Arunachal, one of the most sparsely populated states of India, borders China, Bhutan and Myanmar. There are five major rivers - Kameng, Subansiri, Siang (later the Brahmaputra in Assam), Lohit and Tirap. The mountain ranges follow the river systems. Home to a complex mix of communities, its people are friendly, colourful and simple. Arunachal can be justifiably proud of its rich flora which ranges from the alpine to the subtropical, from rhododendrons to orchids. Its verdant forests, turbulent streams, lofty mountains and snow clad peaks make it a unique place offering the tourist numerous opportunities for rafting, hiking and mountaineering.
Arunachal Pradesh finds mention in classical literature such as the Kalika Purana, and in the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, it is believed that sage Vyasa meditated here and also that the remains of the brick structure, scattered around two villages in the hills north of Roing was the palace of Rukmini, the consort of Lord Krishna. Arunachal Pradesh was also the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama
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Important attractions include the old brick fort (Itafort), Buddhist Monastry, Jawaharlal Nehru Museum, Ganga Lake (Geykar Sinyi) and Zoo. On the banks of the Bharali river at an elevation of 190 mtrs. is Tipi, an orchidarium with over 7500 orchids. On display are some of the finest species with names like the Dainty Lady's Slipper or the more formal sounding Dendrobium. Arunachal has the largest range of orchids in India and at Tipi, scientists are creating new, hybrid species using the latest techniques of biotechnology. 40 kms. Away from here is the Orchid Park at Sessa.
The journey onwards is most adventurous and perhaps the most difficult as Bomdila, the headquarters of the West Kameng District is at a height of 2530 mtrs., offering wonderfully panoramic views of Himalayan landscapes and snow clad ranges. The scenery is spectacular but there is a tingling sense of fear too - it is a long way down!
There are apple orchards and Buddhist monasteries, for travellers are now entering an area that had had strong Tibetan and Buddhist influences over the centuries. The area has many Buddhist monasteries called `Gompas' and there is also a crafts centre producing very fine carpets of colourful designs. Around the area are good trails for trekking enthusiasts.
A 10 km. drive from Bomdila takes you to Tawang, a Buddhist pilgrimage site, where the Dalali Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, goes to preach and pray. The most striking building in this Buddhist village is the tall central monastery, the Tawang Gompa.
The 400 year old monastery dominates the valley with a grand view of the Himalayas. The Tibetan influence here is unmistakable, with the elaborately painted wooden windows and other motifs. Prayer flags flutter in the breeze and inside, the monks - there are some 500 lamas - light lamps, rush about their chores and drone in joint prayer. An 8 mtr. high gilded statue of the Buddha is here, as are numerous ancient Thankas or traditional paintings and manuscripts.
Losar, (Feb-March) the main festival is fixed in consultation with the Buddhist calender.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.