Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Monstery
Tawang Monastery
Tawang Monastery

The Tawang  Monastery is also known in Tibetan as Galden Namgey Lhatse. It means ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. This monastery is the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world. The monastery is located in Tawang city of Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh. It is situated in the valley of the Tawang River, in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Tawang Monastery was founded in 1680-1681, Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso. It was built in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso. The monastery is situated on a mountain at an altitude of over 3000 m. Tawang Monastery is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world.

Tawang Monastery is a big monastery with living quarters, a museum, institutions and libraries. The Monastery can hold a capacity of 700 monks and is currently home to around 450 lamas.

What is the history of the Tawang Monastery?

In Tibetan, ‘Ta’ means ‘horse’ and ‘wang’ means ‘chosen’. Therefore, the name Tawang means chosen by a horse. According to the legends, Merak Lama was having difficulty in finding a good place to build the monastery. He once rested in a cave where he prayed, seeking divine guidance. When e came out, he found his horse missing. After searching for a while, he found the horse, grazing at the top of a mountain. Merak Lama realized it as a good spot where the monastery could be built.

The full name of the monastery is thus Tawang Galdan Namgye Lhatse. It means ‘The site chosen by the horse is the divine celestial paradise’.

What is the architecture of the place?

  • Entrance and outer walls: At the entrance to the monastery there is a Kakaling, which is a colorful gate structure. It is a ‘hut-like structure’, with side walls built of stone masonry. The interior walls of the Kakaling have murals of divinities and saints painted on them. The roof features Mandalas. Ahead of the main gate of the Kakaling to its south, is another entry. On the main entrance to the monastery, there are huge walls. The outer wall is 925 feet in length, with heights varying from about 10–20 feet.
  • Main buildings: The monastery is three-storied. It is built like a large mansion. There is a large assembly hall, ten other functional structures and 65 residential quarters for students, Lamas and monks. There is a center for Buddhist cultural studies. The monastery also has a school. The walls of the monastery have a profusion of  Buddhist deities and saints.
  • Main temple: The main temple is known as the Dukhang. ‘Du’ means ‘assembly’ and ‘Khang’ means ‘building’. It was built in the year 1860-61. An 18 feet image of Buddha is deified which is gilded and decorated.

Tawang Monstery

What are the festivals celebrated in the Tawang Monastery?

Choksar, Losar, Ajilamu, and Torgya are the main festivals that are held in the monastery.

  • Choksar: In this festival, the Lamas recite religious scriptures in the monasteries. Following which, the villagers carry the scriptures on their back and circumambulate their agricultural land. They seek blessings for the good yield of crops without any infestations by pests and to protect against attack by wild animals.
  •  Losar: This festival marks the beginning of the Tibetan New Year. In this festival, people visit the monastery to offer prayers.
  • Torgya: This festival is also called Tawang-Torgya. It is an annual festival that is exclusively held in the monastery. The objective of the festival is to ward off evil spirits. It ushers prosperity and happiness to the people in the ensuing year. It is held according to the Buddhist calendar days of 28th to 30th of Dawachukchipa, which corresponds to 10 to 12 January of the Gregorian calendar. It is a Monpa celebration.

How to reach the Tawang Monastery?

Air: The nearest airport is located in Tezpur. It is at a distance of 387 km. The nearest international airport is located in Guwahati. It is at a distance of 480 km.

Train: The nearest railway station is Rangapara Railway Station. It is at a distance of 383 km. Rangapara Railway Station is directly connected to about 88 stations.

Road: Tawang Monastery is well-connected by road to all places.

What is the best time to visit the Monastery?

  •  Summer- March to June: This is the best time to visit Tawang. The temperature ranges between 5 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius. The days are pleasant and nights are colder.
  • Monsoon- July to September: It is mostly wet during monsoon season. There is rainfall all over and the temperature drops. However, this place looks even more beautiful during this season.
  • Winter- November to February:  The temperature sometimes drops near the freezing point. The temperature gets around 10 degrees. The coldest month of winters is January.

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