Experience Gangtok in all its splendour

Gangtok was the nodal point of our Sikkim itinerary. Situated at 5410 ft, it is a bustling town and capital of Sikkim. In 2016, it was ranked as the 8th cleanest city in India and it showed. The roads were clean and litter free, walkways for pedestrian with flowering plants decorating it – Gangtok really stood out. I was very impressed by the warmth of the local people. They were always very well turned out and I totally loved the smartly dressed children walking to school. We were keen to see more of this beautiful city.

1) Ranka Monastery

Ranka Monastery a.k.a Lingdum Monastery is located about 20kms from Gangtok town. It is one of the most picturesque monasteries in east Sikkim, with a backdrop of forested mountains. It’s a relatively new monastery with not much historical significance. Personally, a visit here was an experience I wouldn’t have wanted to miss, ever !

The 2 lovely guards at the doors if Ranka monastery

The 2 lovely guards at the doors of Ranka monastery

 

Lone monk at the impressive and majestic Ranka monastery

A monk at the impressive and majestic Ranka monastery

Our driver mentioned that the roads to the monastery is treacherous and hence sees less traffic, generally. I believe it to be true, how else do you explain less tourists in the premises ? The drive was pretty (though bumpy), boasting a great view of Gangtok. We passed some quaint well kept houses – a bouquet of colorful flower pots adorning the verandahs. There were points for para gliding and other adventure sports galore, making it a popular destination for adventure seekers too.

Gangtok as seen enroute to Ranka Monastery

Gangtok as seen enroute to Ranka Monastery

There is a long set of prayer wheels at the entrance. We did the customary spinning of these prayer wheels, before entering the monastery. Prayer wheels are spun in clockwise direction for good luck or in case of my children, for the pure joy of doing it. I felt a sense of calm in the monastery atmosphere. Maybe it was a combination of the bright colored architecture, picturesque location, the general atmosphere with monks going about quietly doing their chores for monastery upkeep.

Prayer wheels at the entrance of Ranka Monastery

Prayer wheels at the entrance of Ranka Monastery

We were fortunate to have visited during prayer time, which made for a very compelling experience. Hymns being chanted by monks, along with musical instruments and the traditional Buddhist gong. We were allowed to sit inside and I felt a sense of overwhelming peace in their chanting.

The majestic Prayer Hall @ Ranka Monastery

The majestic Prayer Hall @ Ranka Monastery

 

Experience prayer session at Ranka Monastery

Experience prayer session at Ranka Monastery

The main hall has a vibrant red door and inside there are colorful wall hangings. The walls has drawings and depictions on them. There are tables and benches for the monks to sit on and Tibetan hymn scriptures to read from. The inner sanctum has large sized gold plated Buddha statue . I loved the openness of this monastery, as compared to some others. It is completely open to tourists to explore at their own pace.

The courtyard at the picturesque Ranka monastery

The courtyard at the picturesque Ranka monastery

 

The beautiful entrance to prayer hall at Ranka monastery

The beautiful entrance to prayer hall at Ranka monastery

Outside the monastery, within the premises was a beautiful off white and golden stupa.

Stupa at Ranka monastery

Stupa at Ranka monastery

Near the car park, there is a souvenir shop and a small restaurant serving snacks and sound parenting advice !

Patenting lessons learnt

Patenting lessons learnt

2) Banjhakri Falls

On the way back from Ranka, we visited Banjakri Falls. This project is a physical translation of the concept by the Chief Minister of Sikkim – a story on Banjhakri (Forest witch doctor). Banjhakris are believed to be cave dwellers with power to train and convert young pure soul in witchcraft practices for becoming a witch doctor with healing powers. The park showcases Banjkharis along with Bongthings and depicts age old practice of nature worshipers, belief in healing powers and drive away bad spirits.

While the concept was interesting and unique, we thoroughly enjoyed the scenic surroundings and the waterfall. The waterfall was accessible, had a small sandy beach and we could walk down to it and stand in the icy cold waters !

Banjhakri Falls

Banjhakri Falls

 

And the glee on their faces show how much they love it !! Well, the water was icy too :)

And the glee on their faces show how much they love it !! Well, the water was icy too 🙂

It was overcast when we arrived and started raining cats and dogs as we almost finished. So lunch was at one of the stalls in the premises serving fresh and hot momos – yum 🙂

3) Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

This is one of the most important and famous institutes in the world that does research on Tibetan language and culture. Located less than 2 kilometers from Gangtok, the institute is located in a forest of birch trees, oak and magnolia. The land for the institute was donated by the late King of Sikkim Tashi Namgyal and the institute was thus named after him. It was opened officially by the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 1 October 1958.

Tibet architecture of Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

Tibet architecture of Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

The museum is located on the ground floor and has rare collections of coins, statues, thangkas (scrolls with hand paintings and embroidery work) and Tibetan art work.

The library is located on the first floor of the building and boasts of one of the largest collections of Tibetan documents and literature in the world.

