A look into the largest Buddhist monastery in India: Tawang Monastery

Hitanshu Bhatt
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Tawang Monastery

Tawang Monastery is an architectural marvel which, according to a few legends, was founded by a horse, and has been standing strong for the last 343 years.

Situated on the top of the mountains at an elevation of about 10,000 ft. Tawang Monastery is an amalgamation of serenity and spirituality. It is a triple-storey building with many functional structures with a residence for the monks, a library, a museum, and a primary school for basic education. The main temple, known as the Dukhang, is the place of worship inside the monastery.

The Horse That Founded The Monastery

The Monastery was built in 1680-81 by Merek Lama Lodre Gyamsto when Dalai Lama gave him a painting of the goddess Palden Lhamo to keep in the monastery. But do you know who actually founded it? Well, it is believed that it was a horse assigned on a mission to establish a monastery by the 5th Dalai Lama. Hence it was given the name Tawang Ganden Namgyal Lhatse, which means the celestial paradise of the divine site chosen by a horse.

Tawang Monastery


According to another legend, a white horse of the Prince of Lhasa (former home of the Dalai Lama) had wandered into the Monpa region. When people went looking for that horse, they found him grazing near the current location of the monastery and started worshipping the horse and the place. Eventually, they built the Tawang monastery with an enchanting architect in honor of the horse and the place of worship.

Roofs Of Mandalas

Tawang Monastery


The Entrance of the monastery has a beautiful gate known as the kakaling, surrounded by walls of masonry (a structure with brick, stone, or similar material). The gate is built in a hut-like structure and the roof is decorated with mandalas which have great importance in the Buddhist religion. The inner walls have various murals with deities. The ninth mural in the hall starts from the southwest-western corner and ends at the southern wall and is a noteworthy work of art that portrays Ningmecahn, the protector deity of the Bon religion (the indigenous Tibetan religion). The deity is also said to be the protector of Tawang.

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A statue that stands 8 ft. tall

Tawang Monastery


The main building has the 'Dukhang' or the assembly hall and is one of the most beautiful spots in the monastery. The assembly hall has an 8 ft. tall Buddha Statue along with sketches and murals of various saints and Bodhisattvas. The walls are a magnificent work of art with beautiful designs and paintings, which make the building even more attractive. There is an area on the ground floor where various dance forms and rituals are also practiced.

The Footprint that once was a water carrier

The ground floor has a footprint on a stone which is believed to be of a resident named Chitenpa of the monastery. He was stated as the water carrier of the cloister and offered his service every day until one day when he resigned from his duty and stamped his left foot on the stone slab, which created an impression. This footprint is found to date and worshiped as a true devotee of lord Buddha.

Prints And Publications

Tawang Monastery library


There is a printing house in the monastery where books of religious interest are printed using the traditional technique of wooden blocks. The Monpa Lamas use these books to conduct religious rituals. There is a library on the second floor of the shrine, which holds scriptures of Kangyur (translation of words) and Tengyur (translation of treaties). These are the books comprising the Tibetan translations of works written by Indian Buddhist masters, explaining and elaborating on the words of the Buddha.

The Celebrations



Apart from the place of religious importance, the Tawang monastery is also a place of celebrations for the Buddhist people. Losar, also known as the Tibetan New Year, is celebrated here. Torgya, the religious festival of the Monpa community, which resides in Arunachal Pradesh, is also celebrated here. It is a three-day festival that witnesses oral and dance performances portraying the mythical events that are believed to have occurred in the past. These events are done to eliminate any external energy on the earth that can harm sentient beings.

Doesn't this fascinating story and magnificent architecture want you to visit the place?

Also Read: Free roadside library in Arunachal Pradesh is set up by a 30-year-old Ngurang Meena!

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