Tawang Town

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This article is about the municipality in India. For its namesake district, see Tawang district.
Snowfall in Tawang
Snowfall in Tawang
Tawang is located in Arunachal Pradesh
Location in Arunachal Pradesh, India
Coordinates: 27°35′18″N 91°51′55″E / 27.58833°N 91.86528°E / 27.58833; 91.86528Coordinates: 27°35′18″N 91°51′55″E / 27.58833°N 91.86528°E / 27.58833; 91.86528
Country  India
State Arunachal Pradesh
District Tawang
Elevation 2,669 m (8,757 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 11,202
 • Official English
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Tawang Town with Tawang Monastery in background
Birthplace of 6th Dalai Lama, Urgelling Monastery, near Tawang Town

Tawang (Hindi: तवांग) is a town situated at an elevation of approximately 3,048 metres (10,000 ft) in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh of India. The area is claimed by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of India as a part of South Tibet.[1][2] 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 555 kilometres (345 mi) from Guwahati and 320 kilometres (200 mi) from Tezpur. Tawang has an average elevation of 2,669 metres (8,757 ft).


As of the 2011 Indian census,[3] Tawang had a population of 11,202. 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.


Tawang was historically part of Tibet inhabited by the Monpa people. The Tawang Monastery was founded by the Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, and has an interesting legend surrounding its name, which means "Chosen by Horse". The sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born in Tawang.

The 1914 Simla Accord defined the McMahon Line as the new boundary between British India and Tibet. By this treaty Tibet relinquished several hundred square miles of its territory, including Tawang, to the British, but it was not recognised by China.[4] However, the British did not take possession of Tawang and Tibet continued to administer and collect taxes in Tawang. When the British botanist Frank Kingdon-Ward crossed the Sela Pass and entered Tawang in 1935 without permission from Tibet, he was briefly arrested. This drew the attention of the British, who reexamined the Indo-Tibetan border and rediscovered that Tibet had ceded Tawang to British India. Tibet did not repudiate the Simla Accord and the McMahon Line but refused to surrender Tawang, partly because of the importance attached to the Tawang Monastery. In 1938 the British made a cautious move to assert sovereignty over Tawang by sending a small military column under Capt. G.S. Lightfoot to Tawang.[5]

Lightfoot's brief visit elicited a strong diplomatic protest from Tibet but did not cause any territorial change. After the outbreak of the war with Japan in 1941 the government of Assam undertook a number of 'forward policy' measures to tighten their hold on the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) area, which later became Arunachal Pradesh. In 1944 administrative control was extended over the area of the Tawang tract lying South of the Sela Pass when J.P. Mills set up an Assam Rifles post at Dirang Dzong and sent the Tibetan tax-collectors packing. Tibetan protests were brushed aside. However, no steps were taken to evict the Tibetan from the area North of the pass which contained Tawang town.[6]

The situation continued after India's independence but underwent a decisive change in 1950 when Tibet lost its de facto independence and was incorporated into the newly established People's Republic of China. In February 1951, Major Ralengnao 'Bob' Khathing led an Assam Rifles column to Tawang town and took control of the remainder of the Tawang tract from the Tibetans, removing the Tibetan administration.[7][8]

During the Sino-Indian war of 1962, Tawang fell briefly under Chinese control, but China voluntarily withdrew its troops at the end of the war. Tawang again came under Indian administration, but China has not relinquished its claims on most of Arunachal Pradesh including Tawang.[9]

Visits by Dalai Lama[edit]

When the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to escape from Chinese army, he crossed into India on 30 March 1959 and spent some days at the Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April.[10] Tawang Monastery is said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa, Tibet.[11]

Until 2003, the Dalai Lama said that Arunachal Pradesh was "actually part of Tibet". He reversed his position in 2008, acknowledging the legitimacy of the McMahon Line and the Indian claim to the region.[12]

The Dalai Lama visited Tawang on 8 November 2009. About 30,000 people, including those from neighbouring Nepal and Bhutan, attended his religious discourse.[13] China objected to Dalai Lama's visit.


The nearest airports are at Salonibari Airport, Tezpur, and Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati, which are roughly 14 hour drive from Tawang. Along road Tawang is 262 km from Bhalukpong, 319 km from Tezpur, 320 km from Missamari, 383 km from Nagaon, 381 km from East Kameng, 390 km from Udalguri, 402 km from Dhula, 408 km from Paneri, 440 km from Itanagar and 502 km from Sagali and is very well connected with buses of APSRTC and some private travel services. Tawang has no railway and the nearest railway station is at Tezpur, which is connected to the all major cities of Assam. Broadgauge railway line connecting Missamari in Assam with Tawang is proposed and the survey for the line was sanctioned in the year 2011 and is due to commence shortly[14]


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.[15][15] It is said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa, Tibet.[16] It is a major holy site for Tibetan Buddhists as it was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama.[12] It is also famous for Snowfall which occurs every year during December-January.[17]

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, crossing Sela Pass at 4,176 metres (13,701 ft). Tourists can travel to Tawang from Tezpur, Assam by road. Tezpur has direct flights from Kolkata. Guwahati, Assam, is 16 hours by road. In Oct 2014, two times a week helicopter service from Guwahati was started by the Arunachal Pradesh government.

There is also a ski lift in town.



  1. ^ Maxwell, Neville (1970). India's China War. New York: Pantheon. p. 65. ISBN 9780224618878. 
  2. ^ J Michael Cole (November 27, 2012). "China’s New Passport Sparks Controversy". The Diplomat. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  4. ^ Shakya (1999), p. 279.
  5. ^ A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951, by M.C.Goldstein (University of California Press,1989), pp. 299–307.
  6. ^ India's China War by Neville Maxwell (Anchor Books, 1972), pp.50–51.
  7. ^ India's China War by Neville Maxwell (Anchor Books, 1972),page 66
  8. ^ http://assamrifles.gov.in/news_view.aspx?id=1300
  9. ^ India's China War by Neville Maxwell (Anchor Books, 1972),pp.384–502
  10. ^ Richardson (1984), p. 210.
  11. ^ Buddhist monks lead insular lives in India
  12. ^ a b "Tawang is part of India: Dalai Lama". TNN. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Thousands flock to see Dalai Lama in Indian state.
  14. ^ "Defence Ministry allots 4 more strategic rail lines to NE". newsbharati. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Tawang District: The Land of Monpas
  16. ^ Young Buddhist monks lead insular lives in India
  17. ^ "Tourists overjoyed as Tawang receives Seasons's 1st Snowfall". Biharprabha News. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 


External links[edit]