Before leaving Gangtok we visit the Drodul Chorten, built to commemorate the victory of good over evil. Surrounding the chorten are 108 prayer wheels. We also pay a visit to the Institute of Tibetology whose collection of rare books and manuscripts will interest students of Buddhism. Here there are numerous priceless religious paintings (thangkas), statues and other religious artwork. We then take a morning drive to the other side of the Ranipul valley to the Gompa at Rumtek. The headquarters of the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and was built in the 1960’s as a replica of the Karmarpa’s monastery in Tibet. The religious murals are still being added to today. We then continue to the little bazaar town of Kalimpong. The town was formerly an important trading post for wool
merchants coming from Tibet and the local bazaar is still the place to meet people of a
dozen different cultures and religions. On the surrounding hills there are many Buddhist monasteries including the Tharpa Choling Monastery, which belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Today we visit the Durpin Danra monastery and view point, the local hat bazaar, flower
nursery and if time the school for the blind.
That was Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, now we off Kalimpong, a little town with sone history but now just a cross roads for trading.
Frst stop however is the Drodul Chorton. History claims it to be a haunted are with the Chorton built to commemorate the voctory of good over evil. Built in 1946 its a very impressive structure and seems to have been funded by a branch of the Tata family - those who contributed have two stupas erected to their memory.
We head off for the Rumteck monastery with its golden stupa. At the enterence there is a large wheel of life. In the centre of the wheel there are animals, the cock - desire, the snake - evil, and the pig - ignorance. The outer 6 sections represent God, Hunger, Hell, Animals, People and (*)
Its a black hat monastery - the 17th lama ( Gyalwa Karmapu Vgyen Trinley Dorje to his mates) has been seen here since the 16th died. He was originally in China but escaped and now resides with the Dali Lama. The Chinese are furious and have demanded him back on many occasions but he refuses to go. Consequently the Indian army is everywhere around the monastery - they see it as a potential flash point. We are only 54km from China.
The monastery was started in 1962 and finished in 1965 and is currently home to about 400 monks. Large sprawling with a large prayer hall. We made a tourist purchase, a little book on the history of the monastery and on the way back down two little masks in metal depicting some of the gods.
To Kalimpong via Rangpo for lunch. We ate dinner here yesterday nd very nice it was too. Local eatery for pakora and samosas with chilli sauce - great stuff.
Travelling around Sikkim we have covered a lot of ground but not much variety - we have been on the same stretch of road a number of times.
In the afternoon we arrive in Kalimpong and wander towards to Catholic church. Its a bizarre place with all the catholic symbolism fitted with asian features - angels with slanty eyes - how to win heats and minds!! The clssic is the baby Jesus in his mothers arms happily wearing a little yellow sect hat. A walk round a rather unimpressive market and then its bakc to the hotel or if we want picked up at the edge of town. We go for this because we have heard that the Elgin hotel is good for a beer and sunsets so we are heading there. With Adrian and Julie we arrive to be told there is no gin and only two bottles of beer - did they not realie we were in town!! The beer is cold so no worries!!
Last night in India as we are off to Bhutan tomorrow - its been good so far.