In My Hands Today…

Partition Voices: Untold British Stories – Kavita Puri

Dotted across homes in Britain are people who were witnesses to one of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Yet their memory of India’s partition has been shrouded in silence. Kavita Puri’s father was twelve when he found himself one of the millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims caught up in the devastating aftermath of a hastily drawn border. For seventy years he remained silent – like so many – about the horrors he had seen.

When her father finally spoke out, opening up a forgotten part of Puri’s family history, she was compelled to seek out the stories of South Asians who were once subjects of the British Raj, and are now British citizens. Determined to preserve these accounts – of the end of Empire and the difficult birth of two nations – here Puri records a series of remarkable first-hand testimonies, as well as those of their children and grandchildren whose lives are shaped by partition’s legacy. With empathy, nuance and humanity, Puri weaves a breathtaking tapestry of human experience over a period of seven decades that trembles with life; an epic of ruptured families and friendships, extraordinary journeys and daring rescue missions that reverberates with pain, loss and compassion.

The division of the Indian subcontinent happened far away, but it is also a very British story. Many of those affected by partition are now part of the fabric of British contemporary life, but their lives continue to be touched by this traumatic event. Partition Voices breaks the silence and confronts the difficult truths at the heart of Britain’s shared history with South Asia.

Festivals of India: Muharram

This is the month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and one of the four sacred months of the year when warfare is forbidden. It is held to be the second holiest month after Ramadan. The tenth day of Muharram is known as Ashura and as part of the Mourning of Muharram, Shi’i Muslims mourn the tragedy of Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī’s family, and Sunni Muslims practice fasting on Ashura.

Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Ḥusayn and his family, honouring the martyrs by prayer and abstinence from joyous events. Shiʿi Muslims eat as little as possible on the Ashura; however, this is not seen as fasting. Alevis fast twelve days, each day for one of the Twelve Imams of Shiʿa Islam, to commemorate and mourn the Imams, as if a very close relative has died. Some, excluding children, the elderly or the sick, don’t eat or drink until zawal or afternoon as a part of their mourning for Husayn. In addition, there is an important ziyarat or a form of pilgrimage book, the Ziyarat Ashura about Ḥusayn. In Shiʿism, it is popular to read this ziyarat on this date.

The sighting of the new moon ushers in the Islamic New Year. The first month, Muharram, is one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Quran, along with the seventh month of Rajab, and the eleventh and twelfth months of Dhu al-Qi’dah and Dhu al-Hijjah, respectively, immediately preceding Muharram. During these sacred months, warfare is forbidden. Before the advent of Islam, the Quraish and Arabs also forbade warfare during those months. Muslims believe that in this month of Muharram, one should worship Allah a lot.

Muharram is a month of remembrance. Ashura, which means the Tenth in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram and is well known because of the historical significance and mourning for the Shahadat or martyrdom of Ḥusayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad. Muslims begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights, climaxing on the 10th day of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura which is considered the most important by both Shia and Sunni Muslims. Tomorrow, the 10th day of Muharram or the Day of Ashura will be commemorated. Shia Muslims observe it as a day of mourning to commemorate the death of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Hussayn Ibn Ali. The last few days up until and including the Day of Ashura are the most important because these were the days in which Hussain and his family and followers, including women, children and elderly people were deprived of water from the 7th day onward and on the 10th day, Husayn and 72 of his followers were killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala on Yazid’s orders. The surviving members of Husayn’s family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there. This was because, according to legend, Imam Hussayn objected to the legitimacy of the Caliph Yazid and revolted against him leading to the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Sunni Muslims believe that the religious leader Moses led Israel through the Red Sea and got victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh and his army of war chariots on the 10th day of Muharram. There is another belief that Adam and Eve were created by God on the 10th day of this month. It was also during this time that Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, which is known as Hijrah, and so Muharram marks this important event as well.

