Tawang and Bum la Pass, Arunachal


Arunachal Pradesh’s tourist gem, the Tawang Monastery Arunachal Pradesh is India’s largest monastery, and the world’s second largest. Situated on a mountain in the town of Tawang at an altitude of over 3000 m, Tawang Monastery is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world.

The monastery is the center of the Gelug school (Yellow Hat) of Mahayana Buddhism and is bordered with a 282 m long compound wall. It is a collection of 65 residential buildings for the monks, as well as other structures for different uses. Tawang Monastery was established in 1680-81, at the request of the 5th Dalai Lama, by his contemporary Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso.

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 found the monastery. The story says that 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 realized it as a good spot on which to build the monastery. In Tibetan, ‘Ta’ means horse and ‘wang’ means “chosen”, hence the name Tawang – 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”.

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