Buddhist Circuit

Sikkim was blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, the great Buddhist saint who visited Sikkim in the 8th century and consecrated the land, meditating at its four corners to rid it of all negativity. Here he is believed to have hidden many secret teachings, which he prophesized would be discovered in the future by those specially blessed by spiritual powers.

It was a realization of this prophecy when in the 17th century three learned lamas, Lhatsun Chenpo, Karthok Rikzin Chenpo and Ngadak Sempa Chenpo entered Sikkim from three different directions and met at Norbugang, Yuksom and decided to establish a Buddhist monarchy in the state. In 1642, the three monks crowned Phuntsog Namgyal the first monarch of Sikkim giving him the title of Chogyal [Dharma Raja].

While Phuntsog Namgyal worked on consolidating the kingdom, the three monks led by Lhatsun Chenpo concentrated on building monasteries and shrines all over Sikkim. The first monasteries built in Sikkim were the ones in Dubdi and Sanga Choling [both in West Sikkim], close to Yuksum. Soon nearly every village had its own monastery and these became not just places of worship but also educational centres.

Today Sikkim has nearly 200 monasteries and Lhakhangs and the influence of Buddhism is felt in nearly every corner of the state. From the fluttering prayer flags to the sacred caves, lakes and stupas, the images and symbols of Buddhism retain a freshness undimmed by the passage of time. Samdruptse

:Samdruptse:: 

Sikkim paid homage to its patron saint by constructing the tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava in the world atop the Samdruptse hill near Namchi in South Sikkim. The grand 138 ft statue was unveiled in February, 2004 and has been crafted according to details specified in religious texts. The statue is visible from as far away as the India-Nepal border and Darjeeling. It has already become a major pilgrimage site with both domestic and foreign tourists making it a part of their itinerary. A two-kilometre long ropeway will soon connect the Samdruptse hilltop with Namchi.

Monasteries of Sikkim ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pemayangste

:: Pemayangste ::

Perched on a hilltop with an impressive view of the Khangchendzonga range, Pemayangste [The perfect sublime lotus] is Sikkims premier monastery with all Nyingma monasteries here subordinate to it. Built during the reign of the third Chogyal, Chador Namgyal in 1705, on the spot where Lhatsun Chenpo had earlier erected a small shrine, Pemayangste houses exquisite works of religious art, including thankas and statues. On the top floor is a depiction of the heavenly abode of Guru Rimpoche, as it appeared to Lhatsun Chenpo in a vision. There are 108 monks in the monastery and according to tradition the monks belong to the leading Bhutia families of Sikkim.

The annual chaam or religious masked dance in Pemayangste is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding approximately to the month of February.

:: Tashiding ::Tashiding
Tashiding, the most holy of all monasteries in Sikkim was built in 1716 on the spot consecrated by Guru Rimpoche. According to legend Guru Rimpoche shot an arrow and vowed to meditate where it fell. The arrow dropped on the spot where the monastery now stands. Located on a hill top between the rivers Ratong and Rangeet it is surrounded by deep valleys. Tashiding also has the famous chorten Thongwa Rangdol built by Lhatsun Chenpo and considered the most holy in Sikkim. It is believed that a glimpse of this chorten is enough to cleanse one of a lifetime of sin.

The monastery is also the venue for the annual Bumchu festival which divines the fortune of the coming year for Sikkim.

Rumtek Monastery:: Rumtek ::

Located on a hill facing Gangtok and 24 kms from here, the original Rumtek monastery was built by the fourth Chogyal. This was damaged by an earthquake and has been rebuilt. The new Rumtek monastery was built by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. It is the largest in Sikkim and reflects the best of Tibetan architecture. It is also a treasure trove of some of the most unique religious objects found anywhere in the world, apart from also being a world-renowned centre of Kagyu teachings. Rumtek monastery is the seat of the Kargyupa sect of Buddhism and an almost replica of the Kagyu headquarters in Tsurphu [Tibet].

The old Rumtek monastery celebrates its annual chaam along with Ralong and Phodong two days prior to Losoong [Sikkimese New Year]

Enchey Monastery:: Enchey ::

Perched on a hill top near Gangtok, the Enchey monastery was built in 1909 and follows the Nyingmapa order. It is believed that Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantrik master famous for his powers of flying had flown to the site from Maenam hill in South Sikkim and built a small hermitage here for his meditation. The monastery has around 90 monks.

The annual chaam is performed on the 18th and 19th days of the twelfth month of the Tibetan calendar which normally corresponds to the month of January

Phensang Monastery:: Phensang ::

Phensang monastery was built in 1721 by Lama Jigme Pawo, who was the third incarnation of Lhatsun Chenpo. In 1947 it was completely destroyed by a devastating fire but rebuilt again the following year. The monastery is situated about 25 km from Gangtok, close to the North Sikkim highway and has 300 monks. The annual chaam is held on the 28th and the 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar.

 

Ralong Monastery:: Ralong ::
Ralong monastery in South Sikkim was built after the return of the fourth Chogyal from his pilgrimage to Tibet. The Karmapa [head of the Karma-Kagyu order] performed the blessing ceremony on its completion, from Tsurphu, near Lhasa [Tibet] and grains from this ceremony were said to have fallen on the ground at Ralong. This monastery has recently been rebuilt. It has about 100 monks and the main chaam is performed on the 28th and the 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar.

 

Phodang Monastery:: Phodang ::

Built in the 18th century by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal, Phodang monastery is located around 28 kms from Gangtok towards North Sikkim. It belongs to the Kargyupa sect. The original monastery has been rebuilt although the old mural paintings and frescoes were preserved. It has around 260 monks and like Ralong celebrates its annual chaam on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar.

 

Tolung Monastery:: Tolung ::

Tolung monastery is located in the Dzongu area of North Sikkim and is the most secluded of all the monasteries in Sikkim. It is reached after a strenuous trek through steep hillside and dense forests. This ancient monastery was built in the early part of the 18th century by Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal. It is said that an incarnation of Lhatsun Chenpo had a premonition of a military invasion by Nepal and most of the precious objects including rare and valuable scriptures from other monasteries were sent to Tolung for safekeeping. The monastery possesses a fine collection of religious art, including some of the oldest thangkas in Sikkim. All the relics are kept sealed in 13 boxes and taken out every three years for public display, an occasion which sees large numbers of devotees making their way here.

 

Labrang Monastery:: Labrang Palden Phuntsok Monastery ::

Labrang Monastery ( Gumpa) was constructed after having shifted the capital of Sikki from Rabdentse to Tumlong , North Sikkim in 1826 AD and completed in 1843 AD. It is situated 38 kms away from gangtok and located on the flat ground on the hill top having altitude of 7000ft. in the mid of the jungle from where very beautiful scenic beauties can be viewed all around including the bird watching and lakes in the nearby areas. The founder of the monastery was Gyaltsey Rigzin Champo who was the son of King Tshugphud Nmgyal and he was the first Kapgain( Lordship) of the monastery. The monastery houses a huge Buddha Sakya Muni statue, a Karma Guru statue and a Mahakala Statue and many other statues. The prayers are offered by the Grehaste Lama and by the few Bramhachari( Gelongs) during the 10th, 15th and 30th day of every month of lunar calendar. Prayears are also held in Saga Dawa, Drukpa Tsezhi and Lhabab Duchen and one main annual puja is offered with masked dance in the 10th month of the lunar calendar. Host of people do visit for offering prayers and also in the name of their beloved deceased ones. It is believed that many devotees have got their wishes fulfilled after offering prayers in this esteemed monastery.