AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE
The majestic mountains in the North East have this astonishing nature of being able to cover the most inexplicable panoramas at a glance. Just follow the street signs and find your way along the twisty roads and you will surely reach a site that will leave your mind enthralled. This region is still a part of an unknown India which encompasses myriad mountains, monasteries, and heart-stirring views. Thus, Sikkim is a place that is waiting to be explored!
Sikkim is exceptional because the air here croons melodies of peace and the alpine mountains stand statuesque. And amidst them lie the sacred monasteries that reverberate with the holy chants. These ancient monasteries are famous not only because they are immersed amidst the most striking views but for the age long legacy which they carry. On top of the lofty mountains, these Buddhist monasteries are dispersed in several parts of the state, many of which belong to the 17th and the 18th century.
One of the most momentous and sacred monasteries in Sikkim, Rumtek sits on a mountain overlooking Gangtok. It could be reached through a private vehicle and is a 1.5-hour drive from The Elgin Nor-Khill, Gangtok. The monastery was established by Wangchuk Dorje, 9th Karmapa Lama in the 16th century, which was initially called the Dharma Chakra Center. It now incorporates an exquisite temple and a monastery for the monks. The temple was built up with a motive of spreading the lessons of the Buddha all over the world.
Rumtek Monastery, set in a picturesque landscape of lofty mountains and pine trees.
The Enchey Monastery was built in the northeast of Gangtok almost 200 years ago. The word ‘Enchey’ means solitary which is prodigiously justified with its location. The monastery belongs to the Nyingma of Vajrayana Buddhism. The location is blessed with bounties of nature. During the lunar month every year, special prayers are held in January and February and ‘Chaam’ a religious dance form is performed by masked dancers. One can take a 10-minute taxi ride from Gangtok City to reach this monastery.
The Enchey Monastery standing in all its glory on a cloudy day.
This is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim which is crowded with tourists throughout the year and is located right opposite The Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling. The best time to visit this place is between March to June when the monastery stands tall in all its glory. The Pemayangtse monastery is almost 300 hundred years old and is a perfect place to be engrossed in peaceful thoughts and to experience the true charisma of nature. People from all over the world visit this place to indulge themselves in prayers and meditations.
Image by @subodhshettyy, Instagram
A little monk excitedly announcing the break for lunch at Pemayangtse Monastery by ringing the bell.
Ralang Monastery is the biggest monastery in Sikkim which is an immaculate blend of vibrant colours, traditions, and the world-famous Tibetan architecture. This place is famous for its collection of paintings inside the temple, Kewzing Monastery, Tumlong, and Mangbrue Gompa & Viewpoint.
A vivid picture of the Ralang Monastery, located near Ravangla in South Sikkim.
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Bear
Even though Sikkim is the second smallest state in the country, it still has so much of beauty and serenity to offer. Someone has rightly said that big things do come in little packages. Immersed in the lap of the pristine Himalayas, Sikkim is the place for soul seekers! It is touted as one of the most captivating locations in the world. What makes this little state even more beautiful is its alpine meadows, glaciers, wildflowers, snow-clad mountains and its people with smiling faces.
BARSEY RHODODENDRON SANCTUARY
The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is situated 10,000 feet above sea level. The best season to visit the sanctuary is from March to May when the Rhododendrons bloom graciously in full swing. The flowers give a magical aura to the forest.
Mesmerizing Rhododendrons blooming gracefully in Barsey.
Hanuman Tok offers the best views of the Kanchenjunga in entire Sikkim. This temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is located at a short ride of only 20 mins from The Elgin Silver Oaks, Kalimpong. As soon as you start climbing the stairs, a sense of spirituality and calmness can be felt and rhythmic sounds of the prayers and chants could be heard from a distance. The best part about visiting this shrine is the engrossing view of a little portion of Gangtok and the nearby hills and valleys.
A magical view of the flowers surrounded by clouds from the Hanuman Temple view point.
Another favourite spot among the tourists in Sikkim is the Tsomgo Lake. It is also known as Changu Lake. An hour-long drive from The Elgin Nor-Khill, the ethereal beauty of Tsomngo Lake entices the tourists from all over the world and leaves them spellbound. The best time to visit this lake is during summers and winters. It reflects a variety of colours with the changing seasons of the year. Tsomgo Lake is considered sacred by the Sikkimese people.
A magical view of the clouds cascading the Tsomgo Lake.
