The capital of Sikkim is a charming and picturesque town, straddling with striking houses spilling down the hillside. The city has a fusion of traditional customs and modern way of living which makes the place unique. It’s a beautiful town with all modern amenities that one can ask for.
This was the first capital of Sikkim, where historical records say that the first divine ruler of Sikkim was sanctified in 1641 by the three learned lamas. The evidence of the ceremony is still present in Norbugang Chorten. The place is considered sacred since the history of Sikkim began from here. It’s also the base camp for the trek to the famous Mt. Kanchenjunga.
Tsomgo lake, located about 40 kms from the Gangtok city on the Gangtok-Nathula Highway which forms a part of the Old Silk Route connecting India and China, has become the most popular tourist attraction point in gangtok having heavy tourist footfall with over 3 lakh visitors a year. In Bhutia language, ‘Tso’ means ‘lake’ and ‘Mgo’ means ‘head’, which translates into ‘source of the lake’. Tsomgo lake gets its water from the melting snow from the mountains around it and it is about 1 km long and 15 metres deep. Tsomgo is believed to be sacred by Buddhists and Hindus and is shrouded in myths, beliefs and faith. Local legend has it that in ancient times, the Buddhist saints used to predict the future by observing the changing colour of the lake; a dark, gloomy tint told of difficult times and unrest in the region.
Located between Nathula and Jelepla pass at an altitude of 13,123 ft and about 52 kms from Gangtok, Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple is popularly referred to as Baba Mandir. One usually covers this temple together with a visit to Tsomgo and Nathula Pass. Baba Harbhajan Singh was a Sentry of Punjab Regiment and was posted there as a part of patrol force. During October 1968 he disappeared, it’s said that while escorting mules carrying provisions, he fell into a stream and drowned. After some days he reappeared in the dreams of one of his sentry colleagues and asked him to make a memorial here on his name. Since this is a protected area, one will have to take a permit from Sikkim Tourism.
Situated at an altitude of around 14,000 ft, 56 km east from Gangtok, This Indo-China border and is one of the most exotic places in Sikkim. Forming an off-shoot of the ancient Silk Route, Nathula Pass is a restricted area and can only be visited by Indians after getting permits from Sikkim Tourism. Foreign nationals are allowed to travel up to Tsomgo Lake.
The name Nathula is derived from two Tibetan words “Nathu” meaning listening ears and “La” meaning pass, it is one of the only two open trading posts between India and China. While it was shut during the Sino-Indian war, the route was open again in the hope that it would help trade between the two countries.
It is also one of the only four officially agreed Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) points between the Indian army and the People’s Liberation Army of China and is the only place in India where you can see Chinese soldiers across the border. Hence photography is strictly prohibited in Nathula. The other three BPM are Chulshul in Ladakh, Bum La Pass in Tawang and Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.
After it was closed to visitors for political reasons, it was reopened on July 6, 2006 coinciding with the birthday of the reigning Dalai Lama.
The Rumtek Monastery was originally built in the mid-1700s, under the direction of Changchub Dorje. This monastery served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time. However, when the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, in 1959, he found that the monastery was in ruins. Rangjung Rigpe Dorje fleed from Tibet. He then decided to rebuild Rumtek. The construction of the monastery was completed after 4 years.
The 16th Karmapa officially inaugurated the new seat, on Losar in 1966. It was called ‘The Dharmachakra Centre’: a place of erudition and spiritual accomplishment, the seat of the glorious Karmapa.
It is said that the 1st Karmapa spent many years meditating in a cave here. Ten thousand fairies came to congratulate the Karmapa and each offered him a strand of their hair. The Karmapa wore these strands of hair as a black hat. This was passed down and is still worn by the karmapa on ceremonial occasions.
Tashi View Point is considered as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Gangtok. As the name speaks for itself, Tashi view point offers some breath-taking views of the two majestic mountains, Mt Siniolchu and Mt Kanchenjunga. The king of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal built Tashi View Point between 1914 and 1963 and is named after the king Tashi Namgyal. Because of its beautiful location, from the top of the point, you will get to witness some snow-capped mountains. The place is popular among both the tourists and locals.
It is located in Tashi, 8 km away from the Gangtok city. Just opposite to the view point, you will also get to witness Phodong and Labrang monasteries to add a little bit of spirituality to the trip. One has to climb stairs from the road level to reach to the Tashi view point. Kindly note that the point can only accommodate 15-20 people at a time. Apart from this, few cafes and souvenir shops are also there bordering the place.
Phodang Monastery, located around 28 km north of Gangtok, is counted amongst the six most important monasteries of Sikkim. Although it was first constructed by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal in the first half of the eighteenth century, the structure has been rebuilt and is today one of the most beautiful monasteries in Sikkim. The walls of the monastery are adorned with beautiful murals, paintings, and frescos.
The main festival of the monastery, Loosang, is celebrated on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th Tibetan month (around December). The festival sees the performances of the religious dances known as Chaams along with feasting and archery contests.
Currently, the Phodong Monastery is a major tourist attraction of Sikkim, and houses around 250 monks of the Kagyu lineage.
Do-drul Chorten is the biggest stupa in Sikkim, located 2 km from Gangtok in the Deorali area. It was build in 1945 under the guidance of Late Truslshi Rinpoche who was the head of Nyingma sect of Tibetan buddhism. The stupas are surrounded by 108 Mani Lhakar (prayer wheels) which are meant to rotate in clockwise direction while chanting the mantra of ‘om mani padme hum’. After the death of Trulshig Rinpoche another noted lama Dodhrubchen established Dharma preaching centre. The centre can accommodate 700 monks.
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