Tawang – a heady mix of religion, history and nature

Tawang is located at an elevation of 10,000 feet in Arunachal Pradesh.

It was an impulsive decision to drive to Tawang – a journey that took us across four states, four airports and almost four days on the road. Located at a distance of 400 km uphill, it is nestled at 10,000 feet high in Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang, which means ‘chosen by horse’ is full of magical monasteries and mystical gompas on one end and a war memorial on the other.A heady mix of  religion, history and nature, this town was ravaged during the Indo-China War in 1962. The home of the Mompas, the monastery was founded in 17th century. Tawang is known for the lakes and waterfalls and we set out looking for them.

The mountains curved as River Kameng flowed

The mountains curved as River Kameng flowed along with us. It had just snowed. All of a sudden, it was white all around. Snow clad mountains wrapped in a valley of clouds was all we could see till we came to a glacier which opened to a gate guarded by dragons with bright coloured flags fluttering all around.

We were at Sella Pass at 13,700 feet where we stopped by along a frozen lake and were tempted to walk on the ice. We had none for company except for a couple of dogs and a small tea shop that served us some hot tea and noodles.

Sella Pass at 13,700 feet

A thick layer of mist hung over the roads as we drove up hill. Our driver told us that there were more than 100 lakes uphill and if the army gives us permission, we could get there. A little cajoling with the army got us trudging uphill in our jeep.

The mist descended even thicker and many times we stopped dead in our tracks wondering if there was a curve ahead or if we were at a cliff. Visibility was at zero.  And suddenly the veil lifted. And then we saw the blue sky .and a sea of clouds encircling us, wrapping everything below. The sun shone brightly out of a clear and spotless sky. Small peaks jutted out of the clouds which had spread themselves. We stared right into the clouds and couldn’t see anything below. We had a stunning panoramic view of the clouds and the sky and the mountains on the other side.

Patang Teng Tso Lake

We kept climbing uphill till we came to the first lake - the Patang Teng Tso or the PT Tso Lake. It was just 20km from Tawang and it seemed like a long journey. There was not a soul around, not even the occassional yak or the mountain goat. Even army personnel were not there.

Snow was scattered all over, carpeting a mountain here and there, while the lake was frozen. There were several other lakes, a mix of water and ice; some with coloured flags fluttering high, some dotted with a small temple. The colours were stark, blue and white, black and brown. I had not seen anything so majestic, peaceful and beautiful. I wanted to capture every image in to the lens, but a lot is still in my mind’s eye.

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