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Pemayangtse Monastery, West Sikkim Overview

Pemayangtse Monastery is a highly revered Buddhist Monastery situated at Pemayangtse, in the Pelling region of Sikkim. One of the oldest monasteries of the state, it stands tall on a hilltop overlooking the historical Rabdentse ruins, the former capital of the Kingdom of Sikkim. Pemayangtse translates to 'perfect, sublime lotus' and is said to represent one of the four networks of nerves (vessels) in the human body. Dedicated to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche who revived Buddhism in Tibet), the striking feature of this monastery are the statues of him and his consorts. 

Being one of the oldest monasteries in the state, the Pemayangtse Monastery has served as part of the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit in Sikkim for centuries since its completion in 1705. The monastery attends to the Nyingma Order (oldest one of the four schools) of Tibetan Buddhism. The monks here are recognized by the red hats they wear and are chosen amongst the Bhutias of Sikkim! An elevation of 2085 meters (6840 feet) above the sea level provides an iconic and eye-pleasing site for the ancient monastery. Pemayangtse Monastery also serves as the starting point of the popular Dzongri trek route. Pretty sights of the Kangchenjunga massif that includes five eight-thousander peaks, which have been described as Five Treasures of Snow, are visible from the monastery.

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Architecture of Pemayangtse Monastery

The Pemayangtse Monastery is situated at an altitude of 6840 feet and provides unmatchable serene views of snowcapped mountains, including the lofty Kanchenjunga peak. The architectural and engineering feats of the opulent monastery are impressive as it has withstood the brutal test of time enduring natural calamities such as earthquakes. The main prayer hall is spread over an area of approximately 140m2 (1500 square feet) and accommodates several statues, windows and doors adorned with vibrant colours. The main statue of Padmasambhava here portrays his wrathful form with multiple arms and heads.

Pemayangtse Monastery
Pemayangtse Monastery Building

The first floor of the monastery houses ancient scrolls, excellent paintings, well-crafted idols and sculptures while the stand out attraction is the seven-tiered wooden painting on the top floor of the monastery, depicting Guru Rinpoche's heavenly palace - "Santopalri". A feat that was designed and constructed over a period of 5 years by Dungzin Rinpoche.

History and Significance

Initially chalked and planned as a Lhakhang (the main temple hall with a shrine) in the 17th century by Lama Lhatsun Chempo, the building was further added on and enlarged during the reign of the third king of Sikkim - Chakdor Namgyal (1700-1717). In order to preserve Buddhist religion in Sikkim, he ordered that every three sons of a Bhutia family shall ordain as a monk at the Pemayangtse Monastery. Ever since, the regal monastery is home to 108 monks who here are traditionally chosen from a community of people of Tibetan ancestry called Bhutias. The location has been subject to several earthquakes in 1913 and 1960, which over the course wrecked its foundations. It has been renovated and rebuilt many times since.

Cham Festival at Pemayangtse Monastery

The dance festival of Cham (a masked traditional Tibetan dance form, considered as meditation and way of offering to the gods) is performed by the lamas of the Pemayangtse monastery. It is held every year on 28th and 29th of Gyal, the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar (coincides with February). To mark the end of Losar, the Tibetan new calendar year, the day is honoured with a large intricately embroidered scroll, and fireworks are set off, symbolizing the chasing away of evil spirits.

Best Time to Visit

The Pemayangtse Monastery can be visited any time of the year, but it would be advisable to avoid the monsoon months as it can get quite damp. Summers are quite pleasant to enjoy the natural surroundings the area has to offer although winters can get pretty chilly during the months from October To February. It is a wonderful sight to experience the glory with which the Tibetan festivals are celebrated here. So, if you wish to delve yourself into Tibetan culture, plan your trip accordingly!

How to reach Pemayangtse Monastery

Pemayangtse Monastery is located at a distance of 120-130 km approximately from the state capital, Gangtok. The towns of Pelling and Geyzing are only 10 and 5 km from the monastery, respectively. Darjeeling is a mere 70 km away and offers an incredibly scenic route. There are several routes you can take from Gangtok to reach here, so plan your trip accordingly.

  • Air: The nearest Airport to Pelling is Bagdogra Airport, Siliguri, which is a four hour drive from Pelling. You can take a taxi or bus from here to reach Pelling. You can find taxis in Pelling to go see the Pemayangtse monastery.

  • Rail: The nearest Railway Station from Pelling is Jalpaiguri Railway Station, which is at a distance of 170 Kms from Pelling. It is well connected to major cities like Chennai, New Delhi, Howrah, Alipur and Darjeeling through Guwahati Express, Ndls Bgp Express, Mas Njp Express and Dbrt Rajdhani. You can find taxis in Pelling to go see the Pemayangtse monastery.

  • Road: Pelling is well connected with the other cities of Sikkim via Sikkim State Road Transport Corporation (SSRTC) and some private travel services. Buses are available to get to Pelling. You can find taxis in Pelling to go see the Pemayangtse monastery.

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