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Timings : 6:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

Entry Fee : INR 10

Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok Overview

The Rumtek Monastery is one of the largest and most significant monasteries in Sikkim, perched on top of a hill 23 km from Gangtok. Originally called as the Dharma Chakra Centre, it belongs to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists who originated in Tibet in the 12th century. Verdant green mountains surround the monastery and thus serves as a visual treat besides being a focal point for spiritual solace. If you climb on top to the Rumtek Monastery, you can have a breathtaking view of the whole Gangtok town situated right opposite the hill. Besides this, the architecture of the striking monastery is one of the finest in the world.

The glorious Rumtek Monastery houses a beautiful shrine temple and a monastery for the monks which were established with the aim of spreading the Buddhist teachings around the world. The sublime structure has a walkway around it on which the monks, pilgrims and visitors perform Kora (a circuit round of the monastery). The splendid Rumtek Monastery has preserved a golden stupa and various other sculptures which belonged to the 16th Karmapa. It also serves as the storehouse for many uniques objects besides storing some of the world's unique religious scriptures. The massive prayer hall inside the stunning monastery is a place worth seeing that is decorated with splendid murals, statues and thangkhas. 

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Architecture of Rumtek Monastery

The Rumtek Monastery is a three-storeyed building housing some of the rarest Buddhist religious artwork in the form of murals and thangkas. The ground floor has a large prayer hall which houses the colossal hand painted and intricate murals, statues, silk paintings and thangkas. The top level of the monastery has a terrace and a tiny stupa. There is a shrine in the main building which is decorated traditionally with religious texts.

Rumtek Monastery
Intricate murals and frescoes outside and inside the Rumtek Monastery
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The main structure of Rumtek Monastery has been made in accordance with the traditional designs of the Tibetan monasteries. In front of the main monastery building, there is a large courtyard which has the premises where the monks live. The monastery is enshrined with the statues of Virudaka, Virupaksha, Dhritarashtra and Vaishravana who were considered guardians of the entire universe. Outside the monastery, you can spot a staircase which will take you the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies. Opposite the institute, there is a building which houses the Golden Stupa of the 16th Karmapa made of pure gold. A few metres away is the bird aviary with many exotic birds. If you take an uphill walk for half a kilometre, you can find the hermitage point for the monks where they meditate up to 3 years in complete seclusion.

Rumtek Monastery courtyard
The courtyard outside Rumtek Monastery
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The Golden Stupa

Behind the wall of Rumtek Monastery is a pathway that leads to the beautiful Golden Stupa. It is a beautiful shrine that contains the holy remains and relics of His Highness The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. The stunning stupa is thirteen feet high and a fitting monument to the Great Guru of The Kagyu Lineage.

It is ornamented in ancient Turquoise and Coral and is decorated with art of fine metalwork. Filigree, which is a combination of jewellery arranged in artistic motifs is also merged with the metalwork to give it an aesthetic view. Traditionally, it is also believed that the Golden Stupa was constructed with the motive of removing the obstacles of the reincarnation of His Highness The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. It is one of the most sought after places in Sikkim and is a visual treat for every pilgrim who comes to Sikkim.

Rumtek Monastery Golden Stupa
The Golden Stupa at Rumtek Monastery
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Food At Rumtek Monastery

Sample Itinerary For Rumtek Monastery

Kora

In Tibetan, Kora is defined as revolution or circumambulation, that means to walk all the way around something. It is closely associated with ceremonies, celebrations and rituals that constitute a pilgrimage. Kora is observed as a way of attaining merit for deceased people and offer prayers to increase the prosperity of people. It, thus, leads to visitors and residents alike to perform Kora, the circumambulation of the Rumtek Monastery along the Stupa walkway.

Kora can be completed in twenty minutes and the entire complex which leads the pathway to the sacred Stupa is also covered. The pathway from the monastery that leads to the beautiful reliquary is a visual treat for everyone who visits The Rumtek Monastery. There is no doubt because the pathway itself is lined with pretty prayer flags whose colours symbolize the five elements namely blue for iron, white for water, red for fire, yellow for earth and green for wood. Some are printed with prayers to accumulate merit for deceased people, others with general prayers to increase prosperity and well-being for all living beings.

