India / Places We Go

Tawang Monastery

I’ve been banging on a lot recently about the road to Tawang… So, what is it that’s so great about Tawang? Well, as I hope my prior pictures will help to demonstrate, a significant component is very much a case of the journey being the destination. That said, Tawang is certainly a worthy destination in its own right. The highlight of Tawang is its Buddhist monastery. Founded in 1680, it is the second largest in the world after Lhasa.

My first glimpse of the Tawang Monastery at dawn was enough to convince me that it was indeed a special place:

tawang monastery

That impression was enhanced when we arrived at the monastery and I was able to enjoy its tremendous vantage point. The ridge on those mountains is the Chinese border:

tawang monastery

This is the entrance we used to enter the grounds of the monastery:

tawang monastery

The main courtyard at the Tawang Monastery… The building dominating the picture below is the prayer hall:

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

This is the ornate doorway leading into the prayer hall:

tawang monastery

Along the walls flanking the entrance above are a series of murals and paintings – such as this one below representing the path to enlightenment:

tawang monastery

Some details of the other paintings and murals:

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

Entering the prayer hall… These soldiers were visiting at the same time we were:

tawang monastery

The giant Buddha statue within the prayer hall:

tawang monastery

There was quite an array of the musical instruments that are used in ceremonies stashed around the interior of the prayer hall – such as these trumpets:

tawang monastery

Or these drums:

tawang monastery

A view down into the prayer hall from the second floor:

tawang monastery

This is an upper chamber within the prayer hall:

tawang monastery

In the foreground of that last picture was this – an urn filled with yak butter. A candle wick is placed inside and it thus serves as a large candle:

tawang monastery

But they don’t just use the yak butter for candles or tea… Believe it or not, this statue is made entirely of yak butter:

tawang monastery

Some of the other artwork in the upper chamber:

tawang monastery

Blending the old world and the new – a tea station inside the prayer hall:

tawang monastery

Outside again and wandering around the grounds of the Tawang Monastery complex, we came across an operation for producing puffed wheat… The process would start with this man heating up these bowls of sand over the fire:

tawang monastery

Once the sand was sufficiently heated, this woman would pour a layer of wheat onto the sand which would then be shaken to mix it together. The tremendous heat from the sand would cause the wheat to pop like popcorn, producing puffed wheat:

tawang monastery

The sand and wheat would then be run through this sifter that retained the wheat, but allowed the sand to drop back down into the bowl it came from. The bowl of sand would then be returned to the fire to be heated up again:

tawang monastery

And the freshly produced puffed wheat would be dumped into this basket seen below… We tried some of the hot puffed wheat and it was quite good:

tawang monastery

Some of the people we met while exploring around the monastery…

This monk is showing us his spartan living quarters:

tawang monastery

Weaving a basket:

tawang monastery

I enjoyed very much just wandering around the streets and alleyways within the monastery:

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

tawang monastery

Any building we entered always seemed to lead to something interesting:

tawang monastery

This group was practicing prayers, but as soon as we were noticed they started bringing things over to us such as sweets and a plate of freshly cut apples:

tawang monastery

These monks are congregating outside the school located within the Tawang Monastery:

tawang monastery

A closer look at the school building:

tawang monastery

Some of the young monks in a classroom… Aside from their traditional religious teachings, they are also taught mathematics, English and Hindi:

tawang monastery

In regard to the monastic education, we were advised that there are four significant rules the monks must abide by if they wish to remain monks. They are as follows:

1) No big lies (white lies are okay)
2) No wives or girlfriends
3) No stealing
4) No murder

The Tawang Monastery houses 500-600 monks and they reside in the buildings with yellow roofs that you can see below…

tawang monastery

A view down an alley into the land of yellow rooftops:

tawang monastery

One of the homes of the monks:

tawang monastery

This woman is spinning some of the prayer wheels located within the monastery complex. Buddhists believe this releases the prayers:

tawang monastery

A view up to the Tawang Monastery from another entrance:

tawang monastery

I quite liked this sign next to the entrance:

tawang monastery

This building next to the main entrance contains a waterwheel and was churning out a continuous flow of cold, pure water:

tawang monastery

As you can hopefully tell, the Tawang Monastery is an impressive place and, I believe, quite worth the long drive up:

tawang monastery

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3 thoughts on “Tawang Monastery

  1. Landslides hit Tawang monastery

    Times of India, Nov 28, 2010, 04.54am IST
    ITANAGAR: The Dalai Lama’s first abode in India is in danger of collapse.

    The Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, where the spiritual leader stayed in 1959 during his flight from Tibet, has been witnessing massive landslides around it since Monday.

    The 330-year-old monastery, also known as Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, stands on the spur of a hill about 10,000 feet above sea level. Landslides have already damaged the plantation and electric posts around it. Such landslides are normally seen during the monsoon or are triggered by cloud bursts, but seldom occur in winter.

    Chief minister Dorjee Khandu rushed to Tawang on Friday to assess the damage. Officials said he asked the district administration and public works department to deploy workers and equipment to contain the damage. Khandu also said he would alert the the Centre on the threat to the historic monastery, and try and work out a conservation plan.

    The monastery was founded near the small town of the same name in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the fifth Dalai Lama. On the basis of this argument, China claims Tawang as its own.

    The monastery, which has ravines in the south and west, a narrow ridge on the north and a gradual slope on the east, belongs to the Gelugpa school. “The monks living in the monastery are a worried lot. The sludge triggered by the landslide is making the Tawang-Chu river dirty,” an official said.

    The monastery, Asia’s second largest, has a three-storeyed library that boasts of a collection of 400-year-old Kangyur scriptures, large collections of Sutras, Tangym, Sungbhum, old books and invaluable manuscripts, many of them in gold. It has 65 residential buildings, currently housing about 500 Lamas.

  2. Pingback: A Nunnery In Tawang: Brahma Dung Chung Ani Gompa (also known as Thukje Chueling) | The Velvet Rocket

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