RUMTEK TRAVEL GUIDE
Rumtek is a village in Sikkim, known far and wide for the famous Rumtek Monastery, one of the largest functioning monasteries in Sikkim. Spread across 74 acres, the Rumtek monastery was established by H. H. the 16th Karmapa, who practiced dharma there, now called the old Rumtek monastery. At his request, the then Chogyal, Tashi Namgyal, offered him the land where the Rumtek monastery stands now.
It is located 24 km from the capital city of Gangtok. During its construction, the Gyalwa Karmapa performed special pujas at the site, and blessed the area to be the mandala of the “Chakra Sambara,” considered as one of the highest deities in the Buddhist tantra tradition.
The construction was started in 1961, and completed in six years’ time. Relics were brought from Tibet to be housed in the monastery. As the seat of the Gyalwa Karmapa, the Rumtek monastery symbolizes the spiritual energy of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is a centre of Buddhist studies where Buddhist scholars from far and wide come to study and practice Buddhism. The monastery is always alive and buzzing with activity, and a visitor can get glimpses of the daily life of Buddhist monks, watching them going about their daily routine.
Climate And Best Time To Visit
Rumtek is close to Gangtok, and as such, has a climate very similar to that of Gangtok. It is pleasant in the summer and autumn months – March to June and October to December. Winters are cold. The monsoon season witnesses heavy rainfall which makes sight-seeing difficult.
Getting There & Getting Around Rumtek
The best way to reach Rumtek is by hiring a taxi from Gangtok. Gangtok is connected through a wide network of roads to all other major towns in Sikkim. The closest airport is Bagdogra airport, and the closest railway station is New Jalpaiguri. To reach Rumtek directly from the airport or railway station, you can book a taxi from there. As Rumtek is located on a hill, and the road is broken in places, night driving is best avoided.
Sightseeing & Activities
The monastery is accessed by a short walk up the hill from the entrance gate at the main road, beyond which taxis are not permitted. The Rumtek monastery is an example of fine Tibetan architecture, built as a replica of Tsurpu monastery in Tibet. The colourful exteriors set in the beautiful mountain scenery, on multiple levels, makes up for a delightful experience. The spiritual ambiance allows the visitor to observe the simplicity of the life of monks.
The monastery complex houses a golden stupa, which contains the relics of the 15th Karmapa. The stupa is in an enclosed space, and photography is strictly prohibited there. Pictures of landmark events, of Buddhist leaders, and some documents important to the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism are displayed all over the room. One can mediate in the space, but at any cost it is required to maintain silence.
It is also a delight to see some of the rituals of the monks, which happen at different times of the day. The participants of the rituals play traditional music, and chant mantras from their sacred texts. The entre ensemble performs their roles in complete harmony.
The monastery has a small shop in the complex where you can buy souvenirs or some of the Buddhist texts, for those who wish to study. Outside the monastery there are eateries along the road, which serve local dishes.