Visiting temples or monasteries rarely make it to my priority list unless they are exceptional. Never had I thought about seeing any monastery on my trip to Sikkim. However, after reading about the unique History and having heard a lot from the locals, husband and I made quick plan to visit Rumtek; the largest and most popular monastery of Sikkim.
22 km from the capital, Rumtek stands at an altitude of 4900 feet against the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan Range. Made in mid 1700, Rumtek is home to hundreds of monks with a long history of clashes over stewardship of the monastery and its contents. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery is under strict surveillance 24×7.
Weapons or sharp objects are restricted inside. They would be kept by the security and returned to you while leaving the monastery. Use of camera/mobile phones are allowed in the outer premises, not inside the assembly hall.
A pillar stands across the main temple in the center of the courtyard where tourists engage themselves by throwing coin on the top of the pillar. The coin if perches the pole is said to bring good luck.
Rich and vibrantly colored murals in the traditional, Tibetan painting style grace the entrance of the main temple hall. Here, on each side of the door, stand life-size images of the four guardians of the universe: Virudaka, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra, and Vaishravana, protecting the four directions, respectively. (photography is allowed only till point)
The assembly hall leaves you breathless. The spacious and intricately decorated Main Shrine Hall is supported by robust red pillars. Long, round silk banners and ancient thangkas hang from these columns. One side of the main hall houses a complete set of religious scriptures dating thousand years ago. The ornate details and paintings on the walls are truly mesmerizing. (Photography is not allowed here).
The main assembly hall is surrounded by the monks’ quarters and through them leads a path towards the Golden Stupa. The Golden Stupa contains the precious relics and holy remains of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. You can meditate or pray here and feel the positive aura surrounding you. (Photography is prohibited here)
On the rear side of the monastery is the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute which is a center dedicated for Buddhism studies. And facing this institute is the student hostel.
You can buy souvenirs at the little shop near the Nalanda Institute’s complex or capture nature’s bliss around. I was impressed to see how the authorities conserve nature and make the most of the resources available. City dwellers need some serious learning from them.
We made an exit from the monastery around 4 pm and it had started turning dark already. Our minds felt peace and a sense of calm engulfed our souls. We left as two travelers, happier than before stepping into the largest monastery of Sikkim.
Road conditions and how to reach Rumtek:
The road condition is extremely bad in patches. Since the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable, the slow drive will elongate the journey. Recommended to visit Rumtek during the day or else the bumpy roads are not visible in the dark due to absence of street lights. Apart from few settlements and shops, the entire road is isolated.
Timings– 10 am to 5 pm everyday
Total time to spend– 1 to 2 hours
P.S- This trip of ours was in October 2018.
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