In India, though both Shias and Sunnis observe Muharram, for the Shias, it is a day of observance and not joy, and thus, they are in mourning for the 10 days. They dress in black, attend special prayer meetings at mosques and even refrain from listening to music or attending events like weddings. On the 10th day, street processions take place in which they walk barefoot, chanting and whipping their chests until it draws blood to commemorate the sufferings of Imam Hussayn. Sunnis observe this day with fasting from the first to the 10th or 11th day of the month. This is voluntary, and the ones who fast are believed to be rewarded by Allah.

Festivals of India: Aadi Perukku

Today is Aadi Perukku or Aadi 18, a little-known festival celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu. Also known as Aadi 18, Aadi Perukku is the monsoon festival celebrated in the month Aadi monsoon festival and celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Adi, which should be sometime between mid-July to mid-August. The festival pays tribute to water’s life-sustaining properties. Nature worship in the form of Amman deities is organised to shower Nature’s bountiful grace on human beings and to bless mankind with peace, prosperity and happiness.

Aadi is a month of fervour and observances dedicated to the Goddesses related to water and other natural forces where prayers and pujas are offered to propitiate the powerful goddess to seek their protection from the inauspicious aspects that are often associated with the month. No weddings or other similar functions are celebrated during this month. It is during this time that the monsoon peaks on the west coast and the rivers of Tamil Nadu, shrunken in the summer heat, get replenished, often to near full levels. The month of Aadi is the fourth month of the year with the first day of the month, usually falling on 16 July, celebrated as Aadi Pandigai or Aadi Perukku, and an important festival to most Tamils, especially newly-weds.

In India the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, Cauvery, Narmada and Godavari are considered sacred. Just like the earth gives us food, water is considered a sacred necessity to meet the needs of individuals. People began to worship water in the form of wells, tanks and rivers. It is common among people to throw fruits, flowers and saffron cloths when the rivers and lakes are in spate purely based on the belief that these rivers are the species of female deities. Similarly, every temple has sacred wells and tanks, and the water in these resources is considered pure.

Aadi Perukku is a unique South Indian and especially a Tamil festival celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Adi. The festival coincides with the annual freshness of rivers and pays tribute to water’s life-sustaining properties. It is celebrated near river basins, water tanks, lakes and wells of Tamil Nadu when the water level rises significantly heralding the onset of the monsoon.

Aadi Perukku, also called Padinettam Perukku where Padinettu signifies eighteen, and Perukku denotes rising is a unique occasion dedicated to all the perennial river basins of Tamil Nadu and major lakes water source areas and is intended to celebrate the water rising levels due to the onset of monsoon, which is expected to occur invariably on the 18th day of the solar month, Aadi which corresponds to the 2 or 3 August every year. This festival is observed predominately by women in Tamil Nadu as a water ritual, to honour nature.

The association of this ritual with fertility, sex and reproduction is both natural and human. This water ritual practice is performed on the banks of Rivers, which is described as a rice-cultivation tract. The history of this ritual practice dates back to the ancient period and was patronised by the Kings and royal households. Aadi is the month for sowing, rooting and planting of seeds and vegetation since it is peak monsoon time when rain is showered in abundance.

Apart from people flocking to waterfalls for pre-monsoon and monsoon festivals, people living on the banks of rivers and other water sources offer pujas to the water goddess and river gods so that when nurseries are raised in the fields subsequently and sustained by the northeast monsoon, the crops will be ready for harvest during the Thai Pongal celebration in 5 months in mid-January.

The most visible manifestations of the month of Aadi are the huge kolams or rangolis that are painstakingly patterned early each morning in front of houses. They are usually bordered with red and across the front doorway at the top are strung mango leaves. The first of the month is marked with a special puja, followed by a feast with payasam prepared with coconut milk, boli and vadai.

Aadi Perukku is a day of offerings and prayers to these rivers, which mean so much to the lives and prosperity of the people. The day is an occasion for rejoicing particularly for those living on the banks of all the main rivers, their branches and tributaries. The festival of Aadi Perukku is mainly observed by families living on the banks of the Cauvery River. On this auspicious day, relatives and friends collectively pray for the intermittent supply of water that would ultimately result in a good harvest. The devotees take a dip in the holy water. After the bath, they wear new clothes and perform some rituals at the bathing ghats along the Cauvery River. This is followed by abhishekham or the bathing of the Goddess Kaveri or Kaveri Amman.

