A trip to Tawang is like an escape into paradise. As you cross the Sela Pass and enter the Tawang district, you feel you as if you have been transported to fairy land. The eastern Himalayas with their hypnotic beauty and charm, the innumerable mountain ranges with clouds floating atop, different hues of vegetation all around make this hill region a delight to behold.
Our trip to Tawang began at the Sela Pass at 13,700 ft above sea above sea level, with icy cold winds blowing throughout the year. The Sela Lake here was the first breathtaking sight we were greeted by.
The lake remains frozen for nearly four to five months a year and feeds the Nurangang River. Some of the highlights from our trip to Tawang include:
The road follows the Nurangang River to Jaswant Garh, where there is a War Memorial named after the Subedar Jaswant Singh of 4 Garhwal Rifles who, along with his men, held up the advancing Chinese in the 1962 Indo-China War. The monument is a tribute to the valiant men who lost their lives in the battle of Nurangang.
From Jaswant Garh memorial, one gets a mesmerising view of Jung Falls and the entire valley stretching out all the way to Tawang town. The highly revered monastery can be spotted too on a clear day. To the northwest are the stunning peaks of Yangtze Ang Gorichen.
This religious structure was hands-down the main attraction of our trip to Tawang. It is the largest monastery of its kind in India and the second largest in the world. An impressive three-storey structure housing 65 residential buildings that serve as home to over 450 lamas, the Tawang Monastery is an architectural marvel in its own right. It also serves as the spiritual seat of the region and controls 17 other gompas in its vicinity.
The monastery that is known as ‘Gaden Namgyal Lhatse’ in Tibetan, meaning celestial paradise in clear night, was founded by Merek Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-81.
The main building is simple from the outside but a riot of colours on the inside, with a vibrant hue of red dominating the interiors. The central Buddha statue in a lotus position stands 18 foot tall and is gilded and decorated. The interiors of the sanctum sanctorum are adorned with Buddhist paintings, murals and carvings. Butter art is also an important feature of the monastery. All of these features come together well to lend the complex a serene and blissfully peaceful vibe.
There is a museum at the monastery which should not be missed. Various artefacts of Tibetan and local people such as utensils, weapons and currency are showcased here. The Parkhang Library is another treasure trove housing invaluable manuscripts including 400-year-old Kangyur scriptures. There are Sutras, Sungbum and Tangym, many of them in gold.
Our next visit on this trip to Tawang was to the Nurangang Waterfalls on the outskirts of the village of Jung. The waterfalls fuel a hydropower project and make for one of the most spectacular sights in all of northeast India. Falling from a height of 100 metres, this cascade presents a magnificent view where the water of the Nurangang River falls into the Tawang Chu River, raising a refreshing mist that blends right in with clouds hanging so low one could reach out and touch them.
During the summer months, one can venture into the river waters for a refreshing swim. However, the fall and the river swell up to mammoth proportions during the monsoon, making it too risky to try such an adventure.
Best Time to Plan a Trip to Tawang
The best time travel is from October to May. Plan your trip to Tawang in October is ideal, as it is also the time of the Tawang Festival is held. This festive extravaganza showcases the cultures of the indigenous tribes of the area. It is best to avoid the monsoon season for visiting this part of the country, as the roads are in dire straits and often prone to landslides.
A trip to Tawang should be on the bucket list of every travel enthusiast, as it is the perfect encapsulation of untouched natural beauty and the Buddhist way of life.