600-year-old Great Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

The Chagzam Bridge Tawang is a 600-year-old iron suspension bridge and is one of the best places to visit in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.

600-Year-Old Great Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

Visiting Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, is nothing less than a revelation. Our Tawang itinerary was packed with surprises around every bend in the road, and one of these was visiting the 600-year-old Chagzam Bridge Tawang. The Chag-zam Bridge, which is an iron chain suspension bridge, is an iconic synonym for the rich heritage and culture of the region.

The beautiful location of Chaksam Bridge, the history and legend of the Chagzam Bridge, and the bridge itself fuse together to guarantee visitors a unique and unforgettable experience in Tawang.

Chagzam Bridge Tawang – An Iron Wonder

600-Year-Old Great Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

The iron chains of the ChagZam Bridge Tawang, have stood the test of time and nature for over six centuries, and tell the fascinating tale of a man called Thangtong Gyalpo, also known variously as Lama Chagzam Wangpo or Tongton Gyalpo.

The Chagzam Bridge connects the villages of Kitpi and Mukto and spans a length of 100 metres over the Tawang Chu River. The ancient bridge is still intact, though today it is one of the tourist places in Tawang, and is not used. A modern suspension bridge has been built right next to it for utilitarian purposes.

Tawang Chu River
Tawang Chu River

As you walk on the swaying bridge and hear the roar of the Tawang Chu River beneath your feet, you can almost feel the presence of the man who built the bridge, a man named Thang Tong Gyalpo, whom many believe was a disciple of the first Dalai Lama. The air itself seems to whisper the story of the ancient bridge, and you wonder about the people who would have walked on the bridge, hundreds of years ago.

The History of Chakzam Bridge in Tawang District

The History of Chakzam Bridge in Tawang District
Chakzam Bridge in Tawang District

The history of the Chagzam bridge in Tawang is inextricably linked with the life and times of Thangtong Gyalpo, its builder. He was a unique genius who is considered to be one of the most important Mahasiddhas who lived during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Though not much is known specifically about the history of the Chagzam bridge and the circumstances surrounding its construction, it is one of the legacies of Thangton Gyalpo. It is believed to have been built in the early 15th century.

Thangton Gyalpo is believed to have built 108 iron suspension bridges across the regions of Tibet and Bhutan. He is also credited with building many religious structures including monasteries and Chortens, the most extraordinary of these is the Chung Kumbum Chorten. He also built many ferry boats.

Some of the iron chain suspension bridges stand today as a silent ode to a man who some have called, “Leonardo da Vinci,” of Asia.

Chagzam Bridge near Tawang

The Chagzam Bridge Tawang was renovated in 2021 by the people of Mogto, Gomkyaleng, and Mirba. The bridge was then consecrated by the 12th Guru Tulku Rinpoche of the Thubchog Gatsel Ling Monastery of Bomdila.

The Structure And Design Of the Chagzam Bridge

Iron Chain Suspension Bridge
Iron Chain Suspension Bridge

The Chagzam bridge has a span of 100 metres and connects the two banks of the Tawang Chu River. What is remarkable is that this bridge and many others that were built more than 600 years ago by Thangtong Gyalpo spanned 100 metres and more. Europe in those times had been able to build similar bridges with a maximum span of 20 metres!

Iron production was known in parts of Central Asia as early as 1200 BC. However, Thangtang Gyalpo brought his expertise in the treatment of Iron and the construction of bridges from iron chains, to the fore in the bridges that he built including the Chakzam Bridge also referred to as Jagsam Bridge or Chagzam Bridge which literally means, “iron Bridge.”

Steel production involved the heating of iron repeatedly, and then forging it into rectangular sticks, from which the chain links were forged. Finally, a welding procedure was done at about 1,400 degrees, and the chain links overlapped.

Thangtong Gyalpo was a master of this art of crafting and used additions like arsenic as a flux while doing the fire welding. This entire procedure of forging the iron chain links ensured an extraordinary quality of steel. By this procedure, he reached such an extraordinary steel quality that the bridges were not only highly strain-resistant, but also corrosion free even to this day, after more than 600 years of being built, and exposure to the elements of nature.

