Arunachal Pradesh, “the land of the dawn-lit mountains”, is one of India’s last unspoilt wildernesses. A wealth of fascinating cultures, peoples and tribes – plus a staggering five hundred species of orchid – are found in its glacial terrain, alpine meadows and subtropical rainforests.
Continue reading to find out more about...
The capital, Itanagar, is north of the Brahmaputra across from Jorhat. In the far west of the state, the road from Bhalukpong on the Assamese border to the monastery of Tawang climbs steadily through rugged hills, streams and primaeval forests, crossing the dramatic Sela Pass (4300m) midway. Along the route lie the Buddhist towns of Bomdila and Dirang. In the far northeast, both cloud and snow leopards reside in Namdapha National Park. Arunachal’s remote and unspoilt central highlands, home to myriad tribes, hides some of the best the Himalayas have to offer, including the mysterious Buddhist land of Pemako.
Despite its beauty, tourism has been discouraged because of the extremely sensitive border with Chinese-occupied Tibet in the north and Myanmar in the east. In 1962, the Chinese invaded Arunachal Pradesh, reaching the outskirts of Tezpur in Assam, a 300km incursion that India has never forgotten. Since then, a strong military stance has been adopted in the area with China laying claim to much of the state. All visitors require a permit to enter the state.
Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh is a city rich in historical value and archaeological sites. Many from all over the world and from various religions travel to the city on religious pilgrimages to worship their gods at the various different temples. Diverse not only in religion and temples but also in different stages throughout history, there is much to learn about in Itanagar.
The Itafort is an impressive fort made from bricks that dates back to the 14th-15th century during the Jitari Dynasty. About 190km from Itanagar is Malinithan Temple, a sacred site to Hindus. The Hindus believe that Lord Krishna once stopped to rest here and was offered flowers from Goddess Parvati on his journey to Dwarka. The temple is from the 14th-15th century and is now mainly majestic ruins.
Geykar Sinyik is a natural lake surrounded by lush green vegetation is a beauty that locals are proud of. Many of the charms in Itanagar and Arunachal Pradesh in general lie in it's beautiful landscapes, a gem for wilderness lovers.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Museum is home to textiles, weaponry and handicrafts from tribes throughout the years. It is a great place to learn about Arunachal Pradesh's heritage and culture. At the Craft Centre and Emporium, also in Itanagar, you can buy traditional and local artefacts such as gorgeous wall paintings, natural beauty items made derived sugar cane and bamboo and traditional clothing made from natural vegetable yarn.
Culture in Arunachal Pradesh
The culture in Arunachal Pradesh is fascinating and the more you learn the more you want to know. Tribal culture is huge here, with over 26 major tribes and further sub-tribes that date back to the beginning of mankind as we know it. Many still follow the Donyi-Polo religion, an ancient belief that pre-dates Buddhism. Its followers see the sun as female energy and the moon as male energy and involves animal sacrifices to appease the Gods. Arunachal Pradesh being diverse in indigenous tribes is also diverse in linguistics, with over 50 different dialects.
Namdapha National Park
The beautifully remote Namdapha National Park, covering an area of 1985 square kilometres, is unique for its massive range of altitudes (200–4500m) and its huge biodiversity Close to the Burmese border, Namdapha is home to tigers, leopards (clouded and snow), elephants, red pandas, deer and the endangered Hoolock gibbon, although you are unlikely to spot any big wildlife on a short visit.
Some 180km northwest of Bomdila, the great Buddhist monastery of Tawang, the largest in India, dominates the land of the Monpas. Perched at around 3500m and looking out onto a semicircle of peaks that are snow-capped for much of the year, the monastery teeters on the edge of Tibet and peers down to Bhutan. This feels like the end of the road, with long cold nights and plenty of snow in winter.
A bone of contention between India and China, Tawang has always been of special significance to Tibetans and the Dalai Lama who fled Tibet in 1959 and travelled surreptitiously through here on his way into exile. His pre-incarnation, the Sixth Dalai Lama, was born on the outskirts of the town.
Arunachal Pradesh’s tribal groups
Arunachal Pradesh is stunningly diverse, with 26 major tribal groups, each with its own culture, dialect, dress, social structure and traditions. Polygamy remains common among many of them, as does the religious blend of Hindu, Buddhist and animist beliefs. The main ethnic groups include Monpas, Sherdukpens, Apatani, Wanchos, Noctes, Tangsas, Singphos, Khamptis, Mishmis, Mijis, Galos, Padams, Miwongs, Tagins and Puroiks. However, within all the groups, tradition is slowly giving way to modern influences, particularly among the younger generation, who increasingly wear Western clothes, watch Bollywood flicks and eat Chinese food.