Sunday, December 25, 2011

Arunachal Pradesh - Visiting the North East (Part-VI)

Arunachal Pradesh – the land of dawn lit mountains
(Tawang – the last Shangri la)
A panoramic view of the Ganden Namgyal Lhaste or Tawang monastery
Nestled in the lap of Himalayas, at 11,500 feet above sea level, lies the famous Tawang monastery also called the land of the Monpas. A colorful canvas against a backdrop of the nature, it fills one's mind with spiritual bliss. Apart from the Tawang Monastery, the other important places that one can visit are the War Memorial & Crafts Centre within the precincts of the township. Having rested for the day after arriving from Dirang, we went for an excursion of the township the next day.
View of the Tawang town centre
Tawang Monastery - The legendry 17th century Tawang Monastery, perched atop a hill, juxtaposed against the clear blue sky, its first sight itself is an ethereal bliss. The Tawang or Ganden Namgyal Lhatse is the second largest monastery in Asia, next only to the one at Lahsa in Tibet. It is located atop a hillock at a height of about 10,000 feet, overlooking the Tawang Valley and resembles a fortress. With a history of over 400 years, having been founded by Lama Lodroe Gyamtso in 1681, the monastery is the largest of its kind in the country and controls seventeen Gompas in the region. It is the fountainhead of spiritual life for the followers of the Gelugpa sect of the Mahayana School of Buddhism. It is the fountainhead of the spiritual life of the Monpas and the Shedukpens. The Tawang monastery, apart from housing almost 800 Lamas with their living quarters and a huge kitchen to feed them also encompasses within its precincts the main prayer hall, called the Dukhang, which houses the huge 28 feet high gilded statute of Lord Buddha. The Monastery follows a strict hierarchy and from the lowest order it ascends in the following manner – (i)Lama; (ii) Ghesi; (iii) Galong & finally the highest in the order i.e. Rimpoche. Tawang is also associated with the famous Torgya festival, which is held in the 11th Monpa month called the Dawa Chukchipah (i.e. December to January as per the Gregorian calendar). The festival brings out the Monpas from far and wide in all their colourful finery. The festival provides ample opportunities for the Gompas to sell an array of all their wares.
A birds eye view of Tawang Monastery & township

View of the statute of Buddha in the main prayer hall
Main entry gate of the Tawang Monastery
A wall panel inside the monastery

The main prayer hall outside view of the building

One of the artefacts kept in the museum maintained by the Monastery
Another artefact - a mask - kept in the museum maintained by the Monastery

Another artefact kept in the museum maintained by the Monastery
Tawang War Memorial – Built by the armed forces, as a monument dedicated to the memories of all those brave soldiers, who perished against the uncalled for offensive by the Chinese, while defending their motherland in 1962. It is a monument, where a 40 feet high Stupa has been built and houses many memorabilia of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, giving a glimpse into history of what our troops had to face while defending this god-forsaken land. It is situated about one kilometer from the town centre, below the famous Nehru Market.
Front view of the Tawang War Memorial

Standard Indian army equipment issued to soldiers in 1962 Sino-Indian war

A photograph of the terrain in 1962

Chinese army issue - automatic weapons in 1962 war against our vintage WW-I issue - Himalayan blunder?
Crafts Centre – Situated at a distance of about 2 kilometers from the heart of town. The Craft Centre has been established with the purpose of promoting the manufacture of local handicrafts and one can buy thangkas, carpets, masks, wooden bowls, carved wooden tables (known as chok-tse) and many other trinkets at reasonable rates. It is advisable to purchase from the craft centre only as the local shops in the town centre price their goods at very exorbitant rates.
Ugyenling Monastery – This place is situated about five kilometers from the town centre, was established by Ugyen Sangpo, the youngest brother of Pemalingpa, the famous Treasure Revealer (1450-1521). It was the first of the three Nyingmapa monasteries built in the Mon Tawang region by him, the other two being tose of Sangyeling and Tsogyeling. However, this monastery is most famous amongst the three, as the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso was born here in 1683. However, as of now only a shadow of its former grandeur can be seen as the sixth Dalai Lama was deposed off in 1706 by one Lajang Khan and his forces, which was sent against Bhutan also invaded Tawang and destroyed the temple to obliterate the memory of the Sixth Dalai Lama.
Ugeyengling Monastery - 15th Century structure where 6th Dalai Lama was born

Another view of the Ugeyengling Monastery
Despite the photographs that I have placed in the travelogue, nothing beats the moving images captured through video, you may enjoy the visual treat -

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