The Legend of Thang Tong Gyalpo – Builder of Chaksam Bridge

Thang Tong Gyalpo
Thang Tong Gyalpo

Thang Tong Gyalpo, was a philosopher, Yogi, poet, architect, exorcist, teacher, engineer, painter, sculptor, doctor, and of course a builder of iron chain suspension bridges. He was a man who straddled the realms of history and legend, a man of unbelievable talent and power that could easily be classified as supernatural. Accounts of his life and achievements are found in a couple of biographies and also in his own accounts which are the prized legacy of his followers.

The extraordinary genius of Than Tong Gyalpo bestowed him with many an epithet, and these include, “The King Of The Empty Plains,” which literally translates as Thantong Gyalpo. Other epithets include, “Iron Bridge Yogi,” “Father of the Tibetan Opera,” and, “Leonardo da Vinci of Asia.”

Though history is blurred by the existence of many myths and legends, it is generally accepted that Thangtong Gyalpo was born in the year 1365 and lived till 1464. Some accounts say, that he lived for 125 years. There are many myths that surround his birth.

According to one of these legends he stayed and meditated in his mother’s womb for 60 years, refusing to be born. After he negated the sufferings of his mother, he was born with grey hair and started his teachings immediately. Some accounts say that he uttered the sacred mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” as soon as he was born.

It was in the early 15th century that Thangtong Gyalpo began his work on what would be one of his enduring legacies to the world, the casting of bronze and iron thunderbolts (Dorje); construction of chörten and chain suspension bridges; and last, but not least, with the spread of his teachings and the establishment of his own religious school, the Chakzam line, referred to as “Chakzampa”.

He is also known as the “Father of Tibetan Opera,” for he was instrumental in writing many historical plays.

Chag-zam Bridge

Of course, when it came to iron suspension bridges, Thangtong Gyalpo was a master of his craft and is believed to have fashioned around 108 such bridges. The most famous of these was the Chushul Chakzam, built over the Yarlung Tsangpo river, near Lhasa in Tibet. The bridge spanned 150 metres and was the longest unsupported bridge span in the world at that time.

Thangtong travelled across Tibet during those times, teaching in the most important monasteries like Samye. He interacted with the most extraordinary masters of the time, like the Fifth and Sixth Gyalwang Karmapa. He travelled across India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, and China.

Visiting Chagzam Bridge Tawang

Visiting Chagzam Bridge Tawang

It was a pleasant drive from Tawang to the ancient Chakzam Bridge. Chakzam means, “Iron Bridge,” and that is what it exactly is. A 600-year-old iron chain suspension bridge.

Chakzam Bridge in Tawang District

We were visiting the Chagzam Bridge Tawang as part of our Tawang itinerary, which was expertly curated by Holiday Scout who bring you the most immersive and offbeat experiences that you can wish for in the North East region of India.

The day dawned bright and clear, and the sky revealed its true blue colours as we sped past the Shernup village for our rendezvous with what is truly a remarkable marvel of engineering.

Colourful Cosmos flowers on the way to Chaksam Bridge near Tawang
Colourful Cosmos flowers on the way to Chaksam Bridge near Tawang

Colourful Cosmos flowers perched on tender stalks waved tantalizingly from both sides of the road. Soon we seemed to be far from civilization and right in the womb of nature as we alighted from the car, to take a short walk to the bridge.

Steps leading to Chagzam Bridge
Steps leading to Chagzam Bridge

A series of steps lead downwards through thick vegetation and take you to the Chagzam Bridge Tawang. It is not a very steep incline and can be negotiated comfortably.

Tawang Chu River below Chagzam Bridge
Tawang Chu River below Chagzam Bridge

We soon heard the roar of the Tawang Chu river, and after a slight descent, could see the clear waters of the river flowing in gay abandon over gleaming rocks and pebbles.

Colourful prayer flags at Chagzam Bridge
Colourful prayer flags at Chagzam Bridge

The Chagzam Bridge spanned across the river, bedecked with colourful prayer flags, that seemed to be waving in welcome.

