Beyul of Pemako

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Beyul of Pemako
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Location Location.png 28.218, 94.72775
Parent Regions RegionIconUp.png Asia
RegionIconUp.png India
RegionIconUp.png Arunachal Pradesh
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Throughout the famed Himalayan mountains are large, hidden valleys known as beyul, places of peace and refuge revered by Tibetan Buddhists. These secret lands of legend have drawn Buddhist seekers for centuries, and one called Pemako is thought to have been the inspiration for Shangri-La, the mystical Himalayan utopia described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” Because of their remote and isolated location, and the respect with which they have been treated by the communities that reside in or near them, the beyul contain high levels of biodiversity in a setting of tremendous beauty.

The beyul are large mountain valleys, sometimes encompassing hundreds of square kilometers, found in the Buddhist areas of the Himalaya in Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. They originate from the beliefs of the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which has a rich tradition of respect for natural sites. According to ancient Buddhist texts, the beyul were preserves of Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, who introduced Buddhism to Tibet and founded the Nyingmapa tradition in the eighth century. Information on their locations was kept on scrolls hidden under rocks and inside caves, monasteries and stupa (shrines). Some beyul are now inhabited, others are occasionally visited by spiritual seekers and adventurers, and some are still unknown. The total number of beyul, discovered and not, is often said to be 108.

One of the most legendary beyul is Pemako (“the Secret Land Shaped Like a Lotus”), in southeastern Tibet, east of a dramatic Tsangpo River gorge known as the Great Bend, where the river curves sharply into the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Tsangpo Gorge is three times deeper than the Grand Canyon, with enormous waterfalls in which the river drops more than 8,000 feet in a 150-mile stretch. These waterfalls, where several explorers have lost their lives, are said to be a gateway to a secret inner part of Beyul Pemako. The Tsangpo River connects Pemako to one of Tibet’s most sacred mountains, Mount Kailash, and the landscape of the Tsangpo-Pemako area is said to represent the body of the goddess Dorje Pagmo, with the river her spine and the surrounding peaks her breasts.


The Hike

Upper Siang District in Arunachal Pradesh. In this region which is still very much hidden from the world, lies four of Pemako’s very sacred sites which are believed to confer liberation to those who seek and reach them. The trek starts at the Himalayan town of Tuting which is the last Indian town before the border with China. From here, the trek will initially be through tribal villages of the Khampa Tribe and Adi Tribe where participants can observe the simple and sustainable lifestyles of the tribes. The hike will then go uphill, climbing through magnificent forests filled with rhododendrons, oak, wildflowers and bamboo, until eventually leading to the high altitude barren lands of Danokasha. Here, it is believed hundred and eighteen lakes exist, and satellite images justify this claim. In Danakosha, trekkers will indulge in kora ( circumambulation) of five important lakes which provide magical powers to pilgrims such as attainment of wisdom and longevity. Crossing the holy mountain of Titapuri, the trek will follow downhill through beautiful forests and bamboo expanses till the sacred site of Dewakota where a paradisaical retreat for Pemako pilgrims has been established. The community of Dewakota consist of few pure practitioners who adhere to and preach the true essence of Buddhism. After interacting with the monks and undergoing spiritual rejuvenation, the trek will bring back participants to the original route and continue onward to Tuting, thus completing an entire circle covering the entire mandala.

P.S: A detailed description of the hike is given as a link to a PDF file in the BETA SITES section of this page. Please refer to that.


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