Tawang Monastery

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Tawang Monastery

History

The Tawang Monastery also known as the 'Galden Namgyal Lhatse’ is a 400 year old Buddhist monastery of the Mahayana sect. It is an important centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists. The monastery was founded by a monk, Mera Lama in the year 1860-61 A.D. It is situated at a height of 3500 meters (10,000 ft) at the Bhutan border surrounded by beautiful mountains.

The monastery is a vast complex with 65 buildings, the most prominent being the assembly hall or 'Dukhang'. The inner walls contain sketches of several saints and Bodhisattvas, on the northern side is an altar, used for religious ceremonies. To the left of the altar on the northern wall is a majestic silver casket wrapped in silk containing the Thankas of Goddess Dri Devi. It is believed that the Thankas was drawn using blood from the fifth Dalai Lama’s nose. Besides this the Dukhang also contains an 8.3 metre statue of Buddha that has become the most recognisable image associated with the monastery. To put the size of the statue into context a human measures around 1.5 metres. The lighting in the hall is all natural and it is extremely relaxing to just sit in the hall listening to the chanting monks.

Besides the Dukhang, the complex also houses a three-storied Parkhang library which preserves a collection of 400 year old Kangyur scriptures. Another prominent structure of the monastery is the 'Court', situated at the back of the monastery. The court hosts religious dances and other ceremonies, held in the monastery. The Butter Lamp House is one building that catches everyone’s attention. Several lamps lit with Yak butter as fuel on the first floor of the building makes for a mesmerising site. Next to the Butter Lamp House is a Museum which should not be missed.

Tawang Monastery also has other monasteries in its vicinity for visitors interested in more Buddhist architecture. For tourists bitten by the adventure bug, there are several places around Tawang where adventure sports like rock-climbing, paragliding, skating and river rafting take place.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the Tawang Monastery is between February and June when the weather conditions are pleasant. If you want to soak in the culture of Tawang, visit during the Losar Festival which is held in February – March. The temperatures in summers range from 5 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius. Tawang receives high rainfall during the months from July to October and visits to the place should be avoided at this time. Temperatures in Tawang during the winter range from -2 degrees to 5 degrees with January being the coldest month.

Trivia

The literal meaning of Tawang is ‘Blessed by the horse’ with ‘Ta’ referring to a horse and ‘Wang’ means a blessing. According to the legends Saint Mera Lama could not figure out a place to build the monastery and built it at a place where his horse stood after wandering off on its own taking it as divine intervention.

The Shungetser Tso Lake is locally known as the ‘Madhuri Lake’ after a song featuring the Indian actress was shot at this location.

Timing

The monastery as such does not have any rigid visiting hours but visitors are generally allowed from dawn to dusk. People should have a flexible itinerary when visiting Tawang as this area has a heavy presence of army forces and any army exercise might disrupt the visiting plans.


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