For most of our countries history, the northeastern part of our country is less paid attention to. But that doesn’t mean that these states are not part of us. In fact, the northeastern states are finally getting their due recognition. With the government pitching in tourism in these states, we Indians are slowly getting aware of the hidden treasures of Northern India.
Among all the North Indian states, Sikkim is getting popular with the tourists for a number of reasons. Apart from the stunning views of the Himalayas, the state is the melting pot of different cultures as it shares its borders with the neighbouring countries like Tibet, China, Nepal and Bhutan. It gives the place an exciting mix of culture, something that is worth spending some of your vacation days over.
The state of Sikkim is located over the eastern Himalayas, giving the place a stunning view of the snow capped mountains and deep valleys. The place is also rich in biodiversity and greenery around. With cold climes throughout the year, scantily populated towns, clean, fresh air and home to the highest mountain peak in the country “Kanchenjunga”, Sikkim inevitably attracts a lot of tourists from our country and the neighbouring countries as well. However, there is a fundamental reason for the people of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet to visit Sikkim. The state is home to at least 200 Buddhist monasteries.
Also See: Places to visit in Gangtok in 2 Days
List of top 10 Monasteries
1) Rumtek Monastery
Among the Sikkim Monasteries, the Rumtek Monastery needs a special mention for the fact that it is one of the oldest surviving Monasteries in Sikkim. Belonging to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists, it was built by Gyalwa Karmapa, who was the 16th Karmapa of the Monastery. It is located on the top of a hill, from where the entire city of Gangtok is visible.
The architecture of the monastery is said to be one of the finest in the world. The main building of the Monastery is three storeys and houses some ancient and rarest wall murals. However, the most important thing to see in this Sikkim monastery is the 1001 miniature golden models of Lord Buddha. The ground floor of the monastery has a prayer hall for the monks. You will find the walls covered with numerous silk paintings and statues. Along with these precious artefacts, the monastery also houses other valuable items like a black hat, commonly known as (Vajra Mukut) which is made of gold and studded with stones such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds.
Another stunning feature of this Sikkim monastery is the Golden stupa of the 16th Karmapa, that is situated just opposite to the Nalanda Institute, behind the monastery. Sadly you will have to keep all these views captured in your memory alone as cameras are not allowed in the vicinity. Though you will have nothing as a proof to the architectural marvels that you just visited, we are sure you will be
Best time to visit– The Monastery can be visited between March and May.
2) Enchey Monastery
This 200-year-old monastery located in the capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok, belongs to the Nyingma sect of Buddhists. The monastery is built of a ridge of a hill, from where you can view the Kanchendzongda range. It was initially a small hamlet built in the 1840s which became the centre of religious importance. The site was later converted into a full monastery in 1909 and is now home to 90 orthodox Buddhists.
The two main deities worshipped in the monastery Khanchendzonga and Yabdean are known to have resided within its premises, making it one of the most critical places for Buddhists. It is also said that these gods fulfil every wish of their devotee to visit them and pay respects.
The architecture of the monastery is rather stunning. The dome of the temple is made of gold. The pillars that support the roof are delicately carved and give us a glimpse of the past. Furthermore, the monastery has a vast collection of ancient scriptures. The monks have also preserved a number of carved masks that are used during the annual ritual dances.
How to reach– The monastery is located just 3 km from Gangtok.
Visit timings– 9 Am to 5 PM.
3) Tashiding Monastery
Monasteries are often known to be situated in the lap of nature. The calm and serene surroundings help the monks to reconnect with the higher being. Also, the Buddhist monks are known to be quite sacrilegious and prefer solidarity during their meditations. If you want to experience the perfect atmosphere of being in a monastery, then you must visit another Sikkim Monastery called the Tashiding Monastery. This Monastery is a spectacle to watch. Situated in the background of the snow-capped Himalayas, this monastery is nestled between two rivers, the Rangit and Rathong. Belonging to the Nyingmapa order of monk, the inspiring monastery was built in the 17th century.
The Tashiding monastery is indeed special for the Buddhists as it contains one of the oldest and the holiest stupas. According to many legends, Gurur Padmasambhava selected the site for this monastery by shooting an arrow in the air. He started meditating in the place where the arrow fell, and this eventually gave rise to the Tashiding Monastery.
Quick tip– This monastery is quite famous for the festival of “Gomchu” which is celebrated one night before the full moon day of the first month of the Buddhist calendar year. There is a sacred pot of water kept inside the main temple, which is used only during the festival to predict the future.
4) Ralong monastery
The Ralong monastery belongs to the monks of the Kagyu sect and is located in Namchi. The background of this temple is filled with lush greenery. This monastery is said to be built with perfect architectural plans which were in symmetry with the surroundings.
The monastery is home to many exquisite Buddhist paintings and thangkas that are very valuable to the Buddhist religion.
Legend has it that the 4th Chogyal laid the foundation of this monastery by throwing grains of rice from the Tsurpu dynasty in Tibet. The place where the grains of rice landed later became the Ralong Monastery. This Sikkim monastery is definitely a must visit if you are on vacation in the state.
