East Himalaya

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Legends of the Lake of No Return and Stories from the Pangsau Pass

The Khamti community in Arunachal Pradesh say that Pang Sau means ‘camping place’ and when they migrated here as Tai-Khamtis, they did take rest here. Today also they visit the Pangsau Pass as a pilgrimage to pay respect to their ancestors. The Singpho and the Tangsa communities too consider this pass as a sacred place.
 The Pangsau Pass came into importance with the building of the Stilwell Road, also known as the Burma Road or the Ledo Road. During World War II, the CBI (China-Burma-India) theatre sprang into importance with the Japanese and the Allied forces trying to cover grounds. It became necessary for the Allied forces to connect the Ledo base in Assam, India with Kunming in Yunan, China. The air route was not only expensive, but ‘flying over the hump’ became almost impossible. Finally, General Joseph W Stilwell took up the responsibility to built the road through Burma, starting from Ledo, going through the ‘Hell Gate’ in present Jairampur and then the legendary Pangsau Pass and Lake of No Return.

The area still has the remains of the heritage wilderness, community traditions and happenings of World War II, which the world with nostalgia wants to experience. Keeping this in view the local communities of Jairampur, Nampong, Manmao and Rima got together with Help Tourism in 2006 to warm-up for the ‘Pangsau Pass Winter Festival’. The official event was launched in 2007 with the active support of Government of Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh celebrated her 25 years statehood in India on the 20th of February, 2012. This was a Union Territory of India under North East Frontier Agency and Governed under the Governor of Assam till 1972. On 20th February, 1987, Arunachal Pradesh became the 25th state of India. Inbetween this was a Union Territory placed under the Chief Commissioner. To enter any place in Arunachal Pradesh, even every Indian citizen has to seek permission under the Bengal Frontier Regulation Act 1872-73, implemented by the then British administration.
The 02 best ancient neighbours, connected through Buddhism historically are fighting over their borders, mainly over Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese defence forces reached Tezpur in Assam in 1962 and still issues stapled visas or no visa to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh, with the claim that these Indians in Arunachal Pradesh are Chinese citizens and would not need a visa to visit China. I am sure travellers in China and India will always want to visit each other’s country, like the Buddhist era, with respect for each other’s country and sharing the great knowledge and traditions. All travellers worldwide look forward to land travel or river routes in Asia with single Asian Visa.
There is an event which was organized during this year’s PPWF 2013 (Pangsau Pass Winter Festival 2013) by the PPWF committee, Assam Rifles, Nature’s Beackon and Help Tourism, the common man’s bicycle expedition from Ledo to Pangsau Pass, an event for people in Upper Assam and Eastern Arunachal Pradesh to realise their ownership on the Pangsau Pass. The popular Assam legend says that the Tai Ahoms, when they entered the Lohit-Brahmaputra valley through Pangsau Pass, under the leadership of the Great Chaolung Sukhapaa in the early 13th century, they pledged never to return beyond the Nangyang Lake, which came to be known as the ‘Lake of No Return. The Allied forces part of the story says that while flying over the hump, all radio signals would be lost and the lake would hallucinate as a landing area, and as the cargo planes would force land over there, lost in a densely forested landscape, the big flying carriers would be lost in the lake waters forever. Many local people still find remains of such planes scattered in the hump and lake. 

There are some extraordinary experiences of travellers to this area in all respects: journey, nature, people, rivers, food, history, legends etc. All those who are interested in contributing to the legends of the Lake of No Return and stories from the Pangsau Pass, and want them published in this blog, please email write-up or photographs or documents to atishdipankara@gmail.com.   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

100 years of Indian Cinema

All through 2012-13 there are several programs being organized across the country and world being dedicated to ‘100 years of Indian Cinema’. We have lost several individuals recently, who have been popular or non-conventional, like Bhupen Hazarika, Rajesh Khanna and Pandit Ravi Shankar. In the glamour world we forget several of them. In a country where more than a 1000 films are made every year, in many languages, there is one single thing that dominates the films and these are our villages in India. Most stories and music are rooted from the villages. There is one man who has portrayed some of our Indian villages and the rich Indian heritage in his cinemas, and he is Satyajit Ray.
We the members of ACT, who work with the people of remote villages in East and Northeast India, have taken an initiative to dedicate this ‘100 years of Indian Cinema’ to this great personality of Indian Cinema, Satyajit Ray. Our active member, Tarapada Banerjee, who has followed this Great man from 1958 to his last day has managed to put together some of his best photos into a book in print. As a news photographer, Tarada is known to have made the front page with his extraordinary photographs, mainly on personalities like our previous Prime minister, Late Mrs Indira Gandhi, several Chief Ministers of the different states of India and film personalities. Many of them still know him and address him at the personal level as ‘Tarada’.
Tarada has decided to bring some of his students for a workshop in the Darjeeling Hills in March 2013. He has also agreed to take in a few local students in his workshop to pass on his knowledge to few interested from the remote villages that he would be visiting. Nature and people has always been his favourite subject and he wishes that every Indian youth should have an access to a camera so that he can document the rich heritage of this country before everything is lost. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

DHR Society Wins Top Award for Engineering Project in India

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society UK (DHRS) has won a prestigious competition for the best heritage railway project of 2012.
The award was sponsored by Steam Railway Magazine – the UK’s top-selling steam railway title with a circulation of over 32,000.  Voting was by Steam Railway’s readers and the DHRS bid triumphed over 15 other high-quality entries.
The award recognises the Society’s work in improving the reliability and performance of the world-famous ‘B’ Class steam locomotives on the DHR. The request for help was made by Indian Railways in early 2011. Between mid-2011 and early 2012 Engineering Director, David Mead, and steam engineer, Mike Weedon, made three DHRS-funded trips to the DHR’s Tindharia Works. With the willing assistance of local staff they were able to achieve significant improvements in the efficiency of two locomotives, as well as assisting with skills training and a review of workshop procedures.
Indian Railways has expressed its sincere gratitude for the work done and is keen to have a continuing fully-funded engineering relationship with the DHRS. Work is in progress on taking this forward. In the meantime, congratulations on the award have come from many DHRS friends and partners in India including the General Manager, Northeast Frontier Railway (directly responsible for the DHR) Mr R S Virdi and the Executive Director, Heritage (Railway HQ Delhi) Mr Manu Goel.
The award ceremony took place on 9 February 2013 at the Union Jack Club, London at the AGM Dinner of the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) - the professional body for heritage railways in Britain, and in the presence of distinguished guests including Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Commissioner of Transport for London.
Receiving the award trophy were DHRS Vice-Chairman Paul Whittle and Engineering Director David Mead. Said Paul Whittle “ We are delighted to receive such a huge vote of confidence in our efforts to help the DHR keep its British-built steam locomotives in good order for many years to come. With the full support of  Indian Railways we look forward to continuing this vital work.”