Gangtok Information

The hill resort of Gangtok is a popular travel destination in India.  A tour of the hill resort of Gangtok reveals that the Himalayas are in the backdrop of the town.  The entire Kanchenjunga Range is worshipped as a local deity. The unspoilt natural beauty of Gangtok and its peaceful chortens stupas offer a truly unique travelling experience in India.

Sikkim’s capital sits at an altitude of 1,780m (5,800 ft.), straddling a high ridge where houses and concrete blocks spill down the hillside; below is the Ranipul River. With only 29,000 inhabitants, it’s relatively laid-back and generally free from the malaise that stalks India’s many overpopulated towns and cities. For visitors, the most noble of Gangtok’s charms is its proximity to marvelous mountain vistas; the town itself is threatened by unchecked construction. A base for visitors who come to organize treks or wind down after a high-altitude experience, it’s pleasant to roam around but certainly not packed with attractions. The town’s most significant drawing card is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (admission: Rs 10/25¢; Mon–Sat 10am–4pm), which houses a collection of Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Lepcha manuscripts, as well as statues, Buddhist icons, masks, scrolls, musical instruments, jewelry, ornaments, incense burners, and beautiful thangkas (painted or embroidered tapestry wall hangings). It’s worth noting that at press time, some parts of Namgyal were under renovation. Nearby, Do-Drul Chorten is a fine example of a whitewashed Buddhist stupa, encircled by prayer wheels. Enchey Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery worth visiting, and the Flower Exhibition Centre (Rs 5/10¢ adults, Rs 5/10¢ camera), near White Hall, attracts orchid buffs. In the manner of traditional hill kingdom forts and castles, Sikkim’s royalty once resided within the yellow tin-roofed palace in the uppermost reaches of the town. From here, the Chogyal and his family enjoyed the best views in Gangtok. Sadly, the Chogyal palace is off-limits to visitors. When the British turned up, they installed their very own “White Hall” alongside the palace and, despite initial bickering, soon got round to several decades of contented socializing.

Location

The hill resort of Gangtok is the capital of the eastern Indian state of Sikkim.  Gangtok is located in the south of the district of East Sikkim.  The hill resort covers the western side of a long ridge flanking the Ranipul River.

Climate

Sikkim has a typical four-season year.  The maximum temperature of Gangtok in summer is around 21°C and the minimum is about 13°C.  In winter, the maximum temperature is around 13°C and the minimum goes to 0.4°C.  Gangtok records an annual rainfall of about 325cm per annum.

History

The earliest records date from the construction of the hermitic Gangtok monastery in 1716.  In 1894, Thutob Namgyal, shifted the capital from Tumlong to Ggantok, A new grand palace along with other state buildings was built in the new capital. Following India's independence in 1947, Sikkim became a nation-state with Gangtok as its capital.  Sikkim became a suzerain of India, with the condition that it would retain its independence, by the treaty signed between the Chogyal and the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Neru.  Trade between India and Tibet continued to flourish through the Nathula and Jelepla passes were sealed after the Sino-Indian War in 1962.  In 1975, the monarchy was abrogated and Sikkim became india's twenty-second state, with Gangtok as its capital.

Gangtok Tourism Information

Enchey Monastery (3km)

The 200 year old monastery built by the Nyingmapa sect of the Buddhist monks is set on a conifer covered ridge festooned with prayer flags. ‘Chaam’ or religious masked dance is held here during January.

Ganesh Tok (7km)

This small temple of Lord Ganesha set on a hillock on Gangtok-Nthula Road, affords a fine view of Gangtok and the peaks of Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt. Siniolchu.

Hanuman Tok (11km)

This shrine of Lord Hanuman is also known for the panoramic view of Gangtok and snow clad peak of Mt Kanchenjunga.

Deer Park (6km)

This park provides a commanding view of the expansive valleys surrounding the city of Gangtok.  The charming Himalayan spotted deer and musk deer may be seen here.  An imposing statue of the Buddha is situated in this place.  The Red Panda and the fleet-footed deer can be observed in a natural habitat. Scenic views of the mountains and valleys can also be enjoyed from here.

Tashi View Point (9km)

This interesting picnic spot is famous for the fine view of Kanchenjunga peak.

Tsongo Lake (38km)

The oval-shaped holy lake is noted for its mystical environs and the wild flowers.  It is home to the Brahmini ducks and a stopover for many migratory birds.

Orchidarium (14km)

The botanical garden noted for rich variety of orchids and other rare tropical and temperate plants is an excellent recreation and picnic spot.