A special lamp is prepared using jaggery and rice flour. The lamp is placed on the mango leaves, to which a yellow thread, turmeric and flowers are also added. The lamp is lit by the women and together with its accompaniments is floated in the river. Different forms of rice dishes are prepared and offered to the Goddess. Some of the commonly prepared rice dishes that vary in ingredients, colours or flavours include coconut rice, sweet Pongal, curd rice, lemon rice and tamarind rice. The devotees also worship the sacred river Mother Cauvery with rice offerings, Akshata and flowers. After completing the puja, the devotees eat the feast along the banks of the river with their families. The entire event turns out to be like a picnic on the banks of the Cauvery River.

Young girls observe this auspicious puja together with married women. It is a popular belief that maiden girls who make the offerings of Kaapparisi, a sweet dish made from jaggery and hand-crushed rice, Karugamani which are black coloured beads and Kaadholai which are earrings carved out of palm leaves shall be rewarded with good husbands. Young women play and dance to the tunes of folk songs on the occasion of Aadi Perukku. In some Tamil communities, the sons-in-law are invited on the day of Aadi Perukku and gifted new clothes. There is also a ritual in some districts of Tamil Nadu, wherein the newlyweds spend a month before Aadi Perukku at their parents’ home. Then on the day of Aadi Perukku, a gold coin is added to their Thali or Mangalsutra and they return with their husbands.

Mulaipari or the sprouting or germination of nine grains or navadhanyam in baskets or clay mud pots is a very important ritual which takes place at almost every village Goddess celebration. In its most original form, it is an exclusively women’s ritual and is of great importance to the whole village. The participants of the processions carry earthen pots with grown grains from nine different types of grains inside on their heads and walk towards a river where the contents are dissolved. Before the procession starts, special songs and dances like Kummi Pattu and Kummi are performed. The original meaning of the ritual performance is a request to the village Goddess for rain and the fertility of the land, to secure a rich harvest. The women are involved in large groups significantly implying the fertility of women also ensures the continuity of the human race with peace and harmony through empowered women.

All the year’s major festivals are packed into the six months that follow, culminating with Thai Pongal in mid- January, giving meaning to the Tamil saying, Aadi Azhaikkum, Thai Thudaikkum which means

Travel Bucket List: India – Arunachal Pradesh Part 4

Khonsa

A hill station in a valley surrounded by the Himalayas, Khonsa was created during the British colonial rule. It borders Myanmar to the east and Assam in the south and is surrounded by panoramic views of thick forests fringed by hills. Located about 300 km east of Itanagar, Khonsa lies in the Tirap Valley at an average elevation of about 1,215 m above sea level with streams, deep gorges, dense forests and snow-clad hills.

The Khonsa Museum was built in 1956 and houses some amazing artefacts representing the diverse culture of the region. Other than swords and other weapons on display here, one can also find handlooms and artefacts that represent the culture of various parts of India as well as various types of cane and bamboo works. The Kheti and Lajo villages are tribal villages, home to the Nocte, a Wancho tribe that makes up the majority of Khonsa’s inhabitants. Human skulls from the times when the tribes headhunted are hung in the village dormitories to reflect their past. The Khonsa waterfall is located in a dense forest, just a few km from Khonsa and has magnificent views of the forest. The way to the waterfall is very difficult and challenging and it can be only reached with the help of a local guide.

Changlang

Due to the presence of crude oil, coal and mineral resources other than tourism and hydropower, Changlang which lies 324 km east of Itanagar has become an important town in the state. Changlang shares an international boundary with Myanmar and is best known for its bio-diversity and scenic beauty and unique culture.

