Tawang Monastery – Sacred Citadel
Founded in AD 1680, Tawang Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. Situated in Tawang town at an elevation of 3300 meters, the mesmerizing Buddhist citadel comprises 65 residential buildings which are home to 450 lamas. A centre for Buddhist cultural studies and a library with an invaluable collection of 400-year-old manuscripts are also found inside the compound.
While Tawang Monastery itself is sometimes shrouded in mysterious fingers of cloud, inside the resident monks are radiant, gladly stopping to share an anecdote and to touch visitors’ hearts with compassion.
Housed inside the central 3-storied building are an assembly hall, a temple and an 8.3 meter high golden Buddha.
In an adjoining courtyard, pilgrims to the monastery can set butter lamps alight. An act of devotion seen to symbolize the illumination of wisdom, Tibetan Buddhists will often offer several lamps, up to 108 at a time.
The degree of openness and accessibility to all visitors which exists at this holiest of sanctuaries left a deep impression on me.
We stood in the courtyard outside the temple taking in the view. Suddenly, the squeal of a dog broke the silence and we watched as a fluffy white canine scrambled across the cobblestones chased by a barefoot boy monk in hot pursuit. After stopping for a brief cuddle and scratch, they were off again. Why the hurry?
We followed behind in the direction of the monks’ quarters and the chanting of mantras filled the air. Then the reason for the novice monk’s haste dawned on us. Study time had begun in Tawang.