India today, on 26th January, celebrates Republic Day, a day when the country was gifted with the Constitution. On this auspicious day, I am presenting an article about six fascinating International Borders of India.
“Still round the corner, there may wait,
A new road or a secret gate “. . . J R R Tolkien
New roads may lead to new countries; while gates (protected by laws of immigration) may separate people of one nation from another. For most residents of India’s bustling metros and big towns, life in the country’s periphery is a matter of intrigue and interest. There are many terminal roads in India, through mountain passes, dense forests and deserts that lead to International Borders (land and maritime). But not all of them are open for tourism.
Attari-Wagah Border – With Pakistan
Perhaps the most popular of all borders of India is the Wagah border – that lies on the Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan). The border is around 32km from Amritsar and 3km from the last station on the Amritsar-Lahore rail line. Thousands of tourists throng the spot to witness the spectacular flag ceremony every afternoon. The Pakistani Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force have been conducting the exercise since 1986, as an agreement of peace.
On the Indian side of the border stands a huge gate with an encryption reading ‘Swarn Jayanti Dwar’ (Golden Jubilee Gate). A 360ft flagpole was erected on the Indian side of the border in August 2017, which is the highest in India.
Longewala Border – With Pakistan
While not a very popular tourist spot, the 130km trip to Longewala from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, through the wilderness of the Thar Desert, is rewarding and enriching. The story of Tanot Mata Temple on this route is one miraculous tale. The deity is credited with protecting the Indian Army during the war of 1956 when none of the 3000-odd shells fired by enemy tanks exploded in the region. International Border Pillar, BP 609, is about 15 km from Tanot. One cannot visit the post without permission from the Border Security Force of India.
Legend also links Tanot Mata’s blessings to the thumping victory in the Battle of Longewala, 1971. Tanks and army jeeps that were destroyed by Indian Forces still lay on display in the “Yudh-sthal” (warzone). A 15-minute film showcasing the valour and gallantry of Indian soldiers during the war is played in one of the bunker-turned-museum. A visit to this place fills the heart with pride and gratitude for the sons of the soil who sacrificed their present for our safe future!
Dhanushkodi – With Sri Lanka
Dhanushkodi, located in the Rameshwaram district of Tamil Nadu, is the place where the wonders of nature and man become one. With the Bay of Bengal on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other, Dhanushkodi once served as an important port. Ferry services were available between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar, a town in Sri Lanka. But the severe cyclone of 1964 destroyed it all.
Pamban Bridge is India’s first sea bridge on Palk Strait that connects Rameshwaram to mainland India. This architectural wonder is a major tourist attraction in the region, which otherwise is a mere sandy grave of a once thriving town. It is one of the picturesque borders of India. Apart from the eerie charm of an abandoned hamlet, the place is also significant as legend associates the origin of Ram-Setu from here. Standing on the edge of the confluence, trying to distinguish between the mighty oceans on both sides, one’s mind is transferred to a sublime meditative state.
Dawki – With Bangladesh
Dawki in Meghalaya has been made famous by Instagram. You can find photographs of boats on transparent waters of the Umngot River that seem to float in the air. Tourists gather in this area especially during the winters to experience boat-rides. The river is impossibly clear and the colourful pebbles on the riverbed are visible.
An unfenced border between India and Bangladesh runs right through the riverbank. A huge boulder separates the territories guarded by BSF and BDR on two sides. The place bustles with hawkers from Bangladesh, selling jhalmuri (puffed rice mixture), pickled berries and other snacks to tourists from India. BSF, however, keeps strict vigil to prevent any illegal crossing over. Dawki is a major centre of trade between the two countries. Hundreds of trucks ply across the busy commercial border at Tamabil.
Nathula Pass – With China
Nathula is a Himalayan mountain pass connecting the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. It is one of the sensitive borders of India. The pass, at 4310m above mean sea level, forms a part of the ancient Tea Horse Road. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, had used this pass to travel to India for the 2500th birthday celebration of Gautama Buddha, held between November 1956 and February 1957. Indian citizens require a Protected Area Permit to visit the pass, while foreign nationals / NRI are not allowed. A fairly steep stairway leads all the way to the Indo-China Border. Since No Man’s Land doesn’t exist here, tourists may spot soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army on the other side of the fence.
Nathula pass is a full day trip from Gangtok, which commonly includes two other major attractions. The first is the famous Tsongo Lake. The other is the fabled Baba Mandir commemorating the late Indian soldier Baba Harbhajan Singh. Indian Army has come to believe that the spirit of the Baba still guards the border and protects every soldier in the inhospitable terrains.
Simana – With Nepal
Nestled between the Himalayas separating India and Nepal, Simana is a plateau spread across 240sq ft of area. Simana (meaning Boundary in Bengali / Hindi) is about 25 km from Darjeeling (West Bengal). The road from Darjeeling to Mirik is split by the International Border along Simana-Bajar area. All the establishments on the left side are within Indian Territory, while the view point itself is in Nepal. One may thus, freely step onto foreign soil here. Simana offers majestic views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Further south, Pashupati Market is the formal gateway to Nepal.
Indian citizens need to furnish any photo ID at the border check post to gain entry. Nepali taxis wait for round trips to the Pashupati Market which is 1km from the check-post. Interestingly, the road leads all the way to Kathmandu (500km). The area is especially known for cheap imported electronic gadgets, cosmetics and colourful winter-wear. There is also a beautiful temple compound dedicated to Lord Shiva.
In several of the borders of India, its the road that divides India from the other nations. The people, their languages and their cultures are the same. And yet, their Voter Identity Cards show different countries in their addresses. It is mere lines on maps that alienate people, divide states and dissect legacies. In India, barren sands to raging seas, snow-capped mountains to impenetrable fences; International Borders exist at the most curious and amusing of places. India is indeed a unique country; where mythologies interact with political boundaries and offer travellers the opportunity to explore and admire beyond the borders.
An honest SCORPIO who is crazy about movies, and overly passionate about travel.
Believes in immortalizing the moment, either by way of the photograph or literal documentation of the journey.