Visible from the Pangsau Pass, 12 km from Nampong, the Lake of No Return has this name due to the many who perished here. The spot was used for a soft landing for fighter planes during times of war after being hit by enemies with many soldiers losing their lives in the process. Depending on the weather, Nampong has been nicknamed the Hell Pass because of the difficult terrain that worsens during the monsoon season. The Indo-Myanmar border is just 12 km from Nampong where the Lake of No Return is visible. Also known as Ledo Road, Stilwell Road is a historic road as it was connected by the Americans during World War II to connect Ledo to Changlang. The route of the entire road is quite circuitous and covers a challenging path. Popularly known as the Jairampur Cemetery, the World War II Cemetery is located some 25 km from the Indo-Myanmar Border and is where soldiers who died during World War II died. Most of the graves are those which belong to the Chinese, Indian, Kachin and British soldiers, but many graves have been destroyed by wild elephants today.

Miao

Situated 165 km east of Khonsa and about 350 km east of Itanagar, Miao is where Tibetian refugees settled down. It is also the gateway to the Namdapha National Park and an ideal spot for hiking, angling and trekking. The Patkai Bum mountain range, which is an Eastern extension of the Himalayas is what Miao is famous for and the main attractions of the town are the mini zoo and museum. There is also a Tibetan refugee settlement which sells lovely woollen carpets and the tea plantations and opium cultivation farms nearby are also popular.

Anini

A small underdeveloped remote town, Anini lies about 583 km northeast of Itanagar. The Idu Mishmi tribal people constitute a majority here. Anini’s name may have come from Inini or Innini with historical maps of Arunachal Pradesh from times before the Lower Dibang Valley district was carved out of the Dibang Valley District and before Roing was established, indicate the capital of the Dibang Valley District being Inini which have come from the Idu word Inni who is the Idu Mishmi’s supreme deity or God.

The native Idu Mishmis and other tribes were said to have migrated from ancient Tibet in the 1st century. Anini’s importance grew during World War II when supplies and troops needed to be sent to China through the Ledo Road in Assam. In 1947, Anini became a part of India, but became part of the disputed territory claimed by both India and China in 1950. Most of Anini is located on a miniature plateau between two tributaries of the Dibang river, the Dri and the Mathun rivers. The town is located on the Eurasian Plate, about 420 miles north of the junction of the Indian and the Eurasian Plates, which makes Anini earthquake-prone. The Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary nearby is a must-visit while in Anini. Anini is an important stop of the Arunachal Helicopter Service. The service connects the town to the rest of the state as well as to the Dibrugarh airport in Assam. The town is a major stop in both the Eurocopter Dauphin and the MI-172 helicopters’ schedules.

Pasighat

Situated at the eastern foothills of the Himalayas at 155 m above sea level, Pasighat is Arunachal Pradesh’s oldest town. Also known as the Gateway to Arunachal Pradesh, Pasighat is located about 265 km northeast of the capital of Itanagar, the town is also an Advance Landing Ground or ALG of the Indian Air Force.

Pasighat was founded in 1911 by the British colonial government as a gateway to the administrative convenience of the greater Abor Hills and the north area in general and settlements of Adi tribesmen still live in the villages in and around Pasighat. The town is home to the River Brahmaputra which flows down from Tibet and is a photographer’s delight.

A hanging bridge on the Siang River attracts a lot of tourists around the year. Spread over an area of 190 sq km, the Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary is covered by alluvial grasslands which form the major area and wooded areas constitute about 15% while the remaining area or about 25% is covered with water bodies and hence attracts many migratory birds from Mongolia and Siberia. The sanctuary itself is surrounded by the Siang or the Brahmaputra River and is home to many endangered bird species.

Around 60 km from Pasighat is where the green water of River Siang meets the blue water of River Siyom and presents a marvellous sight. This is Pangin where one can find many rare plants and herbs of medicinal importance. Kekar Monying is a mountain cliff near Rottung and an important historical place. In 1911, it was here that the Adi tribesmen put up a strong fight against the British. The war was a part of a punitive expedition undertaken by the British for murdering Noel Williamson, a political officer in the previous year by Matmur Jamoh, a native of Yagrung village. Komsing, a village on the left bank of the Siang is the place of Williamson’s murder. A stone epitaph bearing the name of Noel Williamson still lies near the Siang. Komlighat used to be a river port and the ghat marks the area of the colonial town of Pasighat which has been submerged into the Siang river following a flood and the river changing its course. Today, it is a popular evening spot providing a wonderful view of the river and the hills surrounding the Pasighat plains.

