Are you thinking about visiting Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh? Most likely you want to go because of the rich Tibetan culture and the famous Tawang Monastery, which are great reasons to go! Below are the must-know things about
- The magical Tawang Gompa, founded in 1681 in what was then a Monpa royal palace, overlooks the town from its ridge-top site.
- It is the world’s second-largest Buddhist monastery complex after Drepung Monastery (in Lhasa, Tibet)
- Tawang has over 400 lamas, whose yellow-roofed living quarters surround the central buildings. It’s famed in Buddhist circles for its priceless library, standing next to a magnificently decorated prayer hall that contains an 8m-high Buddha statue.
- Monks Perform early morning prayers at dawn is a must-visit.
- Across the courtyard from the prayer hall is a museum containing images, robes, trumpets, gongs and ancient masks and manuscripts, along with some personal items of the sixth Dalai Lama and (upstairs) photos of visits by the 14th Dalai Lama and Indian leaders.
- Three days of spectacular masked chaam dances are held in the courtyard during the Torgya festival.
- Tawang Monastery is known in Tibetan as Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, which translates to “celestial paradise in a clear night.”
- The full name of the monastery is Tawang Galdan Namgye Lhatse. ‘Ta’ means “horse”, ‘wang’ means “chosen”, which together forms the word ‘Tawang’, meaning “the location selected by horse”. Further, ‘Gadan’ means “paradise”, ‘Namgyal’ means “celestial” and ‘Lhatse’ means “divine”. Thus, the full meaning of the ‘Tawang Galdan Namgye Lhatse’ is the “site chosen by the horse is the celestial divine paradise”
- Three legends are narrated to the establishment of the monastery. In the first legend, it is said that the location of the present Monastery was selected by a horse that belonged to Merag Lama Lodre Gyatso who was on a mission assigned to him by the 5th Dalai Lama to establish a Monastery. After an intense search, when he failed to locate a suitable place, he retired into a cave to offer prayers seeking divine intervention to choose the site. When he came out of the cave, he found his horse missing. He then went in search of the horse and finally found it grazing at the top of a mountain called Tana Mandekhang, which in the past was the palace of King Kala Wangpo. He took this as divine and auspicious guidance and decided to establish the monastery at that location. Seeking the help of the local people, Mera Lama established the monastery at that location in the latter part of 1681
- The second legend of the derivation of the name Tawang is linked to Terton Pemalingpa, diviner of treasures. At this location, he is stated to have given “initiations” of Tamdin and Kagyad, which resulted in the name “Tawang”. ‘Ta’ is an abbreviated form for “Tamdin” and ‘Wang’ means “initiation”.
- According to the third legend, a white horse of the Prince of Lhasa had wandered into the Monpa region. People, who went in search of the horse, found the horse grazing at the present location of the monastery. The people of the area then worshipped the horse and the location where it was found and venerated it every year. Eventually, to honour the sacred site, the Tawang Monastery was built at the site.
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