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.
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.
Woman of the Monpa Tribe © Daniel J Rao / Shutterstock
The festivals in Arunachal Pradesh are colourful and fun, something that is not to be missed when visiting. The tribes believe that their Gods and Goddesses enliven nature and wildlife, with farming and agriculture being a tradition in the area and their main source of income, they throw extravagant festivals to celebrate and thank the Gods for providing the land with good harvests. Head to the Ziro District where festivities are often and full of life.
Featured Image, Arunachal Pradesh © Michal Knitl / Shutterstock