There are plenty of things to explore for tourists visiting the capital city of Sikkim- Gangtok. However, to get a glimpse at the royal past and heritage of the city- a visit to the majestic Tsuk La Khang Monastery is advisable. Located in the Royal Palace complex, the imperial 'gompa' is a prime destination for Buddhists and serves as a worship place. The location is pretty and serene- offering view of the Chogyal Palace. The building is surrounded by well landscaped gardens and the backdrop of mountains is soothing on eyes.
Nuances of the Tsuk La Khang Monastery
The Monastery is basically a 4-storeyed edifice and valuable Buddhist books are stored there. In the past, the important events of the erstwhile Royal family of Sikkim including weddings and coronations, used to take place here. It was set up in 1899 A.D.
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The traditional Tibetan temple architecture is evident in its construction style and there are white-washed stone walls, gabled roof, and internal timber frame. The centerpiece temple is impressive with carved dragon columns. It faces the east side. Each corner of this structure has wood sculpture relief with Snow Lion's Head. A large assembly hall is there at middle of the building along with an altar. Quarters were set up for the late Fourteenth Dalai Lama who sued to stay here in 1954.
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The interior of the monastery is as impressive as the exterior. The walls are decorated with enticing murals and the altar is well adorned too. Its altar has images of Bodhisattva, Buddha and prominent figures of Buddhism. The ambiance is tranquil and it transports your mind to another world- literally. The Royal Chapel has a huge collection of Buddhist scriptures as well.
The Festivals held at the Monastery
The monastery remains open throughout the year including festival days. It is better if you visit the Tsuk La Khang Monastery during any major Buddhist festival. Earlier, the annual mask dance festival or Kagyad Chham was held here. Even the Phang Lhabsol festival- a tribute to Mount Khangchendzonga was held at the royal monastery. After the abolition of Sikkim’s monarchy – this was discontinued.
Related: Pang Lhabsol Festival in Sikkim
However, a number of important festivals are still held at the monastery. The auspicious Losar festival is an example. During New Year, the famous Black Hat dance is performed here- which is quite a spectacle. This dance symbolizes victory of good over evil forces.
Tips for visitors
You can cover the monastery during a day tour of Gangtok. Taking pictures outside is allowed but you cannot take snaps inside the palace- much like other Buddhist shrines. The Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary is located nearby and so you can cover both during your tour. It can be reached by hiring cabs or jeeps.