The Tawang a non-descript sleepy town in the far flung fringes of Arunachal Pradesh, barely 35km from the borders of South Tibet, now under Chinese occupation is isolated from the rest of India except for a road held by the Sela Pass that leads traffic from Guwahati to Tawang. Tawang also shares its border with Bhutan as well. Tawang was initially chosen as a site for the monastery owing to its proximity as a confluence center for the surrounding Buddhist populace of Tibet and Bhutan.
According to Buddhist legend, the story behind the nomenclature of Tawang is very interesting. There are many legends explaining the nomenclature of the town of Tawang and its world renowned monastery. There is a story of Merak Lama, a practising Buddhist monk who had difficulty in scouting a peaceful, isolated and serene location for establishing the monastery. Unable to come to any concrete decision by himself, Merak lama decided to seek divine intervention and in doing so, he retired into a mountain cave and proceeded to engage in lengthy meditation. When he finally emerged from his spiritual trance, he proceeded to look for his horse, the same one he had ridden to this spot and whom he had tied up before proceeding to retire inside the cave. However, despite searching for it, he could not find his beloved horse. After some time Merak Lama was able to find the horse, grazing at the helm of a mountain. Merak Lama realized the horse was the divine intervention and the answer to his prayers. The horse was grazing fresh green grass in a meadow untouched by snow although it was snow capped everywhere with no sign of vegetation. In Tibetan, ‘Ta’ means horse and ‘wang’ means “chosen”, thus the name Tawang which means selected by a horse. The full name of the Tawang monastery is Tawang Galdan Namgye Lhatse which translates to “The site chosen by the horse is the divine celestial paradise”.