Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Gangtok from Rumtek Sikkim

Gangtok from Rumtek Sikkim, a few thousand feet below across the valley. Beyond are the snow capped peaks bordering Tibet. An overcast day in 1980, I imagine much has changed since, huge development in housing, a massive reduction of the rain forest, even 34 years ago the forest was being consumed much quicker than regeneration. At night, sitting outside, the thwack of an axe could be heard, miraculously by morning some ones wood pile would have grown. Wood is / was the main fuel for cooking, charcoal for heating. Ostensibly, the forest was protected against removal of timber though the stripping of orchids from the trees to feed cattle seemed ok. Imagine, milk obtained from orchids, Ambrosia.

Gangtok is a municipality, the capital and the largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. It also is the headquarters of the East Sikkim district. Gangtok is located in the eastern Himalayan range, at an altitude of 1,650 m (5,410 ft). The town's 100 thousand population belongs to different ethnicities such as Nepali, Lepchas and Bhutia. 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.

The precise meaning of the name Gangtok is unclear, though the most popular meaning is "hill top". Today, Gangtok is a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with the presence of several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and centres for Tibetology.

Rumtek Monastery, originally built under the directions of the 12th Karmapa Changchub Dorjee in mid 1700 AD, after [Ralang Monastery,first] and [Phodong Monastery,second], Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time. But when the 16th Karmapa arrived in Sikkim in 1959, after fleeing Tibet, the monastery was in ruins. Despite being offered other sites, the Karmapa decided to rebuild Rumtek. To him, the site possessed many auspicious qualities and was surrounded by the most favourable attributes. For example, flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, and a river below. With the generosity and help of the Sikkim royal family and the local folks of Sikkim, it was built by the 16th Karmapa as his main seat in exile.

Karmapa leads the way in circumambulation of the Gompa through the incense and into the Shrine room.

Rumtek Monastery at the arrival of a new printing of  the  Kanjur and Tanjur in 1980, an auspicious time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you been there?
Diana Johnson