In Pictures: Rumtek Monastery of Gangtok

The first site that I visited in Gangtok was Rumtek Monastery. Rumtek Monastery is situated about 24km southwest of Gangtok, and is the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage, also known as the Black Hat sect. The Karma Kagyu order was founded in Lhasa, Tibet, in the 12th century by His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa who is the head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism.

The sixteenth Karmapa fled to Sikkim in 1959 during the Chinese invasion of Tibet, after which His Holiness established the Kagyu order in Sikkim and built a new monastery on a land donated by the Sikkimese king.

The sixteenth Karmapa was also instrumental in spreading Tibetan Buddhism to the West and had set up over 200 Karma Kagyu centres, so much so when he died in 1981, he left behind a wealthy monastery with lucrative international network. However, there are tensions between two sects on the rightful successor to the throne (their disputes have lengthened into court battles), resulting in Rumtek Monastery currently guarded by Indian army against possible sectarian violence by the feuding parties.

Read: Temples and Streets of Kathmandu

gangtok rumtek monastery ten things to help environment

Rumtek Monastery consists of the main temple hall, a golden stupa and the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute. Photography is allowed only in the courtyard of the monastery – it’s prohibited inside the main temple and the golden stupa.

gangtok rumtek monastery main temple

gangtok rumtek monastery courtyard

gangtok rumtek monastery indian soldiers

gangtok rumtek monastery Tibetan murals

As I observed the murals and thangkas on the walls of the prayer hall in the main temple, I noticed a room with the door left ajar. I peeked in the room and saw a monk sitting on a stool bent over the table, working on something with his hands. I was very curious but was afraid to interrupt as he seemed so engrossed in his work. Ordinarily, I would have walked away but these last few years of travelling solo have made me braver in approaching people ๐Ÿ™‚

gangtok rumtek monastery monk at work

I knocked on the door and asked if I could come in. Without so much as a glance toward my direction, he said yes, and when I moved closer to the table, he was moulding tiny clay objects. I asked what was he making and he replied dharmaBuddha image. On the table laid several clay moulds, a jug of water and a book of sketches which I assume were instructions on how to sculpture the dharma.

Read: Handloom Weaving and Thangka Painting in Gangtok

gangtok rumtek monastery sculpture a dharma

Behind the main temple is the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute where monks spend a minimum of 9 years studying here, followed by an optional 3-year period of isolated meditation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to enter the institute.

Karma Shri Nalanda Institute
Karma Shri Nalanda Institute

gangtok rumtek monastery Buddha quotes

Here are scenes from the monastery grounds.

gangtok rumtek monastery three monks

gangtok rumtek monastery scenes from monastery

gangtok rumtek monastery old lady spinning wheels

gangtok prayer wheels rumtek monastery

– Entry to Rumtek Monastery is free.
– Foreign nationals need to show their passport and the Sikkim entry permit.

gangtok rumtek monastery entrance


Planning a trip to Gangtok soon? Let’s book your accommodationย here:

gangtok in pictures rumtek monastery of gangtok katpegimana

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Two Traveling Texans


  1. What a beautiful monastery! It seems strange, though, that a Buddhist monastery would need armed guards. Even in the most peaceful places have their share of conflict. ๐Ÿ™ Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  2. Such a beautiful place! I am glad you weren’t afraid to talk to the monk. It was interesting to see what he was doing. Also I love that Buddha quote, definitely inspirational. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  3. I remember Rumtek Monastery. The history is hazy. ๐Ÿ™‚ There was a prayer meeting in progress when we visited. Monks were chanting and moving in a circular direction. And two armed guards stood watch on either side. Strangely, the whole scene was pretty sombre.

  4. What a beautiful and clean temple complex.

    Btw, I would like to underline this one: “travelling solo have made me braver in approaching people.”. I think this is one good thing that we learn from solo traveling ๐Ÿ™‚

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