The Pasighat Buddhist Temple is located opposite the airstrip and serves as the only Buddhist worship place in Pasighat. The East Siang District Museum also located nearby is the district museum. Pasighat also houses the headquarters of the Adi Baane Kebang, which acts as the de facto cultural parliament governing the cultural, linguistic and traditional aspects of the Adi people.

Aalo

Formerly known as Along, the town of Aalo lies about 365 km northeast of Itanagar and about 220 km from Likabali, at the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is also an Advance Landing Ground or ALG of the Indian Air Force. Lying close to several tiny villages, this small town is situated at the congregation of the two rivers, the Sipu and the Yomgo. With blooming orchards of oranges and pleasant cum cool weather, Aalo is best visited in the winter season. River Rafting is a major activity in Along on the Sipu and Yomgo or Siyom Rivers which flow within Aalo. The Kamaki Hydropower Dam should also be visited to take in the gorgeous views from the dam. The Ramakrishna Mission runs a beautiful missionary school in Aalo which is exceedingly pretty and well kept. The Darka Village is a major attraction, especially during the famous Mopin Festival. The village has three rivers running through it making it beautiful.  

Daporijo

Daporijo is a small town on the way from Ziro to Aalo and lies about 270 km northeast of Itanagar and about 165 km northeast of Ziro and about 160 km southwest of Aalo. A small scenic town, Daporijo is situated 600 meters above sea level with the beautiful Subansiri River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, flowing through the town. The town is known for its varied ethnic cultures like the Tagin, the Galo the Hilmiri and the Mishmi who are believed to have existed since ancient times. Originally Dapo referred to the protection or a barrier against the epidemic or evil spirits while Rijo stood for the valley, so Daporijo means the valley which stops diseases or evil spirits.

The Meghna cave Temple is dedicated to Lord Lakulisha who was the 28th embodiment of Lord Shiva and the temple is especially crowded during the Maha Shivaratri festival. The temple has some Sanskrit scriptures inside and is well known for the spectacular views surrounding the cave. With beautiful green surroundings and wild animals wandering around, the Kamala Forest Reserve is a protected forest area near Daporijo and is a favourite spot for bird lovers. The Daporijo Good Shepherd Church is a beautiful catholic church under the Itanagar diocese, controlled by tribal bishops. The Subansiri River offers visitors to do rafting which should not be missed.

Anjaw

Located 450 km northeast of Itanagar, Anjaw borders China in the north. India’s easternmost district, Anjaw is also the second least populous district in the country. During the 1962 war, parts of Anjaw were briefly occupied by China and being part of a disputed border region, the area always has an Indian military presence. The Mishmi, and the Zakhring or the Meyor as they were formerly known are the main tribes here. The area is rich in wildlife with some rare mammals and birds found in the region. The small offbeat town is rich in greenery with gleaming waterfalls, beautiful river streams and pine forests.

Kibithoo is located about 100 km northeast of Anjaw about 1305 meters above sea level on the right bank of the River Lohit. Inhabited by the two main tribes of the Zedkring and the Mishmi, the town is surrounded by rivers, waterfalls, and dense forests of pine and berries and makes for a relaxing getaway. Hawai and Hayuliang are two small towns close to Anjaw. Hawai in the Mishmi language means pond and is located 1296 meters above sea level. Hayuliang means a place of my liquor in the Mishmi language and is located 750 meters above sea level and is blessed with gorgeous views of the convergence of the Dalai and the Lohit Rivers.

Walong in the Mishmi dialect means a place full of bamboo and is situated 1094 meters above sea level on the west bank of the Lohit River. Walong holds great historical importance because many Indian soldiers lost their lives here during the 1962 war. Just 20 km from the Indo-Sino border, the town has had a massive Chinese influence. The Namti Valley has a memorial built to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the 1962 war. About 7 km from Walong lies Dong on the left bank of the Lohit River and experiences the earliest sunrise in the country. Numerous pine trees surround this town which is enriched with lush greenery. Situated on the left bank of the Dalai River, 1258 meters above sea level, Chaglogam is a great place for different adventure sports like trekking, angling, rafting and mountain climbing.

