Sikkim Diary - Part 3

Mr. Gurung was dot on time the next morning to show us around, but we got delayed as we had to arrange permits for the next day's visit to Tsongmo lake and Nathula pass. Identity proof and photographs had to be submitted to the military for the permits. Due to the proximity to the Chinese border and treacherous conditions, the army regulates the number of people/vehicles visiting the area on any given day. After setting up a travel agency to do the needful on our behalf, we started our Gangtok tour. Mr. Gurung took us to more than 13 different spots in and around Gangtok. We started with the Bulbulay Himalayan Zoo. This zoo has a difference from the regular zoos that animals are kept in large open/semi-open enclosures. They have also been carrying out captive breeding of Red Panda here, the state animal of Sikkim, since 1999.

Our next stop was Tashi view point and after lunch we went to the famous Lingdum and Rumtek monasteries. Rumtek located 24 km from Gangtok -also called the Dharmachakra Centre- is the largest monastery in Sikkim. It is the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage, the largest lineage within the Kagyu school, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Due to sectarian violence within the Karma Kagyu lineage, the monastery is heavily patrolled by the Indian armed forces. The colossal prayer hall inside the monastery is adorned with lovely murals, statues and 'tangkhas'.

The Lingdum monastery is one of the new monasteries, but built in such grandeour and style to match or even exceed the beauty of some of the old ones. It is a Buddhist center in the tradition of the Zurmang Kagyud lineage. We also visited the Do Drul Chorten stupa, encircled by 108 prayer wheels built by a former head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism. This is one of the most important and the biggest stupas found in Sikkim. Inside this stupa, there are holy books, mantras and other religious objects. The Chorten is surrounded by Chorten Lakhang, where there are two huge statues of Padmasambhava. Pilgrims from all over the state come to pay their homage at this stupa.

After spending a day experiencing the history and culture of Sikkim and Buddhism, we got back to MG road by late evening. After a quick dinner at the nearby Nepali restaurant and a quick stroll along the deserted MG road, we hit the sack quite early that night. We had a long travel scheduled for the next day.

Click here for more..
Sikkim Diary: Part 1
Sikkim Diary: Part 2
Sikkim Diary: Part 3
Sikkim Diary: Part 4

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