When you hear the word monastery, you probably picture venerated places that provide a tranquil setting for those seeking a spiritual connection. Monasteries in India have deep religious roots and are a reflection of Buddhist culture and ideals. Even the most uninformed believers can be captured by a select few, and Tawang Monastery is
one of them.
Tawang is a stunning region with lovely scenery, expansive mountains, tranquil lakes, quiet villages, and enchanting gompas. Among them all, the Tawang Monastery stands out as the standout monastery. The most well-known monastery in Arunachal Pradesh is this one. The Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, another name for Tawang Monastery, is located on a sharp hilltop at a height of roughly 10,000 feet. Merak Lama Lodre Gyamtso founded the well-known Tawang Monastery, which is a well-liked tourist destination. It provides an impressive and beautiful view of the Tawang – Chu valley. Without a fact, the monastery seems like a fort from a distance, sparkling with royalty like a little country. Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh is ranked as the second largest monastery in the world after Borobudur in Indonesia.
Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, which translates to “the divine paradise of perfect victory,” is the Tibetan name for Tawang Monastery. In 1680–1681, Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso established it in accordance with the wishes of Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the 5th Dalai Lama. It is a member of the Vajrayana Buddhist Gelug school and has ties to the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, which persisted under British occupation. Three stories make up the monastery. A 925-foot (282-meter) long compound wall surrounds it. There are 65 residential buildings in the complex. The monastery’s library contains priceless ancient texts, primarily Kangyur and Tengyur. The monastery’s fort-like construction was ruled by Tibet until 1914. The Simla Agreement was signed, and the British took control of the region.
The monastery has a commanding view of the Tawang Chu valley, which is made up of snow-capped mountains and coniferous forest, and is located close to the top of a mountain at an elevation of around 10,000 feet (3,000 m). It is surrounded on its southern and western flanks by deep ravines created by streams, on the north by a small
protrusion, and on the east by gently sloping terrain. The monastery can be accessed from the north through a sloped spur covered in alpine plants. There are excellent road, rail, and air connections in the nearby town of Tawang, which bears the monastic name. The closest railhead, Bhalukpong, is 280 kilometres (170 miles) away by car. The closest airport is Tezpur Airport, which is about 350 kilometres (220 miles) away.
Entering the Tawang Monastery itself is a wonderful experience; you will come across gigantic doors roughly 925 feet long and about ten to twenty feet high. The “Dukhang,” or assembly hall, is the most notable of the several buildings that make up this kingdom’s grounds. This structure serves as the monastery’s main entrance and is also distinguished by stunning artwork. There are drawings of numerous saints and Bodhisattvas inside the Dukhang walls. Additionally, the monastery’s “Court,” which is used for religious dances and other events, is another significant building.
The Kakaling, a vibrant gate construction shaped like a hut, allows access to the monastery. The side walls showcase the stone masonry’s exceptional skill. Kakaling has mandalas on its roof and murals of saints and holy beings painted on its interior walls.
The mural of Ningmecahn, the guardian deity of Tawang and the defender of the Bon faith, is highly distinctive and special. A thread was reportedly tied around the monastery to determine its size at the 5th Dalai Lama’s request. The Tawang Monastery is a sizable, three-story complex featuring a meeting room, living rooms, and other buildings. It
also acts as a hub for research on Buddhist cultural traditions. Dance rituals are performed on the building’s ground floor. On the walls are thangkas depicting Buddhist saints and goddesses. Tibetan Buddhist paintings on silk, cotton, etc. known as thangkas are unframed. Buddhist imagery can be seen on the balcony’s curtains.
The Dukhang is the name of the major temple. It was constructed between 1860 and 1861, and it contains an 18-foot statue of Buddha sitting on a lotus. Right next to the statue is a silver chest that contains a thangka of Palden Lhamo, the goddess who serves as the monastery’s protector. Legend has it that the blood that was gushing out of the 5th Dalai Lama’s nose was used to paint Palden’s thangka.
