Arunachal PradeshTawang

Sela Pass – History and Romance meet at a height of 13000 feet

Sela Pass, frozen lake, Tawang

Sela Pass in Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Clouds on earth enroute to Tawang

It is cold and there is snow scattered all around me. I look around and think that if there is heaven on earth, then this should be it. Surrounding me are cotton candy clouds that have descended from the sky to earth covering  everything from mountain peaks to grasslands, flowers and birds . As I get down to take in the view, they touch my  cheeks gently . Small mountain peaks thrust their heads out of these clouds presenting a pretty picture. I am wrapped in a world of white.

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, landscape

A sea of white clouds

We are driving from Dirang, a small hill station in Arunachal Pradesh towards Tawang set high in the Eastern Himalayas . The mountains curve as River Kameng flows along with us.

Sela Pass, Sela lake, glacier, Tawang

A frozen Sela Lake

As we continue on our way snow-clad mountains give us company until we reach a glacier which opens to a gate guarded by dragons with bright colored flags fluttering all around. A frozen lake greets me. A small tea shop stands around the corner .

We are at Sela Pass, where war and romance meet at 13,700 feet above sea level. The cold breeze blows in my face as I look around. There are no tourists except us on the road.A couple of dogs frolic in the snow.And a tale of tragedy unfolds amidst the scattered snow.

Tawang, Sela Pass

Sela Pass near Tawang

Sela was a local girl who loved Jaswant, an Indian soldier against her father’s wishes. During the Indo-China war, Jaswant Singh single-handedly fought the Chinese for three days by fooling them while Sela brought him ammunition and food from the camp.

The story goes that Jaswant positioned himself on a hill top in a long trench and placed rifles to give an impression that the entire army was behind him. Finally he was betrayed by Sela’s father and was captured and beheaded by the Chinese. Sela in agony committed suicide by jumping from a hillock. A brass bust of Jaswant is kept in Jaswant Garh, also the site of the battle. Sela has a pass at 13,700 feet named after her.

Jaswant Garh, Tawang, Sela Pass

Entry to Jaswant Garh

We walk up to the small shop to have some tea. We drink in silence. It is biting cold. We stop and stare hard at the placid clouds, tugging at the mountains.It is just us, the dogs and nature at its silent best. Sitting there, for what feels like eternity, I realize that almost every destination tells a story – of love, of betrayal, of patriotism, like the tale of Sela and Jaswant.

Tawang, Sela Pass, Arunachal Pradesh

The gate at Sela Pass to Tawang

There is more to Tawang than just Sela and Jaswant’s love story and here is a post that is a guide to backpacking in Arunachal Pradesh. 














  1. Anita Swamy 27 January, 2016 at 16:50 Reply

    Wow!!! Lakshmi…Great article M’m…very well written and such a inspirational incident..hats off to all the warriors making our life safe and sound back home.

  2. Rajiv 27 October, 2016 at 01:18 Reply

    You made me nostalgic! The Eastern Himalayas is the place where my love affair with the Himalayas began and till date, it remains my most favourite region in the world.


  3. Chandan 9 March, 2017 at 12:56 Reply

    Born and brought in this nature’s kingdom, I really admire and respect when someone decides to pen about Arunachal. Been late in reading this post but reliving the memories frozen in time as I go through your words, just like exploring the frozen waterfalls all around you in Tawang. Great post and cheers to the love story at 13000ft.

  4. Tirthankar Bose 27 March, 2017 at 00:20 Reply

    Beautiful narration of that story. I knew this story, as I was there in Tawang last year but reliving moments and that too with a good write-up… made my day. Thanks Lakshmi 🙂

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