Sikkim is justly famous for monasteries. Red-clan Lamas, flickering butter lamps, colorful prayer flags (worth mentioning that these represent the five elements of nature – earth, sky, water, air and fire) and the melodious chanting are the part of the ambiance which this state offers us. Gangtok is also an important Buddhist place and is land of some 200 odd monasteries. Here are some important ones which I covered as a part of my Gangtok trip.
This is the oldest monastery (approx 200 years old) of Gangtok and is located 3 kms northeast of the city. This is the seat of learning for the Nyingma order (Vajrayana Buddhism), the 4th oldest belief of Tibet. It was established by Lama Druptob Karpo, a renowned exponent of tantric art. And the legend is that he came here flying from Maenam hill in south Sikkim. The Buddha, Loketeswara and Guru Padmasambhava are the important deities worshipped in the monastery.
The biggest monastery in Gangtok and is located on the outskirts of the city (around 23 kms) is on a hill, the seat of The Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery demonstrates the best of the Tibetan architecture and is an almost replica of the original monastery in Tsurpu in Tibet. The main building is three storied and the complex also has the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist studies, the Dharma Chakra and the Golden Stupa. The monastery houses the Black Hat and some of the rarest Buddhist religious art objects found in the world. Perhaps, this is the only monastery which has got a high range of security on its’ premises.
Also known as Lingdum monastery, is located about 20 kms from Gangtok. A relatively new monastery located in a vast area. This is the seat of Zurmang Kagyud lineage of Buddhism and follows the direction of the 12th successor of the lineage Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche. This turned out to be my favorite of all the earlier monasteries which I saw as this one was extremely peaceful and the view is just breathtaking. And there are many young lamas undergoing training here. This monastery is full of wall paintings, murals and scriptures which are placed orderly inside the main sanctum.
The last monastery which I visited was the Tsuklakhang Palace or Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel and monastery is a Buddhist palatial monastery in Gangtok, and it has a lot of young lamas who studies there. This has a large depository of Buddhist scriptures and literature.
There is also a center for Tibetology in Gangtok where in which we can see their scriptures, statures of Buddha and many more. In all, Gangtok is not just a place to enjoy nature but also a place to learn, to know about one of the oldest religions in the world. Importantly, we can find all the different sects of Buddhists and their traditions here.
In all, these monasteries took me to an altogether different world. A world of faith, belief and peace!!