RINCHENPONG MONASTERY GUIDE
Why Should I Go
Rinchenpong Monastery is situated at the giddying height of 5,500ft. The third oldest monastery in Sikkim is perched on a mountain trail and offers a brilliant view of the Kanchenjunga. Besides the picturesque location, this gompa has a statue one doesn’t find in most other monasteries- Ati Buddha seated in the Yab-Yum position. For nearly three centuries, this monastery has been part of Rinchenpong village and if you want to cover the heritage circuit of Sikkim, there’s no way you can skip this one.
Everywhere in Sikkim, the beauty of a monastery is somehow heightened by the village. Rinchenpong is a quaint little hamlet above which sits the gompa. Geographically well-endowed, this village offers a stupendous view of the Kanchenjunga and other mountains of the Himalayan range. As one takes the trail that leads up to the gompa, bounded by towering prayer flags flapping in the wind, one understands the perfect union of ancient structures and nature in Sikkim.
How To Get There
Rinchenpong Monastery is a 4-hour journey from Gangtok. Once you reach Rinchenpong market, there is a winding trail moving upwards towards the gompa. Follow this path and you will reach the monastery after about 1.2kms.
A number of tourists visit Rinchenpong during their trip to Pelling. From the latter, you pass over Singsore Bridge and Dentam before reaching Rinchenpong that is about 46kms away. This is a very scenic route but make sure you check with locals as this road is, at times, blocked off due to landslides.
When Should I Land Up
Rinchenpong is best explored in the summer months. If you’re staying overnight, a sunrise here is even better than at Pelling. A morning walk up to the monastery is the perfect start to your day.
In winter, the snow-capped mountains offer up a mesmerizing landscape. Rinchenpong transforms into winter wonderland and if you don’t mind the cold, a mid-December visit is a must.
The Finer Details
The main attraction at Rinchenpong Monastery is the statue of Ati Buddha- a humanoid said to represent the ‘Primordial Buddha’ that represents the universe and its innate wisdom. The statue also includes a female deity wrapped around the Buddha, the symbol of Yab-Yum (father-mother) in Tibetan Buddhism. The male deity represents compassion while the female consort stands for wisdom and insight. This statue is mainly found in monasteries that revolve around the tantric teachings associated with Buddhism.
This three-storied gompa shows signs of ageing that only add to its serenity, and it stands strong facing the mighty peaks that tower over the village. The road to the gompa is dark because of thickly-clustered vegetation and makes for a magical walk.
The local kids play in a dried-out lake that has a darkly fascinating story attached to it. It is said that when British regiments landed up at Rinchenpong’s border to invade Sikkim in the 1800s, they rested on the banks of this lake. In order to foil the invasion, the locals dipped poisonous herbs into the waterbody. Since this was the only source of water in the region, the soldiers died or fell seriously ill thus delaying the invasion. Whether anecdotal or not, this lake came to be known as Poison Pokhri. One needs to pass this lake on the way to Rinchenpong Monastery.
If you have an hour to kill, take the 1.5km walk to Resume Monastery. This ancient religious structure lies quiet and dilapidated, off the beaten track, in the midst of the forest because of a land dispute. While you can’t enter the inner sanctum of this monastery, its location and beautiful dilapidation make it a good spot for quiet reflection.
The beauty of Rinchenpong Monastery is the sum total of a beautiful view, ancient religious structures and the young lamas who stay at this gompa to complete their training.