HIMALAYAN ZOOLOGICAL PARK
Himalayan Zoological Park is one of its kind places where the animals are kept in their natural habitats, unlike other zoos. It is 230 hectares of a forested area which consists of a variety of endangered species of animals and birds. The animals found in this forest include Red Pandas, Himalayan Black Bears, Snow Leopards, Clouded Leopard, Leopard Cat, Tibetan Wolfs, Himalayan Palm Civets, Large Indian Civets, Gorals, Barking Deer, Yaks, Porcupine, etc. and among the birds, you can see the Golden Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, Lady Amherst Pheasant, Kalij, Satyr Tragopan, etc. This enchanted place amidst the woods is just a short 28 minutes ride from The Elgin Nor-Khill, Gangtok.
It is truly said by Nelson Mandela that “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
The Mount Khangchendzonga standing snow-clad in all its glory.
The crest of Northeast India, Sikkim is an abode to soul seekers and peace lovers throughout the world. Apart from the divine monasteries, sacred culture, and the scintillating rivers what makes Sikkim an adventurous place is its sky-high mountains which range between 4900-6100 meters. These tall and tough mountains are covered in snow all year round. Sikkim is endowed with the third highest peak in the world, Kanchenjunga or Khangchendzonga (8586 m) which is a climbing goal for mountaineers throughout the world. It is snow-clad round the year and offers a thrilling view to its visitors. For the Sikkimese people, Khangchendzonga is not just a mountain but an abode of their guardian deity Dzo-nga. The interesting part about this mountain is that it can be viewed from every corner of Sikkim!
Apart from the Kangchendzonga, other significant peaks include, Mt Kabru which is located in the West Sikkim with a height of 24,005 ft and is a part of a ridge that extends south from Khangchendzonga. Mt. Siniolchu with a height of 22,610 ft is one of the tallest peaks in Sikkim and is considered as one of the most picturesque and enchanting mountains in the world. Mt. Pandim with an elevation of 22,010 ft and Mt. Rathong with a height of 21,911 ft is also located in West Sikkim and are very popular among tourists from all over the world.
CONFLUENCE OF CULTURE IN SIKKIM
Sikkim is one of the most prosperous states of India and is extremely popular for its captivating beauty and tourism. During the year 1975, it was an independent kingdom that was controlled by the Namgyal Dynasty since the seventeenth century. A majority of the people in Sikkim are the Lepchas. They are the people with the most beautiful smiles on their faces. Due to the ever-expanding rise of the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the Lepchas started converting themselves into Buddhism. Most of these people are farmers who have migrated here from Tibet after the sixteenth century. Even though they are officially Buddhists, they still have kept up a different culture of their own that contains numerous components of their archaic religion. They also have one of those secretive dialects that are very distinct from the others.
The noteworthy remains from the Sikkimese culture can be found in the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology which contains the rare Tanghka paintings, antiques, and scriptures. The Chogyals i.e the kings of the Erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim were coronated at Tsuklahan. It is a tradition in the Buddhist culture that at least one son in the family should become a monk. The Buddhist monasteries are the real-time depictions of the Sikkimese culture that is almost thousands of years old.
THE SACRED FORESTS AND MONASTERIES OF KEWZING
The untouched village of Kewing is at an elevation of 1700 meters with the highest point being the Maenam Hill which slowly decreases down to Ranjit River facing Tashiding. In the local Sikkimese language, “Kewzing” means ‘The land of wheat fields’. The Bhutia community dwelling in this area is endowed with the greatest gifts of nature. With a very small population of just 200 people, this little town enjoys zero pollution, lush green landscapes, and exotic species of animals. The village has cardamom and tea plantations. Kewzing is adorned with four different monasteries on each side of its land. The Tashiding monastery in the South-west, Mangbru, and Pemayengtshen Monastery in West, Ralong and Ravangla monastery in the Southeast, Doling Monastery in East and Bon Monastery towards the North. It is also known as ‘The land of chestnut forests’. This dreamy little village is definitely a place where you need to slow down and indulge in the peace that it has to offer to its visitors. So, the next time you are in Kewzing, slow down a bit and take a moment to soak yourself in all the goodness!
I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery with air, mountains, trees, and people. I thought, this is what it is to be happy. – @poisedpixel, Instagram
Witness the spectacular views of the Himalayan range and the Kanchenjunga with picturesque landscapes, and the luscious flora and fauna. From tantalizing waterfalls to sacred monasteries, Sikkim is the place to immerse yourself amidst nature and serenity.