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.
‘Tok’ means temple. Dedicated to Ganesh and Hanuman, these two hill tops near Gangtok are also known to serve as viewpoints (weather permitting that is). Ganesh Tok (6,500ft) is on a hill adjacent to the TV Tower. According to legends, Hanuman Tok (7,200ft), maintained by the Indian Army, is the place where the monkey god rested for a while when he was transporting the medicinal herb required to cure Lakshman.
One of the oldest Hindu temples of Sikkim, it was built on a parcel of land donated by the Chogyal (ruler) in 1935. It has been subsequently revamped over several years. Nearly every deity in the Hindu pantheon finds a place here through idols and murals. The floridly coloured temple is located at the entry to MG Marg, Gangtok. Durga Puja is the most popular festival held here.
St Thomas Church
The statue of Virgin Mary (‘Our Lady of Fatima’) kept at the grotto, was brought from Portugal in 2017. Do visit the church if you are in Gangtok during Christmas. The gaily decorated church is a delight.
Located near the taxi stand in Gangtok, the Anjum-E-Islam was originally made of wood by a Muslim from Ladakh, Sabila Sardar, who had acquired the land from the local ruler. The trust of Anjuman-e-Islamia manages the mosque.
Do Drul Chorten
Built by head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism, Trulshik Rinpoche, in 1945, this Gangtok-based attraction is one of the most important stupas in Sikkim. Inside are mandala sets of the meditational deity Dorjee Phurba or Vajraklaya, a set of Kangyur relics or holy books and a complete set of zung (mantras). Do take a turn at the prayer wheels for some spiritual succour. The Chorten Lakhang has two huge statues of Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava. Timings: 8am-6pm.
About 3km northeast of Gangtok lies the 200-year-old Enchey. It belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. The location was blessed by Lama Drupthob Karpo, a practitioner of Tantric Buddhism. The monastery observes many festivals, often marked by the Chaam or Masked Dance. Pang Lhabsol held just before Losar, the Tibetan New Year (around Feb/Mar) and Losoong, the Sikkimese New Year (around Dec/ Jan) are two of the most popular festivals along with the once in three year Singhe Chaam. Timings: 4am-4pm, Mon-Sat; 4am-1pm, Sun.
This monastery and centre of learning is about 24km from Gangtok, and belongs to the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The new monastery was founded by the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorjee in 1962, who took residence in the old Rumtek Gonpa (located at a higher ledge) following his departure from Tibet in 1959, according to records. The Golden Stupa contains his relics. The architecture of this four-storied building is said to have been based on the Tshurphu monastery of Tibet. Among the holy objects kept here is a crown said to have woven by the Dakinis (supernatural powers). Mask Dances are performed here during religious festivals such as Saga Dawa (birth anniversary of Lord Buddha), Guru Trungkar Tshechu (birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava) and Gutor Chham on the eve of Losar (the Tibetan New Year). Ticketed entry. Timings: 6am-6pm.
The new Baba Mandir (temple) dedicated to late Harbhajan Singh, a soldier from the Punjab Regiment, is usually seen in conjunction with trips to Tsomgo Lake and Nathu La (a pass near the Indo-China border). The original temple is located further up, in Nathang Valley (part of Sikkim’s Silk Route), near the bunker where the soldier was posted. Local people and members of the armed forces posted here believe his spirit protects them from danger.
Located at Rangpo, a town on the Sikkim-West Bengal border, this is part of the Barelvi school of thought in Islam and follows the Sunni Hanafi school.
Inaugurated in 2016, this sprawling temple complex is located at Rhenock, Rungdung, in the hills of East Sikkim. Built in an extravagant style, the four stories temple is more than 100 feet in height. To one side of the temple complex is a huge diorama depicting the story of ‘Samudra Manthan’. You may see this temple while covering Sikkim’s Silk Route.
Parbateyswar Shivalaya Mandir
Located about 60km from Gangtok, in Aritar, this temple is dedicated to Shiva. It attracts a lot of pilgrims during the monsoon festival. A short trek will take you to another temple called Mankhim Temple, revered by the Rai community.
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Located at one end of the Lampokhari Lake, this monastery belongs to the Karma Kagyu sect. The Aritar Lake (Ghati-Tso) is close by. Also known as Lampokhari Lake, the boot-shaped emerald water body located at an altitude of 4600ft is one of the oldest natural lakes of Sikkim. Another interesting thing to check out here is a Brit-era bungalow built in 1895.