Gangtok - A Tete A Tete With The City :
Location : North Eastern India, Eastern Sikkim
Best Time to Visit : February to May and September to December.
Places to See : The Chapel Tsuklakhang, Stupas, and Educational Institutes, View Points, Parks, Structures, Lakes, Hot Springs
Souvenirs : Handicraft articles, masks, and tables of Choktse and the hangings of thanka, lovely decorations, carved furniture and bags.
Gangtok - The Tale of the City :
History has it that the history of Sikkim begins from the 17th century when there was a monastery constructed here. In the year 1840, the construction of the Enchey Monastery converted Sikkim into a pilgrim spot. In 1894, Thutob Namgyal was the Sikkim Ruler. The capital got shifted from Tumlong to Gangtok during this time. The British occupied Sikkim in the 19th century and slowly Gangtok became a trade centre at the end of the 19th century. The British had trade activities with Tibet.
Gangtok - Down the Ages :
India became independent in the year 1947, and Sikkim was segregated into a separate state with its capital at Gangtok. As per a treaty signed between Jawaharlal Nehru and Chogyal India could monitor the external affairs for Sikkim. Tibet and India flourished in their trade activities which were predominant in the mountain passes at Jelepla and Nathula. In the year 1962, the passes were closed thus depleting the business activities at Gangtok. In the year 2006, the pass at Nathula was opened out. Down the ages, Sikkim is a place of a lot of political problems, and immense struggle. With a lot of landslides, and damage to life and property Sikkim faced a lot of tragedy in the year 1997, but today it is a flourishing city with a lot of tourists visiting this place.
Gangtok - A Rendezvous :
A rendezvous with Gangtok, the lofty hill reveals that the land was flattened to construct a monastery there. With the breeze grazing your face and the mist covering the city and with the Lamas giving their prayers the vibrancy in the city comes due to the lovely people around dressed in beautiful silk, laden with silver jewellery. The pagodas with their lovely painted roofs and the hill of Lukshyma and the citadels around give the city its authentically mystical look. The ambience here is intriguing, and the monasteries add to the enchantment. The lamas sound their trumpets from the far away valleys and render this place a magical experience.
Gangtok - Travel Kitty :
When a person visits Gangtok, he looks out for the ideal travel kitty. Gangtok, the city of lamas, is a place with a lot of entertainment and pleasure. The carved furniture, the bags which are woven, and the artifacts made of bamboo, are a perfect treat for the tourist. Besides this the decorative pieces in Gangtok is a traveler’s ecstasy. The intricately designed articles and the lovely decorations, around provide the perfect travel kitty. The handicraft articles, masks, and the tables of Choktse and the hangings of thanka.
Gangtok - Joie de Vivre in the City :
The joie de vivre in this city is the pleasure of seeing the beauty around, and inhaling the ambience of the city. The grandeur of the past and the historical tale behind it enthralls the tourist, and the innate glory of the place seeps into the mind of the traveler. One who comes to this place can see the following things:
The Chapel Tsuklakhang :
This is a worship area, and has a stupendous collection of old scriptures of Buddhism. The façade here is so grand that the beautiful wooden sculpture of the snow lion really stands out. The walls are made of wood and the murals here exude the best kind of art. There is a lamp here that burns perennially and it is on the altar. There is a perfume of incense here and this fills the chapel with a lot of good vibration. The tranquility here is a perfect experience of satisfaction for the tourist. Ceremonies like the “Kagey Thuetor” and the “Gungsar” mark the celebrations of New Year in Tibet. This is the chapel where the Sikkimese kings have been coronated and most of the councilors are sworn.
The stupas dominate the Sikkim region, and the “Dul Dul Chorten” and the “Jhang Club Chortan” are structures which were built in memory of the celebration of good in the society eradicating the evil elements. This was built commemorating the saint Thrul - shik rinpoche. This saint a devout follower of Buddha, is famous here as he spread Buddha’s teachings well. There is a set of Bajra Kilaya, the holy Books, major relics and lot of mantras called Zung. There are a lot of religious articles also found here.