Best time to visit- The best time to visit the monastery is in August when the annual festival of Pang Lhobsol is celebrated.
Quick Tip– You can continue to drive 8 km from the monastery to reach the Borong Cha/chu or the hot spring. The water from the hot spring is known to have therapeutic properties.
5) Pemayangtse Gompa
Pemayangste Gompa is another noteworthy Sikkim monastery that is situated near Pelling. It was planned and built by Lama Lhatsu Chempo in the year 1705; this monastery is said to be one of the oldest ones to be established in Sikkim. It is home to the Nyingma sect of monks. The word “Pemayangste” means perfect, sublime lotus. It is located on the hilltop. The Monastery offers some of the stunning views of the snow capped mountains behind.
This monastery is also said to have strict admission laws. It allows only monks who have pure lineage and belong to the Bhutia sects. The monks are even supposed to be strict celibates without any physical abnormality. The head monks of this monastery reserve the right of anointing the Chowgals of the monarchy of Sikkim with the holy water.
Visit timings– 9 Am to 6 pm
Entry fees– NR 20 per person
Also See: Top 18 places to visit in North Sikkim
6) Lachen Monastery
Lachen Monastery is another breathtaking Sikkim monastery that is quite famous among the tourists. It was built in the year 1858 and is home to the Nyingma sect of Buddhists. The monastery is located in a picturesque hill that overlooks the village of Lachen and also the famous statue of Guru Padmasambhava. The entrance of the monastery is decorated with flags of various colours that represent the four elements of earth. The surroundings of the monastery are quiet and sublime. Meditating in the lap of nature, kilometres away from any civilisation will surely be a one-of-a-kind experience.
Best time to visit– The best time to visit this monastery is between March and June.
Things to do– The Chopta valley and the Gurudingmar lake is something that you can visit that is situated just 2-3 hrs drive away from the monastery.
7) Dubdi Monastery
Another Monastery that belongs to the Nyingma sect of Buddhist monks, the Dubdi Monastery is the oldest Sikkim Monastery to ever exist in the state. The monastery has significant historical importance as well. It was established in the year 1701, by Chogyal Namgyal. It is quite famous among tourists for many reasons.
The word “Dubdi”, actually means “Retreat”. This is what you are going to experience once you step foot into the Monastery. Nestled in between greenery, a narrow path of cobblestones through some thick vegetation serves as an entrance to the Monastery.
The monastery is a two-storied structure that contains a lot of sculptures and images of the ancient Buddhists. The sanctum of the building contains the statues of the three lamas that were instrumental in breathing life into this monastery.
Best time to visit– The best time to visit this monastery is between March and May.
Things to do– The Khangchendzonga National Park is situated in the vicinity of the monastery, make sure you visit it if you are a wildlife enthusiast.
8) Phodang Monastery
Phodang Monastery is one of the six major monasteries that belong to the Kagyu order of the Buddhist monks. This monastery is strictly reserved of the Monks of the Kagyu lineage only and currently houses almost 260 monks.
The construction of the Monastery was started by King Gyurmed Namgyal. However, the king passed away before the completion of the structure. But his vision was taken forward by his supporters, who completed the construction of the Monastery in the year 1740 AD.
The walls of the monastery are covered with unique paintings and Murals that are exclusive to a significant Buddhist era.
Best time to visit– the whole Monastery comes to life in the months of December and January when the monks celebrate their annual mask dance.
9) Sangachoeling Monastery
Of all the Sikkim Monasteries, The Sangachoeling Monastery is considered to be the most prestigious. It was built in the year 1697 by Gyalwa Lhatsum Chempo, belonging to the Nyingmapa sect of the Buddhist monks.
The monastery is located on top of the Pelling hill and gives a stunning view of the surroundings. What makes the visit to this monastery even more exciting is the fact that you have to trek through some fantastic and lush greenery for about 7 km before to reach the main building. Once you visit the monastery, you are certainly going to be bowled over by the charm and serenity of the place.
This monastery is also known to be the house of ancient secret spells, hidden in the walls and sculptures in the main sanctum. It also houses certain rare clay statues that were preserved after the fire destroyed certain parts of the Monastery.
Best time to visit-On the tenth day of every month, the Lamas hold a secret service in the monastery by reciting hymns in the morning and evening. March to June is perfect months to visit this place.
10) Kartok Monastery
Another Great Monastery of the Nyimgma Buddhists, The Kartok monastery is home to some of the greatest Buddhist scholars. This monastery is quite isolated and not visited often by tourists because of the difficulty in reaching the Monastery. It is located almost 4000 metres above sea level on the east side of the mountain of Garze. Also, it is located on the border of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Though the path leading to the monastery is rough, you will undoubtedly forget all your worries once you reach the top. The landscape from the top is something that will leave you awestruck. The stunning mountains and valleys will give you a sense of serenity along with making you feel religious and at peace with yourself. This is one of the best Sikkim Monasteries to experience the authentic Buddhist
Best time to Visit– The Kartok celebrates its Annual festival in the month of March.