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Sikkim's 194 monasteries or gompas belonging to the Nyingma and Kagyu order have not only been influencing the cultural heritage and lifestyle of the people but also demonstrate the ancient rituals in practise.

Devoted Lamas robed in red, chant ancient mantras to the rhythm of drums and trumpets while soft lights flicker from decorative lamps placed before statues of the great Guru Padmasambhava. Feel the peace and quiet of being one with nature and close to the almighty as sacred words mingle with the shirring prayer wheels.

The gompas are adorned with life-like frecoes of hoary Buddhist legends, rare silk and brocade thangkas. Also preserved here, are ancient tibetan manuscripts, exquisitely carved wood work and icons of silver and gold.

24 kms from Gangtok, a drive through beautiful countryside takes one to Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre built in 1960's by His Holiness the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa when he took refuge in Sikkim after the Chinese attack. It is an excellent replica of the original Kagyu headquarters in Tibet. It houses some of the world's most unique art objects, ancient manuscripts and icons. About 2 kms away from Dharma Chakra Centre is the recently rebuilt 300 year old Rumtek Monastery which was originally built by the fourth chogyal. His Holiness late Gyalwa Karmapa lived in this monastery till the completion of the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre.

Today it is the residence of His Hiliness and the headquarters of the Dharma Chakra Religious Centre. The annual dances are held here on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar.

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118 kms (via Rabongla) from Gangtok, Founded during the reign of Chador Namgyal the third Chogyal in 1705 and perched at a height of 2085 mts, it is the second oldest and perhaps the most important monastery in Sikkim. Pemayangtse belongs to the Nyingma order and all other Nyingma monasteries in Sikkim are subordinate to it. The 108 monks living here are from the Bhutia families of Sikkim.

The monastery contains numerous antique idols and object of worship. The top wooden structure depicting the Mahaguru's Paradise Sangthokpelri was completed in five years, single handedly by the late Dungzin Rinpoche.

A unique event is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. Dressed in costumes of rare magnificance, the Lamas represent Mahakala and Guru Drag-dmar. The dance ends on the third day with the unfurling of the 'Ghyo-ku' - a gigantic embroidered Buddhist scroll as the devotees bend down in homage.

Pemayangtse is an excellent base for all trekking expeditions in the western region, offering a number of unfrequented trails through some of the most spectacular mountain terrain.

Built in 1721 during the time of Jigme Pawo, it was gutted by a fire in 1947, and rebuilt in 1948 through the efforts of the lamas. There are 300 monks in this monastery and the main annual function is held here on the 28th and 29th days of the tenth month of the lunar calendar.

28 kms from Gangtok The original monastery has been rebuilt and like Ralong and Rumtek the main annual puja is performed here on the 28th and 29th days of the tenth month of the lunar calendar with religious dances being the main attraction.

Belonging to the Karma Kagyu order, it was built after the return of the fourth Chogyal from his pilgrimage to Tibet. H.H. the Gyalwa Karmapa performed the 'Rabney (blessing on its completion from Tsurphu itself, and grains from this ceremony fell on the ground at Ralong. Between 1975-81 A.D. the government rebuilt the monastery which today has around 100 monks. The main ceremony falls on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar, when the 'chaams' are performed.

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Lama Drupthob Karpo is supposed to have built a small hermitage at the spot he reached after he flew from Maynam Hill in South Sikkim. Later during the reign of Sikyong Tulku 1909 - 1910 the present monastery was built in the shape of a Chinese pagoda. Following the Byingma Order, it has around 90 monks. The annula puja is celebrated with dances on the 18th and 19th days of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar.

It is built on top of a hill between rangit and Ratong rivers, where a rainbow emanating from Mount Khangchendzonga came to an end. The main monastery was built by Pedi Wangmo during the reign of Chakdar Namgyalin 1716 A.D. The sacred objects of worship in Tashiding are the chorten Thongwa Rangdol and Bumchu (holy water). The chorten was built by Lhatsun Chenpo and it is believed that merely to view the chorten is enough to cleanse one of all sins.

Bumchu is a sacred pot containing holy water which does not dry up nor spoil and continues to have a fresh smell even 300 years later. The sacred Bumpa containing the water is opened for public darshan once a year on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month.

35 kms from Pemayangtse. The sacred spot of Yuksam is nestled in a pine forested area with crystal clear mountain lakes. A stupa marks the spot where three lamas performed the consecration cremony of the first ruling monarch of Sikkim.

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