36 Religious Sites of Sikkim to Bookmark for Your Next Visit - Part II

36 Religious Sites of Sikkim to Bookmark for Your Next Visit - Part II
Photo Credit: Munmun Ghosh / Shutterstock.com

While Buddhist monasteries form the bulk of religious centres in Sikkim, there are also pretty hilltop temples, churches and mosques to explore. Whether you’re planning a future visit, or simply looking to appreciate the grandeur of these sacred sites from afar, check them out with the second instalment of our three-part series.


May 29 , 2021
11 Min Read

Nature worshippers for ages, Sikkim venerates mountains, caves, forests, rivers and lakes. It is home to some of the most picturesque Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas, Add to it the temples, churches and mosques. Sikkim is indeed a paradise for the spiritually bent.

READ: 36 Religious Sites in Sikkim to Bookmark For Your Next Visit - Part I

South Sikkim

Samdruptse
A jaw-dropping 135ft high statue of Padamasambhava or Guru Rinpoche (who introduced Buddhism to Sikkim in the eighth century) painted in copper and gold, sits on a lotus plinth atop the Samdruptse ridge. A short distance uphill from Namchi (around 7km), it is said to be the highest statue of Padamasambhava in the world. The foundation stone was laid by the Dalai Lama in 1997. The uphill trek from the car park is somewhat strenuous, but the colourful prayer flags futterng in the wind make the journey easier. 

 
 
 
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The Kanchendzonga massif is visible on one side on a clear day. From the car park, you may enjoy a cable car ride to an atmospheric rock garden below and back. Ticketed entry. Timing: 9am to 5pm.
Shiva statue at Char Dham, Solophok
 
Solophok Chardham
This kitschy and colourful pilgrim centre complex, about five km from Namchi, located on top of Solophok Hill, houses replicas of the four Dhams (holy pilgrimage sites of Hindus) associated with Vishnu — Badrinath, Puri, Rameshwaram, and Dwarka. In the centre of the complex is an 87ft statue of Shiva placed on a 108ft high temple with murals depicting stories. Around the temple are replicas of the twelve Jyotirlingas, a statue of Kirateshwar (a hunter incarnation of Shiva) and a Nandi bull.

READ: The Ritualistic Masked Dance of Sikkim 

Budget adequate time to go around the complex if you do not want to miss anything. The information centre as well as a miniature model and a map of the complex kept at the large hall can help you get your bearings right. There is an observation deck that offers a good view of the snow peaks on a clear day. Other facilities include a cafeteria, a budget hotel with a restaurant offering vegetarian food, a movie-hall, and battery-operated vehicles for those with mobility issues to go around the complex. Cameras are allowed but you cannot take pictures of the structures. Timing: 8am to 7pm.

Shirdi Sai Mandir
Located in Assanthang, it is about two km from Namchi. The two storeyed gold-hued building has two halls on each floor. A marble statue of Shirdi Sai Baba seated on an elevated platform takes centre stage in the first floor hall. Murals in vivid colours depict the life of the holy man and the various incarnations of Vishnu. If you are lucky, you may catch a sight of the mountains from the garden, adjacent to which is an enclosure containing a large Shivling and the Nandi Bull. Free entry but donations welcome.
 
 
 
 
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Ngadak Monastery
Political rivalry between royals ultimately led to the establishment of this monastery in the palace of a Sikkimese queen in the early 18th century, according to local reports. It is about 3km from Namchi, on the road to Ravangla. Made of wood and stone, the old monastery is weather beaten and needs support of an iron scaffolding. The new monastery next door contains murals which highlight contemporary monastic paintings. Timing: 8am to 5pm.
 
 
 
 
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READ: 5 Reasons Why Sikkim is the Perfect Melting Pot of Cultures
 
Shakyamuni Buddha in Dharmachakra Mudra in Buddha Park
 
Buddha Park
More of a tourist attraction than a pilgrimage centre, it is also known as Buddha Tsal, and is about a km away from the centre of Ravangla town. Constructed between 2006 and 2013, this vast complex with manicured gardens features a 130ft statue of Shakyamuni Buddha consecrated by the Dalai Lama as part of the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha.

The Buddha here is depicted in the Dharmachakra mudra symbolising the Wheel of Dharma, which was set in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath’s Deer Park after attaining enlightenment. About 60 tonnes of copper and some 4kg of gold were used for the statue built in the repousse technique, one of the oldest metalworking practices in the world. It’s quite a climb to the statue and temple inside. But the stunning murals and paintings inside are worth the effort. A spiral gallery showcases scenes from the Buddha’s life, and a glass-encased cylinder in the middle has murals showing holy relics from different countries. The outer periphery has over 200 miniature Buddha statues in various mudras. The statue looks stunning when it is lit up after sunset. Right outside the temple are coloured water fountains, much like wishing wells — throw in a coin and see if it works. At the Tongchoe Lhakhang, you can light butter lamps in memory of your loved ones for a nominal fee. You can spend quite a bit of time here exploring the walkways, gardens, and enjoying the valley and mountain views. Piped music playing mantras and chants adds to the ambience. The site is within the complex of the centuries-old Rabong monastery.
 

Since sightseeing around the park requires quite a bit of climbing and walking around, it is best to wear comfortable walking shoes. There is a cafeteria, food kiosks, and souvenir stalls. If you want to avail the battery operated vehicles for a ride around the park, inquire at the ticket counter at the entry point and make payment for the vehicle here. Close by is Ralang Monastery, another key religious place for Tibetan Buddhism. Ticketed entry. Timing: 9am-5pm. 

Bon Monastery
This monastery in Kewzing is one of the two Bon monasteries in India (the other being in Himachal Pradesh). Until the advent of Buddhism, Bon was the religion of Tibet. Their founder Tonpa Shenrab has a prominent position in Bon culture. The monastery at Kewzing is built in an Indo-Tibetan style, and is decorated with paintings of deities, and the Bon Buddha. It is around 6km from Ravangla along the Ravangla-Legship route. Timing: 8am-5pm.
 
 
 
 
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Mangbrue Monastery
About 2km from Kewzing bazaar is Mangbrue Gompa belonging to the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. Look out for the ruins of bunkers and outposts from the 19th century, when an invading Bhutanese army had used this as a strategic location.

Doling Monastery
Not too far from Ravangla is the Doling monastery belonging to the Nyringmapa sect. The old one and the new one are opposite each other. The old Doling monastery is a peaceful place, with faded prayer flags and a sacred lake which is home to lots of fish. Look out for the footprints on stone — one belonging to the horse of the mountain deity Kanchendzonga and the other of Lama Dorjelingpa.
 
 
Ralang Monastery
About 13 km below Ravangla, is the new Ralang Gompa, also known as the Palchen Choeling Monastic Institute. Set up in the mid-90s, the gompa is home to about 200 monks of the Kagyu order. The gompa is famous for its elaborate sculptures. Inside the main hall is a 30-ft statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. About 1.5km downhill, on the same road, is the smaller Old Ralang Gompa.
 
Established in 1768, it is one of the most important monasteries in Sikkim, and said to blessed by the 9 th Karmapa with grains of rice thrown from Tibet. The monastery hosts festivals such as Pang Lhabsol and Kagyed Chham. The annual Mahakala Dance takes in November.
 

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