Gangtok
 

Gangtok Fact File

State: Sikkim
District: East Sikkim
Famous for/as: Hill Station
Languages: Nepali, Sikkimese, Bhutia, Lepcha, Hindi, English
Best Season: Oct - Mar, Mar - Jun
Weather: Summer 10 to 28C, Winter -5 to 16C
Altitude: 1437 m


Gangtok is the capital and largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. Gangtok is located in the Shivalik Hills of the eastern Himalayan range, at an altitude of 1,437 metres (4,715 ft). The town, with a population of thirty thousand belonging to different ethnicities such as Indian-Nepalis, Lepchas and Bhutia, is administered by the "Gangtok Municipal Corporation". Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim’s tourism industry.
Gangtok rose to prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840. In 1894, the ruling Sikkimese Chogyal, Thutob Namgyal, transferred the capital to Gangtok. In the early 20th century, Gangtok became a major stopover on the trade route between Lhasa in Tibet and cities such as Kolkata (then Calcutta) in British India. After India won its independence from Britain in 1947, Sikkim chose to remain an independent monarchy, with Gangtok as its capital. In 1975, after the integration with the union of India, Gangtok was made India's twenty-second state capital.

Places of Tourist Interest

Enchey Monastery

Enchey Monastery

An important seat of the Nyingma order, the Enchey Monastery meaning the Solitary temple, was originally built with the solace that no other construction would be allowed near it is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his flying powers. This 200-year-old Monastery has in its premises images of god, goddesses and other religious objects. Every year around January 'Chaam' or religious masked dance is performed with great fanfare for two days. it is situated adjoining the Sinolchu Tourist Lodge, 3 kms from Gangtok Town.

Flower Show

White Hall, Close by the White Memorial Hall and just below the Palace Ridge park is the more recent Flower Show Hall. In recent years this show has become quite popular and famous as there are flower exhibitions throughout the year in accordance with the seasons and the flowers in bloom.

Do-Drul Chorten ( Stupa)

Do-Drul Chorten ( Stupa)

The Do-Drul Chorten or Stupa was built by the Venerable Trulshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa, there are complete mandala sets of Dorjee Phurba (Bajra Kilaya), a set of Kan-gyur relics ( Holy Books), complete 'Zung'( mantras) and other religious objects. Around this Chorten, which is one of the most important stupas in Sikkim, are 10 Mani-Lhakor( prayer wheels). These prayer wheels are turned by the devout Buddhist while chanting "Hail to the jewel in the Lotus", to invoke the Buddhisattva. The Chorten is surrounded by Chorten Lakhang, where there are two huge statues of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava).

Handloom and Handicrafts centre

It is now known as the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms as well as the Government Institute of Cottage Industries. Started during the time of the Chogyals of Sikkim, as a venture to protect and propagate the craft and skills of local and village artisans, it has become on t of the major attractions for people visiting Sikkim where traditional handcrafts, furniture, handlooms carpets and other products can be viewed and also purchased . A word of caution to the innocent guest. It is better to check whether there is a government holiday or not as the G.I.C.I. is closed on Sundays, all government declared holidays, second Saturdays and the odd unforeseen holidays.
Namgyal Institute Of Tibetology: -Amidst a serene surrounding of oak, birch and ash lies the unique organization established in1958. Built in traditional style, the namgyal Institute of Tibetology promotes research in Mahayana Buddhism and the language and tradition of Tibet. It has one of the world’s largest collections of rare books and manuscripts on Mahayana Buddhism. The Institute also has a retail outlets where related books and commercially produced religious art and craft of Tibet can be bought.

Saramsa Garden

About 14 kms from Gangtok is the Saramsa Garden, the home of Sikkim's most exotic orchids and other rare tropical and temperate plants. Established and maintained by the Department of Forest, it is an excellent recreation and picnic spot.

