Tawang Monastery or Golden Namgyal Lhatse is one of the famous monasteries and tourist attractions of Arunachal Pradesh. This is India’s largest monastery and the second largest monastery of the world. Located 3000m above the mean sea level, this monastery is said to have complete control over the region’s 17 different gompas. Apart from the cultural and spiritual importance, this monastery is also famous for its architectural beauty, and the peaceful view of Tawang-Chu Valley from the monastery.
Location of Tawang Monastery
Tawang Monastery is located in Cona region of Tawang city, in Arunachal Pradesh.
History of Tawang Monastery
This monastery started as a small mansion, 400 years ago. Today, it stands as a three-storeyed structure. It was built by Merak Lama Lodre Gyamtso, upon the request of 5th Dalai Lamai, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso, in 17th century. According to legends, the location for this monastery was chosen by Merad’s horse. Merad meditated in a cave, seeking blessing to find the spot for the monastery. When he came out of the cave, this horse was missing. When he set out to search for the horse, he found the animal at Tana Mandekhang Mountain. He chose the spot for the monastery and built the structure in 1681, with the help of local people. According to another folklore, Lhasa prince’s flying horse was lost and found at the mountain.
In 1913, the monastery and the region of Tawang went under the control of British. In 1962, China invaded and occupied the monastery. Now, the monastery is a part of Arunachal Pradesh, India.
Architecture of Tawang Monastery
This monastery is built in traditional Buddhism architecture.
Entrance And Exterior
The entrance of this monastery resembles the entrance of a hut. This style of structure is called Kakaling. The roof of the monastery holds mandalas. You can find murals and other art works on the interior walls. Right outside the main gate, you will find an open gate with massive doors. To the south of the monastery, there is another open gate.
The main structure holds one massive assembly hall, 65 residential student and staff quarters, ten functional structures, water supply, center for cultural studies and more. The ground level of this monastery is dedicated to practicing ritual dance forms. Every face of wall, including the curtains are painted with religious elements or symbols. To the south-east corner of the monastery, a small house is located. This is the place where the head abbot stays. The front porch of the house holds a footprint on a slab. This footprint belonged to a water carrier, one of the simple residents of the monastery. According to the legends, it takes divine power to imprint a stone slab and the imprinted stone slab is seen as an element of miracle.
The main temple is called Dukhang. Built in 19th century, this temple has an 18 feet tall Buddha image, which stand up to the first floor. Right next to the image, a casket holding Thangka of Palden Lhamo is seen.
The monastery’s second floor is dedicated to a large library with books on spiritual teachings. It also has a printing press. The press is used for printing spiritual books using local paper.
Tourist Attractions in Tawang Monastery
- The main temple of this monastery has beautiful artwork on the interior walls. The walls have paintings and sketches of Bohisattvas.
- The library of the monastery is open for tourists and it holds numerous ancient and valuable scriptures like Tengyur, Kangyur, and others.
- Visit during any of the festivals to take part in rituals and prayers. You can also enjoy traditional monk dance, music performances and others.
Festivals of Tawang Monastery
The top festivals celebrated in this monastery are Torgya, Choksar, Ajilamu, and Losar festivals. The Choksar festival is famous for religious scripture recital. During this festival, the villages would carry the religious scriptures on the back and take part in a walking ceremony through their farmlands. This ritual is said to increase the productivity of the field.
The Losar festival is the Tibetan New Year, which is celebrated with monk dances, scripture reading, colorful decorations, and others. Special delicacies will be made during this festival.
Ajilamu or Aji Lamu festival is celebrated with scripture reading, Pantomine dance, deer dance, and others. This is a regional festival celebrated by the Monpa community.
Torgya or Tawang-Torgya is the monastery’s annual festival, which is celebrated to ward off the evil spirits. This festival is also celebrated to pray for a prosperous and happy new year. This festival takes place for three days and top attractions to enjoy are dance performances, art shows in the courtyard, rituals, and others. The best of all is the Losjer Chungiya, the monk dance of the monastery.
Visiting Timings of Tawang Monastery
The monastery is open throughout the week from 9 am to 6 pm.
There is no entry fee to visit Tawang Monastery.
How To Reach Tawang Monastery?
The Tawang Monastery is located in Cona region of Arunachal Pradesh. You can find taxis and buses from all major cities of Arunachal Pradesh to the monastery. You can also trek to this monastery.
The nearest airport to the monastery is Salonibari airport of Tezpur. It is 387 km away. The closest railway station is located in Rangapara. It is 383 km away. The best options to reach the monastery are buses and cabs. Once you reach the town, you can ride in the cable car that would take you up to the monastery.
Best Time To Visit Tawang Monastery
The best time to visit Tawang monastery is between March and September. This is the summer and monsoon seasons of the land. The temperature will be pleasing and it would be the best place for exploring the regions around the monastery. Winter starts in November and ends in February. This is the worst time to visit the place as the climate will be harsh and snowfall will be extreme.