Team: Indian expedition
Members:July to August 2004
The expedition was dedicated to the memory ofLT. NAWANG KAPADIA of 4/3 Gorkha Rifles, Indian Army
In remote and rarely visited Arunachal Pradesh, much remains to be explored. One such area was the valley of the Subansiri river in central Arunachal. A team from Mumbai explored this unique area, They followed the ancient pilgrimage route of Takpa Siri. The Takpa Siri mountain, also known as the ‘Crystal mountain’ is holy to the Tibetans, Monpas and Tagins of Arunachal Pradesh. A pilgrimage was undertaken every 12 years, starting from Chosam in Tibet. It followed the Tsari Chu valley till its junction with the Subansiri river and then went up the Subansiri river valley till Taksing. From here the route turned north along the Yume Chu. The pilgrimage would end at the holy Yume Gompa (monastery). This longer version of pilgrimage, called ‘Ringkor’, was undertaken over a threemonth period and several thousand pilgrims passed on this route, staying in caves and bamboo shelters, which were called ‘Tsukang’. The local people stocked these shelters with food and wood for pilgrims who passed through this challenging and difficult route. The Tagins, who stay in the Upper Subansiri valley, were paid yearly tributes by the Tibetans of Longju, and a special large tribute to help this pilgrimage every 12th year. Today, the pilgrimage has stopped as the McMahon Line or Line of Actual Control (LAC) divides Takpa Siri and the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh. The pilgrim route at Maja enters the Indianterritory and from Taksing, along the Yume Chu returns back towards China. Thus this fine tradition is now lost.
This team followed the Ringkor route on both sides, as much as possible from the Indian areas. From Guwahati, road travel of almost 850 km was undertaken over 4 days, via Tezpur, Itanagar, Kimin, Ziro, Daporijo to reach Limiking, the starting point of the trek.
The trek began across the first bridge, named after soldier Shere Thapa, with a 600 m steep climb, which snaked its way up. At many places the Tagins had erected improvised local wooden ladders, most of the time, over exposed areas, where a slip can drag you down the slope or to the river. After the climb was Tame Chung Chung (TCC, ‘place of snakes’). From TCC the first exploration was along the Tsari Chu valley to Bidak, little short of Maja, as ahead is the Tibetan territories.
Later the team proceeded to explore the Subansiri valley to trek towards Taksing, the last village on the India side. From Taksing one can look towards the junction of the Chayal Chu and Yume Chu and the LAC. At the merging point of these two rivers, the Subansiri is formed which flows down to meet the Brahmaputra river in the plains of Assam.
Early explorers such as F. M.Bailey and H. T. Morshead had visited the area from Tibet. They have written about the both the pilgrimages around Takpa Siri. F. Ludlow and later F. Kingdon-Ward also undertook the pilgrimage and observed and wrote about the traditions and botany of these areas. In 1956 Tony Huber, studied the pilgrimage in detail and wrote a thesis for his doctorate called, The Cult of the Pure Crystal Mountain narrating details of route and various legends associated with it.