Opposite to the institute premises is a souvenir shop called Asta Mangala Art. It is said to have many intricate, reasonable and genuine articles.

4) Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

A short walk from the Research Institute of Tibetology and located on a hillock is the Do-Drul Chorten Stupa. From the base of the hillock, a short but really steep pathway leads up to the Stupa.

Uphill walk to Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

Uphill walk to Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

This large white  Stupa which shines with a golden top dome, is seen from various places in Gangtok.

 

Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

Legend has it that the entire place was once haunted by evil spirits and people who wandered around this place became victims and died. Later a very respected and celebrated lama of Tibet came to this place for hermitage. He constructed the stupa in 1946 to drive away the spirits. This chorten is regarded as one of the most important chortens of Sikkim.

The stupa is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels with mantras inscribed on them in Tibetan. Inside the Chorten Stupa are holy books, relics and other religious objects. There is a glass-walled area with countless flaming butter lamps burning within.

Few of the 108 prayer wheels at Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

Few of the 108 prayer wheels at Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

It is surrounded by monks’ hostels and I had the pleasure of seeing some of the younger monks at their playful best in the informal setting.

Some entertainment - monk hostel near Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

Some entertainment – monk hostel near Do-Drul Chorten Stupa

5) Rumtek Monastery

We could not visit due to lack of time but it was on my list and I would recommend you go if you are keen on Tibetan Buddhist history. The Old Rumtek Monastery was built in 1730 by the 5th Karmapa (head of the monastery). It is located 15 minutes downhill from the current building and was completely burnt by fire and had to be rebuilt in 1960s.

Rumtek is the largest Monastery in Sikkim and located 24 kms from Gangtok town. It isn’t very accessible, requires an uphill walk of about half a kilometer to reach up to the main monastery.  This monastery is famous, all over the world, especially among the Tibetan Buddhists. The architecture of the monastery is spectacular and resembles the original in Tibet.

Rumtek monastery Pandiyan via Compfight cc

Rumtek monastery Pandiyan via Compfight cc

It is a 3 storeyed building with a large prayer hall on the ground floor, with hand painted and intricate wall murals, thankas (Buddhist scrolls), silk paintings and statues. The first floor was where the 16th Karmapa lived. The top floor has a terrace and a small stupa.

The large intricate wall murals at Rumtek Shreyans Bhansali via Compfight cc

The large intricate wall murals at Rumtek Shreyans Bhansali via Compfight cc

A large courtyard in front of the main monastery building, other buildings surrounding it where the monks live – very similar to the Ranka monastery.

Other attractions are the Golden Stupa of 16th Karmapa which is made of pure gold, Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies, a bird aviary and a scenic view of Gantok town.

You are not allowed to use camera inside. Rumtek was embroiled in Karmapa controversy for the 17th head, with two groups supporting a different candidate. Armed Indian soldiers patrol the monastery to prevent any violence – well it kind of ruins the visitor experience.

Travel Tips

  • It is advisable to book a cab / taxi to travel around Gangtok, if you have small children or elderly people with you.
  • The main town is a pleasure to walk in. Wear sensible walking shoes though.
  • Be prepared to take off your shoes in the monasteries and the museum at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.
  • Carry an umbrella as it pretty much rained every afternoon when we visited in the 2nd half of April.
  • Try and visit Ranka monastery around prayer time, which is typically in the evening, for an amazing experience. We were lucky to catch it around 10 am
  • The museum and the library at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is open to public between 10am to 4pm from Monday to Saturday. Its closed on Sunday, public holidays and second Saturday of every month. Admission fee is Rs. 10/- per person.
  • Photography is not allowed inside the institute but a picture can be taken from outside.
  • Rumtek Monastery is open from 6am to 6pm. Admission fee is Rs. 10/- per person.
  • Himalayan Zoological Park houses Red Panda among other Himalayan animals. Visit if you have half a day to spare. If you are visiting Darjeeling, you can give it a miss here.
  • Admission fee is Rs. 25/- per adult (for Indians) and Rs. 10/- per child. Parking fee for a small car is Rs. 40 and large vehicle like Innova etc is Rs. 100. The Zoo is open from 9am to 4pm daily and closed on Thursday.

 

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

admin

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

27 Responses

  1. Ami says:

    I want to do that waterfall !!!! And the monastery looks amazing

    • admin says:

      Waterfall was fun and monastery – you really need to visit it. I just loved Ranka Monastery. Catch the prayer time – experience will stay with you for the longest time 🙂

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  14. neha says:

    Beautiful places. Particularly the monastery . I had been to gangtok long long back as a kid. Just like your kids in this pic :). Although I don’t remember much of the places, still I remember the feeling of liking the place..how strange! So, basically, I want to return there again. And when I do, will definitely visit all these places.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Neha. It was my first trip to Sikkim, so was quite enthralled by all the beauty surrounding me. Glad my post helped you remember your visit as a child.

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