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Pang Lhabsol - Pangtok Dancers

Pang Lhabsol Festival - Pangtok dancers

Worshipping Khangchendzonga -
The Pang Lhabsol Festival at Rabongla

By Aswini Tamang /
Photographs by Topchen Takapa & Arthur Pazo

Sleepy little towns sometimes have a lot to reveal, and Rabongla, a slumbering hollow beneath the enormous Maenam Hill is one such place. Its almost seven thousand feet elevation affects some chilliness in the morning air, and the soggy fog and playful mist, a common morning phenomena from late spring till early autumn, seems to harmoniously blend with the terrain of this Himalayan idyll as if Mother Nature herself had procreated such an arrangement. But when the sun eventually permeates through the veil of mist, the transformation is magical, for lo and behold, it unravels into a clear autumn day. And when the scenery unfolds, it will easily make you forget the woes of the early morning’s dismal weather. Fantastic views of high hills and deep river valleys draped in a backdrop of snow-white mountains can be seen all over.

Rabongla Bazaar
Rabongla Bazaar

The walks around here are pleasantly cool and so is the pace of life, so slow and easy that it’s bound to mollify the rush in you. “It’s a therapy being here,” says Vikram, a portly middle-aged doctor from Delhi with his wife tagging behind and shrouded in muffler, shawl and cap. As more and more people go searching for vacation spots in areas that lie off the beaten trail, Rabongla could well end up a sanatorium someday soon just like the way it happened for Darjeeling more than a century ago.

clear Morning Sunrise
Clear morning sunrise (late autumn through early winter)

This summer idyll already has its secret holidaymakers as I found in one young but weary travel writer enjoying anonymity above a cliff and marvelling the vista. “I wouldn’t like to recommend this place,” Kuan said. At first, I was taken aback by his remark, but rapidly his logic struck my mind. “I know people would love promoted it but I’d think twice before I recommend because the next time I show up, it would be spoilt by the crowd”, he said. Mmm . . . an inkling in my mind told me to follow suit as I began harboring imaginations of rose petals being stubbed with flaring cigarette butts and herds of tourists around and about. Rabongla would be another stampede I thought, but then I was on assignment and duty-bound to write.

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