Buddhist doctrines and old scriptures can be found in the Tawang monastery’s library. There are books with letters that have been gold-washed. One prominent instance is Gyentongpa, which has gold-washed letters on every page. However, over time, several manuscripts and scriptures have been lost.
Most importantly, the enormous statue of Lord Buddha rests serenely in the centre of the Monastery’s northern side. Arunachal Pradesh’s enormous, lavishly decorated Tawang Monastery is unquestionably a must-see destination during your upcoming spiritual vacation.
There are three legends relating to the founding of the monastery. According to the first version, Merag Lama Lodre Gyatso’s horse, who belonged to him, chose the site of the current monastery while on a trip to construct a monastery that had been given to him by the Fifth Dalai Lama. He conducted a thorough search, but was unable to find a suitable location, so he retired into a cave to ask for heavenly guidance in selecting the location. His horse was gone when he emerged from the cave. He immediately set out in quest of the horse and eventually discovered it grazing at the summit of Tana Mandekhang, a mountain that once housed King Kala Wangpo’s palace. He interpreted this as a divine and auspicious directive and chose to build the monastery there. In the later part of 1681, Mera Lama founded the monastery there with
the assistance of the local populace.
The second tale about the origin of the name Tawang is connected to Terton Pemalingpa, a treasure-diviner. He is said to have performed “initiations” of Tamdin and Kagyad at this place, giving rise to the name “Tawang”. “Tamdin” is referred to as “Ta,” while “initiation” is referred to as “Wang.”
A white horse belonging to the Prince of Lhasa had wandered into the Monpa region, according to the third tradition. When people went looking for the horse, they discovered it grazing near where the monastery is now. The locals began to revere and worship both the horse and the spot where it was discovered. The Tawang Monastery
was eventually erected there to honour the hallowed spot.
Another narrative related to the goddess seen on a thangka in the Palden Lhamo monastery. The Hindu goddess Kali is compared to this feminine deity. Similar to Kali, Palden Lhamo’s thangka features a dark background, fiery eyes, a tiger skin skirt, and a skull garland around her neck. She wears a moon disc in her hair like Shiva does. She is linked to Ma Tara and the goddess Saraswati. According to legend, she had previously resided in Sri Lanka as the consort of a demon king who engaged in human sacrifice. She left the kingdom since she did not agree with this custom. The king shot her with an arrow as she was fleeing, and the arrow hit the back of the mule she was riding. Palden Lhamo was able to view Lord Buddha’s teachings via the space that the arrow’s release left in the mule’s back.
The Choksar, Losar, Ajilamu, and Torgya festivals are the main Monpa celebrations celebrated in the monastery. The Lamas recite sacred texts in the monasteries during the festival of Choksar. Following the religious recitations, the villagers circumambulate their agricultural area while carrying the sacred texts on their backs, asking for blessings
for healthy crop yields free of insect infestations and protection from attacks by wild animals. People visit the monastery and make prayers during the Losar celebration, which ushers in the Tibetan New Year. An annual event called Torgya, also called Tawang-Torgya, is only held in the monastery. The Buddhist calendar days of the 28th and 30th of
Dawachukchipa, which correspond to the 10th and 12th of January, are used to hold it. An annual event called Torgya, also called Tawang-Torgya, is only held in the monastery. It is a Monpa event that is observed on Buddhist calendar days 28 through 30 of Dawachukchipa, which correspond to 10 through 12 January in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival’s main goals are to ward off bad spirits and bring wealth and pleasure to everyone in the next year. The Losjker Chungiye, which is performed by the monastery’s monks, and the Pha Chan are two of the dances that are performed by performers wearing bright costumes and masks over the course of the three-day festival. Each dance reflects a myth, and the masks and costumes are animal forms like cows, tigers, sheep, and so on. So come for your next spiritual visit here and breathe in the scenic beauty.