Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Remote town of Tawang sustains last vestiges of old Tibet

November 11, 2009

By Krittivas Mukherjee
November 10, 2009

TAWANG, India (Reuters) -- Perched in the icy folds of the Himalayas
near India's border with China, Tawang Buddhist, monastery, where the
Dalai Lama made a controversial trip at the weekend, is at the heart
of efforts to preserve old Tibet.

To the sound of gongs, maroon-robed monks with shaven heads readied
for prayer near a 25-feet high golden Buddha decked with horns, and
incense braziers.

In town, elderly Buddhists, many wearing caps made from yak hair,
basked in the morning sun with rosaries in hand. Many stopped by the
monastery to receive blessings from senior lamas.

Tawang monastery is a complex of 65 white-walled buildings with
yellow pagoda-like roofs under which hundreds of monks and nuns keep
alive a centuries-old culture and language.

For exiled Tibetans there was little surprise their spiritual leader,
the Dalai Lama, should visit Tawang. China, however, criticised the
trip as undermining Beijing's territorial integrity and encouraging
Tibetan independence.

Tawang is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery after the Potala
Palace in Tibet's capital Lhasa, but for many exiles it is also a
home away from home.

"You will find the spirit of Tibet in the air and no matter what
China tries, it cannot finish off our culture, tradition," said
Gurutulku, a senior monk.

There are other Buddhist enclaves in India -- including the Dalai
Lama's headquarters in Dharamsala, but Tawang is a tinderbox in
relations between India and China, which claims the town and also an
adjoining area roughly the size of Portugal.


Beijing cites the Tawang lamasery as evidence the region forms part
of southern Tibet and that New Delhi should hand it back to settle
the border dispute that led to a brief war in 1962.

"Tawang's political significance is what makes it important, said
Jambey Tashi, Tawang's local lawmaker." Besides, many look at Tawang
for direction when it comes to preserving Tibetan culture and heritage".

A permit system helps protect Tawang's culture, shielding it from
mass immigration and unchecked tourism. The region has no airport,
erratic power supply and opportunities for higher studies are non-existent.

The sixth Dalai Lama was born in this region, home to the Monpa
people who speak a tongue similar to Tibetan and where ancient
funeral rituals comprise chopping the dead into 108 pieces and
consigning them to the river.

The influence of the current 14th Dalai Lama over Tawang is enormous.
He appoints the powerful abbot of its monastery and his
government-in-exile funds institutions in this area.

The Dalai Lama also passed through Tawang while fleeing Tibet after a
failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Many in Tawang say incidents such as last year's violent Chinese
crackdown in Tibet has only steeled their resolve to protect their
culture and religion.

"We hear about the atrocities in Tibet, the repression they (China)
are carrying out," said R. Neema, a local doctor. "But Tawang will
try to sustain what China seeks to destroy in Tibet."
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank