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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Rinchenpong Monastery

The statue of Ati Buddha, a humanoid said to represent the ‘Primordial Buddha’ that represents the universe and its innate wisdom.


The central attraction at Rinchenpong Monastery is the statue of Ati Buddha, a humanoid said to represent the ‘Primordial Buddha’ that represents the universe and its innate wisdom. The statue also holds a female deity wrapped around the Buddha, the symbol of Yab-Yum (father-mother) in Tibetan Buddhism. The male deity symbolizes kindness while the female companion stands for wisdom and insight. This statue is mainly found in monasteries that revolve around the tantric teaching associated with Buddhism.

This three-storied gompa shows signs of aging that only add to its serenity, and it stands strong facing the mighty peaks that tower over the village. The road to the gompa is dark because of the thickly-clustered vegetation that makes a magical walk.
The local kids play in a dried-out lake that has a darkly fascinating story attached to it. It is said that when British regiments arrived at Rinchenpong’s border to invade Sikkim in the 1800s, they rested on the shores of this lake. To prevent the invasions the locals dipped poisonous herbs into the water body. Since this was the only source of water in the region, the soldiers died or fell seriously ill thus slowing the attack. Whether unreliable or not, this lake came to be known as Poison Pokhri. One needs to pass this lake on the way to Rinchenpong Monastery.

If you have an hour to stop, take the 1.5 km walk to Resume Monastery. This ancient religious structure lies quiet and dilapidated, off the beaten track, amid the forest because of a land dispute. While you can’t enter the inner sanctum of this monastery, its location, and beautiful dilapidation make it a good spot for quiet reflection.
The beauty of the Rinchenpong Monastery is the total of beautiful view, ancient religious structures, and the young lamas who stay at this gompa to complete their training.

What to see

Rinchenpong Monastery is situated at a height of 5,500 ft. The third oldest monastery in Sikkim is perched on a mountain trail and offers a brilliant view of the Kanchenjunga. Besides the striking location, this gompa has a statue one doesn’t find in most other monasteries “Ati Buddha” seated in the Yab-Yum position. For nearly three centuries, this monastery has been part of Rinchenpong village and if you want to cover the heritage circuit of Sikkim, there’s no way you can skip this one.
Everywhere in Sikkim, the beauty of a monastery is somehow heightened by the village. Rinchenpong is a quaint little hamlet above which sits the gompa. Geographically well-endowed, this village offers a marvelous view of the Kanchenjunga and other mountains of the Himalayan range. As one takes the trail that leads up to the gompa, bounded by towering prayer flags flapping in the wind, one understands the perfect union of ancient structures and nature in Sikkim.

When to reach

Rinchenpong is best explored in the summer months. If planned to stay overnight, sunrise here is even better than at Pelling. A morning walk up to the monastery is the perfect start to your day.

In winter, the snow-capped mountains offer up a mesmerizing landscape. Rinchenpong transforms into a winter wonderland and if you don’t mind the cold, a mid-December visit is a must.

How to reach

Rinchenpong Monastery is a 4-hour journey from Gangtok. Once you reach the Rinchenpong market, you will find a twisting track moving upwards towards the gompa. Follow this path and you will arrive at the monastery after about 1.2 km.

Several tourists visit Rinchenpong during their trip to Pelling. From the latter, you pass over Singsore Bridge and Dentam before reaching Rinchenpong which is 46 km away. This is a very scenic route but make sure you check with locals as this road is, at times, blocked off due to landslides.


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