American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

India, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Search for Old Pilgrimage Route to Takpa Siri

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2006

Search for old pilgrimage route to Takpa Siri. In remote and rarely visited Arunachal Pradesh, much remains to be explored. One unexplored place had been the Subansiri River valley, in the central part of the area. In November and December a team from Mumbai explored this unique area. Prateek Deo, Wing Commander P. K. Sashindran, Sangeetha Sashindran, and I followed theancient pilgrimage route towards Takpa Siri. Also known as the “Crystal Mountain,” Takpa Siri (6,655m) is a peak just north of the border, near the Tibetan village of Migyitun, and is holy to the Tibetans, Monpas, and Tagins of Arunachal Pradesh. Traditionally a pilgrimage was undertaken every 12 years, starting from Chosam in Tibet. It followed the Tsari Chu valley to its junction with the Subansiri River and went up the Subansiri River valley to Taksing. The route then turned north along the Yume Chu. The pilgrimage would end at the holy Yume Gompa (monastery). This longer version of the pilgrimage, called Ringkor, was undertaken over a three-month period, and several thousand pilgrims passed along the route, staying in caves and bamboo shelters, called Tsukang.

Early explorers such as Bailey and Morshead visited this area from Tibet. Ludlow and later Kingdon-Ward also undertook the pilgrimage. In 1956 Tony Huber studied the pilgrimage in detail and wrote a thesis for his doctorate called “The Cult of the Pure Crystal Mountain.” He recorded details of the route and various legends associated with it. However, the pilgrimage has stopped and a fine tradition been lost, because the McMahon Line or Line of Actual Control (LAC) separates Takpa Siri from the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh.

Our team followed the Ringkor route on both sides of the border, keeping as much as possible to Indian territory. From Guwahati, four days and 850km of road led via Tezpur, Itanagar, Kimin, Ziro, and Daporijo to Limiking and the starting point of our trek. The initial section involved a steep 600m climb and eventually led to Tame Chung Chung (place of snakes). From there we explored the Tsari Chu valley as far as Bidak, a little short of Maja, as farther on it became Tibetan territory. Later we explored the Subansiri valley and trekked to Taksing, the last village on the India side. From there you can look towards the LAC and the junction of the Chayal Chu and Yume Chu. The point where these two rivers merge is the start of the Subansiri, which flows down to meet the Brahmaputra on the Assam plains.

Harish Kapadia, Honorary Editor, The Himalayan Journal

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