I love the spontaneity of travel. I like it when I’m headed somewhere and I end up being somewhere else and it turns out to be totally remarkable. Well, I was headed towards Dirang Valley (located in West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh) and I ended up at a home stay called Kalden Home Stay (Munna Camp), which is on the highway towards Dirang.
I sneaked into the world of the Monpa tribe through my stay at a cosy home stay, where everybody was gracious and cordial. It didn’t take them very long to understand my curiosity as a traveller. We had quite a few tea conversations, which mostly would start with what cooked in the Monpa kitchens and steer towards deeper topics like how liberal they were when it comes to marrying inter-caste or inter-religion. Also, I learnt a few words of the Monpa language, such as Tashidelek (Namaste), Kadinche (Thank you), Tosang (Food) and Ja (Chai).
So yes, it was great to know the Monpas.
Here are some of the snippets that I’d like to share –
The little village monasteries
I found the little village monasteries far more impressive than the big and ostentatious ones. It was so fascinating to spot ages old monasteries tucked in every corner of the village settlements. Also, some of them were of great significance – one of the monasteries was revered by the locals for the impact it had on their lives. According to my hosts, if anyone took an oath at the monastery and didn’t live by it, he/she was doomed.
The traditional stone and wood houses
All Monpa houses are made of stone and wood. In fact, Monpas like to do a lot of wood carving. It’s usual to catch sight of men engaged in some sort of carpentry work. The use of stones and wood make their homes last for ages, and they look pretty as well.
The gorgeous red chilies and maize
As a photographer, I loved capturing the red chilies and maize, which were all over the place. It’s like wherever you rest your eyes, you’d spot red chilies or maize being dried in the sun. The Monpas like to use chilies and maize quite a lot in their food. (I’m going to write an exclusive post on the Monpa food.)
The hanging beef pieces
It was quite amusing to see the beef pieces hung at almost every house front yard. The Monpas like to eat a lot of meat – pork, yak, beef, chicken, fish, etc. They like to hunt wild animals except for Tiger, which is strictly prohibited to be killed.
The beautiful Kameng River
Besides being mesmerised by the Monpa villages, I was also smitten by the gurgling Kameng River that flowed by my home stay. It was refreshing to walk down to the river in the mornings and in the evenings for a ‘soak in’ time.
According to Wikipedia, the Kameng River flows from Tawang district from the glacial lake below snow-capped Gori Chen Mountain, and it is one of the major tributaries of the Brahmaputra River.
The sweet and shy locals
The locals, I realised, were quite shy and reserved in the Monpa villages and also in the other parts of Arunachal Pradesh. They wouldn’t just open up on their own, but if you’d like to take their photographs, they would honour your request. It’s always good to get introduced to them by your hosts and exchange a few pleasantries in their local language.
The Monpa traditional dresses
The Monpas like to wear heavy traditional attires on their special occasions. I also got a chance to try a couple of Monpa attires at my hosts’ cajolery. Shinka, one of the attires that I put on costs around 30k. I’m glad I got to don it for free!
According to Wikipedia, the traditional dress of the Monpa is based on the Tibetan Chuba. Both men and women wear head wear made of yak hair, with long tassels. The women tend to wear a warm jacket and a sleeveless chemise that reaches down to the calves, tying the chemise round the waist with a long and narrow piece of cloth. Ornaments include those made of silver, corals and turquoise. One can see a person wearing a cap with a single peacock feather round their felt hats.
Did the Monpa world fascinate you?
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