Chagzam Bridge entrance Dzongs

We could see two entrance Dzongs that provided access to the bridge at both extremities. The entrance to the Dzong was closed with the help of a rolling shutter, which was locked. But thanks to Holiday Scout, we had the keys to the bridge, and the shutters rolled up like the curtains of an opera, to reveal the Chagzam Bridge stretching out in front of us.

Chaksam Bridge - Iron Chain Suspension Bridge
Chaksam Bridge – Iron Chain Suspension Bridge

The iron chains are covered today with bamboo matting, but you can see the rectangular and interlinked iron chains on the side. It was an unusual and indescribable experience as we walked on the bridge from one end to the other.

The 100 metres that we traversed on the bridge seemed like we had travelled 600 years back in time. Standing in the middle of the swaying bridge, feeling the wind on our faces and listening to the roar of the river was a moment that remains etched in our memories forever.

Tips for visiting Chagzam Bridge Tawang | Timings and Tickets

Chagzam Bridge Tawang
Chagzam Bridge Tawang

Here are some tips and good-to-know information for visiting the Chagzam Bridge near Tawang.

  • There is no official opening or closing time for the Chaksam Bridge, you can visit at any time, however, it makes sense to visit when it is light
  • The shutters that give access to the Chagzam Bridge may not always be open, but you can admire it from outside and also walk on the new bridge that stands beside it
  • For visiting Arunachal Pradesh you need the necessary permits, ILP (Inner Line Permit) for Indian citizens and PAP (Protected Area Permit) for foreign nationals
  • On your way to the Chagzam Bridge, you shall pass through Shernup village, make sure to check out the Cosmos blossoms depending on the season
  • Take plenty of pictures and do not forget to observe the iron chains closely as they have remained intact for more than 600 years

Best Time To Visit Chagzam Bridge Near Tawang

Visit Chagzam Bridge Near Tawang
Chagzam Bridge Near Tawang

Chagzam Bridge is a place that you must visit when you are in Tawang. The best time or season to visit Tawang is during summer and the beginning of the rainy season. Ideally, you should visit the place between October to March.

Also plan to visit the Chagzam Bridge when there is sufficient light, as that will ensure that you are able to capture some good images of the 600-year-old bridge, one of the last surviving Tibetan bridges built by Thangtong Gyalpo.

Images of Chagzam Bridge Tawang

Images of Chagzam Bridge Tawang
Images of Chagzam Bridge Tawang

The Chagzam Bridge and its pristine settings make for a unique and breathtaking visual treat.

Chagzam Bridge Photos
Chagzam Bridge Photos

Here are some images of the place, that are sure to appeal to you, and convey at least partially the experience that awaits you when you visit Chagzam bridge Tawang.

At We at Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

It was late evening by the time we turned our back on the beautiful vistas that surrounded the proud Chagzam Bridge.

Looking at Chagzam Bridge

As we climbed up the steps, we turned back for one last look at the bridge that indeed seemed to bridge the chasm of time. Our thoughts once again congregated on the man who conceived and built this masterpiece of engineering, a man the world knows as Thangtong Gyalpo.

How To Get To Chakzam Bridge in Tawang District

Chakzam Bridge in Tawang District

Chaksam or Chagzam Bridge is located about 25 kilometres from the city of Tawang. It lies near the village of Kitpi, and is built over the Tawang Chu River.

  • Guwahati to Tawang distance is about 440 kilometres
  • Bomdila to Tawang distance is about 177 kilometres
  • Dirang to Tawang distance is about 134 kilometres
  • Bhalukpong to Tawang distance is about 273 kilometres

Reaching Chagzam Bridge Tawang By Air

The best way to reach Tawang by Air is to fly to the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, and travel by road to Tawang, which is at a distance of about 446 kilometres. Guwahati is well connected by air to major cities of India including Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc.

Reaching Tawang By Train

The nearest railway station to Tawang is Tezpur in the Sonitpur district of Assam. Guwahati is the other major railway station that is well-connected to all parts of the country.

