Saturday, November 14, 2009


Tawang (达旺城, 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, the hill town is quite like the last frontier, strategically placed between China, Tibet and Myanmar.

Tawang town is located approximately 555km (345 miles) from Guwahati. Tawang has an average elevation of 2,669 meters (8,756 feet). Tawang is well connected to Tibet in the north by the Bum La and Tulung La passes.

A sizeable population of 20,000 live in Tawang town. The dominant ethnic group are the Monpa, who inhabit 162 out of 163 villages. The Tibetan are also found in small scattered numbers throughout Tawang. Shyo village houses about 90 families of Tibetan origin. The Takpa, a small tribal group, are found in small, scattered numbers in the West and the North.

Most of the people, which includes the Monpa, Takpa and the Tibetans, are Tibetan Buddhist by religion.

The sixth Dalai Lama was born in this region, home to the Monpa people who speak a tongue similar to Tibetan and where ancient funeral rituals comprise chopping the dead into 108 pieces and consigning them to the river.

How to get there
There are a number of ways to get to Tawang from Kolkata, the simplest being to first get to either Guwahati (1081 km from Kolkata) or Tezpur (1100 km) in Assam. You can fly or take a train to any of these cities, the most practical being Guwahati since Tezpur does not have direct connections. The closest railway station is Rangapara in Assam. From either Tezpur or Guwahati, there are regular public and private bus services to Tawang. It is a good idea to hire a jeep, Sumo or other rugged vehicle with an experienced hill driver to do the mountain drive - this is a 479 km journey of about 16 to 20 hours.

Indian tourists visiting Arunachal Pradesh require an Inner Line Permit. Foreign tourists intending to visit Arunachal need clearance from the Home Ministry and a Restricted Area Permit, which takes approximately three weeks to be issued. The Permit is valid for 10 days. A minimum of four and a maximum of fourteen tourists must travel together on a tour arranged through an approved travel agent.

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Tawang was once a part of Tibet. In 1914, the MacMahon line was drawn by the British and Tawang became a part of India. Tawang was forcefully acquired by British India using McMahon Line. By acquiring Tawang, British India totally disregard the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention. 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. Elections have taken place regularly and democratic state legislature elected peacefully.

The Dalai Lama also passed through Tawang while fleeing Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Tawang Monastery
Tawang Monastery was founded by the Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso in accordance to the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso. The monastery is of the Gelugpa sect is the largest Buddhist monastery in India. It is associated with Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. The name Tawang means Chosen Horse. It is also known by another Tibetan name, Galden Namgey Lhatse, which means a true name within a celestial paradise in a clear night.

Tawang Monastery is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery after the Potala Palace in Tibet's capital Lhasa, but for many exiles it is also a home away from home.

Tawang district, perched at 10,000 feet above sea level, is the home of Tawang Monastary. Winters are harsh, and summers see long periods of heavy rainfall. In Tibetan Buddhism, Tawang is of special significance as it is the birthplace of His Holiness the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Tawang is a beautiful place. It is now also a tourist attraction.

Tension between China and India

In 1914, the MacMahon line was drawn by the British. On that basis, Tawang became a part of India, forcefully taken from China with a pen on the famous line. In 1949, Chinese communist formed the People Republic of China in China, People Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet in 1950 and implemented communist rule, taking over from KMT and de facto Tibet Province government. Communist rule will not tolerate religion and feudal leadership. Dalai Lama knew that his time as religion and feudal leader is short, he need to escape from the communist rule. There was an uprising in 1956, but failed. He fled to India via Tawang in 1959.

China staked its claim over Tawang as it was previously a part of Tibet, and forcefully took over by British India. India has rebutted these claims by the Chinese, as it inherited the place from British India.

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.

(Note: until now the political historian still wonder why China voluntary withdrew from Tawang when she had won the war, as a victor it is not normal for a country to withdraw from a disputed border, China had the military ability to continue occupied the area. This is a strange move. China did not received any goodness as victor of the war. India later formalized their claim over the disputed border unilaterally, the actual winner of the war is India)

Dalai Lama's visit
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.

The timing of Dalai Lama's visit is not appropriate, and the visit is politically pre-arranged at high profile level, with the official receiving by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. After the controversial visit to Taiwan(politically sensitive area for China)when he was giving prayer to a area affected by flooding, but inhabited with high concentration of Christian natives, the critic said the visit is with political intention(invited by opposition party). The visit to Tawang(a town located at border dispute area) within a short span of time from his Taiwan visit. the intention is again political publicity plot, especially after they have failed in playing Olympic politic game/sport politic game. He has shown his true color in politic. Dalai Lama may have claimed it is purely a religion visit, similar to the visit to Taiwan, any sensible Tibet analyst will know the truth..... it is political move by a person with dual personality(Religion leader & Political leader).

Related articles:

1.Remote town of Tawang sustains last vestiges of old Tibet(2009),
2.Tawang, India: History and Romance at 13,000 Feet, by Lakshmi Sarath,
3.On The Buddhist Trail to Tawang , by Ranjita Biswas ,
4.Tawang Monastery,
5. Tawang,

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