Ranked 20 among Places to Visit in Darjeeling
Time Required: 1 - 2 hrs
At a grand elevation of 8,000 feet, the Yiga Choeling or old Ghoom Monastery is the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Darjeeling. Established in 1850 by Lama Sherab Gyatso, this shrine is part of the Yellow Hat sect known as Gelupka who worship the 'Coming Buddha' or 'Maitreyi Buddha'. A 15-foot high statue of Maitreyi Buddha is seen in the central hall, made entirely of clay brought from Tibet. This statue was installed during the tenure of the second head of the monastery Lama Domo Geshe Rinpoche. One can also find many rare Buddhist manuscripts within the premises. Visitors are treated to a beautiful view of the majestic Kanchenjunga outside the monastery. Prayer flags are flown by the resident monks in typical Tibetan tradition.
Within Yiga Choeling, one can view images of many Buddha deities and lamas such as the Chenrezig, Buddha of compassion, and Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelupka sect. In front of the Maitreya Buddha statue hang two huge oil lamps which keep burning throughout the year. The walls of the monastery are elaborately painted with depictions and art of Tibetan Buddhism, with different images of bodhisattvas. These beautiful paintings are placed in a symmetrical manner, facilitating the ease of understanding the basics of Buddhist philosophy to visitors of the monastery. The hilltop above the monastery holds the Ma Kali temple, where devotees come to offer prayer every full moon day and on the fifteenth of every month of the Tibetan calendar.
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