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
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.
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 ::
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, 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 ::
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 ::
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 ::
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
:: 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 ::
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
:: 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 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.