The magnificent Tawang Monastery is hard to miss when you’re in Tawang. It is perched on the mountainside above the town, surrounded by forested green hills and backed by the towering Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh.
It is the second largest and oldest Buddhist monastery in Asia and is also known as the Gaden Namgyal Lhatse in Tibetan language which translates to “celestial paradise in a clear night.”
When the Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959, one of his first stops was the Tawang Monastery. The famous Monastery is a popular tourist attraction that sits on the prick of a hill, about 10,000 feet above and offers an impressive and picturesque view of the Chu valley in Tawang.
It was founded by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso. The Dalai Lama also gave a painting of goddess Palden Lhamo to be kept in the monastery.
The enormous yellow-roofed Tawang monastery in the early days was originally a large and fortified complex strategically sited where the caravan routes from Tibet, Bhutan and West Kameng met. The place is also famous with the legend of 7th Century King Kalawangpo and Khandro Drowa Zangmo.
Undoubtedly, from afar, the monastery resembles a fort, pierced atop a hill dominating everything around like a miniature empire. Most importantly the giant gilded statue of Lord Buddha sitting peacefully in the middle of the northern side of the Monastery dominating the Sanctum is indeed a sight to behold.
The Tawang Monastery has a residential building for the monks, a library, a museum and school for the basic education. It is three stories high and is enclosed by a 282 m long compound wall. The library of the monastery has valuable old scriptures, mainly Kangyur and Tengyur. Torgya is the most elaborate and colourful festival celebrated in the monastery and is frequented by the tourists.
The monastery has several structures within the premises but the most prominent one is the ‘Dukhang’ or the assembly hall. It is also the main building of the monastery which is equally marked with magnificent artwork. Inside the walls of Dukhang you can notice sketches of several saints and Bodhisattvas. Besides, another important structure in the monastery is the ‘Court’ which hosts religious dances and other ceremonies.
Entering the Tawang Monastery itself is a grand experience; you will come across huge doors about ten to twenty feet high. The richly adorned Tawang Monastery is a definite must visit attraction in Arunachal Pradesh during your next spiritual holiday.
The great rotating prayer wheels, priceless thangkas, the drone of monks in prayer, sputtering butter lamps will surely evoke a sense of peace and tranquility within you.
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