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Tawang district
—  District of Arunachal Pradesh  —
Location of Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh
Country India
State Arunachal Pradesh
Headquarters Tawang Town
 • Total 2,085 km2 (805 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 49,950[1]
 • Literacy 60.6%[1]
 • Sex ratio 701[1]
Website Official website

Tawang district is one of the 16 administrative districts of Arunachal Pradesh in eastern India. The area is historically Tibetan territory and is claimed by both India and Republic of China as a part of South Tibet. It is the eight least populous district in the country (out of 640).[2]


Prior to the construction of the Tawang Monastery, Tawang was traditionally inhabited by the Monpa people, who reigned over the Mon Kingdom that stretches from Tawang to Sikkim. The Mon 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 once a part of Tibet. The 1914 McMahon Line awarded Tawang to India, with Tibet relinquishing several hundred square miles of its territory, including the whole of the Tawang region, to the British.[3] It came under effective Indian administration on February 12, 1951, when Major R Khating led Indian Army troops to relocate Chinese squatters. India assumed control and sovereignty of the area and established democratic rule therein[4] to end the oppression of the Monpa.[5] Elections have taken place regularly and democratic state legislature elected peacefully.

During the Sino-Indian war of 1962, Tawang briefly 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 again came under Indian administration. In recent years, China has routinely voiced its claims on most of Arunachal Pradesh, especially Tawang, and both nations have regularly accused the other of troop incursions of a few kilometers or less. Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, has stated categorically that Tawang is an integral part of India, repeating this to the Chinese prime minister when the two prime ministers met in Thailand in October 2009.

Tawang district was formed in 1989 when it was split from West Kameng district.[6]

Today, Tawang serves as a center for tourist attractions, thanks to the well-preserved beauty of the Tawang Monastery.

Tension between China and India[]

In 1914, the McMahon line was drawn by the British government and the independent Tibetan government (see Simla Accord (1914)). On that basis, Britain claims Tawang as part of its territory. The Dalai Lama fled to India via Tawang. China staked its claim over Tawang as it had a sizable Tibetan population and was previously a part of Tibet. India has rebutted these claims.

China objected to the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang in November 2009, although the Dalai Lama had visited Tawang several times after leaving Tibet in 1959. India rejected Chinese objection and said that the Dalai Lama was an honoured guest and could visit any place in India.

The Dalai Lama visited Tawang on 8 November 2009. 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.

About 30,000 persons including those from neighbouring countries, Nepal and Bhutan, attended his religious discourse.[7]


Tawang district occupies an area of 2,172 square kilometres (839 sq mi),[8] comparatively equivalent to Scotland's Lewis and Harris.[9] The district is roughly located around latitude 27º 45’ N and longitude 90º 15’ E at the northwest extremity of South Tibet. Elevations range between 6,000 to 22,000 feet (6,700 m), and inhabitants are found at lower altitude, where they enjoy a cool temperate climate.

The district was carved out of the West Kameng district, which adjoins it to the south and east. Bhutan borders Tawang to the west whereas Tibet is to the north of the district. The district occupies an area of 2,085 square kilometers and has a population of 38,924 (as of 2001), almost 75% of which are considered "tribal", i.e. belonging to the native Monpa, Bhotia, Adi, etc.[10] The sensitivity of the border area brings Tawang a heavy military presence. In winter, Tawang frequently experiences heavy snowfall.[11]

Tawang Town with monastery in background.


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 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.[12]


According to the 2011 census Tawang district has a population of 49,950 ,[1] roughly equal to the nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis.[13] This gives it a ranking of 633rd in India (out of a total of 640).[1] The district has a population density of 23 inhabitants per square kilometre (60 /sq mi) .[1] Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 28.33 %.[1] Tawang has a sex ratio of 701 females for every 1000 males,[1] and a literacy rate of 60.61 %.[1]

A sizeable population of 20,000 live in Tawang town. The dominant ethnic group are the Monpa, who inhabit all of the 163 villages. The Tibetan are also found in small scattered numbers throughout Tawang. The Takpa, a small tribal group, are found in small, scattered numbers in the West and the North.[14][15][16]

Most of the people, which includes the Monpa, Takpa and the Tibetans, are Tibetan Buddhist by religion. Pre-Buddhist Bön and Shamanist influence is also evident. Festivals that include Losar, Choskar, and Torgya are held annually. The Dungyur is also celebrated in every three years of the Torgya. Both the Dungyur and Torgya festivals are celebrated at the Tawang Monastery with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm.


Tawang Monastery[]

Tawang Monastery.

Template:Tibetan Buddhism

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.[17] 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.

Boys playing in last melting snow at Sela Top.

Other attractions[]

In addition to the Tawang monastery, the town has a Handicrafts Center, which was started to promote the small-scale industries for local handicrafts. The center has a fine range of woolen carpets and shawls, amongst other things. People may also purchase rather inexpensive but good chubbas and shoes.

Sela Top Pass, just adjacent to Tawang rises steeply and is full of snow for most of the year.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "District Census 2011".  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "districtcensus" defined multiple times with different content
  2. ^ "District Census 2011". 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  3. ^ Shakya (1999), p. 279.
  4. ^ Maxwell, Neville (September 9, 2006). "Settlements and Disputes: China’s Approach to Territorial Issues" (PDF). Economic and Political Weekly 41 (36): 3876. Retrieved on 2006-09-29. 
  5. ^ Ramesh, Randeep (2006-11-20). "Last vestige of old Tibetan culture clings on in remote Indian state". The Guardian (London).,,1952122,00.html. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 
  6. ^ Law, Gwillim (2011-09-25). "Districts of India". Statoids. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  7. ^ Thousands flock to see Dalai Lama in Indian state.
  8. ^ Srivastava, Dayawanti et al. (ed.) (2010). "States and Union Territories: Arunachal Pradesh: Government". India 2010: A Reference Annual (54th ed.). New Delhi, India: Additional Director General, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (India), Government of India. pp. 1113. ISBN 978-81-230-1617-7. 
  9. ^ "Island Directory Tables: Islands by Land Area". United Nations Environment Program. 1998-02-18. Retrieved 2011-10-11. "Lewis and Harris 2,179km2" 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Snowfall forces Advani to call off visit to Tawang
  12. ^ "Assembly Constituencies allocation w.r.t District and Parliamentary Constituencies". Chief Electoral Officer, Arunachal Pradesh website. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  13. ^ US Directorate of Intelligence. "Country Comparison:Population". Retrieved 2011-10-01. "Saint Kitts and Nevis 50,314 July 2011 est." 
  14. ^ About Tawang
  15. ^ Injustice in India's east
  16. ^ PHED Map
  17. ^ Footprint Tibet Handbook with Bhutan, p. 200. Gyume Dorje. (1999) Footprint Handbooks, Bath, England. ISBN 0 8442-2190-2.

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