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Tawang Monastery: ‘Soul of the mountains’

15 Mar,2022 04:40 PM, by: Manna Mili
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Arunachal Pradesh is packed with surprises that will make your jaw fall. A land where you can witness the first sun rise in India and a place full of peace and immaculate natural beauty.

Speaking about the beauty of nature, Tawang wound most certainly stand out to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in Arunachal. The place is surrounded by tranquil exquisiteness that has been preserved for centuries. Pleasant weather with an amazing landscape, endowed with snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and picturesque waterfalls.

But apart from the beauty of nature, there are many historic monuments that will entice you to visit this place once. Such an example is the monastery in Tawang. Constructed in 1681, it is now the second biggest monastery in the world. In this article, we are going to learn some intriguing facts about Tawang Monastery.

A "Heavenly Paradise"

The monastery, perched at 10,000 feet atop a mountain, gives a beautiful view of the valley, snow-capped mountains, and coniferous forest. Tawang Galdan Namgye Lhatse is its full name, which means "celestial paradise in a clear night."

The Tawang monastery was founded in the 17th century, between 1680 and 1681. It was founded by Merak Lama Lodre with the blessings of the 5th Dalai Lama. The monastery was influenced by the Gelug (Yellow Hat) school of Vajrayana Buddhism, which has ties to tantric traditions. Prior to the establishment of the Gelug sect, the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, the oldest of the four Tibetan Buddhism schools, ruled the region.

The monastery's fort-like construction was under Tibet's sovereignty up until 1914. The British dominated the area once the Simla Accord was signed.

The revered spiritual retreat is not only a shelter for monks, but also a monastery steeped in legend.

The first legend tells the narrative of Tawang Monastery's origins. The monastery was discovered by Merag Lama Lodre Gyatso's horse. Merag was unable to find the ideal location during his search. He sought sanctuary in a cave, where he prayed and prayed for divine assistance. As he emerged from the cave, he discovered that his horse had vanished. Merag Lama discovered his horse grazing on Tana Mandekhang, a mountain that was once King Wala Wangpo's palace, after a long search. In 1681, the lama saw this sight as a blessing and founded the monastery.

The second stories tell of Terton Pema Lingpa, a saint who preached of the Tamdin and Kagyad initiations, which gave rise to the name Tawang. Wang indicates initiation, and Ta is an acronym of Tamdin. The white horse of the Prince of Lhasa is the subject of the third legend. This horse wandered into the Monpa region and was subsequently discovered grazing at the current location of the monastery.

Torgya Festival at Tawang Monestry

This three-day event that celebrates the victory of good over evil is traditionally held in the first month of the year, January. It is held on the Buddhist calendar days of the 28th and 30th of Dawachukchipa (11th of the moon), which correspond to the Gregorian calendar days of 10 and 12 January. People believe that by celebrating this festival, they are removing any external energy from the land that can damage sentient beings and protecting them from natural disasters.

This is a festival that features oral and dance performances depicting mythical events that are said to have occurred in the past. The dances are performed by monks from the monastery, which necessitates rigorous training, discipline, and extensive preparation prior to the performance. The colourful clothes and robes they wear while dancing are distinctive features of these shows. This event features a variety of dance forms that are said to be therapeutic if witnessed in person.

Final Thoughts

The word monastery evokes memories of treasured getaways that provide a calm environment for those seeking to connect with their spiritual side. Monasteries in India have religious roots all throughout the country and are a reflection of Buddhist culture and ideals. Tawang Monastery is one of those few that can capture the attention and sight of even the most naive believers. The best time to visit Tawang Monastery is during the Losar celebration, which takes place at the start of the new year.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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