Tawang is a town situated at an elevation of approximately 3,048 metres (10,000 ft) in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh in India. The area is administered by the Republic of India as a part of the North East state of Arunachal Pradesh and is claimed by People’s Republic of China as a part of South Tibet. 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 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. 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.
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).
The nearest airports are at Salonibari Airport in Tezpur (319 kilometres (198 mi)) and Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati. By road, Tawang is 440 kilometres (270 mi) from capital Itanagar and is connected with buses run by APSRTC and private services. The nearest railway station is at Tezpur, 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.
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, two times a week helicopter service from Guwahati was started by the Arunachal Pradesh government.
The climate is warm and temperate in Tawang. In winter, there is much less rainfall in Tawang than in summer. According to Köppen and Geiger, this climate is classified as Cwb. The average temperature in Tawang is 10.3 °C. The average annual rainfall is 2007 mm. Tawang receives heavy rainfall during monsoon season i.e. May–October whereas in winter Tawang receives heavy snowfall(6m – 10m).