Rumtek Monastery

Rumtek Monastery

24 Kms. from Gangtok is the awe -inspiring Rumtek Monastery, the world Dharma chakra Centre and the seat of His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa, who is the head of the Kagyupa order of Tibetan Buddhism. Behind the main monastery is the lavishly decorated Karmae Nalanda Institute of Buddhist Studies, which attracts students from the world over. Opposite the entrance to the Institute is a small hall featuring a beautiful jewel studded Chorten the Golden Stupa, which contains the ashes and remains of His Holiness the xvi Gyalwa Karmapa. According to legend, it is believed that after years of meditation, the first Karmapa was said to have been visited by ten thousand fairies who came to congratulate him each of whom offered a strand of her hair as a gift. These were said to have been woven into a black hat, which was passed down and is still at the Rumtek Monastery today. It is said that unless held on to by the wearer (who of course, cannot be anyone else but the Karmapa) or kept in a box, the hat would fly away.

Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden

Very close by to Rumtek Monastery, and maintained by the parks and Gardens unit of the Forest Department of the Government of Sikkim, the Garden is an enchanting and soothing experience among the lush green vegetation, rare plants and trees and certain species of Himalayan flowers and Orchids.

Ganesh Tok

It is situated on a ridge at a distance of 7 kms from Gangtok. From this Spot one can get birds eye view of sprawling Gangtok town, while across the hills Mt. Khang-chen-Dzonga and Mt. Siniolchu loom over the horizon. A cafeteria serves hot tea, coffee and snacks. The view from here is truly breathtaking with snow peaks providing the perfect backdrop for a panoramic view of Gangtok town.

Dedicated to Lord Ganesh, the temple is located at an altitude of 6500 feet on a panoramic hilltop. At present the temple is surrounded by a beautiful pinetum, Bulbylay Zooligical Park and a smriti-van, wherein visitors plant saplings in the memory of their dear departed.

Baba Mandir

Baba Mandir

The temple lies on the road between the Nathula and the Jelepla Pass and is visited by hundreds of people each day. The temple is believed to have wish-fulfilling powers and many devotees leave behind bottles of water at the temple which they pick up on their way back as holy water. On Sundays a ‘langar’ is run at the temple which provides free meals to the visitors.

The legend of Baba goes back 35 years when Sepoy Harbhajan Singh of the 23rd Punjab Regiment went missing while leading a pack of mules from his battalion stationed at Tukla to Deng Dhukla, both remote areas located in East Sikkim. A manhunt was launched and it took the army three days to find his body. It is believed that he himself led the soldiers to the site. Soon after, soldiers in the regiment started reporting that Baba had been appearing in their dreams and directing that a shrine be built in his memory. A Samadhi was raised in his memory and believers say that even today Baba visits every night, puts on his uniform and does his rounds. He is worshipped as a saint who grants boons and guards the lives of soldiers posted along the border.

Each year in September Baba takes his annual holiday and travels back to Kapurthala, his hometown. People gather in large numbers and line the route that Baba will take to offer flowers and prayers. A berth on a train is reserved in his name and two orderlies accompany him on the journey. The legend of this Sepoy-Saint grows stronger with each passing day

Bakthang Falls

20 minutes drive from Gangtok is Bakthang Water Falls along the 31 A National Highway leading to North Sikkim. It originates from Ratey Chu, the main water source of Gangtok area. Suggested to visit with a view to relax and to take photographs.

Chogyal Park

It is dedicated to the memory of Miwang Chogyal Chenpo Palden Thondup Namgyal, 17th in the line and the 12th consecrated Denzong Chogyal (King of Sikkim). He was gracious, valiant and very enlightened. He descended directly from Namgyal Dynasty, which began in the year 1642 A.D. with the installation of Phuntsog Namgyal as the first consecrated ruler of West Sikkim , Born in 1923 he succeeded as Chogyal in 1963 and died in 1982. Deeply inspired by his cherished dream of welfare state for his country, even from his young years as heir apparent, The chogyal dedicated his entire efforts for a clear, effective and timely fruition of the precious plans.

