Photo Story : Snapshots from Tawang Festival

An icy breeze blew as we reached Sela Pass (Se La) and the words ‘Welcome to Tawang’ dangled on the signboard. The prayer flags made a vociferous sound with the dramatic landscapes and little snowflakes fell from the clouds as we wandered around Sela lake. The lake was a sizeable waterbody just after crossing the pass and with a gigantic mountain behind, was truly a sight to behold. It was the end of October and we were in Tawang to attend the Tawang Festival.

We’d reached Tawang in the late hours of the night and it was quite chilly with the temperature surely around 0 degrees. The hotel was close to the old market in Tawang and the entire street was covered with colourful prayer flags. It was already a very festive atmosphere and signboards and placards announcing ‘Tawang Festival’ greeted us.

Check : Celebrating a Traditional Festival in a village in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Next morning, we quickly had breakfast and wandered right out of the hotel to reach the festival venue. It was around 9:30 and a huge crowd had already gathered in anticipation. After a quick walk and clicking photographs across the streets where people had congregated in their finest clothes, I walked back to the designated sitting area. Around 10 am would be the time when the CM Pema Khandu was to officially signal the start of Tawang Festival.

This was the street carnival with traditional dances and performances which was held at the Old Market in Tawang. There was a lot of army presence as well, and a rope had been laid out as a marker on the streets. We were not supposed to cross the rope under any circumstances due to the heightened security measures. The traditional dances began and we found our space too, to try and click pictures :

Photo Story : Snapshots from Tawang Festival, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Festival
First look at the streets of old market in Tawang, where the Tawang Festival begins.
Tawang Festival
A Monpa Buddhist local in Tawang wears a classic Monpa hat. Villagers come from far and wide to attend Tawang Festival.
Tawang Festival
The iconic ‘Welcome to Tawang’ Gate at Sela Pass (Se La).
Tawang Festival
Auspicious welcome for the CM and dignitaries at Tawang Festival.
Tawang Festival
Cuteness overload : A riot of colours in Tawang.
Tawang Festival
A wrinkle for every year : A wise looking Monpa woman gazes into my camera during Tawang Festival.
Tawang Festival
A performance in progress… It was surely a photographer’s delight.

The running commentary was in the local Tibetan language and hence we were unable to understand what tribe was performing what activity. Yet, I presume Adi, Nyishi and Monpa tribes performed the yak dances and other traditional dances.

Tawang Festival
All eyes are glued towards the dancers in the streets of Tawang.
Tawang Festival
It is a joy to look at these traditional clothes of the Monpa tribe, and the colourful boots as well!
Tawang Festival
Funny looking masks and dances at Tawang Festival.
Tawang Festival
These cute kids occupied centerstage on the street while the dances were being performed.

Apart from the street festival, there was a separate venue for the night festival and musical and fashion shows as well. The whole ground was lit up and youngsters thronged the area. Food stalls in the form of bamboo huts were erected in the periphery of the night festival venue. Traditional foods, delicacies and local wine and liquor of all the major and minor tribes of Arunachal Pradesh were available. I remember going to the Adi food stall, Nyishi food stall for millet beer and wine and then the Apatani food stall for more liquor and some food!

Tawang Festival
The secret in their eyes… He looked afraid/sad/angry. I hope it was just his reaction to the camera.

Read : Portraits that speak, from Turtuk

Tawang Festival
Dances taken to a different level altogether! And the music was so much fun too.
Tawang Festival
A masked dance in a tribal costume. There were a handful of travellers other than us documenting the Tawang Festival.

 

Tawang Festival
The street performances continued even on the second day; and the crowds were ecstatic with the sunny weather!

The most heartening fact was to see women mingle with men and be carefree even in the wee hours of the night. Lighting arrangements were adequate and the public announcement repeatedly stated that the youngsters, men and women can enjoy the festival all night dancing, drinking if they maintain peace and harmony. The rest of India has much to learn about behaving with women – based on Tawang Festival’s crowded scene and fearless attitude for women. Slow claps for that.

Tawang Festival
Street style fashion in Tawang at its classy best : I walked up to the ladies and asked if I could click a picture. They were happy to pose for a lot!

About Tawang Festival : Tawang Festival was first started in 2013 to celebrate Arunachal Pradesh’s culture in Tawang. It is a 3-4 day festival when people from across the state come for the festivities. Local performances, food and drinks are on show. Tribal clothes and accessories can also be bought from the shops and stalls. Tawang also has one of the biggest Buddhist monasteries in India.

Tawang Festival
I wished there was an english translation too for us to know more about the performances at Tawang Festival.

Check : A Mixed Experience – Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Festival
In the absence of information, I continue sharing the pictures from Tawang Festival.
Tawang Festival
Million dollar beaming smile : A Monpa lady looks on with the cute Monpa hat!
Tawang Festival
Thats me in traditional Apatani attire; with the dao!

Read : Photo Story from Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Festival
Little lamas – Kid Monks in Tawang.
Tawang Festival
These trumpets reminded me of masked dance festivals or Chaam of Ladakh.

Read : A Winter in Ladakh : Masked dances at Spituk Monastery

Tawang Festival
Surely the cutest moment of the day! I ran behind them to click some photographs.
Tawang Festival
Security is tightened, the army is on standby : And this pooch somehow finds a way to make merry! Haha, funny times at Tawang Festival.
Tawang Festival
In the performances that day, this guy seemed to be the messenger… I was especially fascinated by the Brokpa community who were also known as nomads.

Also read : Brokpas of Ladakh – Culture & Portraits

Tawang Festival
While the masked dances were on…
Tawang Festival
Fantastic organisation and adherence to times was one good thing about Tawang Festival; in addition to the colours and traditional dance performances along with folk songs.

 

Tawang Festival
Fascinating tribal jewellery, quite similar to turquoise and silver.
Tawang Festival
HAHAHAHA, can’t stop laughing with this one! Our very own Ritesh Uttamchandani on the left in the red tee shirt!!
Tawang Festival
While the street performances were about to end, these masked dancers took over the entire street and danced like there was no tomorrow!

Read : Travel to Spiti Valley in the Winter

Tawang Festival
In the end, these men with funny masks came and the crowd was in splits of laughter with their antics!
Tawang Festival
A novice monk plays on the swing with the yellow-roofed Tawang Monastery in the background.
Tawang Festival
Moral of the story : Kid lamas love chips!

Also check : A Day at Karsha Gompa, Zanskar Valley

Note : I was on an assignment with Arunachal Tourism; the words, views and photographs are entirely mine.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Amazing pictures, Shoebum! And you look cool in the traditional attire B-)

    Like

  2. Awesome pictures. Tawang is on my bucket list. Your gallery is inspiring me to go their sooner.

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  3. What a lovely photo gallery of the festival. You are so lucky to have experienced this.

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  4. Parul Thakur says:

    Amazing shots! Loved them all and how lucky you got to see Tawang around the festival. 🙂

    Like

  5. Looking at those wonderful pictures of Tawang people and their cultural festival attires, I came to know why people often say Bhutanese Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng villages share same ethnic origins with people of Tawang.

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  6. Niranjan says:

    Such a vibrant and colourful festival. Well covered!

    Like

  7. neelstoria says:

    Must have been amazing! Such wonderful experiences you are collecting all the way. Loved the pics especially the portraits.

    Like

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