Tawang

Tawang district is the smallest of the 16 administrative districts of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India.With a population of 49,977, it is the eighth least populous district in the country (out of 640).

Tawang is inhabited by the Monpa people. From 500 BC to 600 AD a kingdom known as Lhomon or Monyul ruled the area. The Monyul kingdom was later absorbed into the control of neighbouring Bhutan and Tibet.

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.

Tawang was historically part of Tibet. 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Tawang district was formed in 1989 when it was split from West Kameng district.

The district is divided into 3 sub-divisions: Tawang, Lumla and Jang. Tawang sub-division is divided into 2 administrative circles: Tawang and Kitpi. Lumla sub-division is divided into 4 administrative circles: Bongkhar, Dudunghar, Lumla and Zemithang. Jang sub-division is divided into 4 administrative circles: Jang, Mukto, Thingbu and Lhou.

There are 3 Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly constituencies located in this district: Lumla, Tawang and Mukto. All of these are part of Arunachal West Lok Sabha constituency.

The 2,000-kilometre-long (1,200 mi) proposed Mago-Thingbu to Vijaynagar Arunachal Pradesh Frontier Highway along the McMahon Line,(will intersect with the proposed East-West Industrial Corridor Highway) and will pass through here, alignment map of which can be seen here.

Most of the tribes depend on agriculture for a living. Owing to Tawang’s cold climate, farmers breed yak and sheep, although in lower altitudes crops are also planted.

The 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 belongs to the Gelugpa sect and 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