SANGA CHOELING MONASTERY GUIDE
Why Should I Go
Sanga Choeling Gompa is situated on a ridge opposite the Pemayangtse Monastery. From afar, the monastery looks as if it is balancing on a hill and the mountains in the background make for a picturesque setting. Constructed in the 17th century, this monastery is one of the oldest in Sikkim and draws a number of devotees and tourists from all around the globe.
Commonly called the ‘place of secret spells’, one reaches Sanga Choeling by walking through a grove of thick deciduous trees. The 4km walk through a tunnel of vegetation leads to the manicured courtyard of the temple. For those interested in old Tibetan architecture, this monastery is a must-visit.
How Do I Get There
If you’re covering the heritage circuit of Sikkim, Sanga Choeling Gompa should be visited right after Pemayangtse. Both these monasteries are located in Pelling, a western town, about 135kms from Gangtok. If you’re in a group, your best option is to hire a cab. However, solo travellers should try and hook up a shared cab to cut down on travelling costs.
A brisk walk (around 2kms) from the Upper Pelling football field will take you to the entrance of this gompa.
When Should I Land Up
Since the monastery is located on a ridge, it offers a brilliant view of the Himalayan Range. The best part of a winter visit is that you will get to see Pelling covered in snow and the mountains look like white towers rising into the mist.
The summer months offer a clearer view of the Pemayangtse Monastery on the opposite hill. The panoramic view of the mountains is better than any postcard you will ever receive.
The beauty of Sikkim has different sides depending on when you visit. The summer months draw the most number of travellers because of easy accessibility. However, if you’re up for a real adventure, plan your trip between November-February.
The monastery opens its doors to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Make sure you land up before the sun goes down in order to take in the picturesque surroundings.
The Finer Details
The monks in this monastery follow the Nyingma tradition, the most ancient school of Tibetan Buddhism. A recurring ritual, that takes place on the 10th day of every month (according to the Tibetan calendar), involves lamas reciting hymns and chanting prayers in the inner sanctum of the monastery.
From the outside, one can take in the unassuming style of Tibetan architecture. Sanga Choeling Monastery contains ancient 17th century clay idols. Statues of Padmasambhava, Sakyamuni and Vajrasattava are also present and the walls are painted with colourful depictions of Buddhist deities. An intricate painting of a bhavachakra, Wheel of Life, is a notable addition at this ancient religious structure.
It should be noted that only the Bhutia and Lepcha communities are allowed to enter the inner sanctum of this gompa.
Like all monasteries in Sikkim, Sanga Choeling was constructed with the natural surroundings in mind. As you stare at the mountainous backdrop, the gompa fits perfectly into the frame that only nature could have conspired.