Yang Sang Chu in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh is revered territory for Tibetan Buddhists. According to religious texts, this is a celestial realm believed to be a land of endless bliss, as prophesied by the Padmasambhava, a central figure of Tibetan Buddhism.
The lore goes that Yang Sang Chu’s misty mountains represent the lower half of the body of a goddess in repose; the other half lies in Tibet. Every year, the faithful make a sacred pilgrimage to the different holy sites along these mountains—Devakotta, Titapori, Pemasiri or Riu Tala. The devotees come here to complete a circumambulation of these spots; among Buddhists, known as kora.
Last October, I accompanied the monks of Tuting monastery in Arunachal Pradesh on a two week-long pilgrimage to Pemasiri mountains. I encountered perilous tree root crevasses, stinging nettles and poisonous snakes in the forests. As I came to understand, these mountains were a vibrant wilderness alive with the throb of ancient life. A true paradise is how I like to think of it.
Mayank Soni is a travel and documentary photographer with a keen interest in tribal culture. He loves places one can explore on foot. When not actually in the field, he annoys librarians with his ever-increasing list of research books.