Where to Go in 2019: Inside a Living Fort in Arunachal Pradesh

The 500-year-old fortified partitions of Old Dirang shelter mysterious tales of a medieval metropolis of stone.


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Dirang Dzong. Photo by: Anu Anna Jacob

Tsering provided me a handful of ruby purple finger millet grains to style. A crunch and a pop, adopted by a burst of sweetness. I then took a swig of a deceptively innocuous trying clear liquid, brewed from the grain I had simply ingested. Raksi appears to be like similar to water and tastes completely nothing prefer it, immediately warming my insides and offering the type of kick that’s totally unwarranted at 9 a.m.

Tracing the journey of the millet from grain to glass gave me a glimpse into Dirang’s cultural cloth, if not its historical past. I stood outdoors Tsering’s residence inside the boundaries of the Dirang Dzong, a hilltop fortified settlement in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district.

Home primarily to the Monpa individuals of Arunachal, Dirang city sits sleepily on a hilly spur above the icy blue Dirang River, with views of valleys, kiwi and orange orchards. Research revealed little concerning the city’s choices, and so it appeared like the best spot to catch my breath for a day, on the best way again from Tawang to the plains of Assam.

On a lazy wander to take in some views, I noticed stone fortifications rising up the hillside. Frayed prayer flags fluttered above the outer partitions, which had been adorned with vivid Buddhist motifs and emblazoned with the phrases “Dirang Dzong.” At the doorway of this stone citadel stood a weathered prayer wheel, its outer leather-based jacket worn to reveal layers of fragile, yellowed paper, bearing Buddhist scriptures. Above it, like a talisman, hung a solitary ear of corn.

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The uphill hike to Khastung gompa winds previous native settlements. Photo by: Anu Anna Jacob

Inside the fortified space, a warren of slender alleys are lined with homes of stacked stone and carved wooden, constructed in the normal Monpa fashion to stand up to the tough mountain climate. A clutch of Monpa households lives in these houses, a few of that are estimated to date again almost 500 years. Women sat in tiny gardens of blooming flowers, setting out stout purple chillies and vegetable peels to dry in the mountain solar. Bunches of fats yellow corn hung outdoors each residence. Like the millet, domestically grown maize can be used for a number of fermented and distilled native brews, equivalent to raksi and bhangchang.

At the centre of the settlement stands a Buddhist temple, its doorways firmly locked. Beside it, is an eerie stone tower with latched doorways and excessive up, half boarded-up home windows. This used to be a jail, a passer-by informed me, however I learnt no extra about when or by whom it was constructed. A reasonably forgotten air hung over the sq., not in contrast to the encircling timber densely cloaked in cobwebs.

From a vantage level above the fort’s crumbling partitions, I seemed throughout the winding Dirang river to a monastery on the other hilltop. The Khastung gompa, with its vivid white stone facade and complicated paintings, is best maintained than the dzong, although it’s estimated to date again to the late 16th century. The uphill hike to the gompa winds previous native settlements, the place the distinct scent of raksi wafted out of houses. Curious, giggly kids befriended us with tart oranges plucked straight off the timber. I sat on the grassy meadow outdoors the gompa, watching the solar decrease throughout the dzong and the river.

Back at Pemaling Hotel in Dirang city the place I used to be staying the evening, over a glass kiwi wine from the area’s orchards, I tried to perceive the mysterious dzong’s historical past. Frantic Googling yielded little to no data, whereas conversations with locals revealed estimates, as finest. The Pradhan household, who run the lodge, guessed the dzong additionally dates again almost 500 years. Other variations hint it again anyplace between the 17th century and the mid-1800s. Accounts of a number of wars swirl across the fortress. In the absence of concrete truth, tales of this medieval metropolis of stone are greater than ample.

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