During his illustrious era, firm foundations were laid for basic amenities and social aids. Having initiated electoral reforms and transfer of power to peoples representatives in stages, this humane democrat with the highest sense of justice made the judiciary completely independent, soon after his coronation. He was devout Buddhist and highly attained in religious scholarship. He was the founder president of the Namgyal Institute of Tibetan Studies at Dotapu (Gangtok) and President of the Maha Bodhi Society of India. Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal was undoubtedly a pioneer among his peers, in advocating the modern system of governance.

Gangtok Ropeway

It takes the passenger to the highest point of the city of Gangtok, covering the distance of about 1 km in only seven minutes. Each cabin accommodates 24 passengers. The lower terminal station is located at Deorali Market, the intermediate terminal at Nam-Nang and the upper terminal station is below the Secretariat (Tashiling). One can truly enjoy the panoramic view and thrilling rise as the Ropeway goes over the City.

Gonjang Monastery

Gonjang Monastery near Tashi View Point was established in the year 1981. The founder is H.E. Tingkye Gonjang Rimpoche. He was recognised as an incarnation of Yolmo Terton Ngakchang Shakya Zangpo, a 15th century Nyingmapa Terton. The monastery follows Jangter tradition of Nyingmapa school of Tibeten Buddhism.

Hanuman Tok

Hanuman Tok

The temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is situated at an altitude of 7200 feet at a distance of about nine kilometres uphill from Gangtok on a blissfully calm and quiet hilltop. Popularly known as a wish fulfilling temple, it is maintained by the resident units of the Indian Army and contributions from the local people. The whole complex has been recently renovated and a lot of public utilities provided. The location is completely free from the pollution of city life.

Apart from the clear view of the peaks surrounding Mount Khangchendzonga, some portions of Gangtok town, one also gets a bird's eye view of the Selep water works, which supplies drinking water to Gangtok. Adjacent to this area is Lukshyama, the royal cremation ground having stupas and chortens. Here the mortal remains of the erst-while royal family members of Sikkim are cremated.

Himalayan (Bulbuley) Zoological Park

8 kms away from Gangtok is the Himalayan Zoological Park which covers an area of 205 hectares. This area is also known as Bulbulay. Located just above Ganesh Tok, the park is home to a number of animals living in open enclosures in their natural habitat.

If you are lucky you might see the Red Panda, Sikkim’s state animal, the barking Deer, Tibetan wolves, panthers, Civet cats or even the Himalayan Black Bear. The Park also has ‘Kush’ and ‘Urbashi’, a snow leopard pair living in. It’s definitely worth a visit.

M.G. Marg

M.G. Marg, the main street of Gangtok town is a great place to chill out in the evenings. The country's first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the Marg. You can sit at the Titanic Park and listen to the piped in music played for the listening pleasure of visitors or just walk down the Mall and take in the carnival like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season. The Mall is lined with shops on both sides of the road so shopping becomes an added pleasure.

M.G. Marg is also the venue for the annual Gangtok Food and Culture festival held in December each year when Sikkim's multi-cultural cuisine, along with music and dance performances are showcased. This event attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year.

Menmecho Lake

Upon covering a distance of 64 kms from Gangtok via Sherathang (6 kms short of famous Nathula Pass) one comes across a marvellous snow fed water body called Menmecho Lake (altitude 13,000 feet). Surrounded by lush green forest and typical reddish alpine grass cover, it is the source of the river Rangpochu.

Larger in size than Tsomgo lake, it is full of trout fish. Impressed by its calm and quiet atmosphere and rare beauty, one can spend hours in splendid isolation.

Phodong Monastery

Phodong Monastery

Phodong Monastery is one amongst the six most important Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim, India. Perched on an altitude of 4500 ft, Phodong Monastery belongs to the Kargyupa sect (Karmapa). Perhaps, this is regarded as the first monastery related to the Kagyupa sect to be established in Sikkim. The Monastery is to be found a kilometer ahead of Phodong on a hill. This monastery can be reached easily by hiring private transport like taxis, jeeps, etc. from Magan in Sikkim.

