Let’s first put a few realities on the table. Not many tourists have Arunachal Pradesh on their travel agenda. Which is just as good for those of us who want to keep their special discoveries all to ourselves!
January 24, 2013
Wakro – a Prelude
And if you felt that there is a Tawang, that does catch a few tourists in the peak season, the truth is that there are many more such pearls tucked away in a green oyster that takes more than a touristy attempt at discovery. Scouring for the most popular North-east travel itineraries from the net or walking up to the travel agent office, down the road, will not yield much more than the West Arunachal circuit of Tawang and Bomdila. Which is why we headed to the North-East – to the East of North-East.
So what do I now have to offer which I haven’t already shared with you. We spent a few moments at the War cemetery at Digboi, drove up the Stillwell road till the Pangsau Pass at the Indo-Burmese border, played with the butterflies and dodged a few leeches in the woods of Namdapha, crossed the Lohit to reach Tezu, headed all the way up to Walong, reached out to distant Kaho and Kibithu and almost caught the first sun rays to fall on the Indian subcontinent.
There is still something left to be told, something really substantial and special that was, in fact, the reason that had us pack up our bags and head out to Arunachal in the first place – Wakro.
For starters, it happens to be one of the realities that we placed early on the table. Seeing it on the Google map is the stuff that gets the traveller in you to sit up. Typing in just Arunachal Pradesh on Google maps and without zooming in any further, you realise that Wakro is the furthest east that you can get anywhere in India. So much so that half of Burma, including Yangon, lies to its west. So, when we drove into Wakro in Jayanto da’s jeep, we knew we were in the east…seriously east.
Descending the last few bends in the ghat from our long drive from Walong, we passed the Demwe point where one road went on to Tezu and the other headed to Parshuram Kund. We took the latter and, shortly, reached the new bridge that sprawled across over the Lohit. All along the climb up to Walong and down it, watching the river from the IB at Walong and crossing over it on the hanging bridges, we had seen Lohit in all its many moods. But this was different. We were staring down at it from really up close and from the ‘comforts’ of a concrete bridge.
Ahead, the famous sight of Parshuram’s axe embedded in the river bed heightened the drama that was already quite dramatic. We parked our Scorpio at the base of the bridge, climbed a few steps till we reached a temple. There were a few men dressed in saffron sitting around a Banyan tree.
We walked further, passed another temple, and a few more smaller shrines, and proceeded to climb down the steps that were built to accommodate the thousands who flock here every January during Makarsakranti to take a dip in the freezing waters of Lohit. For now, we were the only people around.
Every year, Parshuram Kund Mela is organized in the month of January from 13th to 15th. On Makar Sankranti day, large numbers of devotees come here to take their holy bath. Legend says that when Parshuram killed his mother with an axe at the behest of his father, the axe got stuck to his hands. In order to get rid of the axe, and the sin of killing his mother, he came to Brahma Kund where he took a dip in the holy water. Magically, the axe immediately fell from his hands. He picked up the axe and threw it as far as he could into the mountains. The axe split the mountains, and the spot where it fell became the Brahmaputra River.
Beyond the Parshuram Kund, the Lohit River is known as Brahmaputra.
Jayantoda told us an interesting fact about Parshuram Kund. During Makarsakranti, only those whose parents have passed away can take a dip in the Lohit River at the Parshuram Kund. The rest take a dip across the Kund in the Brahmaputra River.
Down at the last few steps just above the river, we felt the naked fury of the Lohit as the blacks, the dark greens and the frothy whites all tossed up as if in a super strong blender. In front of us, the “axe” with its jagged edges protruded resolutely over the swirling waters.
Wakro was just 20 km up ahead. A brief stop for a cup of tea later, we were crossing the Kamlang bridge and waiting with bated breath for the first sight of Uncle Moosa’s ‘home’ town. Uncle, an Arunachali at heart and by the sheer fact that the last 30 years of his life have been spent in Arunachal and among its lovely people, currently works and lives in Wakro.
For the next five days we would be with Uncle, sharing or rather encroaching upon his space, spending time with him at the Apne library, with his books, with his little patrons from Apna Vidya Bhavan and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, with the wonderful staff of these fine two schools and, never the least, the two remarkable people who started and run these excellent institutions under the Anu Shiksha Seva Trust (ASSET) with the graceful blessings of His Holiness Swami Sri Sri Anubhavananda Saraswatiji.
Well, that will need a whole lot of a chapter.