Thembang, UNESCO Heritage village at Arunachal Pradesh
Tucked away in a remote corner in western Arunachal Pradesh, Thembang looks just like the Gallic villages that you have probably read in the Asterix comics. This ancient village is the abode of the Monpa tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Perched atop a hilltop at an elevation of 2300 metres, Thembang has two stone gates as its entry and exit points, one facing the south and the other the north, the distance between them covering around 50 metres. The eighteenth-century village citadel hosts several historical and ancient structures in its folds. The village and the Dzong are surrounded by lush green hills, steep gorges and snow clad peaks. The River Dirang cascades down the gorge running along the western side of the village.
Thembang literally translates to Yuchho-Pema-Chen, which means a Lotus-like village. In the earlier times, the village was was the headquarter of a large territory which was ruled by the powerful Thembang Bapu. He was said to be the direct descendant of the king of Tibet. The village has witnessed many wars since ancient times, till as recently as the Chinese invasion in 1962. And today, the villagers are fighting another battle, the one gifted by the civilization. They are trying hard to conserve their forests and culture while working towards a sustainable livelihood.
Experiences at Thembang:
- Thembang Dzong: The village itself is an experience. The village is guarded by two stone gates, constructed in 1100 CE, at the northern and southern sides. The northern gates were mostly used as an escape route. The construction of the Dzong and the gates follow traditional construction systems of the Monpas, which includes composite stone masonry and wood architecture. All the features that are found in a Buddhist monastery are found here – carved stone blocks, stone walls with prayer wheels, traditional wood carvings, paintings, murals and graffiti.
- Visit the old monastery where traditional wood carving, paintings and manuscripts have been preserved carefully.
- There are a few caves in the village, where you can visit. These caves are laden with stone blocks and carvings where stories of the Monpa tribes are ingrained.
- Walk around the village and see the traditional houses of the region. Most of the dwellings are made in the traditional method of indigenous Monpa architecture.
- Go for trekking at the village. The Thembang Bapu Community Conserved Area (TBCCA) organizes a number of treks and tours. You can trek your way to the idyllic village of Pangma and walk alongside clouds if you decide to go to the Semnak Village.
- Thembang also serves the basecamp for Gorichen Peak Trek and the Bailey Trail.
- The area is rich in wildlife. If you are lucky, then you can spot a red panda or a Himalayan Black Bear.
- The place is also a haven of birdwatchers. Monals, tragopans and blood pheasants are commonly seen here.
- Enjoy the delectable cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh. For the non-veg eaters, you can try yak meat and other dishes prepared with bamboo shoots.
- Dirang: Dirang is quite near to the village. Dirang is another picturesque town. The Dirang river flows by the quaint town making the place a paradise for nature lovers, landscape photographers and adventure seekers.
- Bomdila: Bomdila is the headquarters of West Kameng district and is perched amongst the panoramic settings of the lofty ranges of the eastern Himalayas. Bomdila is known for its scenic landscape and the Buddhist monasteries.
- Tawang: Tawang is one of the most beautiful places in Arunachal Pradesh. Known for the Tawang monastery and numerous beautiful lakes, Tawang is a travellers’ delight.
Best Time to visit Thembang:
The months of October and November and March to May are the best time to visit Thembang. March and April are good to watch birds. Those months are also rhododendron blooming time.
How to reach Thembang:
The nearest railway station is at Guwahati. The nearest international airport is at Guwahati while Tezpur has a domestic airport.
Thembang falls on the Bomdila-Tawang road. You can spend a day here on while on your trip to Tawang.
To visit Arunachal Pradesh, an Inner Line Permit is required that can be obtained online or by visiting the Arunachal Bhawan in Delhi or from the Deputy Resident Commissioners in Kolkata, Shillong and Guwahati.
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