastery was founded in the 17th century by Merag lama Lodre Gyatso . An interesting legend surrounds the monastery which literally means ‘chosen by horse’.
It is believed that Marag Lama was looking for a place to build and establish a monastery. One day he was praying in a cave seeking guidance and when he came out he discovered his horse was missing. on searching for it he found his horse standing on a hill top. Taking this as a sign he built the monastery in the very same spot.
Things To Do
When you are in Tawang, you will find a variety of things to do there. Other than visiting the beautiful lakes and taking in the scenic beauty of the place, there are many serene monasteries and gompas that you can stop at to pay obeisance.
Nature lovers will be in for treat! Go climbing and trekking in the surrounding hills where the flora and fauna is like you’ve never seen before. If a little less activity is more your style, then long walks in the sylvan surroundings are the order of the day.
Arunachal Pradesh is known for its handicrafts, so when in Tawang, do buy some thangkas and carpets to take home with you.
Polygamy prevails in Tawang and marriage between cousins is an accepted practice.
The Monpa tribe of Tawang district is simple people who brew their own alcohol and believe in enjoying life to the hilt and when spirits are high they often break into song and dance.
Though Monpas are non-violent by nature they have no qualms at animal sacrifice or animal consumption.
The Monpas also have their own secret customs that they follow and not much is known about these.
Spend a few days in Tawang and try visiting the lakes and other monasteries in the area. The Sangetser and the Banggachang lakes with their deep blue water are simply awesome sights. You can also visit the Nuranang Falls, Singsar Ani Gompa (a nunnery), the 700-year-old Gorsham Gompa, and the Crafts Centre that produces carpets and masks with traditional Buddhist and Tibetan motifs.
Tawang is synonymous with the 400-year-old Buddhist Monastery called Galden Namgyal Lhatse which was established in 1643 – 47 by Lodre Gyaltso, popularly known as Tawang Monastery. The 3-storey, fortified monastery, which is second largest in Asia, is over 140 square metres and has 65 residential buildings, chortens, lanes, and by-lanes.
Another interesting sight is the Dukhang or main assembly hall has Buddha statues in various poses, while the Parkhang hall lodges the library, with a wealth of thangka-manuscripts and sacred books. The monastery houses an 8-meter high golden statue of Buddha. Some of the precious manuscripts have been penned in gold and are quite a treasure to behold!
To enjoy skiing in its best form at Tawang, head to PankangTeng Tso Lake. Also known as Ptso Lake, it is situated 17 km away from the town of Tawang. During the winters, the lake turns icy frozen, while its surroundings get covered with thick layers of fresh snow. The snowy surroundings have high altitude slopes that offer a quick run while skiing. There are also ski agencies and instructors available in the vicinity to train the amateurs.
Tawang is a much undiscovered Trekkers paradise, offering breathtaking views, fresh mountain air, chill weather, and challenging or leisurely treks. For a rigorous trek ( classified hard), take the Jang – Thingbu – Mago – Goi ichen Base Camp – Mago (Back) – Luguthang – Sena Chakra – RA-I route.
The softer trekking routes include the Mukto – Gongkhar – Gyamdong – Khet – Kharung – Bongleng – Kungba – Namsring – Kharteng – Lumla route, and the Tawang Gonpa – Gyangong Ani Gonpa – Bhramadongchung Ani Gonpa – Tawang routes.
Pray at the 400 year old Tawang Gompa. Turn the prayer wheels dotted outside small gompas. The prayer wheel is connected to a stream which flows beneath the monastery. The wheel rotates according to the force of the water in the stream. Meet and chat with the friendly Lama monks. Take excursions around town to visit beautiful glacier lakes and smaller gompas with big histories.
This is an Indian Army War Memorial commemorating the bravery of hundreds of soldiers who fought in the 1962 war against the Chinese. It is more of a temple than a war memorial for Indian Army soldiers. Jaswant Singh Rawat, who along with two other soldiers bravely fought of the Chinese Army invading Tawang, during the battle of Nuranang. He stood his position for 3 days at an altitude of 10000 ft without giving up until his last breath. For his outstanding act of gallantry Rifleman. Jaswant Singh Rawat was posthumously awarded with the Mahavir Chakra. His two colleagues L Nk. Trilok Singh Negi, along with Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusain, were awarded with the Vir Chakra.
Pankang Teng Tso Lake
Pankang Teng Tso Lake, also called as Ptso Lake is situated 17 km from Tawang. Formed as a result of an earthquake, dead pine tree trunks, which once formed a forest around it protrude out of the surface like fallen soldiers, a mute testament to the geological activity around the lake. The lake remains frozen during winter and area around the lake supports skiing. To enjoy the calm waters moving about slowly in an atmosphere where you could not miss even the smallest whispers of nature, you need to visit this place in summer. Radiant rhododendron flowers and birds in different hues could not be done justice even by the best of photographers.
Sela Pass is amongst the most frequented tourist destination in the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. It owns the credit of being the only high-altitude mountain pass in the world that is motorable. This is the only way to gain access to Tawang by road. If you venture to this place in winter, you will have before you a stunning view of snow-clad Sela Pass. You will find Paradise Lake on your way to Sela Pass. The lake, for the most part would be frozen during winter. The sunrays kissing the mountaintop give you a different version of the mountain. Summer or winter, you are sure to love the experience. Sela Pass is rightly called the ‘Heaven on earth’.
How to get there by Air
If you are choosing air travel as your first medium to reach Tawang, then Tezpur airport must be your destination. Salonibari airport (domestic) in Tezpuroperates regular flights from Guwahati and Kolkata. If you are looking for an international airport closest to Tawang, LokpriyaGopinathBordoloi International Airport in Guwahati is the one for you. Guwahati airport is more reliable as it is very well connected to major cities of India and the northeast that include Delhi, Mumbai, Aizwal, Imphal, Kolkata and Agartala.
How to get there by Rail
Nearest railhead to Tawang is at Tezpur. Popular trains to travel to Tezpur are Ghy Rajdhani, Sc Ghy Express, Porvotr S Kranti and Guwahati Express.
How to get there by Road
Traveling to Tawang from the various regions in the northeast of India via road is also a nice option. Regions like Tezpur (320 km), Bhalukpong (262 km), Missamari (383 km), Nagaon (381 km) East Kameng (390 km) and Itanagar (440 km) are all connected to Tawang via Arunachal Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). Private travel service is also available for Tawang.