The Dul Dul Chorten is amongst the important Sikkimese Chortens. There are 108 prayer wheels here. The locals call the prayer wheels as the Mani Lhokor. There is an idol of the great Saint Rinpoche in the Guru Lhakhang and the Chorten Lhakhang which surround the main Chorten. A meditation centre here provides the tourists with relaxation means. The Chorten also has the Institute of Higher Studies in Nyingma which is called the Nyingma Shede by the locals. Smaller structures like the Kudung are popular monuments.
Educational Institutes :
The Research Institute of Tibetology, Sikkim :
This is an institution located in Sikkim along with other Studies of Buddhism. Dodrup Chen Rinpoche heads the Chorten Lhakhang and educates the students there. He also teaches the members of the Drubda, and helps them to learn how to practice the Nyingma Order.
Institute of Research on Tibetology :
Sikkim is a land of trees and greenery. The oak, birch and the ash forests are very common here. Amidst such a setting this institution finds its place and is a pioneer in spreading the Tibetan language here and the Tibetan literature on the “Buddha or the Enlightened One.” The Mahayana form of Buddhism is practiced here and this institution has the dubious achievement of being the only one in the whole world. The basic function of the institution is to completely understand the culture and the language in Tibet. People visit the library here between 10 in the morning to 4 in the evening. Government holidays and Sundays find this museum not working. We find images of Lord Buddha on the altars and there are also the intriguing deities of the Tantric art. Many translations, xylographs and the Buddha’s teaching are also a part of the largest Asian Institute collections. With brass bells, rosaries, dorjis, chortens and tankhas as also some of the best icons, the scriptures of the Mahayana form of Buddhism, have put the institute in the rank of the only institution of this type in the world.
Cottage Industries Institute :
The main reason this institute was established was to increase the sale of the handicrafts in Sikkim. The wooden tables carved with intricate designs, the magnificently woven carpets made of wool and the thankas all form a part of the Institute. Students from all institutes related to this come here and produce their handiwork, with lovely designs and beautiful colors. There is vermillion, blue and many other heart touching colors. The batik work with their appliqué and the cute dolls made of wood, the lamp stands, the handicrafts made out of bamboo, the vibrant clothing of the dancers in Sikkim, the exquisitely boots with fine embroidery all are found in this institute.
View Points :
The Tashi View Point: this is located around 8 km from the city of Gangtok. The entire view of the city and also the Mt. Kanchenjunga or Khangchendzonga and the Mt. Siniolchu is a sight to remember forever.
Ganesh Tok :
This is a bird lover’s paradise. With a lovely glimpse of beautiful birds in the expanse of Gangtok, the heaven on earth, this is a perfect view point for all the tourists.
Hanuman Tok :
Situated around 11 km from the city of Gangtok, the point which has a temple for the Hindus is a famous spot for the devotees who come here to pay obeisance to the deity.
Deer Park :
This is also known as the Rustomji Park. It is just next to the New Secretariat. The main feature of this park is that it has the Himalayan Bear and the Red panda in a big open enclosure. Lord Buddha’s statue purifies the place and most of his teachings are seen all over the park. There is a perennially burning oil lamp here which has the most exotic flowers in full bloom here. This park has a beautiful scenic beauty and has a magnificent view of the hills too.
Ipecac Garden :
Spreading over more than 6 acres, this garden lies around 14km from the city of Gangtok. The Ipecac plant grows here in plenty and so the park is thus named. A collection of flora with varieties of orchids and plants with medicinal value are found here. Tourists and picnickers like to come here for rest and relaxation and enjoy in the swimming pool found here.
Kabi Longstok :
This is located around 25km from the city of Gangtok. The chief of the Lepchas Tetong Tek and the chief of Tibet Khye Bhumsa signed a treaty here wherein they promised to be good brothers of neighboring countries.
White Hall :
Constructed in the year 1932, this was a structure during the time of the British. A Badminton Hall and Officers Club are there in this structure.
The Ridge :
This is a small plain road which is flat and is above the city of Gangtok. It has the residence of the Chief Minister, the White Hall, and a magnificently made palace gate with the most exquisite kind of designs. Lots of trees and plants with foliage par excellence border either side of the ridge. There are many flower shows here which the tourists attend with a lot of enthusiasm.
