Phodong Monastery in North Sikkim
Phodong Monastery has been named after the village Phodong
where it is located. Phodong is 38kms from Gangtok in North Sikkim and can be reached along North Sikkim Highway in about 1 hour 40 minutes by car. Near Phodong market area, a narrow road takes a sharp upturn to the right and leads to Phodong Monastery another 1km away located at an altitude of 4,500ft.
Most tourists visit the monastery on their way to Lachung
that are further up in North Sikkim. Phodong Monastery was built in 1740 at the time of Sikkim's Kings Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal. This monastery belongs to Karma Kagyu Sect of Buddhists.
When the 9th Karmapa was invited from Tibet, he built three Monasteries in Sikkim under the Karma Kagyu sect... the original or the Old Rumtek Monastery near Gangtok, Phodong Monastery and the Ralang Monastery (about 10kms from Ravangla). These three remain as the only three monasteries in Sikkim that belong to Kagyu order of Buddhism.
For many years, Phodong monastery remained as the main Kagyu monastery in entire Sikkim and it is still considered as one of the six most important monasteries in the state of Sikkim. Only after the 16th Karmapa came down to Sikkim in 1959, built the new Rumtek Monastery in 1960 and made it his new seat, when Rumtek Monastery became the primary monastery for the Kagyu Sect.
Phodong Monastery Compound
When you enter through the main gate of Phodong Monastery and get into its premises, you will be impressed with how nicely the buildings are laid out in a large and well maintained arena. There is a large car park right after the entry and to the left. The flooring of the entire outdoor space of the monastery complex is paved and spotlessly clean.
You can see the main monastery building straight ahead, however that is the backside of the building. You need to go around to the other side to enter the main temple or the 'Lhakhang'. The main monastery building is designed in a typical Tibetan architecture.
A Lama at Phodong Monastery
In front of the monastery's front facade, there is a large space (the front porch) with wonderful views of the mountains and the valley as its backdrop. At the end of this porch, there is a building which is used for special religious occasions.
Front Porch, Phodong Monastery
Inside the monastery's main temple, the ambience is serene and sacred. On both sides of the room are low height tables lined up that are used by the lamas who sit on the floor and work on the tables. At the back wall, there is a statue of Buddha among others. The monastery is ornate with rich collection of ancient murals on the walls and beautiful paintings.
Inside Phodong Monastery Main Temple
There are several other smaller buildings lined up along the periphery of the monastery premises. These are the residences of the lamas and monks. There are about 260 monks in this monastery. There is a Sikkim Tourism Office within the monastery compound near the entry gate.
Sikkim Tourism Office at Phodong Monastery
There is no entry fee for Phodong Monastery. You can visit anytime between 8am to 5pm when the monastery main temple is usually open. An annual festival is held here on 28th and 29th day of the 10th Tibetan calendar year (usually falls in December). During this festival, other than religious rituals and prayers, Chaam dance is performed by the monks.