Communities, cultures, religions and customs of different hues intermingle freely in Sikkim to constitute a homogeneous blend. Hindu temples coexist with Buddhist monasteries and there are even a few Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Sikh Gurudwaras.
The large Nepali population of Sikkim is of the Hindu faith. Dasain (coinciding with Dusshera festival of rest of India) is one of their biggest festivals. Huge temple complexes are also coming up in the state. One of the major attractions is the temple complex in the Solophok Hill (South Sikkim) where an 87ft-high image of Shiva is installed on the main temple.
You will also find replicas of Char Dham temples and others. On the road to West Sikkim, is Legship, where lies the Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple next to the Rangit River.
Whether you are a believer or someone who just likes to explore culture and religious sites at pristine locations, our list has got you covered.
Thakurbari Temple, Gangtok
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At the entry to MG Marg in the heart of town, you will see this floridly coloured temple perched just about the W outlet. It is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Sikkim built on land donated by the Chogyal in 1935. The new and bigger complex was built over several years and finally completed in 2019. Almost every Hindu god and goddess is present in various murals and idols. It also has a Shiv Mandir. During September-October, it plays host to Durga Puja celebrations. The Sikkimese capital has quite a few temples, so you may as well check out our in-depth guide to Gangtok.
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Kirateswar Mahadev Temple, Pelling
As you pass through Legship town, the gateway to west Sikkim, you will come across this fairly modern temple complex sprawling along the banks of the Rangeet River. A small bridge across the river takes pilgrims to the cluster of temples located on the far bank. The main temple enshrines a Shivling (Kirateshwar Mahadev).
It is said that Shiva appeared before the Pandav brother, Arjun, at this place and blessed him prior to the commencement of the war. Mahashivratri (February/March) and Bala Chaturdashi (November/ December) are two of the key festivals observed here. Overlooked by green hills on one side and the gurgling Rangeet flowing on the other side, the place is a picturesque halt while travelling to or from Pelling, which is 17km from here.
Ganesh Tok-Hanuman Tok, Gangtok
Ganesh Tok is located at an altitude of 6,500ft on a hill adjacent to that of the TV tower. Hanuman Tok has an altitude of 7,200ft and is maintained by the Indian army. The word 'tok' means a temple. At both places, you have to climb a staircase to the temple and viewing areas, which offer a spectacular panorama of the peaks. At Hanuman Tok, you will come across Sanjeevani signs—legend says that when Hanuman was flying with Dronagiri Parvat that had the life-saving herb which was meant to save Lakshman, he had rested at this very spot.
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Viswa Vinayak Mandir, Rungdung, East Sikkim
This temple is famous for its huge diorama of Samudra Manthan against the green hills, apart from the temples. The Nepali community is divided into several groups, and each group has its own set of religious and social festivals. So always inquire if there is any local festival in the area when you are visiting this gorgeous state.
Parbateyswar Shivalaya Mandir, Aritar (Gangtok)
Located about 60km from Gangtok, this temple is dedicated to Shiva. Devotees throng here during the month of sawan, or monsoon, with offerings for the god. A short trek will take you to another temple dedicated to the Rai community at Mankhim Dara. The Aritar monastery nearby belongs to the Karma Kagyu sect.
Adjacent to the temple is the manmade Lampokhari Lake—you can go boating here. Aritar hosts the Lampokhari Tourism Festival in the month of March-April.
Located between Nathu La and Jelep La Pass at an altitude of about 13,100ft, this temple is rather unique. It is dedicated to Harbhajan Singh, a sentry of Punjab Regiment. You can cover this temple on your way to Tsomgo Lake and Nathu La Pass. There is a touching story associated with this temple. Harbhajan Singh was a Sentry of Punjab Regiment and was posted here as part of border patrol force.
The border with China is nearby. Sometime in 1968, he died after falling into a stream while escorting mules carrying provisions. He appeared in a dream to one of his colleagues and asked that a memorial be built in his name. A samadhi was made first and then the temple was built.
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The sentries and guards here believe that Singh’s spirit protects them. It is believed that soldiers across the China border see a turbaned person doing his rounds at night. Singh was promoted to the rank of honorary captain posthumously. The temple has a large photo of Singh. Singh’s original bunker is actually located near Nathang Valley at the end of a forked road from Tukla, on the historic Silk Route where the original mandir was built. Due to the difficulty in accessing such a terrain, the new mandir was built in 1982.
Solophok Chardham, Namchi
This kitschy and colourful pilgrim centre complex, spread over a massive area of 7 acres on top of Solophok Hill, houses replicas of the four dhams (holy pilgrimage sites of Hindus)—Badrinath, Puri, Dwarka and Rameshwaram. In the centre of it all is a towering 87ft statue of Shiva placed on a 108ft high temple with murals depicting his story. Around the temple are replicas of the twelve Jyotirlingas, and a statue of Kirateshwar (a hunter incarnation of Shiva) and a Nandi bull.
It will take you quite some time (about an hour) to explore the complex, which is divided, into four main areas—the Shiva statue with the 12 jyotirlingas, the replicas of the four dhams, the Sai Baba temple and the Kirateshwar statue. It may be a good idea to visit the information centre for navigation tips. Or check out the large hall at the entry point with miniature versions of the structures and a map that gives you an orientation of how the complex is laid out. You must spend some time taking in the spectacular views of the peaks from the viewing pavilion.
Park your vehicle at the spacious car park. From here, you will need to walk. In case you, or someone in your party, has mobility issues, you can ask for a battery-operated cart to go around. They can also provide a separate entrance to offer prayer so you do not have to stand in queues. You will have to store your shoes at the entry point. You can have a snack and an energizing beverage at the cafeteria. The complex also houses a budget hotel, the Yatri Niwas, with basic rooms and an all-vegetarian restaurant. Some of the rooms face the Shiva statue, and some the Khangchendzonga.
Shirdi Sai Mandir
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Situated in Assanthang, a couple of kilometers away from the district headquarters of Namchi, the two-storeyed, gold-hued building has two halls on each floor. The ceiling of the first-floor hall has been painted in blue hues and looks a lot like a planetarium. A marble statue of Shirdi Sai Baba seated on an elevated platform takes center stage. Wall murals in vivid colours depict the life of Sai Baba and also showcase Vishnu in different incarnations. You can buy a brass plate with flowers, diyas and coconuts at the gate.
The ground floor area has a large prayer room where kirtans etc. are held from time to time. An enclosure next to the garden has a large Shivling and a Nandi bull where people offer prayers. The temple has a garden from where—on a clear day—you can even get a panoramic view of Mount Khangchendzonga.
Entry: Free, but you are asked to give a voluntary donation for maintenance of the temple