Rumtek Monastery near Gangtok
This monastery is located in Rumtek, a place which is 23kms away from Gangtok town and in the opposite mountain. So if you visit Rumtek, there are vantage points from where you get amazing sights of the whole Gangtok town on the opposite hill. However from the gate at the base, it requires an uphill walk (about half a kilometer) to reach up to the main monastery.
Rumtek monastery is one of the largest in Sikkim and belongs to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists which originated in the 12th century in Tibet. The architecture of the monastery is one of the finest in the world and resembles the original one in Tsurphu, Tibet.
It was built by Gyalwa Karmapa in 1960s, who was the 16th Karmapa of the monastery. Karmapa is the head of a monastery. He came from Tibet and settled here when the Chinese invaded Tibet. However the 16th Karmapa passed away in 1981. Since his death, search began for the 17th Karmapa.
After about 10 years, a boy named Ugen Thinley from Tibet was identified by Dalai Lama as the next reincarnation of Karmapa. Ugen Thinley is currently living in Dharamshala.
Rumtek Monastery Gangtok
The main building of the Rumtek monastery is three storeyed. It houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious artwork in the world in form of wall murals & thankas (scrolls with intricate hand paintings), 1001 miniature golden models of Buddha etc.
It is also a world renowned center for Kargyu teachings. The legend says that after the first Karmapa ended his long years of meditation in a cave, he was greeted by 1000 fairies each one of who gave him a strand of hair. All those hairs were woven into a hat. It is said that the same hat is now in custody of Rumtek Monastery. But the hat has to be kept in a box or held by hand, otherwise it would fly off :)
Photo: Devraj Bhattacharya
The ground floor of the main monastery building has a large prayer hall. The hall has large hand painted and intricate wall murals, thankas, silk paintings and statues. You won't be allowed to use camera inside though. The first floor is where the 16th Karmapa lived. The top floor has a terrace and a small stupa. There is a large courtyard in front of the main monastery building. The courtyard has few other buildings surrounding it where the monks live.
Just outside and at the backside a stairway leads to the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies. You will find a huge painting of Lord Buddha here. And just in front of the institute building, there is a lawn from where you get a lovely view of Gangtok township in opposite hill.
Just opposite to the Nalanda Institute is a building where you will find the Golden Stupa of 16th Karmapa which is made of pure gold. No camera allowed here for obvious reasons. Actually the monastery also houses other precious items like the Black Hat (known as the Vajra Mukut) which is studded with gold, diamond, ruby and many other precious stones. It was presented to the 5th Karmapa in 15th century by the then emperor of China. No wonder you will find so many sentries at Rumtek Monastery right from its entrance and all over.
Few meters from the Nalanda Institute is a bird aviary with many beautiful birds. The 16th Karmapa it seems was very fond of birds. Another half a kilometer uphill walk will lead to the hermitage point of the monks where they meditate for up to 3 years in complete seclusion.
Note that the Old Rumtek Monastery which was originally built in 1730 by the 5th Karmapa, is actually located about 15 minutes downhill from the main building. From the gate at the base, take the road towards left and you will reach the old Rumtkek Monastery.
It however got completely burnt by fire and had to be rebuilt. The main dances of Rumtek known as Tse-Chu Chaams are held in the Old Rumtek Monastery on 10th day of the 5th month of Buddhist calendar which usually falls in June. Kagyat dances are also held here on 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of Buddhist Calendar which usually falls in December. Losar Celebrations (Tibetan New Year) take place during February - March. So these are great times to visit the monastery.
View of Gangtok Township from Rumtek
Admission, Open Hours & Amenities
Admission fee is Rs. 10/- per person. Rumtek Monastery is open from 9am to 6pm daily. There is a pay & use toilet for both ladies & gents outside the main entrance and few steps down.
Taxis will drop you below from where there is a fairly long and steep uphill walk to reach the main entrance of the monastery. As you walk along the pathway, you will find a few stalls selling souvenir & gift items, plus tea and snacks like veg momos, samosas, packaged potato chips etc. Most importantly, they all have benches where you can sit and rest your legs as you sip a cup of tea.
Just before the stairway outside the main monastery building that leads to Nalanda Institute and Golden Stupa, there is a small cafe (Nalanda Cafe) with 3-4 tables on the right serving veg snacks and tea. I tried noodles (found quite rubbery though) and tea. You will also get veg momos, bread butter etc at reasonable prices. It's got nice views from couple of window-side tables. There are also a few shops and basic eateries below where the taxis drop you.
How to reach Rumtek
While you can always take a private taxi from Gantok to reach Rumtek Manastery, there is a more economical option of taking a shared vehicle (10am to 2pm) from Gangtok Taxi Jeep Service Stand located near the hotel Hungry Jack on NH10. There is also bus service to Rumtek.
Accommodation in Rumtek
If you like to stay at Rumtek close to the Monastery, there are a few options:
Sangay Guest House is the closest (inside the gate and about 100 yards from the monastery). It overlooks the valley and faces the Gangtok Township at the opposite mountain. This is a nice budget Tibetan guest house, some rooms have balconies, bathrooms have hot & cold water (Phone: No contact available).
Zharna Waterfall Resort is a low budget resort located in Rumtek area. They have rooms for two and four with option of meal plans and also dormitory. There are cottages for families. Transport arranged for visits to Rumtek monastery (free along with MAP plans).
Contact : +91-9434117180; 7550991690
Shambala Mountain Resort is a mid-range accommodation. Amenities include a library, bar & restaurant, gift shop, laundry, doctor on call service etc (Phone: 03592 252240, 252243).
Another one is Martam Village Resort
, a mid-range resort with huts as in villages. Amenities include Indian Restaurant, Bar, room service etc (Phone: 03592 203314, Email: [email protected]
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