23 Kilometers from Gangtok, Rumtek is full of lush green hilly terrain, a breathtaking topography, and misty mountains. It offers you a breathtaking view of Gangtok. But what makes people flock this quaint town is the Rumtek Monastery. The monastery is the seat of His Holiness, The Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Founded in the 1960s by His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, holder of the sacred treasure of Vajradhara, it was originally called Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre. The monastery, the largest in Sikkim, is home to the monks’ community, the place where they perform the sacred rituals and practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage.
History Of Rumtek Monastery:
The Rumtek Monastery was originally built under the guidance of 12th Karmapa, Changchub Dorje in the mid-1700s. During the uprising in Tibet in 1959, the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa left Tibet with a group of followers and spiritual treasures, relics, and texts collected for 700 years, and an invitation from His Majesty Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, the king of Sikkim founded the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre as his main seat-in-exile outside Tibet. The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa passed into parinirvana in 1981. The monastery is currently under the care of One of His Holiness’s regents until the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa His Holiness Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje returns from Dharamshala to Rumtek.
The Architecture Of Rumtek Monastery:
Perched on a foothill of the great Himalayas, the site of the Monastery possesses many natural attributes which were considered auspicious for the placement of a monastery: seven streams flowing towards it, seven hills facing it, a mountain behind it, snow mountains in front of it, and a river spiralling in the shape of a conch shell below. Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre was designed by the Sixteenth Karmapa and his general secretary, Damchoe Yongdu. The design was based on the Karmapa’s inspiration and memories of the Tsurphu Monastery, the seat of the Karmapas in Tibet.
The new monastery incorporates modern building materials like steel and concrete while embodying the ancient artistic tradition of Tibetan architecture and traditional techniques of carving and painting to decorate the building. The main building of the Rumtek monastery 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 a three-storeyed building and the ground floor has a large prayer hall and is also decorated like the other parts of the monastery, with large intricate wall murals which are hand painted, thankas, silk paintings, and statues. The Sixteenth Kampa lived on the first floor and the top floor is a terrace with a small stupa. The courtyard in front of the main building has few buildings around where the monks live. An uncommon, though significant, detail of the mural is a painting of Lord Ganesh, placed there because His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa had a vision of the elephant-headed Hindu deity assisting in the construction of Rumtek Monastery.
Around The Monastery
Just outside and at the backside of the monastery, there is a stairway that leads to the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies with a huge painting of Lord Buddha.
There is a lawn in front of the institute from where you get a lovely view of Gangtok on the opposite side and on the backside there is a pathway that leads to the beautiful Golden Stupa. It is a beautiful thirteen feet high shrine that contains the holy remains and relics of His Highness The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. This stupa is also believed to be built to clear any obstacles in the reincarnation of His Highness The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
Few meters from the institute is a bird aviary with many beautiful birds. The hermitage point of the monks where they meditate for up to 3 years in complete seclusion is only half a kilometer uphill walk.
Institutes that train young monks and also an institute of graduation for Higher Buddhist Studies are around the monastery.
There is a stupa walkway surrounding the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, where monks, pilgrims, and visitors alike perform kora, the circumambulation of the Dharma Chakra Centre complex along the stupa walkway.
How To Reach Rumtek Monastery
A short distance from Gangtok means the most convenient way of reaching Rumtek Monastery is by road from Gangtok. A private vehicle will be expensive, so an economical option of the shared taxi can be taken. One can hire a shared taxi from the Gangtok Taxi Jeep Service Stand. It remains open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There is also an option of taking a bus from Gangtok to Rumtek. The buses run frequently on this route. Buses and taxis will drop you at a point below the monastery from where there is a fairly long and steep uphill walk to the main gate of the Rumtek Monastery.
- 1. The best time to travel is in the months of October to June.
- Stalls selling gifts and souvenirs, tea and snacks and the benches are available at the base of the monastery where you can pause and relax while sipping a cup of hot beverage.
- A pay-and-use toilet, for both male and female, is available outside the entrance.
- It is advisable to travel with a guide.
- While circumambulating shrines, it is necessary to move in the clockwise direction. It is also customary to leave donations at the monastery.
- Don’t disturb wildlife or its habitat here.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or talk loudly at the monasteries.
- Photos are strictly not allowed at certain areas within the monastery.
Timing And Entry Fee
The monastery is open every day and you can visit it between 10 AM to 5 PM during winters and between 8 AM to 5 PM.
There is a nominal entry fee of ₹10 per person.
Nature, religion, history or architecture, whatever excites you, Rumtek Monastery has something for everyone. A beautiful place in a breathtaking setting, Rumtek Monastery hosts various events and puja round the year. You can know more from their website, http://www.rumtek.org/index.php?lang=en.