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Rumtek Monastery

The Rumtek monastery or the Dharma Chakra Centre is located on the top of the hill facing the city of Gangtok. Rumtek Monastery is one of the most important seats of the Kagyu lineage outside Tibet. This monastery complex embodies the vision and aspiration of the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, to establish his seat-in-exile in order to spread the teachings of the Buddha throughout the world. The Rumtek monastery is the largest monastery in Sikkim, and a home of the monks community. The complex has many sacred objects. One of the most magnificent object is the Golden Stupa, which contains the precious relics of His Holiness, the Sixteenth Karmapa.

A college or Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies is situated opposite the building. The Stupa walkway surrounds the Rumtek monastery, where monks, pilgrims and visitors perform kora. The Dharma Chakra Center includes a beautifully structured main shrine temple and monastery with monks' quarters, a three-year retreat center, a monastic college, where the relics of the Sixteenth Karmapa are enshrined, nunnery, stupas, a protector's shrine, institutions for the lay community and other establishments. The Rumtek monastery became the international Kagyu Headquarters during the life of His Holiness and became the residence of a new generation of Kagyu masters.

Location of the Rumtek Monastery

Dharma Chakra Center also known as the Rumtek Monastery is located in eastern Sikkim, 24 kilometers away from Gangtok. Rumtek is situated at an altitude of about 5800 feet (1547 metres). The best season to visit this monastery is from March to late May, or from October to mid-December.

History of Rumtek Monastery

In 1959, His Holiness the Sixteen Gyalwa Karmapa fled from Tibet after the communist Chinese invasion. After arriving in Bhutan, he received a formal invitation from the Choegyal (Dharma King) of Sikkim. The Choegyal Tashi Namgyal and royal family of Sikkim had a long-standing connection with the successive lines of Karmapas. The royal family eventually decided to offer permanent residence for His Holiness and his party in Sikkim. His Holiness accepted the Choegyal's invitation to set up his main exile seat in Sikkim. On the twenty fifth day of the fourth month of the year 1959, His Holiness and the party arrived in Gangtok. Of the several sites proposed by Choegyal Tashi Namgyal, H.H. Karmapa chose to settle at Rumtek, an hour's drive from the capital. Rumtek at that time consisted of the old monastery built during the time of the ninth Karmapa, which was mostly in ruins and surrounded by dense jungles. The area was also undeveloped and had no facilities. During this period, His Holiness and his followers worked intensively to make the place habitable. They gathered resources and constructed new facilities to establish his monastic seat and the lay people surrounding the monastery. His Holiness Karmapa had a clear vision in his enlightened mind that he must take full responsibility for the preservation and revitalization of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings in general and Kagyu lineage in particular. In the later half of the sixteenth century A.D., the ninth Karmapa was invited by the King of Sikkim to build several monasteries. The Rumtek monastery was built by the ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje and the old monastery was still standing. The new Rumtek monastery was built about two kilometers away from this old monastery.

Construction of the Rumtek monastery

In 1962, the construction of the new Rumtek monastery and other facilities for a monastic seat for the Karmapa was started. The construction was completed in about four years. The Choegyal who had invited the Karmapa to found his seat passed away, but the foundation stone of the new monastic center was laid by the new King of Sikkim. The General Secretary of His Holiness, the Dhamchoe Yongdu, led the project and the carried out the construction precisely in accordance with the instructions of His Holiness. The royal family of Sikkim and the Indian government following the Karmapa's meeting with Pandit Nehru, funded most of the construction. Ultimately, the Karmapa's vision was accomplished due to His Holiness's blessings, the support of the government, and the volunteer work of the devoted students of the Karmapa. In 1966, the construction of the monastery was completed. The sacred items and relics brought out from Tsurphu were installed. On Tibetan New Year's day (losar), the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa officially inaugurated the new seat called, "The Dharmachakra Centre" or the Rumtek monastery.

His Holiness and the General Secretary, Mr. Dhamchoe Yongdu, built the monastery according to very precise architectural and structural guidelines. The main structure of the monastery is strictly according to the traditional architectural designs of the Tibetan monasteries. The whole structure is beautifully covered with murals, traditional Tibetan style paintings. The General Secretary also received an architectural award for Rumtek monastery from the Sikkim state for the beauty, precision and the authenticity of the traditional Tibetan architecture used to create the monastery. This monastery was the first monastery built in India in the traditional design, and became the model for various other monasteries built later throughout India.

Festivals in Rumtek Monastery

During summers and winters two most important festivals are celebrated in the Rumtek monastery. In the fourth lunar month of the Tsurphu Tibetan calendar either the Guru Rinpoche or the Vajrakilaya Drupchen take place. The practice of these events lasts for ten days and followed by the traditional sacred Lama dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava, Yidam deities and other protectors. At the end of the lunar year in the 12th month (between February and March), a ten day practice for the festival of the Mahakala Protector is held here. This is followed by the traditional sacred lama dance of Mahakala on the 29th day. The Tibetan New Year is celebrated on the 1st day of the 1st month. This festival is celebrated for 3 to 8 days, with the cultural and spiritual festival, that involve many Tibetan opera dance performances.

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