Tezu

Arunachal Pradesh’s fifth-largest town and one of its most developed, Tezu lies about 346 km northeast of Itanagar. The recently constructed airport at Tezu will be the first civilian airport in the state. Tezu also has a sizeable population of Tibetan community of about 1500 mostly residing in a settlement known as locally as Lama Camp which is located in Tindolong about 6 km from Tezu. Tezu’s beauty is in full bloom during the festival of Makar Sankranti in January as there is a grand celebration organised by the Mishmi tribe called the Tamladu Festival. People also take a dip in the holy water of the Parshuram Kund in the belief that all their sins get washed away. According to legend, when Parshuram was ordered by his father to kill his mother he threw the axe with a great fury that lead to the formation of this pond and the crack in the earth eventually became the source of the Lohit River

And so we come to the end of a very intriguing and special state, one that I am hopeful I can make a trip to visit and experience.

Travel Bucket List: India – Arunachal Pradesh Part 3

Ziro

Home of the Apa tribe and famous for its pine hills and rice fields, Ziro which lies 109 km north of Itanagar at an elevation of 1688 metres is a quaint old town and a peaceful paradise. The climate in Ziro is mild throughout the year, making it a year-round holiday destination. Ziro is included in the tentative List of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites for the Apatani cultural landscape.

The Apatani cultural landscape comprises 32 sq km cultivable areas out of a 1058 sq km plateau. The Apatani tribe, which has inhabited this region for centuries, is known for practising ecologically sustainable existential sustenance. The Apatanis have a few unique special characteristic features which differ from other tribes in Arunachal Pradesh and the rest of India. A few of these special characteristic features include practising permanent wet paddy cultivation whereas other tribes practice shifting cultivations called Jhom cultivation and cultivating permanent wetland cultivations whereas other tribes practice dry land cultivations by clearing the forests by burning the jungles. Apatanis once practised the art of facial tattoos.

The Meghna Cave Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located close to Ziro. The 10-minute climb up the stairs is completely worth it when one reaches the 5000-year old temple 3000 feet above sea level. The temple boasts magnificent carvings and architecture and has amazing views of the area. The self-manifested Shiva Linga at Ziro with a Sfatic as garland and is 25 feet in length and 22 feet in width. This shiva linga is said to be the world’s largest which was recently discovered.  Kile Pakho is a viewpoint with unique views on both sides with the Ziro plateau on one side and the snow-laden Himalayan peaks on the other. Ziro’s famous attraction is the trek to the top of the Dolo Mando to view Hapoli town and old Ziro. The hillock is situated on the western side of Ziro on Daporijo Road. Located 3 km from Ziro are pine groves known as Midey which make for an excellent picnic spot and also provide excellent trekking trails.

The 337 sq km Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a wide and exotic variety of flora and fauna. The endangered clouded leopards are also found here and the sanctuary has a spectrum of flora as well which includes silver fir trees, ferns, orchids, bamboo and rhododendron. Established in 1995, it ranges in elevation from 1,200 to 3,000 m and harbours subtropical and temperate broadleaved and conifer forests and have about 16 endangered plants that have survived in this area.

Yinkiong

Located about 250 km north of Itanagar, Yingkiong lies just 1 km east of the River Siang. In 1911, following the Anglo–Abor wars, the British gained administrative control of the Upper Siang region. Yingkiong is characterised by its hilly terrains and river valleys and lies about 200 m above sea level. The town gets its name from the River Siang that flows beside and is known for its diverse and colourful ethnic tribes. This region has been inhabited mainly by four tribes, the Adi, the Khamba, the Mishmis and the Memba. The area is also known for its spectacular panorama with dense forests and birds with vibrant feathers.

The Dr Daying Ering Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across 190 sq km with more than 75% of the sanctuary covered by grassland and surrounded by the Siang river. It is also a bird watcher’s paradise with many endangered species found here. This sanctuary also spreads to Assam where it is known as the Khobo Ehapori.

