During our exploration of West Arunachal Pradesh, we stopped at Bomdila, on the way to Tawang. Bomdila often serves as the night halt on the way to Tawang as it is a mid-point when travelling from Tezpur to Tawang. Bomdila, in its own right, has so many beautiful sights and it is worth a full day tour before continuing towards Dirang and Tawang. So, as planned by Holiday Scout, we allocated the next day for Bomdila. Let us see all the interesting things to do in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh.
Bomdila is a town in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, a North Eastern state of India. It is also the district headquarters of West Kameng District. Nestled amidst the picturesque Eastern Himalayas, it is situated at a height ranging from about 2200 to 3000 Metres above sea level and offers beautiful views of the snow-clad mountain ranges (in winter), lush green valleys and mighty rivers.
The town, known for its Buddhist monasteries and scenic beauty, is surrounded by national parks and wildlife sanctuaries making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. The tribal culture of Monpa tribe is also very vibrant and colorful here. We were informed that Bomdila was one of the important towns even during the medieval times when it was part of Tibetan or at times Bhutan rule.
Local Market & Ama Market
A walk through the local area gives the vibes of a small village which has grown into a big town, shops in the market have essentially remained the same. From trinkets to “Bhukaris” to electronic gadgets, everything is available here on this 1 KM long street.
At one end of the street is the Ama Market. Ama means woman or mother, in the local Monpa Language. (I was reminded of Ama Dablam mountain in Nepal, which means mothers necklace). There are a lot of small shops all manned (Or should it be womanned!) by women, selling organic local grocery, vegetables, fruits, dry fruits, yak cheese (a major ingredient in Monpa cuisine), utensils and other kitchen items.
It was good to see how the women have created this co-operative store for the benefit of the people and eventually creating livelihood for the women of the family.
The kiwis were so inexpensive! In Mumbai it would be at least 5 times more costly!
Handicrafts Center, Ethnographic Museum and Store
The government aided local crafts people to produce Carpets, wooden items, painting, creating Buddhist thangkas, coloured prayer flags, ethnic clothes, woolens and such. My first opinion of the premises was that the place looked a bit run down. However, I was quite impressed at some of the modern automated and computerized machines for weaving and knitting in one of the rooms.
The artists and artisans generally keep to their rooms, even during the lunch hour and share their lunch with each other. Reminded me of the initial days of my corporate career when we used to do that.
The weavers, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, wood carvers and others were quite friendly and patiently explained the designs and the process to us and quite readily posed for photos too.
The Thangka artists were so focused and engrossed in their work that we did not want to disturb them too much.
There is a store attached to it where one can also buy these. It is authentic!
Buddha Park is not a very big park, but considering that there are not much open spaces, the authorities have converted what was earlier an open ground into a peaceful haven.
While it is not a temple or a monastery, it does have prayer wheels (including gigantic prayer wheel) and statues of Buddha. I saw families with kids or even single people strolling or walking around, enjoying the cool breeze, the flowers or simply meditating.
Adjoining the Buddha Park is the Buddha Stadium where the local kids play their favorite game, football. This playground is also used for official ceremonies like the Independence Day celebration etc.
Lower Gompa & Upper Gompa
Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Lling monasteries
There are two important monasteries or Gompas. The smaller one is in the center of the town, near the market. We were told that this was the original Gompa for the devotees and eventually it started becoming too crowded. This eventually lead to construction of a bigger monastery with better facilities.
Surprisingly the central wall has the image of the 14th Dalai Lama (the current Dalai Lama) instead of Buddha. There must be a reason, but I do not know it.
When we entered the lower Gompa we saw some young monks chanting, so we silently clicked the photos and slid out without making much noise.
Both gompas are called Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Lling monastery or GRL monastery. The upper gompa is often called the Bomdila Gompa and is about 3 KM from the lower Gompa.
Established in the year 1965-66, the Upper GRL Monastery, on a hilltop, is spread over a large circular area and looks as good as new, evidence of how well the gompa is maintained. There are gardens and well demarcated areas for flag ceremony, masked cham dances, celebrating Losar, Torgya or other festivals in front of the monastery.
The main prayer hall or the Dukhang is quite huge, and one side is the school for the novice monks and other children and on the other is the medical facilities, practicing Tibetan medicine and the libraries. The living quarters are in a separate area but quite nearby too.
The Monastery is well decorated with the typical Tibetan architecture and colors with Buddhist Iconography right from the 4 protector deities, mandala art on the ceiling and carved entrance.
Inside the hall, on the far wall is the serene sculpture of Buddha, looking benevolently at whoever looks at him. There are several statues depicting various forms of Buddha (Including Fasting Shakyamuni Buddha), Gurus, deities including the female deities called Dolma or Devi.
There is also a Middle Gompa, but we did not have the time to go there.