Prayer Flags at Rumtek Monastery
The prayer flags at Rumtek Monastery
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How to Reach Rumtek Monastery

The most convenient way of reaching Rumtek Monastery is to take a private vehicle from Gangtok. However, you can also go for the more economical option of taking a shared vehicle. A shared taxi can be hired from the Gangtok Taxi Jeep Sevice Stand which is located near the Hotel Hungry Jack on NH31A. It remains open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Alternatively, you can also hop on a bus that regularly runs from Gangtok to Rumtek. The 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.

Prayers and Events

There are various events and prayers that are celebrated are Rumtek Monastery. Each event has a different approach to follow which is unique in its own way.

Losar: The Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, is a festival that is celebrated with splendour in Sikkim. This event is celebrated for three days in the month of February wherein the lives and teachings of Lord Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava and Gyalwa Karmapa are discussed and is also observed as a relaxing season for farmers who have finished the harvesting season.

Dungdrub Puja: This is one of the most important pujas held at Rumtek Monastery. It is held in the fourth lunar month, this is, April-May. On this day, one hundred million mantras are chanted by the monk community during the fourth lunar Tibetan month. This puja continues for several days and is devoted to world peace and happiness where preachings of Lord Buddha are given.

Birthday of His Holiness: The birthday of the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje is celebrated on June 26 wherein a ceremony is held, followed by various cultural programs, dances and folk songs at the lay community

Rumtek Monastery Festival
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Summer Retreat: Monks at the monastery observe retreat for forty-five days in the sixth lunar month of every year, which is usually July or August. They perform various rituals like Sojong, a confession of faults and renewal of vows that occurs every two months, observe rules and regulations and promise not to cross beyond the marked territory of the monastery. The retreat concludes with Gakye where all the restrictions are also removed.

Gutor: Gutor Cham Dance is celebrated two days before the commencement of Losar, that is, in the month of February at Rumtek Monastery. At the end of every year, the monks perform a week-long Mahakala Puja before Losar. It is a masked Lama dance that depicts the victory of good over evil and is performed by monks and the sole objective of this ritual is to promote peace and harmony in the world.

History and Significance of Rumtek Monastery

The Rumtek Monastery, also called the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center, was originally built under the guidance of 12th Karmapa, Changchub Dorje in the mid-1700s but was founded by His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa in 1959 in Sikkim. It is a world-renowned centre for Kagyu teachings which was begun by the first Karmapa, Dusum Kheyenpa. He spent four years of his life meditating and finding inner peace. He then received full transmission in Kagyu tradition, that is known as ‘The Great Seal’

The profound knowledge and wisdom that has been gathered by the Lineage of Karmapa have been passed down through generations and the spirit of peace and harmony has also been propagated among the different incarnations of Karmapa.

Tips

1. The walkway up to the Rumtek Monastery, where the taxis drop you off, is lined with stalls selling gifts and souvenirs, tea and snacks and the benches where you can pause and relax while sipping a cup of hot beverage.
2. Outside the main entrance, just a few steps below, there is a pay-and-use toilet for both male and female. 
3. It is advisable to travel with a guide.
4. It is customary to leave a donation at a monastery and to circle shrines in the clockwise direction.
5. Don't disturb wildlife or its habitat here.
6. Don't smoke, drink alcohol or talk loudly at the monasteries.

How to reach Rumtek Monastery

  • Air: Bagdogra, in West Bengal is the nearest Airport, at a distance of 124 km from Gangtok. To cover the civil flights, there is a daily helicopter service available which plies between Bagdogra and Gangtok. From there you can take a bus to Gangtok or hire a taxi.

  • Rail: Siliguri (114 km) or New Jalpaiguri (NJP/ 125 km) are the railway stations closest to Gangtok. From there, you can take a bus or taxi to Gangtok.

  • Road: Sikkim is well linked through good roads with Guwahati, Regular bus service is available from Bagdogra, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Calcutta.

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