Experience Monasteries and Himalayas in East India
Sikkim state is a hidden gem of eastern India at the foothill of East Himalayas. Lesser known by western travelers, this region offers spectacular views of the majestic Himalayas, waterfalls and unique native plants and flora. Many villages still retain their traditional way of life. The ancient Buddhist monasteries here are destination pilgrims.
Gangtok is the capital and the largest town of Sikkim state, India. It was a major link on the trade route between Lhasa in Tibet and cities such as Kolkata (then Calcutta) in British India. Gangtok is also a center of Tibetan Buddhist culture with almost 70 Buddhist monasteries, many with fine murals and images.
The Cable Car (or Ropeway) began operation in 2003. It offers an unforgettable experience with a 360 view of the whole of Gangtok township. The ride provides an amazing view of Kanchenjunga snow peak, the valleys and a river flowing some 3500 feet below.
The cable car has room for about 20 passengers, standing room only, no seats for the 10 minute rides between stations. Queues at the station may be as long as 30 minutes at busy times. If you don’t get a window spot in the car, at the next stop remain in the car to continue on and get a window when some passengers have disembarked.
At the west of Gangtok is Khecheopalri Lake. This lake is part of Buddhist religious pilgrimage circuit which includes the Yuksom, the Dubdi Monastery in Yuksom, Pemayangtse Monastery, the Rabdentse ruins, the Sanga Choeling Monastery, and the Tashiding Monastery.
Phodong Monastery is an 18-century Buddhist monastery with a marvelous collection of beautiful murals and woodcarvings.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology promotes research into Mahayana Buddhism as well as the language and traditions of Tibet.
The Buddha Park of Ravangla features a 130-foot high statue of the Buddha marking the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha. The statue was consecrated in 2013 by the 14th Dalai Lama and became a stop on the ‘Himalayan Buddhist Circuit’.
Pelling is home to many Buddhist sites dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, the man responsible for bringing Buddhism to Tibet. Situated at 6,250 feet, Pelling offers some incredible views of the majestic peak of Kangchenjunga.
Pemayangtse is Sikkim’s second oldest and most awe-inspiring monastery and features wall paintings, sculptures and a gold-plated statue of Guru Padsambhava. On the top floor is a fascinating 7 tiered wooden sculpture of ‘Paradise’ by Guru Rinpoche. It has an expansive prayer hall with incredibly detailed thangkas and murals on the ceilings and walls.
Rabdentse was the second capital of the former Kingdom of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814. The capital city was destroyed by the invading Gurkha army. The ruins of the 17th-century royal Rabdentse Palace overlooking the valley remains with the king’s bedroom and kitchen visible.
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