Tawang is a town situated at an elevation of approximately 3,048 metres (10,000 ft) in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh of India. The area is claimed by both the People's Republic of China and the 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.
The 8m tall statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in the Tawang Monastery. Tawang Monastery was founded by the Mera Lama Lodre Gyasto 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 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. Tipi Orchid sanctuary in Tawang houses thousands of varieties of orchids. Visitors to Tawang require special Inner line permits from the government which are available in Kolkata, Guwahati, Tezpur, and New Delhi.
Most of the travel from the plains is on a steep hill road journey, crossing Sela Pass 4,176 metres (13,701 ft). Tourists can travel there from Tezpur, Assam, which is 12 hours by road. Tezpur has direct flights from Kolkata. Guwahati, Assam, is 16 hours by road. In June 2008, a daily helicopter service from Guwahati was started by the Arunachal Pradesh government. Road travel to Tawang from Tezpur, Assam, is by buses, private taxis and shared taxis. It is an arduous journey: most of the road is loose tarmac and gravel giving way to mud in many places. However, it is a scenic journey of nearly 12 hours, crossing Bomdila Pass 2,438 metres (8,000 feet), peaking at Sela Pass 4,176 metres (13,700 feet), Jaswant Garh and, finally, Tawang.
Government buses often break down and passengers end up hitchhiking in private cars and taxis. En route, local food is available, especially meat and vegetarian momos and cream buns. When the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet, he crossed into India on 30 March 1959 and spent some days resting at Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April. Tawang Monastery is said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa, Tibet.
In 1914, the McMahon line was drawn by the British and Tawang was included into India from Tibet (see Simla Accord (1914)). It came under effective Indian administration on 12 February 1951, when Major R Khating led Indian Army troops to relocate Chinese squatters. The takeover was informed to Tibetan authorities but not to PRC. India assumed sovereignty of the territory and established democratic rule therein to end the oppression of the Monpa. Elections have taken place regularly and the democratic state legislature elected peacefully.
Tawang is the base for Parvat Ghatak Commando School, one of Indian Army's elite high altitude warfare training schools. Several domestic and international units have been trained in high altitude special operations at this school.