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WEST SIKKIM - OUR HERITAGE

 


The West district of Sikkim is a rich cultural cauldron with exotic scenic views. Full of monasteries, streams, waterfalls and a rich kaleidoscope of flora and fauna it makes for a perfect holiday.
 

 
   
 

YUKSOM
Situated at an altitude of 6050 ft. / 1700 mtrs and a 35 km driveway from Pelling, Yuksom is a beautiful village. It is also the base of the mystic peaks of the mighty Khanchendzonga & serves as a trailhead for those who want to trek up to Khanchendzonga National Park, Dzongri or Goechala Pass. Its importance lies in the fact that it was the first capital of Sikkim from where the early history of Sikkim began. One can still see the Coronation Throne (stone ruins). It is a heritage site. This is the place where the first Chogyal (Righteous ruler) or the Dharma Raja Chogyal, Chogyal Phuntshok Namgyal was coronated as the first King of Sikkim in the year 1641 A.D. by the three great saints, who had come from three different directions. Hence the name Yuksom means the meeting place of three incarnates.
One may hike to Dubdi Monastery, the oldest Monastery in Sikkim built in 1701 by one of the great incarnate Lama Lhatsum Chenpo after the consecration of the first Chogyal. Dubdi means “The Retreat”. It is located on a hilltop above Yuksom surrounded by verdant forest. The monastery is 3 km uphill & one hour short trek from Yuksom.

   
 

PELLING
Situated at an altitude of about 2105 mtrs/ 6840 ft., Pelling was originally known as Pemalingpa. The name Pemalingpa is derived from Pemalingpa monastery. The place is famous for its magnificient view of the Khanchendzonga ranges.
There are many beautiful waterfalls situated amidst the green forests nearby Pelling. These beautiful waterfalls leap out of the hillside to the valley flowers in plumes of white. Such huge mass of water plunging from great heights & cutting the verdant green landscape of the surrounding forests is in fact a great & interesting sight.
Some of these waterfalls are the Khanchendzonga Falls situated about 20 km from Pelling, the Changay Falls situated on the way to Sing shore Bridge only a few kms from Pelling, the Phamrong Falls enroute Tashidhing & the Rimbi Falls situated at about 8 kms from Pelling.
Given below are the names of some selected places in West Sikkim that is a must for every visitor. The best way to do West Sikkim is to go on the Buddhist circuit & you don’t have to be Buddhist to do so.

 
   
  Places to See
 
 
PEMAYANGTSE MONASTERY
This monastery is nearby to Pelling situated at an altitude of about 6840 ft. / 2072 m. It is the most important monastery of the Nyingmapa order & was built in the late seventeenth century by Lama Lhatsum Chenpo one of the revered Lamas to have performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal (religious monarch) of Sikkim & has been considered as one of the premier monasteries in the State, having been entrusted with the task to perform all religious functions of the erstwhile monarch. The monastery houses numerous religious idols & other objects of worship, most of which are priceless because of their antiquity. Inside the monastery on the top floor there is a wooden structure depicting the Maha Guru’s heavenly palace (Sang-tok-palri), which is considered a masterpiece created by Late Dungzin Rimpoche. The main festival of the monastery is held every year during the month of February.
 
   
 

RABDENTSE RUINS
Rabdentse was the second capital of Sikkim & was established in the late seventeenth century by the second Chogyal of Sikkim. It was abandoned towards the end of the eighteenth century because of the threat posed by Nepal & the capital was shifted to Tumlong. The Rabdentse Palace lies in ruins now & one has to trek about 2 kms / one hour from the main road near Pemayangtse monastery through a thick forest to reach it. The ruins are now being preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India & have been declared as a monument.

   
 

SANGACHOELING MONASTERY
This monastery built in 1697 AD, is the second oldest in the state constructed by Gyalwa Lhatsum Chenpo. It lies amidst a thick-forested hilltop opposite the Pemayangtse monastery towards the west. One has to walk for one hour to reach the monastery from Pelling.
 

 

TASHIDING MONASTERY
Ngadak Sempa Chembo, one of the three lamas who had performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal, built this monastery in 1717, during the reign of the third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal & lies on top of a symmetrical hillock above Tashiding Bazaar. Second half of the distance to the monastery you must make on foot, which takes about half an hour. The sacred ceremony of Bumchu is held at this monastery at midnight of the 14th & 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar that normally corresponds to the month of February. The Bumchu is a sacred water vessel whose water level foretells the luck of the year ahead. The government of Sikkim & the lamas of the monastery officially seal the sacred holy water vessel for safety & it is taken out once a year on the auspicious occasion. The sacred water that is taken out is distributed among the thousands of devotees. It has also a separate enclosure for chortens. The most sacred is the great Tashiding chorten known as Thong-Wa-Rang-Dol ’which literally means Saviors by mere sight’. This chorten is so sacred that mere act of beholding it is believed to cleanse all sin.
 

 

KHECHEOPALRI LAKE
Situated at an altitude of 1951 meters (6400 ft) this sacred lake is well hidden & surrounded by dense forest. The Lake is also famous for fulfillment of wishes. Irrespective of the season worshipers always visit the Lake. It is believed that birds do not permit even a single leaf to float on the Lake surface. The Lake is believed to have been visited by Guru Padmasambhava who meditated in a cave above the Lake.
 

 

SINGSHORE SUSPENSION BRIDGE
This suspension Bridge (680 ft.) is considered to be the second highest bridge in Asia & is about 25 kms / 2 hrs drive from Pelling. The Bridge has been built over a gorge that is about a thousand feet deep. The building of this bridge is an engineering feat indeed.
 

 

RINCHENPONG
Situated at an altitude of 1700 meters. The drive from Gangtok to Rinchenpong takes about 5/6 hrs. A picturesque village with beautiful landscape & view of mountain range & visit to Resum monastery, Lepcha Heritage Houses & nature walk through forests to see orchids in trees makes one or two days interesting for the visitors. One can also trek to Khandi Danra / Menlapso which is a richly forested area known to be home for various species of wild animals & birds. Rinchenpong is the base for treks to the Barsay Rhododendron Sanctuary & the Singalila Range.
 

 

BARSEY / HILLEY
Barsey is situated at an altitude of about 10000 ft. & is 70 kms from Pelling, is known as the garden of Rhododendrons. This place is accessible from Hilley through a 4 km bridle footpath, which takes one up to the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary (1600 m – 3600 m). The ‘Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary’ lies in the southwest corner of West Sikkim district. Spreading over 104 sq. km across the razor sharp Singalila Range, which forms the natural international border with Nepal. In the South the Rambong Khola separates it from West Bengal. There are three points of entry – Hilley, Dentam & Soreng. Tourists generally prefer Hilley since it is approachable by road. While trekking through this footpath one can enjoy the sight of different species of mountain flowers & sometimes-even Red Pandas!
On reaching Barsey different species of beautiful Rhododendron plants blooming colourful flowers welcomes you especially during the month of April & May, whereas during the winters in the month of December & January, the sight of beautiful white sheet of snow enveloping the garden of Rhododendron is most enjoyable.