By Jamyang Dorjee
RAVANGLA, India, 30 June 2016
Buddhists would often prefer a holiday which is meaningful as well as relaxing. Many of my dharma friends from the West and South Asian countries asked what there is for a Buddhist to see in Sikkim and about accessibility. Guru Padmasambhava in Drejongneyyik said “those who are born here are fortunate, those who visit are fortunate, and even those who look towards south and imagine visiting Beiyul Demojong are fortunate once.”
There was a time, elders recall, when Tibet was an independent country, Tibetan pilgrims would come even prostrating to Tashiding, the core of Beiyul Demojong, the hidden valley of fruition, land of accomplishment, to Sikkim, for the borders were open then. After the demarcation of international borders, and thereafter when the Sikkim kingdom merged with the Indian union, it was not easy for legal visitors to come because of many restrictions for reasons best known to the Government.
I am neither a spokesperson for the Government nor a travel agent, but someone who served the tourism industry prior to retirement. I am happy to say that the situation today has changed. The Government of Sikkim is making every effort to attract visitors including pilgrims, and many restrictions have been removed.
Today, one can go to the border of Tibet, look towards Chumbi valley and feel the Tibetan air at Nathula border, drive up to Lachung and Lachen, feel the aroma of rhododendrons (sulu and bhalu) and look towards Tsang Khambala, Tibet. We can plan an entire four-day tour of four holy caves blessed by Guru Rinpoche around Drakar Tashiding, the abode of thousand khandromas, the fountain of Drejong Zogchen where famous Rigzin Sogdrup and Rewo Sangcho were revealed by Gyalwa Lhatsun Namkha Joigme Kunzang Namgyal, commonly known as Lhatsun Chenpo, the founder of kingdom of Sikkim, who also named Tashiding as the Bodh Gaya of Vajrayana.
For serious dharma practitioners, a few days of meditation at Tashiding will yield multiple results; therefore it is called the “land of fruition”. (It is not a “valley of rice”, as is commonly explained.)
To mark the 2,550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha, the government created a Buddha park near Ravangla (also spelled Rabongla) with a colossal 130-foot hammered copper statue of the Buddha, named and consecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as “Tathagata Tsal”. A half-hour drive is Samdruptse, “wish-fulfilling hilltop”, where a giant statue of Guru Rinpoche sits.
Ravangla has many hotels of different categories serving clean organic Sikkimese cuisine, good cars to go around many monasteries, and pilgrimage sites located nearby. It is a paradise for nature lovers and dharma seekers, hidden for centuries for fortunate ones to explore. It is just two hours flight from Delhi, and plenty of flights serve this destination.
Don’t miss visiting this blessed land once in your lifetime.
About the author
Jamyang Dorjee Chakrishar is a former senior civil servant of the Government of Sikkim, and Regional coordinator of the Conservancy for Trans-Himalayan Arts and Culture (CTAC). He can be reached at [email protected]