Monasteries form an integral part in preserving the rich cultural heritage and religious lifestyle of Sikkim state. It is a home to nearly 200 monasteries, out of which more than a few belong to the Nyingmapa Sect or the Kragyupa Sect. The prayer flags hung all over, monks attired in red robes and the echoing chants of sacred hymns make the air breathe in peace and folks live in harmony.
Some of the oldest and significant monasteries of Sikkim
1. Rumtek Monastery:
Firmly positioned on a hilltop and surrounded by lush greenery, Rumtek Monastery is an ideal site for offering spiritual solace. The Tibetan style of impressive architecture and scenic backdrop of the majestic Kanchenjunga will leave the visitors amazed.
- Location: 23 km from Gangtok, East Sikkim.
- Significance: Currently, the largest monastery in Sikkim.
- Special attractions: Chaam dance festivals and the Golden Stupa which holds the relics of 16th Karmapa.
2. Enchy Monastery:
The literal meaning of Enchy Monastery is “the solitary temple” entirely justifying its mystical location embellished with the astounding beauty of tall pine trees, flower-decked meadows, and the lovely mountain landscape.
- Location: Gangtok, East Sikkim.
- Significance: It is an important seat of the Nyingmapa order of Vajrayana.
- Special attractions: Tantric murals, images of God and the annual festivals of Pang Lhabsol and Kayged festivals.
3. Pemayangtse Monastery:
Pemayangtse Monastery is a 300-year-old pilgrimage site which beautifully rests on a scenic backdrop of the snow-capped mountains scarcely occupying a section of the enthralling Himalayan beauty. With the holy chants of monks and meditative environ of the monastery, one can relax their mind in solitary.
- Location: Near Pelling.
- Significance: One of the oldest and premier monasteries of Sikkim that follows Nyingmapa sects of Buddhism.
- Special attractions: Impressive architecture, interior woodwork and ancient manuscripts inscribed on the pillars.
4. Phodong Monastery:
Phodong Monastery is one of Sikkim`s most attractive and well-preserved monasteries of the Kragyupa Sects housing an extravaganza of awe-inspiring ancient murals and paintings.
- Location: North Sikkim.
- Significance: A major tourist attraction of Sikkim.
- Special attractions: The monastery is adorned with ancient murals, paintings and Holy Scriptures.
5. Tashiding Monastery:
Situated against the snowy backdrop of the majestic Kanchenjunga, Tashiding Monastery is a destination not to be missed by tourists. Surrounded by holy stupas and plethora of prayer flags, the monastery exhibits a rustic charm and serene ambiance for people to meditate in solitude.
- Location: Approximately 40 km from Geyzing.
- Significance: One of the oldest monasteries that belong to the Nyingmapa sect.
- Special attractions: Old stupas and inscription slabs laid outside the monastery and the must-visit Bumchhu festival.
6. Dubdi Monastery:
True to its literal meaning “retreat”, Dubdi is undeniably a nature`s wonderland adorned with dense alpine forests and a marvelous stoned path which invites innumerable tourists every year.
- Location: Near Yuksom in Geyzing sub-division.
- Significance: Buddhist shrine of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism.
- Special attractions: Images of saints, symbols and collection of manuscripts, and the ornamental bell-shaped glided dome positioned on top of the roof.
7. Ralang Monastery:
It may be a rude statement that “Ralang Monastery is beyond comparison to any other monasteries in Sikkim”, but it is exactly here where one can savor the best of Tibetan architecture. The monastery boasts a wonderful assimilation of the paintings and murals which reflect the rich culture of Buddhist arts.
- Location: Near Ravangla, South Sikkim.
- Significance: The biggest monastery in Sikkim.
- Special attractions: Extensive collection of paintings, and thangkas. The famous Chaam and Mahakal dance festivals are a treat to watch.
The above list is just a tiny section of introduction to Sikkim`s monasteries. Every year the state experiences a huge inrush of foreign tourists visiting its prominent sights which include monasteries too.