The angelic beauty of Sikkim is forever bewitching. The lovely ambiance of the state becomes divine in presence of monasteries. Sikkim has not less than 200 monasteries in its periphery. Here, a monastery is known as ‘Gompa’ in the local dialect. The literal meaning of ‘Gompa’ is a ‘solitary place’. These Buddhist monasteries have been directing the cultural heritage and lifestyle of Sikkim dwellers. Monasteries also depict the ancient times in the form of their rituals that are practiced even today.
Most of the monasteries are sited at remote locations to aid the practitioners in meditation. Upkeeping the traditions, Monasteries are built in such a manner, so that they face towards the east and capture a glimpse of the rising sun. The edifice is supposed to lie along the axis of the hill and it is fortunate to have a lake in the forefront. Pursuing these instructions, Sikkim monasteries are to be found in scenic and picturesque locations.
The pastoral structures come together surrounding the temple that is exercised as an assembly hall. The outer structures make enclosures for the monks. Tall prayer flags and ‘chortens’ stand lined up in front of the monastery. The temple is known by the name of ‘Lhakhang’ (God’s house). Sometimes, it is also called as ‘Dukhang’ (a meeting place) or ‘Tsuglakhang’ (an academy). A Sikkim monastery bands together all the tasks of chapel and school.
The ‘Lhakhang’ is the most consecrated place of a monastery. Inside it, the main image of the deity as well as his attendants’ images are enshrined. The walls of ‘Lhakhang’ are adorned with murals and ‘thankas’ paintings. Usually, all the monasteries have libraries with loads of holy books. Kangyur and Tengyur are two sacred books of Buddhists. The interiors of these monasteries are wonderful with lots of thankas, mandalas, numerous images of Buddha, musical instruments, masks, vajras, bells & beads, and butter sculptures.
Images carved out of bronze, gold and silver are commonly traceable in the Lhakhang and Dukhang. Every constituent of these images has a legend behind it and these legends are known to every Buddhist. The most popular and acclaimed subjects amongst these images are of the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas, and the Taras. You can see devoted Lamas here, attired in red and chanting mantras.
The oldest monastery of Sikkim is acclaimed to be ‘Dubdi’, a place where Lhatsun Chempo lived and meditated. During the same period, Sanga Choling Monastery got constructed. The popular monasteries like Tashiding and Pemayangtse Monastery were built later. Associated with the Royal Family, the Pemayangtse Monastery is an important one. The Tashiding Monastery was erected at the spot where Guru Padmasambhava shot an arrow and it is the most striking place throughout the state of Sikkim.
Tashiding Monastery is also regarded as the pilgrimage place for the Tibetans of India, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is the wish of every Sikkimese to be cremated at Tashiding after death. People believe that Guru Padma Sambhava would appear here someday to bless people. Amongst other monasteries, Rumtek, TshuklaKhang, Rinchinpong, Tholung, Enchey, Lingtam, Gangtok, and Namchi are some of the well-known monasteries of Sikkim.