Tawang

Tawang is a town in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, situated 448km north-west of state capital Itanagar at an elevation of approximately 3,048 metres (10,000 ft). 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.

History

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 recognized by China.According to Tsering Shakya, the British records show that the border agreed in 1914 was conditional upon China accepting the Simla Convention. Since the British were unable to get China's acceptance, the Tibetans regarded the MacMahon line "invalid".According to Jia Liang, the British did not take possession of Tawang, which continued to be administered by Tibet. When the British botanist Frank Kingdon-Ward crossed the Sela Pass and entered Tawang in 1935 without permission from Tibet, he was briefly arrested. The Tibetan government lodged a formal complaint against Britain. This drew the attention of the British, who re-examined the Indo-Tibetan border and rediscovered that Tibet had ceded Tawang to British India, and attempted to revive the McMahon Line. In November, the British government demanded that Tibet implement the 1914 Simla Accord; this met with rejection from the Tibetan government, which rejected the validity of the McMahon Line. Tibet refused to surrender Tawang, partly because of the importance attached to the Tawang Monastery. In 1938 the British made a move to assert sovereignty over Tawang by sending a small military column under Capt. G.S. Lightfoot to Tawang.This expedition was met with strong resistance from the Tibetan government and local people; a protest was lodged against the British Indian government. Lightfoot's brief visit elicited a strong diplomatic protest from Tibet but did not cause any territorial change. After the outbreak of the war between China and 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 Tibet from the area north of the pass which contained Tawang town. The situation continued after India's independence but underwent a decisive change in 1950 when Tibet lost its autonomy 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.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. The MLA (August 2016) of Tawang constituency is Tsering Tashi.

Geography

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).

Demographics

As of the 2011 census, Tawang had a population of 11,202

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. 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.It is said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa, Tibet.It is a major holy site for Tibetan Buddhists as it was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama. When the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to escape from the 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.Prior to 1959, the Dalai Lama refused to recognize India's sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang. In 2003, the Dalai Lama said that "Arunachal Pradesh was actually part of Tibet". In January 2007, he said that in 1914, both the Tibetan government and Britain recognized the McMahon Line. In 2008, he said that "Arunchal Pradesh was a part of India under the agreement signed by Tibetan and British representatives".The Dalai Lama visited Tawang on 8 November 2009. About 30,000 people, including those from neighbouring Nepal and Bhutan, attended his religious discourse.

Transportation

Airport

Tawang Air Force Station has an already functional heliport and fixed-wing "Advanced Landing Ground" (AGL) capable of handling Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. The Indian Airforce (IAF) has offered the upgraded ALG in Tawang for the operation of civil helicopter and flights for the tourism and UDAN scheme. The nearest functional civil airports with scheduled flights are the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati and Salonibari Airport at Tezpur located at a distance of 450 and 325 kilometers, respectively.

Railway

The nearest existing railway station is at Naharlagun, which is connected to major cities. A broad-gauge railway line connecting Missamari in Assam with Tawang has been proposed and a survey for the line was sanctioned in 2011. The proposed 166 km long Bhalukpong-Tawang railway link from the existing Bhalukpong railway station to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh being undertaken as the national project will boost tourism and enhance the national security with faster movement of troops, it will pass through elevations of over 10,000 feet, the 80% of the tracks will be through tunnels and the longest tunnel will be 29.48 km long. This link will reduce the existing 285 km Bhalukpong-Tawang road distance by 119 km, and to shorten the road distance as well the railway will also develop 2 lane road highway along the rail line.[23] Once completed, further extionsion plans include a 100 km long western spur to Yongphulla Airport (upgraded by India and jointly used by the Indian Army and Bhutan Army) in eastern Bhutan via Yabab in India and Trashigang in Bhutan.
Road
Located on the noethwern most end of NH 13 of Trans-Arunachal Highway network, Tawang is 447.5 kilometres (278.1 mi) from state capital Itanagar and is connected with buses run by APSRTC and private services. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was tasked in July 2020 to build the strategic road from Lumla west of Tawang in India Trashigang in Bhutan through Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary which will reduce Guwahati to Tawang by 150 km and enable rapid deployment of troops in eastern Bhutan and in Tawang sector of India-China-Bhutan boder.This will be an upgrade of the existing Malo Road along Manas River (Dangme Chu River in Bhutanse) to National Highway standards, of this 40 km new winding road the 11 km "Khitshang Road-Manlo Road" stretch from Duksum on "Trashiyangtse-Tashigang Road" to Bhutan-India border in the east as well Lumla in India to Bhutan-India border already exists, only 10 km of new road needs to be constructed and the rest will be an upgrade of the existing roads. There are proposals to build more roads to connect eastern Bhutan with western Tawang such as "Trashigang-Namshu Road", the "Chorten Kora-Zemithang Road", road upgrade in Bhutan to Singye Dzong on Bhutan-China border, and an advance landing ground airstrip near Singye Dzong area along with more helipads in this area. Sela Tunnel through Sela Pass is an under-construction road tunnel project to ensure all-weather connectivity between Guwahati in Assam and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh state of India. The tunnel gets its name from 4170 m (13,700 ft) Sela Pass which this tunnel will cut across and reduce the distance between Dirang and Tawang by 10 km. The Government of India announced the funding for construction of all weather transport tunnel in 2018-19 budget.Construction will start in Jan/Feb 2019 and end by Jan/Feb 2022.The tunnel which is being constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will cut the travel time from the Indian Army's IV Corps headquarter at Tezpur to Tawang by at least 10 km or 1 hour, and it will also help make the NH13 an all-weather road to access Tawang which usually gets disconnected during winter.Pass itself is located at 13,700 feet,but the tunnel will pass through at the height of 10,000 feet. BRO is also improving the road from Sangestar Tso (north of Tawang) to Bum La Pass on India-China Line of Actual Control (disputed parts of McMahon Line).The tenders for construction were floated in 2018, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone in Feb 2019 to commence the construction.

Tourism

Tawang receives snowfall every year during December–January.There is also a ski lift in town. Visitors to Tawang, as is the case with the entire Arunachal Pradesh, require special Inner Line Permit (ILP) issued by the concerned government body and can be obtained from offices based 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 and Tezpur has direct flights from Kolkata. In Oct 2014, a biweekly helicopter service from Guwahati was started by the Arunachal Pradesh government. Other notable and worth visiting places include: Sela Pass Bumla Lumla Sungester (Madhuri) Lake PTSO Lake Zemithang