Rumtek Monastery or Dharma Chakra Centre is the largest monastery in Sikkim and is the home to a community of Budhist monks. It is on top of a beautiful hill which faces the city of Gangtok. Flowing streams surround it. There are mountains at the back and a snow range in front . A river flows below.
Rumtek Monastery is 24 km from Gangtok. It is at a height of 1,500 metres (4,900 feet). Cars can go up to the main gate. After that, visitors have to walk up a steep road for about 10 minutes. Cars have permission to ferry the old and infirm.
Architectue of Rumtek Monastery
The monastery conforms to ancient Tibetan traditions. The builders have used modern construction materials. Quarters for the monks and a large courtyard surround the four-storey monastery. It s on this courtyard that the famous lama dance takes place.
At the centre of the courtyard is a pillar. Inscriptions in Tibetan on the pillar contain the complete history of Rumtek Monastery.
The 12th Karmapa Rumtek initially built the monastery in the mid 1700s. But when the sixteenth Karmapa arrived in Sikkim in 1959, he found the monastery in ruins. With liberal help from the Sikkim royal family, he rebuilt the place in four years.
The Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959. Many Tibetans had to flee their country. Among them was Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, along with other Rinpoches, lamas and monks.
Stupa and Prayer Hall
The big prayer hall inside the monastery is worth seeing. It is decorated with beautiful murals, statues and tangkhas (Budhist paintings on cotton or silk appliqué).
The Golden Stupa, or Labab Choeten, is at the centre of the temple. It holds the holy remains of the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. The Choeten or urn is gold plated and studded with jewels.
Photography is allowed outside the buildings, but is forbidden inside. A cafeteria and washrooms have been made available for the convenience of visitors.
The monastery has lovely gardens. Flowers seem to thrive in the summer climate of Sikkim. I saw roses in many places.
Nalanda Institute inside Rumtek Monastery
Karmae Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Budhist Studies was opened in 1981. It was a dream project of the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. About 450 monks are reportedly studying at the institute. The institute imparts knowledge in Budhist philosophy, logic and religious history. Tibetan is the language of instruction. The monks also learn Sanskrit, Hindi and English.
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