The Mouling National Park is named after a mountain peak Mouling where Mouling is an Adi word which means red poison or red blood, which is believed to be red latex from a tree species found locally. It was the second national park to be created in the state, after Namdapha National Park in 1972. The Mouling National Park and the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary are located fully or partly within Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve. Spread across 483 sq km it has the Siang river flowing on the west and the Siring, Subong, Semong and Krobong rivers on the eastern ends. The national park is very isolated and communication is very weak and barely any transportation means. The national park covers an area of about 483 sq km forming the western part of the Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve. Approach to the park is not possible via roads, due to the remoteness of the area and communication facilities in the area are poor. The area around Mouling National park is one of great bio-diversity, with a juxtaposition of different biotopes, and is often called the state’s cradle of biodiversity. With elevations ranging from 400 m to over 3000 m in the park, it forms a transition zone between tropical forests at lower altitudes to the more temperate forests at altitudes above 2800 m. The overall inaccessibility due to poor or no roads and stories associated with the forest itself has kept the core area of the national park relatively untouched by human activities.

Mechuka

The town of Mechukha or Menchukha is a town located about 6,000 ft above sea level in the Mechukha Valley of the Yargep Chu or Siyom River. In the Memba dialect, Men means medicine, Chu means a waterbody and Kha means snow and the town’s name means the land blessed with medicinal snow-fed water. Before the 1950s, the Mechuka valley was known as Pachakshiri. The Line of Actual Control or the McMahon Line between India and Tibet border is 29 km north of Menchuka. The valley is home to the people of the Memba, Adi and Tagin tribes.

The 400-year-old Samten Yongcha monastery of the Mahayana Buddhist sect is a contemporary of the much-revered Tawang Monastery. Numerous ancient statues can also be found here. A new giant flying squirrel was discovered here which was named Mechuka’s giant flying squirrel Petaurista mechukaensis. The IUCN Red List has classified it as a Data Deficient species.

The Namdapha National Park is a 1,985 sq km protected biodiversity hotspot in the Eastern Himalayas with more than 1,000 floral and about 1,400 faunal species. The national park harbours the northernmost lowland evergreen rainforests in the world at 27°N latitude and extensive dipterocarp forests, comprising the northwestern parts of the Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin rain forests ecoregion. The fourth-largest national park in India, Namdapha was originally declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972, then a National Park in 1983 and became a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger scheme in the same year. Its name is a combination of two Singpho words where nam means water and dapha means origin and the name means the river that originates from the Dapha Bum glaciers.

Located near the international border with Myanmar, the park is located between the Dapha bum range of the Mishmi Hills and the Patkai range with a wide elevation range between 200 and 4,571 m and is crossed from east to west by the Noa Dihing River that originates at the Chaukan Pass, located on the Indo-Myanmar border. The Namdapha flying squirrel was first collected in the park and described. It is endemic to the park and critically endangered. The best time to visit the park is during the winter season because the humid subtropical climate keeps the winters mild. There is also a museum called the Miao Museum where visitors can get to see genuine animal specimens from the forest and also gain insights into the life of the villagers.

Roing

The last major township in India’s northeast, at the foothill of the Mishmi Hills, Roing lies about 350 km east of Itanagar. A natural haven with snow-peaked mountains, deep gorges, turbulent rivers cascading down the hills, numerous waterfalls, placid lakes and archaeological sites Roing is an ideal tourist destination. Located in the Lower Dibang Valley, it is home to the Adi-Padam and Idu-Mishmi tribes. The Reh festival of the Idu Mishmi is celebrated in February while the Solung festival of the Adi is celebrated in September.

