Thembang, the settlement of the Monpas is a village within a fortified area measuring approximately 3.2 Acres. It is a host to several ancient and historical structures and has drawn the maximum attention for the fortified Dzong constructed using traditional technology of the region. Due to the richness of heritage structures found in the village, locals consider the village of Thembang itself as a monument.
Thembang Dzong is located approximately 55km north-east of Bomdila township at the altitude of 2169 m. above MSL. under the Thembang administrative circle in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The area falls to the east of Tawang-Bomdila road and about 14 km far away from Munna camp. Thembang village and Dzong are surrounded with the majestic beauty of lush green hills, steep gorges and snow clad peaks. The River Dirang cascades down the gorge running along the western side of Thembang gorge in the South-East direction.
The Dzong has two gates — one at northern side and the other at the southern side of village fortification. The northern gate measures 3.50 m. X 5.00 m while the gate at the southern side is in the nature of an emergency or escape gate. The construction of the Dzong and the gates follows traditional construction systems of the Monpas, which includes composite stone masonry and wood architecture. Ornamental features include carved stone blocks, mani walls (stone walls with prayers engraved on them), traditional wood carvings, paintings and manuscripts, etched as murals and graffiti along the houses and ancient ruins.
The Dzong area is inhabited by the Dirkhipa clan of the Monpas since many generations. Due to increase of their population, a section of the Dirkhipa clan is also settled outside the old Thembang Dzong. There are 42 households in the village and the total population is 250. Most of the dwellings are made in traditional method of indigenous Monpa architecture. Thembang Dzong was also constructed using same traditional architecture which is still prevalent.
Pre-historic archaeological evidence has also been excavated by the Archaeological Section of the Research Department, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh at Thembang. Some of the items recovered include Neolithic Celt, various Neolithic tools, Stone Age axe etc.
The predominant religion at Thembang is Buddhism and ownership of properties at Thembang is not individual based but controlled by the local panchayat and deemed as community ownership.
The area adjacent to Thembang is rich with biodiversity and a wide variety of wild animals, including rare species such as Red Panda, are found in these forests. The locals of Thembang respect this ecological richness and have incorporated its aspects in their socio-religious practices. The Monpas knows to maintain the ecological equilibrium as part of their socio-cultural life. The area is also homeland of different species of herbs and orchids which have medicinal value. They are having the sound knowledge in practice of ethno medicine as part of their traditional wisdom.
North Entrance to the fortified village.
The estimated population of the village in 2016 was 250. People still use fire wood for cooking. Fire wood stacked in front of a house in Thembang Village.
We visited the village in during prayer, the village was deserted.
Thembang, unique in its location and cultural influences that reflect both Tibeto-Bhutanese as well as North-East Indian characteristics.
Narrow streets inside the village.
The village is surrounded by lush green valleys and rocky mountains.