If peace were to have a home, it could very well be Tawang Monastery. Known as Gaden Namgyal Lhatse in Tibetian, this celestial paradise in a clear night truly lives up to its name. Let’s take a walk though this haven of calm…
WORDS BY- AMOG
The young monks are taught English, Hindi, Math, and Buddhist teachings in the school. Those who join the monastery have to make a lifetime commitment, failing which a heavy penalty is levied when leaving.
Each season, many festivals are observed and celebrated in the large courtyard of the monastery. Losar – the Tibetan New Year, Torgya, Ajilamu, Dungyur, and Choksar are some of the few festivals that bring cheer to everyone around.
The Buddha Mahotsav Tawang is main festival celebrated in Tawang. Tawang-Torgya is a festival exclusively held in the monastery, and takes place annually. It is a celebration of the Monpa people, which takes place according to the Buddhist calendar.
Each year thousands of pilgrims and tourists find themselves meditating, unwinding, and praying at the monastery. Its peace and calm draw people from across the globe. The spiritual and serene atmosphere permeates the air and seeps into the soul.
When visiting the monastery, you can also travel to the beautiful lakes around Tawang, like Banggachang, Shonga-tser, Madhuri, and Pangang Teng Tso. You can also stop by the Tawang War Memorial. And if you’re looking to find a view, some answers or yourself, Tawang Monastery is where you should be headed.
SURROUNDED by beautiful landscapes, nestled among snow-clad mountains, towering with sunshine and snow, calm and quiet lakes is the magnificent Tawang Monastery. This monastery is the most popular monastery in Arunachal Pradesh and is also known as the Gaden Namgyal Lhatse which translates to ‘celestial paradise on a clear night.’ It sits on the prick of a hill, about 10,000 feet above sea level. This monastery is a popular tourist attraction and it was founded by Merak Lama Lodre Gyamtso in the year 1860-61 AD at the request of the 5th Dalai Lama. From its rustic wooden windows, you can witness the breathtaking view of the Tawang – Chu valley. Undoubtedly, the monastery appears to look like a fort from afar, shimmering with royalty similar to a mini kingdom.
There are many legends behind how the monastery was established. The most likely is the one in which Merak Lama had difficulty finding a good place in which to establish the monastery. He decided to rest in a cave, where he prayed; seeking divine guidance. When he came back out, his horse was missing. After a while, Merak Lama managed to find the horse, grazing at the top of a mountain. Merak Lama realised it was a good spot on which the monastery can be built. In Tibetan, ‘Ta’ means horse and ‘wang’ means “chosen”, hence the name Tawang – as chosen by a horse. The full name of the monastery is Tawang Galdan Namgye Lhatse – “The site chosen by the horse, is the divine celestial paradise”.
The place feels epic in scale. And it is indeed is the largest monastery in India and second largest in the world after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. It is situated in the valley of the Tawang River, near the small town of the same name in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh, in close proximity to the Tibetan and Bhutanese border.
The monastery is the centre of the Gelug School (Yellow Hat) of Mahayana Buddhism, and is bordered with a 282 mts long compound wall. It is a collection of 65 residential buildings for the monks, as well as other structures for different uses. It is three stories high. A 282 mts long compound wall surrounds it from al sides. Within the complex there are 65 residential buildings. The library of the monastery has valuable old scriptures, mainly Kangyur and Tengyur.
Entering the monastery is an experience in itself. Some describe it as walking into a pool of calm and contentment. Inside, the most significant building in the compound is Dukhang, the assembly hall. The primary feature of the hall is the 18 feet tall gilded statue of Buddha seated in the lotus position. It is so large that the top of the statue extends to the upper floor. There is also a Thangka, a Tibetan Buddhist style painting, of Palden Lhamo, the guardian deity of the monastery which was donated by the 5th Dalai Lama. The entire hall is decorated with exquisite carvings, murals, and paintings in the traditional architectural style of Buddhism.