Reaching Tawang By Road

Tawang is well connected by a good road network and can be easily accessed from within the state of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as from Guwahati in Assam.

For your Tawang trip, you can book your flight tickets right here through Cleartrip or Makemytrip or CheapAir or Priceline and fly to Guwahati. If you are thinking of a road trip, do check out the rental car options.

Where To Stay When Visiting Chag Zam Bridge 

Pal_mo Homestay Tawang Arunachal
Pal_mo Homestay, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

You can stay in any of the hotels or homestays in Tawang and visit Chagzam Bridge on a day trip. We stayed at the Pal_Mo Homestay which is located within walking distance of the Tawang Monastery and found it a great place to stay in.

You can book your stay at Pal_mo Homestay, Tawang or you can book the best hotels in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India right here –  TripAdvisor or Cleartrip or  makemytrip or  goibibo or  Booking.com or  HotelsCombined or  Agoda and save a lot by getting the best deals on booking your stay.

Click to book the Pal_mo Homestay, Tawang or the best hotels in Tawang

Other Places To Visit In Tawang

Spectacular Nuranang Falls Near Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang is like a dream come true for a true traveller and offers many amazing experiences to cherish for a lifetime. Here are some of the places that you must include in your Tawang itinerary.

  • Tawang Monastery
  • Nuranang Falls
  • Chagzam Bridge
  • Bumla Pass
  • Joginder Singh War Memorial
  • Shungatser Lake
  • PT Tso Lake
  • Sela Pass
  • Jaswantgarh War memorial
  • Thukje Chueling Nunnery
  • Buddha Statue
  • Tawang View Point
  • Tawang War Memorial
  • Urgelling Monastery
  • Khinmey Monastery

Chaksham Bridge – FAQ

Chaksham Bridge
Chaksham Bridge

Over which river is the Chagzam Bridge built?
The Chagzam Bridge Tawang is built over the Tawang Chu River.

How long is the Chagzam Bridge?
The Chagzam bridge has a span of 100 metres.

How old is the Chagzam Bridge?
The Chagzam Bridge is believed to be about 600 years old.

Who built the Chagzam Bridge Tawang?
The Chagzam Bridge was built by Thangtong Gyalpo, in the 15th century.

What is the meaning of Chagzam?
Chagzam or Chakzam or Jagsam means iron bridge.

How far is the Chagzam Bridge from Tawang?
The Chagzam Bridge is about 25 kilometres from Tawang.

Are you planning a trip to Arunachal Pradesh and wish to visit Tawang or any part of North East India?

Chushul Chakzam

You can connect here with The Holiday Scout Team for a hassle-free and comfortable tour curated by them.

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Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

Our visit to Chagzam Bridge near Tawang, India was organized by Holiday Scout. The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are our own. #travel #ChagzamBridge #ChaksamBridge #Tawang #GoNEindia #HolidayScout #ArunachalPradesh #northeastindia #DekhoApnaDesh #IncredibleIndia

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600-year-old Great Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh

16 thoughts on “600-year-old Great Chagzam Bridge Tawang Arunachal Pradesh”

  1. Wow, that is a really neat bridge. I would love to see that in person. I wouldn’t mind crossing that either. Would be a neat experience.

  2. The Tibetan flags always remind me of my Ladakh trip.
    The flag enhances the glory of nature even more & that’s why the bridges are looking so enchanting.
    Hope to visit North East & explore Arunachal Pradesh soon.

  3. Wow, that is incredible that the iron bridge is 600 years old. The bamboo matting is so interesting to me as well. I wonder how often they have to replace/repair that.

  4. So beautiful! What an amazing experience to visit. The water scape in the background and the colorful flags are so pretty!

  5. Bedabrata Chakraborty

    When I read about the iron chains of the ChagZam Bridge Tawang, it gave me goosebumps. Your posts on Arunachal are so alluring and I am so tempted. Hope we can visit North-East soon!

  6. 600 year old bridge…wow! Our Indian architects and engineers have been very capable since times immense. Lucky you both to have walked on this bridge and witnessed this piece that has stood the test of time.

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