At an altitude of 3500 mtrs, Tawang is one of the most popular hill stations of Arunachal Pradesh. The memorising natural beauty of Tawang hills along with its unique history and culture attracts a large number of tourists here.
Tawang is one of the 16 administrative districts of the north eastern state of India, Arunachal Pradesh. It is spread over 2085 sq km.
Tawang is bestowed with natural beauty and a varied range of flora and fauna. The place is endowed with many rare and endangered species and over six hundred species of orchids that bloom every year. The mountains above the main town has a large number of high altitude lakes some of which are very beautiful.
The mystical land of the Monpas, Tawang captures all the beauties of nature ranging from snow covered hills and mountains, majestic forests, alluring lakes, and mesmerising views!
The nearest rail station and major airport is at Guwahati in Assam. Although you may also choose to alight at Tezpur which is closer. From Guwahati Tawang is about 500 kms and from Tezpur it is about 340 kms. The road condition from Tezpur to Tawang is not in excellent condition and covering more than 25 kms an hour is difficult. From Tezpur it takes 2 days to reach here with overnight stay at Dirang or Bomdila. From Guwahati it may be 3 days with additional night stay at either Tezpur or Bhalukpong. There is a helicopter service from Guwahati but it is not regularly in operation. Travelling to Tawang may seem a hassle but the entire journey is through beautiful forests and mountains and at the end you are fully rewarded with the great sights and scenes of Tawang.
Tawang is at a relatively higher altitude and is quite cold especially during the winter months. January – February witnesses heavy snowfall and it is difficult to travel here crossing the precarious Sela pass during these months. The rainy season between July and September is also not ideal for travel. Rest of the year is ideal for travel but do not forget to carry heavy woollens.
Guwahati – 500 kms
Tezpur – 340 Kms
Bomdila – 180 Kms
Dirang – 143 Kms
Sela Pass – 75 Kms
The monastery is the second largest in Asia and is one of the chief attractions of the town. The Town derived its name from the 350 year old monastery, which is Asia's second largest. Literally, Tawang means ‘chosen horse’ (where ‘ta’ means horse and ‘Wang’ means chosen), Legends has it that the site of the great monastery was chosen by a horse, owned by Merag Lama Lodre Gyatso, who was searching for a site to build a monastery. Finding his horse on the hill top, where once stood the palace of King Kala Wangpo, and believing it to be a good harbinger, Merag Lama founded the Monastery in the later part of 1681. It is also known by another Tibetan name- ‘Galden Namgey Lhatse’, which means, a celestial paradise in a clear night.
Flora and Fauna
Much of the district of Tawang is under forest covere, particularly alpine and temperate forests, that is a haven to numerous species of plants and animals. As the government and natives are conscious, the forests and the species are still safe in Tawang.
The animal kingdom includes species of tawang macaques, slow loris, rhesus macaque, barking dear, bharal, chinese goral, himalayan goral, red goral, samber, serow, musk deer, takin, wild pig, moupin's pika, large-eared pika, chinese pangolin, coloured leopard, common leopard, himalayan black beer, leopard cat, marbled cat, snow leopard, wild dog, yellow throated marten, pale weasel, massked palm, civil, otter, red panda, hairy footed flying squirrel, orange-bellied himalayan squirrel, porcupine etc.
The 40 feet tall Namgyal Stupa epitomizes the 2420 valiant martyrs who sacrificed their life during the Sino-Indian war, is about 1km from Tawang town.
Standing at a height of 13714fts above the mean sea level, it is a pass that flags way for people visiting Tawang, with its two lakes marked by a beautiful traditional gate. An alluring place, Sela Pass mesmerises travellers.
The Panggang –Teng-Tso Lake, is at a distance of 14kms from the main town of Tawang is a blue lake in summer and during winters is totally covered with ice. The lake is surrounded by colourful flowers all around and is little misty in the rainy season.
Another lake that was formed during the flood of 1973 is just 42kms from the town and its beauty is enhanced by the bare tree standing straight around the lake.
It is a monastery that was built by Lama Urgen Zngpo in the 15th century and is situated about 5kms away from the town. It is the birth place of the VIth Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Tsangyang Gyatso(1683-1706). Visitors feel serene and peaceful on visiting this pious place.
Also known as Phong-phongma or Nurongneng waterfall, it is 40kms away from the main town of Tawang, at Nyamseir. The rushing water through the hills against the beautiful green and blue backdrop is splendid for people visiting the place.
The natives of Tawang are generally known as ‘monpas’ which is a term used by Tibetans to describe the people living in the low lands south of Tibet. Monpas are of Mongoloid decent and they relate to the people of Bhutan in their customs, language, occupation of farming, and living style. The Monpas are broadly divided into three groups namely, Dirang monpa, Khalathang monpa, and Tawang monpa. Monpas are clement, gentle, soothing, courteous, light-hearted, industrious, and hospitable in nature.
Generally, the monpa males wear a full length trouser and a shirt. The shaggy woollen trouser is either of red or black in colour. During summer they prefer 'kangnom', i.e. short trouser, that has no button and is tied around the waist by a cloth belt. Monpa women go for light smock 'shingka', a sleeveless gown of red and white colour.
Some common foods consumed by monpas are 'zan'. It is the staple food of the natives usually take with meat or vegetable curry. Other foods are momo, thukpa, gyapa khazi, puta, bresi, shauchang, khazi etc. Monpas are quite fond of liquor, and the traditional liquor they have in general is 'chang' which is also served during festivals as a symbol of merry making. Due to cold weather, monpas prefer butter tea too.
Monpas celebrate a number of festivals. 'Losar' is their New Year festival which is generally celebrated during late February or starting of March. It is celebrated to bring peace and happiness in everyone's life and the celebration goes on for 8 to 15 days. Yak and lion dances are conducted as a mark of joy and religious flags are raised. Other important festivals include 'torgya', 'choekar', 'dukpa tse-she', 'saka dawa', 'ser bang', etc.