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Tawang तवांग
Snowfall in Tawang
Tawang तवांग
Location of Tawang तवांग
in Arunachal Pradesh and India
Coordinates 27°35′N 91°52′E / 27.58°N 91.87°E / 27.58; 91.87
Country  India
State Arunachal Pradesh
District(s) Tawang
Population 4,456 (2001)
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

2,669 m (8,757 ft)
Tawang Town with Tawang Monastery in background
Birthplace of 6th Dalai Lama, Urgelling Monastery, near Tawang Town

Tawang (Tibetan: རྟ་དབང་Wylie: Rta-dbang, Hindi: तवांग) is a small town situated at an elevation of approximately 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh, India. The town once served as the district headquarters of West Kameng district, and became the district headquarters of Tawang district when it was formed from West Kameng.



Tawang town is located approximately 555km (345 miles) from Guwahati. Tawang has an average elevation of 2,669 meters (8,756 feet).


As of the 2001 India census,[1] Tawang had a population of 38,924. Males constitute 54% of the population and females constitute 46%. Tawang has an average literacy rate of 63%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 70%, and female literacy is at 55%. In Tawang, 17% of the population is under 6 years of age.


The 8m tall statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in the Tawang Monastery.

Tawang Monastery was founded by the Mera Lama Lodre Gyasto in accordance to the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect and is the largest Buddhist monastery in India. The name Tawang (Tibetan: རྟ་དབང་Wylie: Rta-dbang) means Horse Chosen.[2][2] It is said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa, Tibet.[3] It is a major holy site for Tibetan Buddhists.

Tipi Orchid sanctuary in Tawang houses thousands of varieties of orchids.

Visitors to Tawang require special Inner line permits from the government which are available in Kolkata, Guwahati, Tezpur, and New Delhi. Most of the travel from the plains is on a steep hill road journey and one needs to cross Sela Pass 4,176 metres (13,700 feet) to get there.

Tourists can travel there from Tezpur, Assam, which is 12 hours by road. Tezpur has direct flights from Kolkata. Guwahati, Assam, is 16 hours by road. In June 2008, a daily helicopter service from Guwahati was started by the Arunachal Pradesh government.

Road travel to Tawang from Tezpur, Assam, is by buses, private taxis and shared taxis. It is an arduous journey: most of the road is loose tarmac and gravel giving way to mud in many places. However, it is a scenic journey of nearly 12 hours, crossing Bomdila Pass 2,438 metres (8,000 feet), peaking at Sela Pass 4,176 metres (13,700 feet), Jaswant Garh and, finally, Tawang. Government buses often break down (usually on the way up) and passengers end up hitchhiking in private cars and taxis. En route, one can sample local food especially meat & vegetarian momos and cream buns. Hilarious road safety signs posted by the Border Roads Organization keep one entertained throughout the journey.

When the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet, he crossed into India on 30 March 1959 and spent some days resting at Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April.[4] Tawang Monastery is said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa, Tibet.[5]

Political Importance

Tawang was once a part of Tibet. In 1914, the MacMahon line was drawn by the British and Tawang became a part of India. It came under effective Indian administration on February 12, 1951, when Major R Khating led Indian Army troops to relocate Chinese squatters. India assumed sovereignty of the territory and established democratic rule therein to end the oppression of the Monpa. Elections have taken place regulary and democratic state legislature elected peacefully.

During the Sino-Indian war of 1962, Tawang fell under Chinese control. The valiant last stand of Mahavir Chakra awardee Jaswant Singh Rawat took place in Tawang. After the voluntary withdrawal of Chinese troops, Tawang was once again under Indian administration. In recent years, China has occasionally voiced its claims on Tawang and Chinese troop incursions continue to occur frequently. India has rebutted these claims by Chinese government and the Indian prime minister has stated categorically that Tawang is an integral part of India. He repeated this to the Chinese prime minister when the two prime ministers met in Thailand in October 2009.

China objected to the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang in November 2009 though the Dalai Lama had previously visited Tawang several times since he left Tibet in 1959. India rejected Chinese objection and said that the Dalai Lama was an honoured guest in India and could visit any place in India. The Dalai Lama visited Tawang on 8 November 2009. About 30,000 persons including those from neighbouring countries, Nepal and Bhutan, attended his religious discourse.[6]

He was received and welcomed by the democratically elected Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh and the people of Arunachal Pradesh. The residents of Tawang were elated to have the Dalai Lama among them. They painted their houses afresh and spruced up the town. The whole town wore a festive look. [7]



  • Gyume Dorje. (1999). Footprint Tibet Handbook with Bhutan. Footprint Handbooks, Bath, England. ISBN 0 8442-2190-2.
  • Hugh E. Richardson (1984). Tibet & Its History. 1st edition 1962. 2nd edition, Revised and Updated. Shambhala Publications, Boston. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk).
  • Tsering Shakya. (1999). The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet since 1947. Columbia University Press. New York. ISBN0-231-11814-7.

External links



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