Pelling is a town in the district of West Sikkim, India. It, being located in between two old Buddhist monasteries (Pemayangtse and Sangacholing), took no long time to develop into a full fledged village named Pelling remained from the name of an old monastery Pemalingchoeling . Today, this little village Pelling has become the best chosen tourist destination in Sikkim due to its scenic location and the advantage of having the closest view of world third highest mountain Mt. Kanchanjungha and other snow peaks from here. More than that Pelling remains the centre where all the breath taking tourist spots of West Sikkim can be easily covered in different optional sightseeing tours without involving long tiring drives as each of these spots are within the distance of 40 kms. Some even in the walking distance i.e. not more than 3kms, some by day round hiking and some in a day round trip by motors. Pelling is today emerging as the second biggest tourist destination in the state after Gangtok.
How to Reach
Pelling is well connected with other destinations in the region such as Darjeeling, Gangtok, Kalimpong and Siliguri, NJP or Bagdogra.There are local transport including shared jeeps available from almost all the places. If you cannot manage a direct transfer to Pelling, try to get a taxi for Geyzing. From Geyzing to pelling is about half an hour and vehicles are more frequent. Please do remember that travel time varies widely with road condition. Post monsoon rain often road condition is not very great and average vehicle travelling 20 kms an hour is not uncommon. You can avail S.N.T. bus or jeep to reach Pelling from Siliguri. Jeeps are available from Gangtok.Pelling has a helipad ground though there is no regular air service. Helicopters can connect Pelling with Gangtok on request. If you are interested in trekking try to reach Pelling by walking from Geyzing through a pleasant road. It takes 4 to 6 hrs.
Places to Visit
- Rimbi River & Water Falls: About 12 kms away from Pelling and about 5kms further down from Darap village is Rimbi River Bank which falls on the way to Khecheopalri and Yuksam where the main attractions are the river, water falls, oldest Hydel power station and Sewaro rock garden. River is beautiful and breath taking but it is only in the winter when river water decreases and becomes gentle, the tourists with families go right inside the river bank and enjoy the river and local children are found doing fishing which is common activity of the locals all through the year. However in monsoon when the river becomes big and violent, tourists are advised not to attempt swimming or going to play in the river. It is, but enjoyable to watch the river from close distance . In the 2nd week of January every year the celebration of Maghemela is held along this river belt. Water falls is spectacular in summer that attract many waterfalls lovers.
- Kanchanjangha waterfalls: The Kanchanjungha waterfalls lies 28 km away from Darap en route to Yuksam and 5 km before reaching Yuksam. It is situated at a sharp curve on the road side. Before some years it was unknown by the people even them who passed by it because this hidden waterfalls is not easily seen from the road. Later, it is discovered by Topjur Bhutia on the year 1996 and then gradually becomes popular. . It is very big in size and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sikkim. This falls is normally active and equally attractive throughout the year. Now it is one of the most leading tourist spots in West Sikkim.
- Khecheopalri Lake & Monastery: About 28kms from Pelling at a height of about 6000ft is Khecheopalri Lake is considered one of the most sacred lakes of Sikkim. According to Buddhist belief the lake is the emanation of goddess Tara blessed by Guru Rempoche. The lake remains hidden under rich forest cover. Local folk tales say the lake got migrated from elsewhere and stayed in the valley which some of the villagers saw it, therefore, they named the lake Chojoo “The lake that stayed” . However there are different versions from different faiths. The miraculous part of the lake is that surface of the lake clean in spite of it being surrounded by the thick forest .It is believed that birds do not permit even a single leaf to float on the lake surface. Your visit to Pelling is incomplete without a tour to this lake. Leaves do fall on it sometimes but the birds fly in and instantly pick them away. Large number of pilgrims from different directions come and make wishes all through the year. The 15th full moon day of the 1’st month of lunar calendar which falls in Feb- March there is usually a festival of mass worshipping of Lake with prayers and offerings during when the Lake area will be fully crowded with pilgrims. Above the lake in about one hour walk there is a monastery named Khecheopalri Monastery on the hill. The monastery was said to have been founded by the then first KhecheoRempoche. All most all the monks of this monastery are Lepchas except a few Bhutia monks. Well equipped with road acess and spacious parking place and restaurants with curios and worshipping articles for sale Khecheopalri lake is enjoyable in a day out by car or trekking. In case of over night halt there a few guest houses.
