Mystical and magical moments are the words that best describe my sojourn in Sikkim. Northeast India is largely unexplored and untouched, read my account in this virgin land.
It lasted for barely a few seconds. Freezing in the cold, I was at Pelling, in Sikkim, gazing at the cloudy sky only to see the veil drop for a second and reveal the mighty Kangchendzonga before the mist wrapped it again in its fold. It was just for a moment but it felt like eternity. This was my ever first introduction to Sikkim.
Mystical and magical moments in Sikkim
As the day dawned, I headed to one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim – Pemayngste for some silent moments. Built in the 18th century, this monastery houses the Architectural Design of Heaven called the Zangdoplan, which is carved out of wood. This is where I heard about the original history of Sikkim.
It was in Yuksom , 40 kms from Pelling where the first king or Chogyal Phuntsok Namgyal of Sikkim was consecrated by the three wise lamas. Yuksom literally means the meeting place of the three learned monks. This eventually was the first capital of Sikkim. We went beyond, a 15 kms walk from Yuksom to Norbugang to see the site – a stone throne shaded by a 300 year old fir tree. A nearby chorten (stupa) contained soil and water from all over Sikkim. The Dubdi monastery and Sangachoeling monastery were later built here.
We later went to Rabdentse, the second capital after Yuksom , where the ruins lay hidden from the main road and told the tale of a ravaged Sikkim in the early 18th century. Due to a conspiracy by his half-sister, Chogyal was forced to flee to Tibet as Sikkim was invaded by the Bhutanese . Fierce battles were fought for several years and finally the Chogyals came back to power with the Tibetans’ support, but not before Bhutan and Nepal had plundered Sikkim.
However, my journey eventually took me to Gangtok, the capital of the state, which was in sharp contrast to the silence of Pelling and Yuksom, I left the bustling city and in my quest to see more monasteries, I visited Emchey, Lingdum or Ranka Monastery and the famous Rumtek, which is one of the largest in Sikkim.
You find peace in these monasteries of Sikkim
Stories greeted me everywhere. At Emchey I heard that a flying saint had initially built his hermitage here. Even today, people from Gangtok believe that the Gompa called the Solitary Temple contains and preserves the spirits of protective deities which take care of them.
The wheel of karma
At Rumtek, I was told that the monastery was the seat of the Karmapas, who belonged to one of the schools of Buddhism called Karma kagyu . It was rebuilt by the 16th Karmapa in the 1960s, who took refuge here after his exile from Tibet and it housed precious relics.
Finally, I entered the Lingdum or Ranka Monastery to see the lamas in the midst of their evening chants, while some of them were practicing their ritualistic dances in the courtyard. As they swirled around, I lost myself in the sonorous music that came from the monastery and felt at peace in their mystical world.
Gangtok the capital of Sikkim can be accessed by flight from Bagdogra and it is at a distance of 124 kms. Taxis are available at the airport. Pelling is 112 kms from Gangtok. Sikkim can be visited throughout the year although monsoons can be rather heavy.