Helipad, the Bomdila Viewpoint
The Bomdila helipad is on a flat hilltop at an altitude of 2500 M. The helipad serves for movement of VIPs and evacuation of patients to bigger hospitals in Assam.
Apart from its functional aspect, it offers one of the best views of Bomdila valley town. We only hope the photos do justice to the actual view. This is, absolutely, a not-to-be-missed tourist attraction.
RR Hills, War Memorial
On a clear day one can see the RR Hills and the GRL Monastery from Bomdila Helipad. The top of RR Hills is veritably the highest point of Bomdila. No wonder then that the top of this region is under Military administration.
However, for tourists, the highest point one can reach is the war memorial. Be prepared for a couple of questions by the guards.
The war memorial is built for the martyrs who laid down their lives in the 1962 Indo-China war of 1962.
As per a plaque there, Subedar Pritam Singh was the senior JCO of company of 1 Sikh LI (light infantry), at the western shoulder of Bomdila during 1962 operations. His company had the task of stopping the advance of enemy troops at Bomdila Pass. Clearly the company was outnumbered. Despite being critically wounded Pritam Singh did not leave his post and refused to be evacuated to safety. He eventually succumbed to his injuries.
There is another plaque giving the names of all the martyrs during the battle of Bomdila.
There is a viewing gallery where the sights are clearly marked. However, when we reached the war memorial it was engulfed in a thick fog with a visibility of just a few meters and the temperature was almost freezing. We were told, that on a clear day one can see the two tallest mountains of this region, Kangto (7042M) and Gori Chen (6530M) and the snaking mountain roads to Tawang and Bhutan.
Go Café hopping!
This is a fairly new development in Bomdila. There is an effort to bring Café culture with the people, especially youngsters. Best is to go on the same evening you arrive to imbibe the local environs and also save on time.
As of now, there are cafés here, each one good in its own way, all of them within walking minutes of each other and are great places to eat in Bomdila too.
The interiors are quite modern and sparkling. This is owned by Karma, the Rinpoche of Chilipam Monastery, which is an hour away. In the Nyingmapa Buddhist Tradition, it is allowed for the monks to grow hair, get married and own businesses. The interiors were great with enough seating capacity. All their menu items are delicious and reasonably priced.
It is close to Coffee Studio. It is perhaps the first café in Bomdila. The décor is simple, but the menu is ample. The cakes and pastries are great!
Run by an elegant lady, this coffee shop has awesome coffee and a bookstore attached to it. With these essential ingredients, I can spend hours there.
Bomdi la – the mountain pass and More
The word “la” usually means a mountain pass, like Se la, Bum La, Nathu La etc. Similarly, originally the name of Bomdila must have been Bomdi La and yes, the mountain pass exists, on the way to Dirang. Due to the development of this region, the pass is not quite distinguishable. It is like blink, and you will miss it and we blinked!
There are more places like fruit orchards, the fortune teller monk etc. These will involve travelling to a distance or hiking and hence we have not included them here.
- The weather could turn chilly at night, because of the altitude. A waterproof jacket in the daypack can go a long way towards keeping you warm and protect you from rains, which can happen anytime.
- You might want to visit some of these other places near Bomdila, like Bhalukpong, Sangti Valley.
- Dress appropriately for visiting the monasteries.
- In general photography is allowed in all places including the prayer room. However, selfies with Image of Buddha behind you is not allowed.
Where to Stay in Bomdila?
Do not expect star hotels in Bomdila as of now. However there are very good hotels and excellent homestays options too.
We stayed at Lungta Residency run efficiently by Tenzing Wangmu . You may contact them at [email protected]. It is very close Sumo parking and Buddha Park.
Is Bomdila worth visiting?
Travelers generally use Bomdila as a night halt on way to Tawang. While Bomdila may not be a tourist hotspot, it has many interesting things to do. So one day halt is suggested. There are things to do near Bomdila too. Click here to see.
Which is better, Dirang or Bomdila?
It is quite difficult to compare two different places. However I feel that there are more attractions and things to in and around than in Bomdila.
What can you buy in Bomdila?
Woolens made of Yak or sheep wool, Yak Cheese are quite popular with tourists. One may buy trinkets and souvenirs too at designated shops.
What is Bomdila pass and why is it famous for?
On a clear day Bomdila mountain pass offers unhindered view of the two highest peaks of this region, Kangto (7042M) and Gori Chen (6530M).
What is the best time to visit Bomdila?
September to May is the best time to visit Bomdila. It is quite a fun exploring this high altitude town during winter!
How to reach Bomdila
There are Buses, Sumo jeeps from Tezpur. However I think the best would be to hire a cab for the entire duration of your stay in Arunachal Pradesh for comfort and convenience.
Our other articles on Arunachal Pradesh
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