Verrier Elwin (1902-1964) The Pilgrimage to Tawang

Verrier Elwin (1902-1964) The Pilgrimage to Tawang

1.Describe in your own words the author’s journey to Tawang.
Or, “A Pilgrimage to Tawang” is an authentic document of the tribal life of Arunachal Pradesh”--- discuss the statements.
Or, Why Elwin title his journey as “a Pilgrimage to Tawang”.
Answer:-
Varrier Elwin was an anthropologist whose work on Indian tribal life contributed much to understand these people of high land. He was fascinated by the Indian Culture and travel widely throughout India and wrote extensively about the different tribes, especially of the north-eastern region. In recognition to his work Elwin was made Advisor of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India. He was attracted towards Buddhism and when he died in 1963 he was cremated in Shillong according to Buddhist rituals. His autobiography “The tribal world of Varrier Elwin” is a remarkable piece of writing characterized by keen observation and empathy understanding from the north eastern people. The present essay “A Pilgrimage to Tawang” is an extract from this book.
The essay is full of graphic description of the natural beauty of North East Frontier Agency(N.E.F.A., the present day Arunachal Pradesh) and is marked by high degree sympathy for the inhabitants of this region. Elwin short observation, an eye for detail and boundless spirit of adventure and curiosity are main characteristics of this writing. Whatever Elwin has described throughout the essay, it has projected the author’s deep sense of involvement with the people of this area and his skillful imaginative power mixed with realistic presentation.
Elwin begins his account of the journey with the description of the geographic religious and political importance of Tawang. The importance of this valley can be realized by the fact that it was the first place at which Dalai Lama had halted when he travelled India seeking Political asylum(Shelter). The first part of the journey leads the author and his companions to Bomdila. He gives a vivid description of the journey, its problems and its joy which are adequate compensation for all their troubles they had to face.
From Bomdila they travelled to Dirang where they met the people of Monpa Tribes. Elwin describes different aspects of Monpa life including their houses, their dress code, their temple, their rituals and their food habits. He also remembers the warm hospitality, the pleasant atmosphere and the loving care he received on this occasion. Both he and his wife Lila along with the other members of the expedition really had a great time. Although, Elwin himself found the better-tea that was served to be a little over whelming for his liking but others enjoyed it a lot. Tea was followed by rice spirit, a strong drink that he compares with Vodka. This strong drink was offered to them in every village they crossed.
Next the author describes their journey from Dirang to the Sela Pass, once again the hardship of the journey is forgotten in the beauty of the nature. The journey culminates in the Buddhists’ Monastery at Tawang what makes the moment most special is that they arrived at the monastery on Buddha Purnima Day. Once again Elwin’s fascination for Buddhism is evident here. He does not speak of it as a journey but as a pilgrimage. He states that, “It meant something much more to me than the ordinary official tour.” The Buddha Purhit and the ceremonial procession made it all important and spiritually engaging for the visitors. Elwin watched the whole festival from the Balcony of the Monastery and found a divine inspiration within him.
In the second part of the essay Elwin presents his journey through Lohit Valley to Walong(district) and his meeting with the people of various tribes. In this section it is the anthropologist in Elwin who pre-dominates. Elwin visits Mishmi tribes and interest with them. He notes every aspects of their like including their houses, families, clothing, customs and their beliefs.
Elwin also describes another journey that he undertook with his wife among the Mishimis. Throughout the journey what is evident is the empathy of the traveler with the landscape and mindscape of its people. The mini travelogue is full of fascinating details of the land and their people. Elwin presented the whole description in simple and straight forward language with the attitude of involvement and interest for the whole hilly region.
2.Describe the author’s journey from Charduar to Tawang.
Or, Account in your own words the various experiences of the writer during his Pilgrimage to Tawang.
Answer:-
“A Pilgrimage to Tawang” is a mine-travelogue which is full of fascinating details of the landscape and various hill tribes of former NEFA, present day Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang is a beautiful upland valley between Bhutan and Tibbet. This is the place where renowned Buddhist monk Dalailama had sought political asylum in India after living Tibbet due to Chinese attack. In 1962 Tawang again came to light when it was captured by the Chinese solders. It was however reoccupied by Lama’s and the Indian administration later on.
In 1956, Elwin was on a tour of this valley with his wife Lila and covered the same route taken by Dalailama. Dalailama was able to make the entire journey between Charduar to Bomdila by jeep. Elwin had a break up journey because he was badly bitten by Dim-dam flies and other horrid insects which has a poisonous effect on his whole body. In spite of this troubles on journey both Mr. and Mrs. Elwin enjoyed the adventure at it highest label. Huge rockcliffs, picturesque Vistas, tunnels of trees and wild flowers. Greet the visitors there were the sweet smell of the valley and endless fountains and rills extends the author’s imaginations.
It is not merely the eyes but the mind and the human spirit that got importance during their journey. The journey over the Sela Pass is unforgettable. The natural beauty is capable of invoking various experiences in each visitor in a very personal manner. It is a reserve of unexpected joy, from being a painter inspiration, a poet’s muse, an environmentalist’s heaven, a peace seeker’s resort, or a tourist’s vacation spot. The author gives a vivid description of his journey with all its hardship and its joys which ceased all the trouble they had to face at their journey.
At Dirang the author meet the Abbot of Tawang. He is one of the greatest saints of Buddhism. They received a very warm welcome and found the experience very moving. The Lama’s and his band paid a welcome guard where small children also took part. After Dirang, Elwin came to Senzedzong where Dalailama haulted his journey. Later the group crossed SelaPass which is situated at the height of 14 thousand feet. The two lakes of the Selapass called “The Eyes of God”. At this place author enjoyed his launch and they went on for another twenty miles to Tawang.
The group reached Tawang on the Eve of Buddha Purnima which was 2500 Anniversary of the birth of Buddha. They meet with all the monk sand the trumpets were blown. They also met with Mahayana sector of Buddhism with strong tan-tic elements. Later they went to the Manastray liberary where the great treasure was the Getompa, eight large volumes, three of which were lettered in Gold. There were more than seven hundred books in the library, books were worshiped even if they were not read. The visitors also enjoyed the Thutotdam, the dance of the king and queen of death. The dance reminds the spectators that death awaits every man, so they must not be too much attracted to physical pleasure.
The journey was one of the most memorable experiences of Elwin. His description of the ‘Landscape of Tawang’ is so much realistic that a reader can realize everything between his eyes if he goes through the essay. Regarding this pilgrimage Elwin himself said, “As I have always called it something much more to me than the ordinary official tour.” I had always been interested in Buddhism and inspired by much of its teaching. Now it became real to one. These few weeks a definite change in my life, a step forward in spiritual realization.”

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