The serene town located in a remote corner of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang has become a tourist hotspot for its numerous attractions. Traditionally abode of the Monpa tribe, Tawang has a rich heritage and the amazing Buddhist monastery is a major tourist draw. This is the second biggest Buddhist monastery of the world and the biggest one in India. The Tawang Monastery holds as much attraction for Buddhists pilgrims as it does for other tourists.
Origin of the Tawang Monastery
This majestic Buddhist monastery was setup in 1680-81 as per directive of 5th Dalai Lama, by Merek Lama Lodre Gyatso. It is located close to Sangetsar Lake, not far from China border. Until 1914, this monastery was under Tibet’s control and thereafter the British rulers took over it.
Nuances of the Tawang Monastery
This monastery is called ‘Galden Namgey Lhatse’ – denoting 'celestial paradise in clear sky'. Situated on a mountain top at an altitude of nearly 10000 feet, set against backdrop of snow-capped mountains and greenery, the name is befitting. It offers tourists an amazing panoramic view of Tawang -Chu valley. The monastery resembles a citadel from a distance. It is run by a sect belonging to the Mahayana school of Buddhism. There are about 400-450 resident monks in the monastery.
The enticing architecture and impressive décor
The Assembly Hall or Dukhang is one three-storied building in the monastery. Its interior walls of have paintings of various saints and deities. An altar covers its northern wall and towards the left is the silver casket holding the holy Thankas reportedly obtained from the 5th Dalai Lama. A 26 ft high statue of Lord Buddha (in Lotus pose) is there. The boundary wall is 925 feet long.
The monastery has an entrance in north side. The entrance gate 'Kakaling'- is a hut-type structure with stone walls. After you pass the through the Kakaling, a larger gate is there in south. Further towards south is the main gate with large doors.
A paved path stretching from the main gate goes to rear section of the monastery. It leads to the stone slabs court where various ceremonies and Religious dances take place. The monastery’s eastern half is covered with yellow roofed residential quarters- 65 of them. Set up by the villagers- they are like dormitories. On the court’s west, stands the "Par-khang" (Library)- a three storied building which contains various priceless manuscripts and books. Cooking for the inhabitants is done in "Rhum-khang”, a two storied building, located on the court’s eastern side.
Tourists get enthralled by the museum of the Monastery. Its relics include ornaments, an ancient Buddha statue, masks, scriptures and various important artifacts brought from Tibet.
Festivals held at the Tawang Mastery
The two major festivals celebrated at this monastery are Torgya and Losar, both deemed sacred by the Buddhists. Losar is celebrated in January each year and the 15 day long festival marks commencement of New Year as per the Monpa calendar too. Torgya is held by the Lamas for 3 days from eleventh month’s 28th day, as per lunar calendar. Many rituals take place including enticing ‘chaam’ mask dances during these days. Some other festivals held here include Saka Dawa, Dukpa Tse-Shi and Lhabab Duechen.
Related: Exploring Bomdila in Arunachal
Tips for tourists heading to Tawang Monastery
Tawang is accesible from cities like Tezpur and Bomdila. APSRTC and private companies run buses which connect Tawang to Bhalukpong, Itanagar, Tezpur. Tawang is connected to Guwahati through govt run helicopter service too. The months between March and October are ideal for visiting Tawang. Some entry level lodges and hotels are available in Tawang city for accommodation.