The enormous Mehao Lake is located within the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary and about 14 km from Roing at a height of almost 3000 m and covers an area of nearly 4 sq km. The lake attracts a lot of seasonal birds and provides an ideal trekking experience and is a photographer’s delight. Because the lake is low in nutrients, there are no fish in the crystal clear lake. Trekking the small pathway leading to the lake through the virgin forest is a wonderful experience. Salley Lake is also a part of the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary and a popular scenic spot. There are many varieties of fish in the lake which lies about 3.8 km from Roing. Itapakhur and Padum Pukhri are is a historical brick built ponds, located in Ithili village, are two famous ponds where lotuses bloom in October and November. The Kampona Pond is believed to have been the abode of the Naga King and the pond’s name translates to good looking or beautiful in the Adi dialect. Famous for fishing and angling, the Iphi Pani Ghat has amazing views of the Dibang river and valley.

Located on the banks of the Deopani River, the Nehru Van Udyan houses an exciting cactus house, an orchid area and a beautiful garden. A guest house located close to the garden is an excellent place to view the Deopani River. The park has a well-maintained garden and a few hundred meters from here is the confluence of rivers Eje and Eme.

Also called the Chimiri Fort, Rukmini Nati is located in the heart of the Chimiri Village, some 10 km from Roing and is believed to be built in the 14th century. Built with burnt bricks in the 12th century, the Bhashmaknagar Fort is an important and oldest archaeological site in the state. Various artefacts like potteries, terracotta figurines, terracotta plaques and decorative tiles that were found during its excavation process reflect upon the forward state of civilization at that time. It is believed that Rukmini, the consort of Lord Krishna is from this region, but there is no evidence to support that. The ruins of the fort which are about 30 km southeast of Roing remain and are an ideal trekking route and birdwatchers’ paradise. The remains are generally ascribed to the rule of the Chutias, a Bodo-Kachari or Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group that ruled over the region of Sadiya from the 11th to the 16th centuries. The fort, with its fortifications and buildings, is built of fired bricks. The Mipi Pene Centre was established in the year 2017 to preserve and promote the Igu system of the Idu Mishmi tribe. Mipi Pene refers to the Igu or the shaman and the centre was inaugurated in 2018.

Hunli is a small quaint town about 2 hours from Roing on way to Anini. Hunli is famous for trekking and the Temple cave at Kupunli.

Located about 56 km from Roing, the Mayodia Pass lies at an elevation of 2,655 m above sea level. Mayodia is a combination of two Idu-Mishmi words: Mayu which is the name of the mountain and Dia meaning the peak of the mountain, which makes the pass the peak of the Mayu Mountain. It is a popular local tourist attraction due to the snowfall it receives during winters.

Known as the real ocean of green paradise on Earth, the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary is a virgin forest left largely untouched and unexplored with a large number of animals, plants, birds, fish, butterflies and reptile species. The Mishmi Hills are a birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiasts delight. The region boasts of so many rare species found only in this region in the entire Indian sub-continent. The medicinal plant Coptis Teeta or the Mishmi Teeta, an endemic species and the Taxus baccata are available here. The area is also rich in orchid varieties.

The Dihang-Dibang or Dehang-Debang is a biosphere reserve constituted in 1998. One of the eight wildlife sanctuaries in Arunachal Pradesh, the Mouling National Park and the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary are located fully or partly within this biosphere reserve which spreads over three districts: Dibang Valley, Upper Siang, and West Siang and covers the high mountains of the Eastern Himalayas and the Mishmi Hills. This Biosphere Reserve has natural vegetation stretching in an unbroken sequence from the tropics to the mountain tundra. The reserve is rich in wildlife with rare mammals such as the Mishmi takin, the red goral, at least two sub species of the musk deer, the rare Sclater’s monal and Blyth’s tragopan, amongst others.

Tirap

Located in the southeastern part of the state about 336 km east of Itanagar, Tirap shares a state border with Assam and an international border with Myanmar. The town with its gushing rivulets, green and vibrant orchards and fresh air heals the mind and soothes the soul. The name Tirap is derived from the River Tirap which originates from a high peak in the Laju Circle and flows from the southeast to the northeast before joining the Buri-Dihing river near Ledo in Assam.

Since ancient times, Tirap has been inhabited by indigenous tribes. Japanese troops invaded and controlled the area for a brief period in 1945, until the collapse of the Japanese Empire. Recently, Tirap has been a major target for the NSCN, a Naga rebel group that aims the creation of Greater Nagaland, using military force.