Arunachal Pradesh - Visiting the North East (Part-V)
Arunachal Pradesh – the land of dawn lit mountains
(Dirang to Tawang - a memorable journey)
View of the road above Senge
This part of the journey was one of the most memorable in the entire tour as the scenic beauty was like a luxurious visual treat thrown out by the nature for us to savor. The journey started early in the morning at 6.30 A.M and as we went past Dirang, the river Dirang Chu kept company with us for quite some distance with the gurgling & dancing shimmering water jumping from rock to rock with gay abandon. Gradually the small villages with shops became sparse as we gained height and slowly we gained height the clouds appeared to be drifting below us and it appeared that we were riding on back of the famed ‘Udan Khatola’!
View of Baisakhi from road above
The first stop enroute to Tawang was a place called ‘Senge’, it is placed at an altitude of around 9000 feet and offers spectacular views of the valley below. Here we felt as if we were on top of the clouds, with the whiffs of clouds drifted below in the valley, slowly traversing it and gradually gaining height as the day temperature rose with sun rising on top of the mountains above. Since Senge is a transit post of the military, no photography is permitted in its actual vicinity. Next comes a place called ‘Baisakhi’, which is another military station and vehicles are not permitted to stop. As the day temperature rises in the valley below, the hot air moves upwards towards the cooler environs, bringing with it the clouds and simultaneously, the cold mountain winds moves towards the valley below and thus, results in the strong but pleasant surface winds that we encountered at Dirang. This movement of clouds creates a very dense fog between Senge & Baisakhi, especially during the afternoons, which lasts till late in the evenings and all the local drivers are well aware of this phenomenon factually, if not scientifically. The drifting clouds in the valley below you, is such a surreal experience! That it is very difficult to describe its beauty in words.
View of the famed Sela Pass
View of the Paradise Lake at Sela Pass
Having got past Baisakhi, one suddenly comes up to the SELA PASS,which is the world's second highest motor-able pass at 13,700 ft. height. It was cold and windy when we reached Sela, even with the winter clothing on, the wind seemed to penetrate through all layers of clothing’s and setting chill through the body. We took shelter in a small residence cum stall run by a local family and the warmth of the wooden stove was the most comfortable aspect. In order to shoot a few pictures, I ventured out with the ear muffs on to avoid cold wind, but the effort was every bit rewarding as the picturesque setting of theParadise Lake at this height with the reflections & refractions of light was a stunning experience. From the sign post put up by the Border Road Organization (BRO for short), which maintains this road throughout the year, I could decipher the way towards ‘Chabri la’, leading to the famous Bangajung Gompa. The weather clears, as well as deteriorates very quickly at these heights and as the weather had started worsening, we thought it wise to proceed ahead immediately.
View of the main entry to Jaswant Garh
Inside the main memorial at Jaswant Garh
The next stop was at JASWANT GARH ( 14kms. from Sela Pass), the War Memorial raised to pay homage to Jaswant Singh, a soldier who received the Mahavir Chakra awarded by the Govt. of India for bravery Posthumously. It is a place where patriotic emotions of all Indians find a natural expression and the national anthem plays with all its fervor in your sub-conscious mind. There are two stories that make rounds regarding this place, one the official line that is enshrined in the epitaph erected by the Army, which states that in face of heavy MMG (Medium Machine Gun), which the Chinese had placed at a vantage point to obliterate the post after their two of their attacks had been beaten back by our armed forces. This placement of the MMG hardy 40 meters from the post was slowly tilting the balance in favour of the Chinese. Three brave soldiers, namely RFN Jaswant Singh Rawat, LNK Trilok Singh Negi (Vir Chakra, Posthumous) and RFN Gopal Singh Gusain (Mahavir Chakra) of the 4th Garwal Rifles equipped with most basic arms & grenades moved towards the Chinese position and from a distance of about 15 meters they threw Grenades into the Chinese bunker and charged at it. They found two Chinese soldiers dead and third dying but still holding on to the MMG. RFN Jaswant Singh Rawat snatched the MMG from the Chinese with both his hands and started crawling back towards his trench, however, a Chinese bullet caught him in his head just as he was about to enter the trench, similarly, LNK Trilok Singh Negi was also caught in a burst of automatic Chinese firearm and RFN Gopal Singh Gusain, though badly injured, dragged back the MMG and this changed the battle scene altogether and the Chinese had to beat a retreat, leaving behind about 300 dead soldiers and many arms & weapons. For this act of bravery on face of almost abominable force, the 4th Garwhal Rifles was awarded the battle honors of “Nuranang” in 1962, the only unit to have been awarded such an honor during the Chinese aggression. The other story, which the locals tell you and has become a local folklore, is that this brave son of the country showed unmatched valor by fighting and holding the invading Chinese for 72 hours, all alone with the help of his local female friend called Sela (in whose name the famous Sela pass is named). Both of them hoodwinked the Chinese into believing that there was a big military presence in the area, as they used to fire simultaneously from two or more locations using ropes/wires to activate the guns. It was but a tryst with destiny that the Uncle of Sela, who used to provide for food and other essentials to these two, was caught by Chinese guards and on interrogation spilled the beans. Whereas, Sela was killed in a grenade attack, Jaswant Singh Rawat continued to fight till the last and when his bullets finished, he shot himself in the head with the last bullet. The Chinese were so pissed at his overtures that they beheaded him posthumously and carried away his head as a prized possession, the RFN had thus indented his mark in the history before he met the martyr's end.
View of the Jung falls
Having gorged ourselves with some snacks & coffee at the defense run canteen at Jasawant Garh, we then proceeded for the famous Nuranang or Jung Water falls, the picturesque scene of the famous film ‘Koyla’ (starring Shah Rukh Khan & Madhuri Dixit). The fall is indeed awe inspiring, as it falls for almost 100-150 meters or more from the top to bottom. However, it is not only the height that is immense, the volume of water that cascades down in an enormous din is astounding and the first view of the falls, made my jaws fall wide apart. The source of water that feeds this immense falls, is the paradise lake at Sela & mountain streams running in Sela-Bunga-Jung ranges, the water ultimately falls into Tawang Chu’s (Chu means River) left bank, which in turn runs out into Bhutan, before ultimately draining out into the Bramhaputra.
Panoramic view of the Nuranag or Jung falls
Thereafter, we made our way towards Tawang, which was our final destination and completed this last leg of 40 Kms. from Jung falls in about one & half hours time.
Despite the photographs that I have placed in the travelogue, nothing beats the moving images captured through video, you may enjoy the visual treat -