Tawang Valley is dotted with monasteries and stupas. As soon as I entered Tawang, the first impressive sight was a serene monastery surrounded by trees on all sides.
You could spend a whole day visiting monasteries in Tawang. Among the many Gompas of Tawang, a few stood out. Urgelling Monastery is one of them and is the birth place of the 6th Dalai Lama (born Tsangyang Gyatso) . Once a revered gompa, nothing much of that grandness of the Urgelling Monastery has remained. Located 5km from the main town at the foothill, the Urgelling Monastery is a modest but colorful gompa hidden by old trees. The gate opened to a forlorn single temple that seemed far removed from today’s world. It seemed as if the place has refused to shake itself out of its 15th century glory.
The gompa was closed so I wandered around and came upon a house which was down a few steps in front of the gompa. Two kids shied away into the corridor and for a second I thought they were monks, until a woman appeared at the door. Since it was unusual for gompas to be without monks; and I hadn’t seen a single monk the whole morning, I asked her if at all there were monks in the gompa. She told me that the monks usually stay in the big Tawang monastery and visited the Urgelling Monastery only sometimes.
The Urgelling Gompa was built in around 1489 by Urgen Sangpo. It became a revered gompa after the 6th Dalai Lama Ngawang Gyamtso was born here in the year 1683. But the glory of the gompa was short lived, as the 6th Dalai Lama was deposed in 1706 by Lhazang Khan King of the Khoshut Mongols; an ally of Qing, the then Emperor of China. The 6th Dalai Lama was than replaced by Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso. But the Tibetans only recognized Tsangyang Gyatso as the true Dalai Lama.
The Urgelling Gompa looked like a forgotten temple, but through some historical knowledge one can see a lot more of this centuries old gompa.