After 2 days of driving, today was going to be a relaxed day visiting sights within Menchuka.
Mechuka or Mechukha or Menchukha (meaning medicinal water of snow), is a Buddhist Himalayan hamlet situated a mere 29 km from the Indo-Tibetan border, in the West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh. Previously known only for its strategic military landing strip during the 1962 Indo-China War, Arunachal’s ‘Forbidden Valley’ became accessible by road only in 2003 in preparation to welcome the Dalai Lama to the 400-year-old Samten Yongcha Monastery. Nestled at 6000 ft above sea level, it is home to the Memba, Ramo, Bokar, Lingbo and Ta-gin tribes of Arunachal who have a strong history of connections and roots from Lhasa, Tibet.
First stop, Samten Yongcha Monastery. Yes, the same one visited by Dalai Lama n 2003. This monastery is way older than the revered Tawang monastery, it sits perched on a hilltop 16 km from Mechuka town. The monastery is clearly not much in use, as there was just no road to take us up the hill. Thank god we were in Thars that swallowed all bumps with elan. The monastery itself houses some stunning murals and paintings of Buddhist Guru Padmasambhava and menacing masks adorn the walls while a gleaming gold statue of the Buddha watches over.
The monastery is beautiful and we were welcomed by the sound of drum-beating and chanting within. There is something to Buddhist chants that just draws me...."Om mane padme hum"! Everyone was amazed to see alcohol bottles being offered to the gods...after all one offers what they cherish most to the gods. Isn't it??
Second stop was Nanak Lama Gurudwara where we had langar. One of the 10 gurus of Sikhs, Guru Nanak travelled around the world and he stopped by in Mechuka.
Isn't it amazing... a peaceful Gurudwara in this Buddhist hamlet....what more examples does one need of our diversity and inclusion.
Some soldiers from the Sikh regiment of the Indian Army camp at Yorlung, Mechuka built this Gurudwara in the 1980s, perched over the river as an ode to Guru Nanak who is believed to have stopped here and meditated on his way to Tibet. At noon every day, the Gurudwara is filled with Army soldiers attending the daily prayers followed by the most delicious langar (free holy meal), made and served by Army soldiers to all devotees and visitors....how can we miss such food. The gurudwara is serene and a museum within spoke about the sacrifices made by the Sikh gurus. Oh, there is so much to learn!! I made a mental note to read about the Sikh gurus.
Further up towards the Yarlung army camp is a tiny Hanuman temple- yet another unexpected presence of another god in a Buddhist village. Because right across this temple, high atop a rugged mountain cliff is what is believed to be a naturally carved out face of Hanuman. The place reminded me of my trips in China where the guide would point at a hill and ask what shape does it look like...Clue...dragon would be right 9/10 times. In India it isn't that easy....thank god there were signs to the place!! Civilians can't go any further as the border with China is very close by.
Another exciting stop on the way back down across the Gurudwara is a holy cave dedicated to Guru Nanak with what are believed to be impressions of his turban inside a massive rock. I have read about another story that those are actually the impressions of Buddhist Guru Rinpoche when he meditated inside the cave, but the Sikhs seem to think otherwise. Aah the power of stories!!
We then had to pass through a small space in a cave....those who pass will have their sins washed...hmm...Lakshmi & I had no issues in passing through!! Cleansed, we came to the other end and then had to put out hands in a water source and pick out stones....colour signified the colour of your heart.....there were no red colour stones...quite disappointing!!
Legend has it that these pools determine one’s destiny. Housing a mixture of white, black and grey stones, what you pick predicts your luck ahead. White for success and happiness, grey for a period of struggle before happiness and black for bad luck and darkness. I like the colour of the stone signifying the colour of my heart....guess you know what colour stones I picked!!
The water source -trickling water down the wall that is quite interesting. The entire area was very serene and after the usual photo ops....with the day done, we headed back to the homestay. Campfire conversations started with serious topics and thankfully we moved to Antakshari. Great fun, banter and laughter along with singing Tamil, Hindi and English songs....at dinner time the music continued and this time it was the local boys singing...some fab old and new songs...what a great way to sign off the day.