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Tucked away in the far north-east, wedged between the borders of Bhutan, Burma and Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh isIndia's newest and least-known state. Prior to attaining statehood in 1986, Arunachal Pradesh was known as the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA). Aside from a few forays by administrators and anthropologists, the area remained largely ignored by India's British rulers, and its isolation was legally safeguarded by India's own government - and before laws permitting limited tourism were passed in 1995, even Indian citizens requires Inner Line Permits.

Had it not been for thefact that the NEFA'sstrategically valuable location made it the ideal base for theallied airmen flying the treacherous Himalayan route over "The Hump" into China during World War II, this lush, lonely area might have been entirely ignored by the outside world. Even now, the frontiers of ArunachalPradesh are blocked by military checkpoints. Entry for foreign nationals to the state is only possible with a Restricted Areas Permit US $ 50 per person for maximum of ten days stay in Arunachal Pradesh, and all visitors must travel in groups of four or more.

For the first proper sense of Arunachal Pradesh's remove from the rest of India, and the rest of the world, it is necessary to travel seven hours by road from Itanagar to the hill station of Ziro or from Tezpur to Ziro or from Bomdila to Tawang. As one progress through the villages and settlements along the road, the people start looking less Indian and more South-East Asian. The drive itself is an adventure, inching steadily upwards along palm-sweating treacherous roads cut out of the sides of richly forested hills..

ZIRO

While Ziro, though remote, is recognisably a 20th century city, the nearby Hong village would be a theme park vision of what mediaeval Asia might have been like - except for the Apatani tribesmen who live here, it's real life. Hong is a collection of a few dozen grey houses, built from bamboo and roofed by palm leaves. Some of the houses have one or more constructions lashed to their porches that resemble giant wooden television aerials which are, in fact, animist totems denoting the birth of a male child to the household. Hong's two squares are each dominated by much bigger versions of the same thing - at the great village festival, held every three to five years, the tradition among the young men is to steel themselves with rice wine and swing from them.

The only traffic in Hong consists of pigs, chickens, dogs and people. As is the case anywhere, it is the older people who cleave hardest to the local traditions. The men carry short swords in blunt-tipped scabbards slung around their necks, wear their hair in topknots and sport complicated, swirling facial tattoos. The women also have the permanent face-paint, but also distend their noses and ears with really quite alarmingly large wooden plugs. All these together makes a trip to Arunachal memorable.

TAWANG

Tawang,10650 fts above sea level, in Arunachal Pradesh, is bordered by Tibet in the North, Bhutan in the South-West and the Se la ranges separate West Kameng district in the East.It is commonly believed that the name TAWANG was given by Mera Lama in the 17th century. The inhabitants of the districts are all of Monpa tribes except Shyo village which is dominated by people of Tibetian origin. The Monpas belong to Mongoloid stock. They are well built and fair in complexion. Their houses are built with stones and timbers. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry form the essential means of the Monpas' occupation.

Tawang is also home to the Tawang Monastery, one of the most important element in Social and Religious life of the Monpas. This Monastery, also known as "GALDEN NAMGYEL LHATSE",is one of the largest Lamaseries of the Mahayana sect in Asia. Lamseries comprise of several sections ranging near about four hundred years, devoted to Love, Learning and Purity of life. This fortified complex, dating back to the 17th century AD covers an area of 2350 sq. meters enclosed by a compound wall of 610 meter long. Within the complex there are 65 residential buildings and 10 other structures. The library have valuable old scriptures mainly Kanjur and Tanjur numbering 850 bundles.

The two major religious festivals of the Monpas, are Losar and Torgya. Both festivals are celebrated once annually. The LOSAR s celebrated to the commencement of New year. Every third year of Torgya, the festival of Dungyur is celebrated. Both Dungyur and Torgya festivals are celebrated in the premises of the Monastery with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm.

There are beautiful lakes around Tawang. Pankang Teng Tso (P.T. Tso ) lake, 17 KM away and a few 1000 fts above Tawang is a beautiful natural lake that forms when the snow melts in summer. A must see location.Other sites include Sangetser and Banggachang lake and the breathtaking Jong (Madhuri) falls.

One can reach Tawang from other parts of the country via Guwahati and Tezpur in Assam. From Guwahati(Assam) or Tezpur(Assam), one has to go to Bhalukpong in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and from there via Bomdila and Se la Pass to Tawang by road. Se la pass, at 13700 fts above sea level, incidently is the second highest motorable pass in the world.
 
 
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