The landscape around Nagu La, above Tawang
Tucked into the westernmost corner of India’s easternmost state, Nagu La is a desolate and windswept mountain pass sitting high at an altitude of over 4,500 m in the eastern Himalayas. The literally breathtaking setting forms the backdrop of the road that links Tawang, site of one of the world’s largest Buddhist monasteries, with Lhasa, the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Tibet. Well above the tree line, the landscape here is a mix of shrubs, exposed mountain faces, and a smattering of shimmering lakes. Residents are limited to a huddle of border security forces – often the only sign of the political contention of an otherwise surreal, transcendental place. Historically its own Tibetan Buddhist kingdom, modern times have seen India administer the region as part of the Arunachal Pradesh state, and China claim it as Southern Tibet, even managing a brief occupation during a 1962 war. Tibet itself would probably remember Nagu La as one of the first pitstops the 14th Dalai Lama would have made in Indian territory while fleeing the Tibetan Uprising of 1959. The mountains and the lakes, meanwhile, live on, oblivious to the human futility that surrounds them.