It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava (who introduced Buddhism to Sikkim in the 8th century) sanctified four caves as the abode of divine powers who would protect the land. These four caves are located in four cardinal directions from the Tashiding Monastery in west Sikkim. According to Buddhist texts, Tashiding is the navel or central point of Bayul Demajong or Sikkim.
Buddhists consider the four caves pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime as a sign of good luck. Apart from its spiritual value, a tour of the four caves allows you to see some of the remote corners of the Himalayan kingdom, and learn about its culture and people.
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The four Holy Caves are Sharchog Beyphug in the east, Nub Dechenphug in the west, Lho Kando Sangphug in the south, and Jhang Lhari Nyingphug in the north.
Located near Ravangla, this cave in Sangmoo village, according to the scriptures, contained the clues to the secret treasures of Sikkim. Cars go up to a point from where it is about half an hour’s walk. This large cave is said to vary in height from five feet to 100 feet. The roof and walls of the cave bear mysterious patterns and are believed to signify various deities and objects blessed by Guru Padmasambhava who had meditated here. Around 1921, a lama of Kagyupa sect built a small monastery here. Be careful while taking the forested path, especially during or after the monsoon as the rocks can be slippery.
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Nub Dechen Phug
You may approach these caves from Darap village in west Sikkim. The trek begins from the Rimbi Power Station. After an hour’s trek, you will reach Dechenthang village, which acts as a base camp of sorts: porters and guides available here. From here, it is a six to seven hour steep trek to the cave. Called the ‘cave of great happiness’, a visit to this cave is said to extend the longevity of the visitor. While most return to Dechenthang village by day end, you may stay the night at the small R.M.D.D Hut near the cave and visit the Kagye Lhakhang further away.
Lho Kando Sangphug
This is best approached from Legship, located on the diversion toward Jorethang Road (about 4km before reaching Reshi). From the car park, you have to walk down towards the Rangit River. The cave lies across the river, not far from the famous hot springs of Reshi. This ‘secret cave of the Dakinis’, is said to vary in height from two to 20 feet. An impression in the roof of the cave is said to be the mark of Guru Padmasambhava’s crown from the days when he meditated here.
Jhang Lhari Nyingphug
This is at the end of a hardy trek route. There are seven caves, each dedicated to a divine entity. According to the religious texts, Guru Padmasambhava hid precious relics and articles in this cave for the prosperity of Sikkim. A round trip from Gurung Gaon (where the motorable road ends) in Labdang usually takes two to three days. On this trek, you have to carry rations, cooking provisions and sleeping bags. Porters and provisions can be arranged in Labdang. There is a small RMDD hut for night stay on the trek route. Usually people visit the cave, about an hour’s walk from the hut, on the following morning.
Apart from the four great holy caves, there are other sacred caves in Sikkim, such as the Tseten Tashi Cave and the Drakar Tashiding.
Tseten Tashi Cave is located about a km away from the Kyongnosla Wildlife Sanctuary. The three-storied cave is named after a naturalist of Sikkim.
Drakar Tashiding or the ‘white rock situated on the plateau of good luck’ is located off a narrow path halfway to the Tashiding monastery. At the ‘cave of longevity’ situated here, water is said to emerge occasionally, which is considered holy as it was blessed by Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche).