The Virgin Beauty – Arunachal Pradesh Part 5

Author: Archan Dhar

Pune, Maharashtra, India

Travel Dreams Archive
The Virgin Beauty – Arunachal Pradesh Part 5

The distance from Dirang to Tawang is 145 Km, 10 Km less than Bhalukpong to Dirang. But we had to cross the mighty Himalayan snow cap in Sela to reach Tawang. Starting early was the key here and so we did, expecting to reach destination by 2.00 in the afternoon. The start of the journey was more than pleasant with breathtaking views all around. We stopped for some Maggi breakfast at a local dhaba. The snow caps were visible at a distance. Some of the returning vehicles had snow on the tops that gave us an assurance that we would get to see some snow that we had come here for. We did not, however, imagine in the worst of dreams on the grief Sela top had in store for us.

Tawang, the world of mystics and enchanting beauties forms the western most district of Arunachal Pradesh is located at the soaring height of near about 10,000fts above MSL sharing boundaries with Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the south west and Sela range of West Kameng the East is the home of Monpa tribe. Tawang is believed to have derived its name from the grandiose Tawang Monastery perched on the edge of the ridge running along the western part of Tawang Township. Ta means Horse and Wang means chosen. As the legend goes the site of the present monastery is believed to have chosen by a Horse owned by Merag Lama Lodre Gyamtso. Mera Lama Lodre Gyamtso who was on a search for an appropriate place to establish Monastery was unable to locate any appropriate site so, finally decided to sit on prayer for a guidance of a divine power. As he opened his eyes after prayer, he found his horse missing. So, wearily he went out searching his horse and found it on the top of the hill known as Tana Mandekhang where once stood a palace of King Kala Wangpo. Believed it a good omen, Mera Lama Lodre Gyamtso decided to initiate a work for building up of a monastery with the help of people living across the land of Monpas. This Monastery was founded by Mera Lama Lodre Gyamtso in late 1681 according to the wishes of 5th Dalai Lama. However, there is a another belief of derivation of name Tawang. The great treasure Revealer, Terton Pemalingpa gave initiation such as Tamdin and Ka-gyad and hence the place came to be known as Tawang (Ta an abbreviation of Tamdin; Wang means initiation. This land is also known by Monyul because of its low lying area dwelled by Monpas. Decedents of Mongoloid race, Monpas are Buddhist by religion and Tawang monastery is the fountain head of their spiritual lives. The spread of Buddhism in the area started with the arrival of Guru Padmasambhava, the great Indian Saint in 8th century. The Monpa tribe is predominant of Gelukpa sects of Mahayana stream of Buddhism. Before embracing Buddhism they were the believers of “Bon” faith characteristic of spirit worship and animal sacrifice. The Monpas are by and large agriculturists apart from this they also tame yak, sheep and other livestock. The Monpa society is monogamous by law but polygamy and polyandry is also seen prevalent. They live in cozy double storied residential houses constructed of stone blocks, bamboo ceiling, curved wooden doors and window frames. They are courteous, friendly docile, hardworking and above all they are very hospitable. We can see the impeccable influence of their religion on their demeanour.

Tawang was carved out of the West Kameng district, which adjoins it to the south and east. Bhutan borders Tawang to the west whereas Tibet (China) is to the north of the district. The district occupies an area of 2,085 square Km and has a population of 38,924 (as of 2001), almost 75% of which are considered “tribal” The sensitivity of the border area brings Tawang a heavy military presence.

Tawang has been the focal point of Indo-Sino rivalry in recent times. When the border known as the McMahon Line was drawn in 1914, Tibet gave up several hundred square miles of its territory, including the whole of the Tawang region and the monastery, to the British. The independence of India from Britain in 1947 separated Tawang from Tibet.

So 1914 McMahon Line officially made Tawang a part of India.  It came under effective Indian administration on February 12, 1951. India assumed control and sovereignty of the area and established democratic rule therein. Elections have taken place regularly and democratic state legislature elected peacefully.

During the Sino-Indian war of 1962, Tawang briefly fell under Chinese control.  After the voluntary withdrawal of Chinese troops, Tawang again came under Indian administration. In recent years, China has started making claims on parts of Arunachal Pradesh, especially Tawang. Today, Tawang serves as a centre for tourist attractions, thanks to the well-preserved beauty of the Tawang Monastery.

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