Sikkim: Ultimate Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites

Sikkim is a special destination where the air breathes peace and people live in harmony. Amidst the foggy mountains and green surroundings lie the famous and ancient Buddhist monasteries with echoes of holy chants; this makes for some of the most popular places to visit in Sikkim.

These monasteries stand mainly for worship and peace and speak a lot about the Buddhist art and architecture that is spread across the state of Sikkim. Very often, visitors are smitten by the calm and serenity that the monasteries in Sikkim offer, with beautiful woodwork on the exteriors and rich crafting traditions. Every monastery is different from the other, each having its own festive calendar and masked dances.

Monasteries in Sikkim Offer

Sikkim

A majority of these monasteries belong to the 17th and 18th centuries, tested by time and toughened by the weather conditions in the mountains of North Sikkim.

With windy paths, supremely peaceful premises, fine architecture and scenic views, every monastery in Sikkim will take you on a journey of self-discovery where you can be one with yourself and get lost in spirituality.

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1. Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim

One of the most famous monasteries in Sikkim, the Rumtek Monastery is known for its ideal site and location with scenic vantage points. Located 23 Km from the capital city of Gangtok, the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim offers breathtaking views of the mountains along with beautiful greeneries in the surroundings. From the main gate at the base, it requires about half a km of walk to reach the main gompa. One of the largest monasteries in Sikkim, Rumtek belongs to the Kargyu sect and was built by Gyalwa Karmapa in the 1960s.

The Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim exemplifies the best of Tibetan architecture that will leave you fascinated. It houses some of the most unique and rarest Buddhist religious art and scriptures which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, making this site a must-visit for enthusiasts of cultural heritage.

Originally called the Dharma Chakra Centre, the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim includes a beautiful shrine temple and a monastery for the monks, which was established to spread the teachings of the Buddha throughout the world. A walkway surrounds the Rumtek Monastery where monks, pilgrims, and visitors perform ‘kora’, a type of meditative practice in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions involving a revolution around a sacred site or object.

2. Dubdi Monastery, Sikkim

Established in 1701, Dubdi Monastery is considered to be the oldest monastery in Sikkim which carries immense historical significance. A Buddhist shrine of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism, it is one of the popular monasteries in Sikkim located at mesmerizing hilltop location amidst the thick chestnut forest.

A long walk on a stoned path lined with alpine leads you to the panoramic view of the snow-peaked mountains and far-off valleys along with the pretty monastery with fine tall trees. This beautiful monastery bears the statues of three lamas and asks to be visited by every traveller looking for serene attractions and monasteries in Sikkim.

The monastery features a 2-storeyed stone architecture, stands at an altitude of 2,100 meters carrying images of divinities, saints, other symbols, and a collection of manuscripts and texts. It comprises a bell-shaped structure atop the roof known as Gyaltshen which is remarkably positioned. The Dubdi Monastery, Sikkim also features statues of three lamas positioned in the monastery who worked towards the establishment of Yuksom.

3. Ngadak Monastery, Namchi, Sikkim

The Ngadak Namchi Monastery in Sikkim is located at a short distance from the town of Namchi and was built during the reign of Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal by Tensung Namgyal as the palace for Her Highness Pendi Ongmu. The monastery exudes charm and spirituality as a place to seek peace and meditation amidst nature.

The iron railings which support the monastery are clearly visible and so is the new Gumpa, being constructed after the old structure suffered damage due to the earthquake in the 17th century. One of the oldest monasteries in Namchi, the Ngadak Monastery has an old saying going around that says whoever visits here has to make a promise to return again to the Gumpa. In fact, the name Ngadak itself means promise.

4. Lachen Monastery, Sikkim

The Lachen Monastery, also known as Ngodub Choling Gompa, is located at the highest point in Lachen village at a stiff 20-minute walk. It offers a quiet backdrop and stunning views and is a noteworthy attraction in Lachen. The monastery was originally built in 1858 A.D by the Nyingma Sect of Tibetan Buddhism and with the help of its 8 monks who transformed a small hut constructed by Lama Karchen Dorje Drak.

It is situated at a picturesque location at the top of the town, overlooking the village, the surrounding hills, and the countryside, and housing the statue of Guru Padmasambhava. The Lachen Monastery in Sikkim premises are decorated with colourful prayer flags and prayer wheels. The monastery is best visited either early morning or late afternoon for a truly blissful experience.

You will be left impressed with the typical Tibetan Buddhist monastery architecture featuring imposing wooden windows with intricately carved Tibetan mythological characters and colourful thangkas that it features.

5. Labrang Monastery, Sikkim

Known for its unique octagonal structure called Rinchen Surgay, the Labrang Monastery in Sikkim is located just a couple of km ahead of Phodong. Its antique structure has a charming appeal and the beautiful interior walls include meticulously done murals of Tibetan deities. The monastery is quite unique to still hold its original structure, with its white walls and gilded roofs done in the mixed Tibetan and Indian style of architecture.

The monastery was raised in honour of Latsum Chembo of Kongpu who started the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism. It houses six institutes of learning, a gilded stupa, 18 halls, and about 60,000 sutras in the sutra debate area. There is also a museum that exhibits a collection of Buddha statues and murals along with Tibetan books that can be visited by tourists. The famous Chaam Dance can be witnessed on early December visits.

Other magnificent monasteries in Sikkim include the Sangachoeling Pelling Monastery, located in a picturesque setting with fluttering prayer flags and a calm environment, offering ancient wall paintings, statues, unique clay statues, and scriptures. The Bon Monastery or Bon Yung Dung Monastery in Ravangla also offers a tranquil environment for peace and meditation and is one of the only two Bon Monasteries in India, making a visit there even more special. Although there are several more monasteries situated in Sikkim, and in the Himalayan states in general, the above-mentioned monasteries hold special significance and the most common among pilgrims, visitors, and tourists alike.

The best time you can visit Sikkim and enjoy the serenity of its monasteries is between March and May or between October and mid-December. These months will let you enjoy the blooming natural beauty of the North-Eastern state to the fullest, with clear views and pleasant weather conditions