The largest monastery of India and the second largest one in Asia, Tawang Monastery is one of the most popular attractions of Arunachal Pradesh. The state’s crown of Buddhism, Tawang Gompa is also referred to as Galden Namgyal Lhatse. This sacred site is the nucleus of the Lamaistic faith of the Mahayana school of Buddhism in the north-eastern region. The monastery was founded in 1860-61 by Merak Lama Lodre Gyamtso as per the wishes of Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso, the 5th Dalai Lama. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. Lying amidst the might Himalayan ranges, above the sea level of 10, 000 feet above the sea level, it offers a nice view of the Tawang-Chu valley. Tawang Monastery is not a religious center for the residents of Tawang but is also home to over 300 monks. This monastery holds 17 gompas in the region.
Tawang Monastery Complex
The fortified complex of Tawang Monastery spreads in an area of 135 sq m, encircled by a wall that is 610 m long. It includes of a total of 65 residential structures and 10 other buildings. There is also a library (Par-Khang), dating back to the 16th century, which has a valuable collection of old scriptures in around 850 bundles. The entry can be from the gate Kakaling, a hut-like structure. Its walls are made up of stone and its ceilings have paintings of Kying-Khores and saints. Then there is another gate on the northern side, around 15 feet long.
Other structures inside the complex of Tawang monastery include the assembly hall or Dukhang, boasting of magnificent interiors with beautiful work of art. While the inner walls contain sketches and paintings of Bodhisattvas, northern wall has an altar where religious ceremonies are organized. On the left of the altar is a silver silk casket with Thangkas, dedicated Goddess Shri Devi (Palden Lhamo), the main deity of the monastery. This is the main structure inside the 3-storied complex and is on the north of the main courtyard.
Placed in the back of the monastery, the other important structure is the stone-slab Court where religious ceremonies and dances are organized as per the lunar calendar of Monpa. The next important building is Rhum Khyang, a room for cooking food on special occasions as well as food for the monks, on days of festival. The residential quarter of the monks in the monastery complex is called Sha. The other important site is the Centre for Buddhist Cultural Studies, a chief structure of the monastery. This is the learning centre for the resident young monks where they gain traditional monastic education, Arithmetic, Hindi, English etc.
Tawang Monastry becomes venue of two major religious festivals of the Monpas, every year – LOSAR and TORGYA. LOSAR festival is the celebration of the beginning of New Year. On each third year of Torgya, Dungyur festival is also celebrated here. All the festivals celebrated at the Tawang Monastery are marked by great enthusiasm.