May 13, 2009

Elevated at a height of about 2,217 meters above sea level, the town of Bomdila is the headquarters of the district of West Kameng, in Arunachal Pradesh. It is small, having only a total population of 6,685 as per the 2001 census, but this does not take away from the fact that it is beautiful, perched on such a high elevation with a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges serving as its backdrop. It is located in the northwestern part of the state, some 100 kilometers west of Bhalukpong. Like some other Indian towns, Bomdila is a remote destination, which makes it still virtually unspoiled by tourists who have been coming to India recently. The place is famous for its scenic and beautiful environments, Buddhist monasteries that have been erected since ancient times, and wide stretches of apple orchards. Most of the population of Bomdila come from the Monpa and Sherdukpen tribes.

Bomdila’s ancient history is not recorded, but it is generally accepted that during the medieval period, it was part of the kingdom of Tibet. The tribal leaders of Bhutan in the west also ruled the place from time to time, as well as the local tribal rulers; the rulers of Assam did not generally interfere with the local leaders’ rule unless there was a retaliatory raid into the tribal territory which happened from time to time. When the British came and colonized India, they declared this part of Arunachal Pradesh as off-limits in 1873. When India finally gained its independence in 1947, the area became an object of dispute between India and China. In 1962, China invaded the area around the town but they later withdrew, leaving the town still under the rule of the Indian government.

Aside from the already picturesque and beautiful vista afforded by the town to its visitors, there are other places that may attract the interest of tourists. There are the gompas, or Buddhist monasteries, that show a strong influence of Buddhist and Tibetan culture – an existing testament of the time when Bomdila was still under Tibetan rule. The most famous of these gompas is the GRL Gompa, more properly known as Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Ling Monastery. It was built in 1965 by the 12th reincarnate of Tsona Gontse Rinpoche. The monastery was built to resemble the Tsona Gontse Monastery in South Tibet, which was established during the 15th century. Trekkers and adventurers will also find that the area around the town has a number hiking and trekking trails that is perfect for such an activity. Going from Bomdila to another nearby town, Tawang, will also reward the traveler with some breathtaking mountain terrain, which is perfect for those who want to see the unspoiled richness of the east.

Souvenir hunters and shoppers will be glad to know that Bomdila is also known for its exquisite handicrafts. The town’s main craft center is known for producing wonderful and beautiful woollen carpets and traditional masks. These can be bought either from the main center or through the various shops all around town.


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