Tawang Monastery was founded near the small town
of the same name in the northwestern part of Arunachal
Pradesh, India by Merak
Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the
5th Dalai Lama. The monastery belongs
to the Gelugpa school and has a religious
association with Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, which
continued during the period of British rule.
It is very
close to the Tibetan border, located in the valley of the
Tawang-chu which flows down from Tibet.
an elevation of about 3,300 metres (10,000 feet) in the district
It has a capacity of about 700 monks and
presently is home to more than 450 lamas
It is said
to be one of the biggest Buddhist monasteries in the world outside
It also houses the three-storied Parkhang library: a collection of
scriptures in addition
to many other invaluable manuscripts. Other large collections
include the Sutras
, Tangym, Sungbhum, old
books and other manuscripts, both handwritten and printed, many of
them in gold. Dances and ceremonial celebrations are held in the
courtyard, the most important of which is held on the night of
Sacred books in Tawang
It also houses a small printing press. The most fascinating part is
the Dukhang or Assembly Hall - a three-storied building housing the
temple and the 8.3 m (27 ft) high Golden Buddha
. To the left of the altar on the northern
wall is a silver casket wrapped in silk containing the Thankas
of Goddess Dri Devi (Palden Lhamo
) the principal deity of the
monastery. It was given to Merak Lama by the 5th Dalai Lama and has
come to be known as the Ja-Droi-Ma, which means it has the warmth
of a bird, symbolizing that the Thanka is of a living type.
There is also a Center for Buddhist Cultural Studies where young
monks are taught arithmetic, English and Hindi as well as their
traditional monastic education.
The Tawang Monastery is three stories high and houses 65
residential buildings in addition to the library. It controls 17
and a few nunneries in the region. It
was renovated in 1997 by the 14th Dalai
- with renovation meaning that the traditionally built
structure was torn down and then rebuilt with concrete.
present Gyalsey Rinpochey, a famous incarnation of the Loseling
College of Drepung
incarnate head of Tawang, lives and teaches at Tawang.
Tawang Monastery was founded by the Mera Lama Lodre Gyasto in
accordance to the wishes of the 5th Dalai
, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect and is the largest Buddhist monastery in India.
name Tawang ( ) means Horse Chosen
Its name, Tawang, is the subject of an interesting legend. It is
said that ta
= horse, and wang
= chosen. As the
legend goes, the site of the monastery was chosen by the horse of
Merag Lama who had been unable to decide on a site to establish the
monastery. One day he was praying in cave, seeking divine guidance.
When he came out after the prayers, he found his horse missing. On
searching, the horse was located standing quietly on a hilltop.
Considering this as a sign of divine blessing, he decided to
construct the monastery at the very spot. The monastery was built
with the help of volunteers from the neighboring villages. It is
also known by another Tibetan name, Galden Namgey
, which means 'celestial paradise in a clear
Most of the people are Monpa
and Tibetans, and are Tibetan Buddhist
by religion. Pre-Buddhist
influence is also evident. Festivals that include Losar
, Choskar, and Torgya are held annually. The
Dungyur is also celebrated in every three years of the Torgya. Both
the Dungyur and Torgya festivals are celebrated at Tawang Monastery
with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm.
The 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso
, was born
at the nearby Urgelling Monastery, 5 km from the town of
In 1706, Lhazang Khan
with the support
of the Chinese Kang Xi
Emperor to depose the
6th Dalai Lama, who died soon after, perhaps killed by Lhazang
Khan. During Lhazang Khan's rule in Tibet, he sent
an army in 1714 to invade Bhutan from
In the campaign, they destroyed the Dalai Lama's
restored and enlarged monastery at Urgelling in an attempt to
obliterate his memorials.
When the border known as the McMahon
was drawn in 1914, Tibet gave up several hundred square
miles of its territory, including the whole of the Tawang region
and the monastery, to the British. Tawang officials used to travel
almost to the plains of Assam to collect monastic contributions.
The independence of India
Britain in 1947 separated Tawang from Tibet.
Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet due to Chinese
oppression of the Tibetan people, he crossed into India on 30 March
1959 and spent some days resting at Tawang Monastery before
reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April
Since then he has visited Tawang many times.
Chinese troops briefly occupied it during the 1962 Sino-Indian War
, destroying portions of the
monastery. For six months it was controlled by Chinese troops.
After the retreat of the Chinese troops, Tawang came under Indian
control once again. Elections have taken place regulary and
democratic state legislature elected peacefully. Indian Prime
ministermanmohan singh held talk with chinese president about the
soverienty of anurachal pradesh as integral part of india in the
summit at thailand october 2009.
In recent years, China has occasionally voiced its claims on Tawang
and Chinese troop incursions continue to occur frequently. India
has rebutted these claims by Chinese government and the Indian
prime minister has stated categorically that Tawang is an integral
part of India. He repeated this to the Chinese prime minister when
the two prime ministers met in Thailand in October 2009.
China staked its claim over Tawang as it had a sizable Tibetan
population and was previously a part of Tibet. India has rebutted
these claims by the Chinese.
China objected to the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang town and
Tawang monastery in November 2009 though the Dalai Lama had
previously visited Tawang several times since he left Tibet in
1959. India rejected Chinese objection and said that the Dalai Lama
was an honoured guest in India and could visit any place in India.
The Dalai Lama visited Tawang on 8 November 2009. He was received
and welcomed by the democratically elected Chief Minister of
Arunachal Pradesh and the people of Arunachal Pradesh. The
residents of Tawang were elated to have the Dalai Lama among them.
They painted their houses afresh and spruced up the town. The whole
town wore a festive look.
About 30,000 people, including those from neighbouring countries,
Nepal and Bhutan, attended his religious discourse.
District: The Land of Monpas - mainpage
- Richardson (1984), pp. 149-150.
- Dorje (1999), p. 200.
- Basic features of Tawang district
- Young Buddhist monks lead insular lives in India
- Tawang District: The Land of Monpas
- Mullin (2006), pp. 159-160.
- Tawang Monastery
- Shakya (1999), p. 279.
- Richardson (1984), p. 150.
- Richardson (1984), p. 210.
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8351813.stm "Frontier
town venerates Dalai Lama"
Thousands flock to see Dalai Lama in Indian state.
- Gyume Dorje. (1999). Footprint Tibet Handbook with
Bhutan. Footprint Handbooks, Bath, England. ISBN 0
- Glenn H. Mullin (2006). The Practice of the Six
Yogas of Naropa. 2nd edition. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN
- Hugh E. Richardson (1984). Tibet & Its
History. 1st edition 1962. 2nd edition, Revised and Updated.
Shambhala Publications, Boston. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk).
- Tsering Shakya. (1999). The
Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet since
1947. Columbia University Press. New York.
- Official Website of Tawang Monastery. 
- "Trekkers’ paradise" The Tribune. Sunday, September 5,
- "The Lines nations draw." P. Stobdan. Indian Express.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005. 
- "Young Buddhist monks lead insular lives in India." Thomas
Kent. Spero News (UCA News), May 15, 2006.
- Tourist information on Tawang Monastery. 
- "A Walk Around Tawang Monastery."