The largest monastery in Sikkim, Rumtek Monastery is the seat of the Karmapa Lama, the third highest monk in Tibetan Buddhism. It also serves as one of the most important seats of the Kagyu (Black Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet and is also known as Dharmachakra Centre.
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Located about 23 km from Gangtok, the monastery was built by the fourth King of Sikkim under the supervision of the ninth Karmapa (head of the Karma Kagyu sect). At an elevation of almost 5000 ft and surrounded by lush green landscape, the monastery is a visual treat besides offering spiritual solace. The architectural design is almost identical to the original Kagyu headquarters in Tibet. The Kagyu (also called Kagyupa or Kagyud) school is one of six main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is believed that the first Karmapa meditated for many years in a cave and ten thousand fairies offered him a strand of hair each after they congratulated him for his feat. The strands of hair were woven into a black hat and it has been passed down over the generations and it still remains in the Rumtek Monastery. Worn by following Karmapas during ceremonies, the hat is said to fly away unless it is held by hand or kept in a box.
The beautiful monastery enshrines a golden stupa which contains relics like statues and paintings that belong to the 16th Karmapa. The importance of the monastery increased immensely after China annexed Tibet leading to many religious gurus relocating from Tibet to Sikkim. It houses religious art objects and some of the world’s most unique religious scriptures.
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There are important Buddhist buildings near the monastery like the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist studies and less than a kilometre uphill from the monastery is a hermitage where monks go to meditate for a period of up to three years. A brief walk downhill from the main monastery takes you to the site of the old monastery which was destroyed in a fire but it was later restored. Foreign nationals need to obtain a permit to visit the monastery and the permit can be obtained from the main government office at Sikkim and Siliguri.
There are several tourist sites near the monastery. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, a hill resort and one of the most frequently visited places in the north-east, is located about 23 km north-east of the monastery . It is known for its scenic beauty and striking views of the mount Kanchenjunga, third highest peak in the world. Kalimpong is located around 75 km south-west of the monastery. The hill station of Kalimpong boasts of ancient Buddhist monasteries, quaint old churches and popular temples. Darjeeling, one of the most scenic and hugely popular hill resorts in India, is located at about 100 km south-west of the monastery. Situated at an elevation of over 7000 ft and nestled among the backdrop of the mighty snow clad Himalayan peaks, one can get a clear view of the world’s third highest peak, Kanchenjunga, from the town on a sunny day.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR RUMTEK MONASTERY
There are no places to stay in the monastery but there are few affordable accommodation options near the monastery. Gangtok offers a wide variety of options for stay.
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WHERE TO EAT NEAR RUMTEK MONASTERY
Carry food and water while visiting the monastery as there are not many options to eat. Shambala Mountain Resort and Martam Village Resort near the monastery have restaurants.
BEST TIME TO VISIT RUMTEK MONASTERY
The monastery can be visited all year round but the best time to visit Rumtek Monastery is between September and June.
BEST TIME TO VISIT GANGTOK
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Gangtok is as given below. The best time to visit Gangtok is also specified.
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