Temples of Sikkim
Sikkim is situated at the foot of Mount Kanchendzonga and boasts of an unexplored beauty. The lofty mountains dominate the skyline of Sikkim. Hilltop monasteries emerge from the rugged terrains while multi-coloured prayer flags wave in the mountain breeze. In Sikkim. Buddhism is the major religion and as a result there are many Buddhist Sikkim Temples in and around the state, than Hindu temples in Sikkim. One can find as many as 200 Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim as against a few Hindu Sikkim Temples. Besides the Hindu Sikkim Temples, the Lachung Gompa is a Buddhist temple located atop a hill is one of the most striking Buddhist Sikkim Temples in Sikkim.
Sikkim the second smallest State after Goa is less populated State in the Indian territory with a population of around 550,000 in an area of around 7,096 square kilometers. Located amidst the panoramic Himalayas, the State is hub of tourist activity with more than 28 mountains, 80 glaciers, and 227 high-altitude lakes including the famous Tsongmo Lake, Gurudongmar Lake and Kecheopalri Lake. There are also five Hot Springs and more than a hundred rivers and streams.
Ganesh Tok, located at an altitude of about 6,500 feet on the Nathula=Gangtok Road Ganesh Tok is a small temple, located at a distance of 7 kilometre from Gangtok. Situated next to the television tower on the small hill nestled on Gangtok-Nathula road, the temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh. This temple is so small in size that at a time, it can only accommodate one person at a time. In addition, one needs to crawl to get inside this temple.
Besides its size, the temple is also known for the bird’s eye view of several places such as the Gangtok Town, the Mount Kanchenjunga and the Raj Bhawan Complex. In addition, there is small place located close to this temple, which is known as Smriti Van. In this place, the devotees on the behalf of their loved ones can plant saplings.
Hanuman Tok dedicated to God Hanuman, is one of the most renowned temples located in Sikkim. Managed and maintained by a division of Army, this temple is located at a distance of 5 km from Gangtok. With a total height of 7,200 ft, from the top of this hillock, tourists can enjoy beautiful view of Gangtok Town along with the nearby hills.
From White Hall, located on the Gangtok-Nathula highway, this temple is situated at a distance of approximately 5 km. The ‘royal cremation grounds of Lukshyama’ is located in close proximity to this place. On this cremation ground, the mortal remains of family members of former Namgyal dynasty were brought to flame. According to the local legends, when Hanuman was flying with the Sanjeevani (mythological life saving herb) mountain to save Rama’s brother Lakshmana he rested in the spot where this temple now lies. The mandir is actually managed by The Hanumantok Mandir Committee.
Thakurbari Temple is located in Gangtok, in the heart of the town. It is one of the oldest Hindu temple in Sikkim constructed in 1935 on a piece of land donated by Sir Thutop Namgyal, the famous Maharaja of Sikkim.The temple houses almost all major deities and has emerged as an important centre of convergence for the Hindu community of Gangtok.The temple was upgraded to a major temple complex during 1945-47 and is now being further upgraded to include multi – purpose hall and library.
Kirateshwar Mahadev TempleAlso known as the Shiva Mandir is a Hindu temple which is located in Legship, West Sikkim, along the banks of River Rangeet. According to a popular legend, pleased with Arjuna’s hard penance and devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before him in the very spot where the temple lies as a Kirat or hunter and blessed him with success in the Mahabharat War. This temple comes under the West Sikkim District and is connected with the mythological stories of Mahabharata. It also has a dharamshala within the premises that has a capacity to accommodate to over 500 devotees. The most popular feature of this temple is the annual festival of Shivarati, held during February.
Bala Chaturdesi is one the famous festival of this temple, which is usually celebrated between the months of November and December. This temple is located at a distance of 4 km from Pelling and is connected with Geyzing and Pemayangtse.
Rumtek Temple also called the Dharmachakra Centre, is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It is a focal point for the sectarian tensions that characterise the Karmapa controversy. Rumtek monastery or Dharma Chakra Centre as it is called is located at 24 kilometers away from Gangtok,East Sikkim. The Monastery is the seat of the Karmapa Kagyu lineage outside Tibet. The main monastery is surrounded by the monks dormitory. Roof peak of the monastery is comprised of four storied golden sculpture, known as ghanzira. Inside, the monastery is the paintings of the Kagyu lineage, the eight great Bodhisattvas, the sixteen Arhats, the Genduk Chogngi etc. Behind the Rumtek Monastery is the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies. Karma Shri Nalanda Institute was founded to preserve and propagate the noble teachings of the Lord Buddha, particularly the Kagyu tradition of Mahayana Buddhism.
The Pemayangtse Monastery is a Buddhist monastery in Pemayangtse is located at about 140 kilometres west of Gangtok. Planned, designed and founded by Lama Lhatsun Chempo in 1705, it is one of the oldest and premier monasteries of Sikkim. It is not only one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim but also the most famous in west Sikkim. Originally built by Lhatsun Chenpo in the 17th century, as a small Lhakhang, it was subsequently enlarged during the reign of the third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal who was considered as Lhatsun Chenpo’s third reincarnate, Jigme Pawo. The monastery follows the Nyingma order of Tibet Buddhism and controls all other monasteries of that order in Sikkim. The monks of this monastery are normally chosen from the Bhutias of Sikkim.
Enchey Monastery was established in 1909 above Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. It belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. The monastery built around the then small hamlet of Gangtok became a religious centre. The location was blessed by Lama Drupthob Karpo, a renowned exponent of tantric (adept) art in Buddhism with flying powers; initially a small Gompa was established by him after he flew from Maenam Hill in South Sikkim to this site. The literal meaning of Enchey Monastery is the “Solitary Monastery”.Its sacredness is attributed to the belief that Khangchendzonga and Yabdean – the protecting deities – reside in this monastery. It is also believed that these powerful deities always fulfil the wishes of the devotees. The monastery has a large collection of masks which are used for the annual ritual dances. As its name implies, monastery has a peaceful atmosphere and also maintains a good library.
Sikkim has also created history by bringing the four Dhams under one roof at Solophok, Namchi, South Sikkim. The four most revered Dhams of the Hindus namely Jagannath, Dwarika, Rameshawaram, Badrinath has been replicated in this fantastic complex to benefit the devotees who will visit this place. Siddhesvara Dham was consecrated by Shri Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati on November 8, 2011 and is now open to public.
Aniket Raja (With inputs from Sikkim Tourism )