Changu Lake :
This is located around 35km from the city of Gangtok. Situated at a height of around 12,000 ft it lies on the Nathu la - Gangtok highway. The serene calm waters of the lake are in perfect tandem with the lovely ambience. Coupled with this, the temple with its presiding deity as Lord Shiva is a perfect blend of tradition and relaxation. There is lot of wild vegetation here and primulae flowers are abundant here. The Tseten Tashi Cave is situated very close by and it is a sure visit for any tourist visiting the lake.
Menmecho Lake :
This is very near to the Changu Lake and is found ensconced in the Jelapla Pass. The River Ranpochu originates from this lake. This river later on meets the Teesta at Rangpo. Trouts are found here and one can find easy accommodation here.
Khecheopalri Lake :
Khecheopalri means a lake for wishing. IT lies on the junction between Yoksum and Gyalsing. Wild life and green verdant expanse dominate the region and the tranquil calm waters of the lake are clear and clean. This is because the birds whisk away anything falling on the lake. Amongst the most sacred Sikkim lakes, this actually is invisible amidst a verdant dense forest expanse. Locals believe that birds here in the lake do not allow even a leaf to float on the still clear lake. Pelling is around 25km from here and is around 9km from the main Y junction. Prayer flags surround this place and they are worshipped by Buddhists and Hindus. Meaning the blissful heaven Khachodpalri Lake has a legend that it was once a ground where the stinging nettle used to graze. The local Lepchas use the nettle barks and once a couple saw conch shells coming from the air, and entered the ground. The ground trembled a lot and a lot of water came up from the ground and this became a lake. It is believed that this is where the Nymph of Dharma Tshomen Gyalme lived. The locals believe that the Goddess Tara blessed this nymph. It is also believed that the lake is shaped in the form of the footprint of Goddess Tara.
Hot Springs :
Yumthang is a lovely place at a height of 12000 ft, and is located around 135 km from Gangtok. One has to cross the Lachung, to be able to reach these sulphur springs which lie after a local pedestrian bridge. Bathing facilities are provided with huts for changing clothes. Yumthang is a grazing pasture with a forest rest house, surrounded by vertical mountains. The route to Yumthang from Lachung, adjoining the Singba Forest Reserve has a very picturesque landscape and is lined with Rhododendrons, which bloom in May.
Phurchachu Reshi :
It lies around 25km from Gyalsing. One has to cross the River Rangeet. The locals call it Ranjit. There is a bridge for pedestrians. It is believed that the water here has medicinal value. People with skin diseases come here. The springs are respected and revered and there is also a cave here. The Kadosangphu cave is found here. It is also known as the Cave of the Occult fairies.
Tourist Spots :
This is a tourist spot and has the Yumey Samdong hot springs nearby. It is located near the Sebu-Chu River and lies at the base of the Donkia La Pass.
This is good 24km from the city of Gangtok. It is respected as the main seat of the lineage of the Karma kagyu. It was built in the 12th century. Karmapa Lama is the leader of the Kagyupa Buddhist sect. He sits in this monastery. The walls of the monastery are finely decorated with thangkas. Frescoes too dominate this place. The 16th reincarnate was His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa. He is believed to have built this in the 19th century. The whole monastery greatly is reminiscent of the Tibetan Lama Monasteries. The largest such kind of monastery in Sikkim, it has a school which spreads the Tibetan knowledge and Buddhist preachings. A collection of a variety of exotic birds adorns the aviary found here. Monks meditate in a hermitage nearby. The festivals of Tse Chu Chaams and the Kagyal dances are a regular occurrence here as per the Tibetan calendar.
This monastery has the botanical gardens here spreading over a huge area and having the best kind of flora and fauna. Preferred by most of the picnickers, this place gives a complete panoramic view of the city.
Phoodong Monastery :
Situated around 1 km on the North Sikkim highway it lies around 40 km from the city of Gangtok. This monastery was constructed by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal in 18AD.
Labrang Monastery :
Lying very near to Phoodong, this century old monastery is a part of the Nyingmapa Buddhist sect in Tibet. It is similar to the Permayangtse monastery in Sikkim. The name of the monastery means place where the Lamas live.
Thus Gangtok, the land of the monks, is a place to reckon with and a certain visit for the tourists coming here.
As the person leaves this place he thinks,” Paradise lost? NO, come to Gangtok.”