Rumtek Monastery (24km)

The picturesque drive from Gangtok to the Rumtek Monastery is truly spell binding. Changing vistas of mountains unfold at every bend and there are delightful vignettes of the hamlets and fields of the people of rural Sikkim. The original monastery was built by one of the rulers of Sikkim. When His Holiness, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, left Tibet and took refuge in Sikkim, he built a new monastery.  The Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden, with a rich collection of rare plants and trees is located nearby.

The region’s top attraction lies 24km (15 miles) from Gangtok. Rigpe Dorjee, the “supreme head” of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s four major sects—the Kagyu, or “Black Hat” order—revived it in 1959 after the Chinese invaded Tibet. Regarded as the richest Buddhist monastic center in India, Rumtek houses some of the world’s rarest and most unique religious artifacts; its design is said to replicate that of the original Kagyu headquarters in Tibet. Try to get here during prayer times, when the red-carpeted benches are occupied by the Vajra chant and disciplinary master, who leads the chanting of prayers. The venerated part of the complex is the Golden Stupa, a 4m-high (13-ft.) chorten in which the mortal remains of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (founder of the Black Hat order; see box below) are enshrined. Gold-plated and embedded with jewels, turquoise, and coral, the stupa is kept in a locked shrine room, which must be specially unlocked for visitors. Ask a monk to help you track down the keeper of the key.

Pemayangtse Monastery (115km)

The monastery perched atop a 2085m high ridge, amidst snow-clad mountains is the headquarters of Nyingma sect.  It houses many priceless antiques and object of worship.  The wooden model of a heavenly palace of Zamdogpalri Rimpoche, as revealed in a dream to Lhatsun Chempo, the founder of the monastery is spell binding.

Tashiding Monastery

Tashiding Monastery, the most sacred shrine of Sikkim is set atop a hill near Pemayangtse.  It was built in 1717 and attracts a large number of devotees, especially during the Bhumchu

Festival (February / March). 

Shopping

Sikkim is a veritable paradise for shopper’s as this treasure trove of traditional handicrafts and handlooms offers a wide range of products rangings from hand-woven carpets with both fold and modern motifs, thangkas wall hangings, scroll paintings, Lepcha-weave bags, purses, leatherwear,  Sikkimese dresses, large cardamoms, caps, scarves, silver jewellery, ‘Choktse’ collapsible wooden tables, bamboo carving etc.  Sikkimese spirits and liqueur’s are also very popular.

Main Shopping Centres

Directorate of handicrafts and Handloom Showroom; Sikkim rural Development Agency Showroom, Jn. Of M.G Rd. and New Market; Shambu Jewellery, Tibet Rd. Babu Kazi Shakya & Son, New Market; Shambu Jewellery, Tibet Rd,; Babu Kazi Shakya & Son, New Market; Snow White, Main Market; Punney Raj Shakya, New Mkt.

Orchid Sanctuary

Situated just below the Institute of Tibetology, this sanctuary is famous for its rare and extensive collection of orchids.  Here you can see many of the 454 species of orchids found in Sikkim.

Do Drul Chorten

It is the most important stupa of Sikkim. Built by Trulshi Rimpoche in 1945, this stupa has sacred gold-topped shikhara with 108 prayer wheels.  It containing rare mandalas, of Doli Phurpa(Bajra Kilaya), holy books an mantras.  The Chorten also has two hue statues of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) around it.

Tsuklakhang

This is the royal gompa (cahpe) of the Chogyals (rulers of Sikkim) in the grounds of the Royal Palace.  This was once the most important gompa in Sikkim, site of the coronation ceremonies of the kings of Sikkim, of royal marriages and of celebrations to mark the national and religious festivals.

Festivals

Tse Chhu Chham

This is celebrated in Rumtek monastery.  A mask dance shows episodes from Guru Padmasambhav's life.

Losar

This is the Tibetan New Year, and involves a lot of gaiety and festivity.  Guthor Chaam is held at Rumtek monastery, two days before Losar.

Pang Lhabsol

It is a festival unique to Sikkim, held to worship the guardian deity, Kanchenjunga.  Lamas portray the deity with fiery-red facemasks with a crown of five skulls, riding a lion.

Kagyat Dance

This is performed at Enchey, Phensang, Phodong, Rumtek and Losoong, on the Sikkimese New Year.  It symbolizes exorcism of evil and ushering in of peace and prosperity.

Saga Dawa

The triple blessed festival is the holiest of the Buddhist festivals.  It is marked with a procession of holy books carried from the monastery in the palace around the Gangtok town.