Phodong Monastery is said to have been built in the early 18th century, by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal. However, the present structure was rebuilt in the 20th century. Today, Phodong Monastery is acclaimed to be the most beautiful monasteries in Sikkim. This beautiful monastery makes the abode of not less than 250 monks. Adorned by the old mural paintings, Phodong Monastery is the major monastery of Karmapa sub-sect of Kagyupa sect.

In the vein of Ralang and Rumtek Monastery, Phodong Monastery also hosts an annual festival, which is observed on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar. At this juncture, the Chaam Dance is performed by the monks along with religious rituals at the monastery. Phodong Monastery is certainly a place worth-visiting in Sikkim.

Lingdum Monastery

Lingdum Monastery

Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery, located at Lingdum, East Sikkim is at a distance of about 20 kms from Gangtok. The present Gharwang Rimpoche is the 12th Successive incarnation of the glorious emanation of Zurmang Gharwang. A place worth visiting for its religious and exquisite architecture and serene atmosphere.

Sa-Ngor Monastery

It is a Tibeten refugee monastic institution established in 1961 by his Eminence Luding Khen Rimpoche, Head of Ngorpa, sub-set of the Sakya Order, with the blessings of H.H. Sakya Trizin and H.H. The Dalai Lama. This is the only monastery of the sakya Order of Tibeten Buddhism in Sikkim. It is located on a beautiful hill top at a distance of 5 kms from Gangtok town.

Tashi View Point

Tashi View Point

Situated along the North Sikkim Highway, it is only 8 kms from Gangtok. From this point one gets a breath taking view of Mt. Khangchendzonga, one of the most graceful peaks in the world. An Observatory Tower, Cafeteria and Public amenities have also been recently added. Ideal time to visit is early in the morning. One can also catch a glimpse of the Phodang and Labrang monasteries on the opposite hill. There is a park just above the View Point where one can have a little picnic or visit the cafeteria for hot coffee, momos and other snacks.

Tsomgo Lake

Tsomgo Lake

38 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,400 ft, the ethereally beautiful Tsomgo lake is a must on every visitors itinerary. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes you to Tsomgo, which means source of the water in Bhutia language. The lake derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains surrounding the lake. Of legendary beauty, the lake looks different at different seasons. In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered in snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a riot of colours around the lake.

The lake is associated with many myths and legends and is revered by the Sikkimese as sacred. It is believed that in olden times, Buddhist monks would study the colour of the water of the lake to forecast the future.

Tsomgo Lake

The lake is also of special significance for the Jhakris [faith healers] of Sikkim who congregate here annually on Guru Purnima, which coincides with the festival of Raksha Bandhan, from all over the state to offer prayers.

For the tourist a visit to the lake offers a wonderful outing. Rides on colourfully decorated yaks and mules are offered at the lake site, which also has a variety of eating stalls serving snacks and beverages. Snowboots and gumboots can be hired here.

Tsomgo lake is open for both Indian and foreign nationals, however foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitors permit through a registered travel agency.

Nathula Pass

Nathula Pass

The Nathula Pass is situated in the state of Sikkim near the Chinese border. It is located along the ancient Silk Route and it is a popular tourist destination for many people across the country. The Nathula region is a border trading post for India and China. Many pilgrims from the country of Tibet pass through the Nathula Pass to visit the numerous religious sites that are present here. The place can be visited only on certain days of the week and there is a restriction on the number of vehicles that can travel to the place on any particular day. Foreign tourists are also not allowed to visit the place and they can travel only up to the Tsongo Lake.

There are numerous waterfalls that are located along the route from Gangtok to Nathula. The drive from Gangtok can be an exhilarating experience as one can get a view of many snow clad peaks along the way. One has to climb up a set of steps to reach the pass itself and you can engage in conversation with both Indian and Chinese soldiers. SUVs that have permits are the only vehicles that are allowed in the region.