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Arunachal Pradesh
A Tourist Paradise

From India Perspectives, July 2005
Text: Priyanka Banerjee; Photographs: Sarvesh
Information provided by the Embassy of India

At the north-eastern tip of India lies Arunachal Pradesh, a state with picturesque hills, valleys and lakes.  Mysterious, eloquent and beautiful, with faces and terrain that change dramatically ever so often, is how one describes this enigmatic state of India.  Arunachal Pradesh, one of the landlocked states of India, shares international borders with Bhutan, Tibet, China and Myanmar.

Situated at the foothills of Himalayas, it covers 83,743 km2 of the eastern Himalaya range.  It is surrounded on its northern side by the snow-capped mountains, that vary in height from 1829 m to 6400m, and by the plains of the Brahmaputra Valley in its south.  Its lush green forests, deep river valleys and beautiful plateaus are simply mesmerizing.  Green forest covers almost sixty percent of the state area.  When the first rays of sun fall on its peaks, its a scene to been seen!

Arunachal Pradesh's earliest recorded history dates back to the 16th century when Ahom rulers of Assam extended their kingdom to this region.  These rulers had a tradition of not interfering in the affairs of the tribes of this region.  The land of Arunachal Pradesh also finds mention in the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana.  The trek to this mystical land starts from the plains of Siang and leads through a thick forest area.  The state's rich flora and fauna are a photographer's delight.  Due to the wide variety of altitudinal and climatic conditions, different types of forest are found here.  It is the only state in India where four major cats - tiger, leopard, clouded leopard and snow leopard are found, as also the other feline species like the golden cat and the marbled cat.  More than 500 bird species have also been recorded here, many of which are highly endangered like the white-winged duck, Sclater, Monal, Bengal Floricans, etc.  A large mammal called mithun, a cross between the wild gaur and domestic buffalo, is a majestic animal indigenous to the state.  While trekking we also encountered a large number of pythons and snakes, which are commonly found in forests in the temperate zone.  The other high altitude animals are the musk deer and Bharal.  In east Siang is the Passighat Wildlife Sanctuary.  The climate of Arunchal Pradesh varies with the altitude.  The southern part of the state has hot and humid sub-tropical climate; the central region is cooler while there is alpine climate in the higher altitudes.  Rainfall is uneven and continues throughout the year, though the wettest months are from May to September.  However, the salubrious climate made sure that we didn't feel tired at all.

Another trekking route through the Tipi orchard to Bomdilla crosses the crest of Sil pass at 14,000 ft above sea level; it runs through a small ridge and along a placid lake aptly called Paradise.  Quietude simply engulfs you in this area.  The Kamang River, gushing down the hill, provides an opportunity for angling, trekking and hiking.  This hidden lake is also a spot of curiosity for tourists.  As the name suggests, it is hidden and one has to trek some 400 meters to view the beauty of this mysterious lake.  The locals think this lake is haunted due to the formation of strange images in its unruffled waters.

Another unique feature of Arunachal Pradesh are its inhabitants; in fact their diversity is quite fascinating.  There are about 26 main tribes in the state and they are further divided into numerous clans and sub-clans, each with a distinct linguistic, ethnic, cultural and social identity.  The tribes include Monpas and Sherdukpens in Kameng and Tawang districts; they came in contact with the Tibetans in the north and adopted Lamaism of the Buddhist faith, while Khamtis in Lohit district, who migrated quite early from Thailand, practice Mahayana Buddhism.  However, a large number of people practice their ancient beliefs and follow indigenous religious concepts.

The tribes are also synonymous with music and dance and they display a wide array of dances unique to each tribe.  Certain dances have a religious significance, while others are a thanksgiving ritual for good crops.  Yet many others are performed for sheet entertainment.  Noctis and Wanchoos have war dances enacted both before launching an attack or to celebrate victory in the battle.  Pantomime dances are also very popular among the Monpa, Khamba, Mamba, and Sherdukpen tribes.  These tribals are very cordial, warm and hospitable.  Rice is their staple diet, which is extensively cultivated.

Arunachal boasts of many places of tourist interest.  Its capital Itanagar tells the story of the Ita Fort built in the fourteenth century by King Ramchandra of Mayapur.  Mallini Than is another unique site that traces its history to the 10th and 12th century.  It has an ancient temple that houses idols of the Hindu iconography.  It is thus no exaggeration to say the Arunchal is a tourist paradise.


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