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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.