- Changay falls, Dentam Bazar & Singshore bridge: About 10kms from Pelling on the road side of Dentam Bazar is the famous Changay water falls, which is most attractive in all seasons. The water falls makes visitors watch unmoved for hours. Interested visitors may climb up through gentle footpath and sit closer to the falls in a beautiful viewpoint shade when nearby they can attempt for a light bite and drink in a cafeteria. Then just a drive for about 12 kms accross beautiful villages and panoramic view of countryside across the river one reaches an old village market center called Dentam Bazar where the latest attraction is Alpine cheese factory of which the famous Swiss collaborated gouda cheese is all over in towns of India. One can quickly visit the temple in the main square and of course eat and drink at some restaurants, there. From there in a short distance of about 5 kms towards Uttarey village is Singshore bridge the second highest in Asia, which was built on 1996. A stone takes time of 8 secs to fall the river from the bridge. The bridge is being selected for bungy jumping to be started soon.
- Gayzing Bazar: Gayzing Bazar is a town about 10 kms away on your way to Pelling. Gayzing Bazar, is one of the oldest market established, approximately about 100 years ago. This establishment was said to have been done under the initiative of the monk body of Pemayangtyse monastery, who in the name of the monastery for the shopping comfort of the monks and public residing in the villages around Pemayangtse. Those days before Gayzing Bazar existed , shopping markets were a long distance away . People in the villages had to totally depend on door suppliers.Once upon a time the door suppliers was popular in the villages. Villagers used to buy their necessities and pay by giving away the eggs, animal leather and other local products that had a market outside. Ever since Gayzing market was established and first few shops were opened monks could do their monastic shopping and villagers could sell their village products like crops, dairy products, vegetables in the market and buy clothing and other house hold needs. Such trends sustains till today, and as usual villagers gather every sunday to do shopping or sell their products in GayzingBazar . Ground taxes from the hawkers still goes to Pemayangtse monastery. However the management of the market area in terms of its cleanliness, drainage, sewerage, street repairs and providing infrastructure is done by the Govt. under urban development planning. Today the market is well equipped with shops of all kinds, multipurpose community hall, library, post office, banks, police stations, eating places, lodges, internet centers, taxi terminus and a football ground. There is worshipping places for the people of all Faiths.
- Pemayangtse Monastery: Pemayangtse literally means ‘Perfect Sublime Lotus’. About 2kms from Pelling, you can visit the principal monastery belonging to Ngingma sect (one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism) which was built in the year 1705 AD. Beeing one of the few oldest monastery in Sikkim, it was built by GyalwaLhatsunNamkha Jigme, the main amongst three monks, who consecrated the first religious king of Sikkim at Yuksam in 1641 AD. The monastery being initially small then Lama JimePao, the third incarnation of LhatsunNamkha Jigme upgraded the monastery to a bigger size. Thereafter the renovations, alterations and additions of more and more rooms paintings, sculptures and statues of different deities to the main building has been done time to time. On the third floor of the monastery, there is a seven-tiered painted wooden model of the abode of Guru Rimpoche, complete with rainbows, angels and the whole panoply of Buddha and bodhisattva. In January/ February every year, a religious dance called ‘Cham’ is performed in Pemayangtse. On the ground floor on both sides in front, there are Dolma Lhagang. The shrine room of Goddess Tara and DorjeePhagmoLhagang the shrine of VajraVeraha, attached to this monastery are two main attractive sites. One is the old traditional residential houses named THASHA where the monks reside and the other way down on the road side, there is a piece of flat ground with a stone throne and a Stupa. This site is Buddhist Yogini from Tibet named ZetsunMingyurPaldon, where teachings are delivered the novice monks of Pemayangtse. It had been the royal chapel and always sustained with proper care ,Pemayangtse finally got the modern construction touch with a new form of building materials like steel and cement, since 1950 onwards. The prayers and meditation are traditional of Dzogchenlineage , the sacred school of greater perfection in Vazrayana Buddhism, the only successful propagator on this mountain. There had been Guru Padmasambhawa the great tantric yogi, who lived in the 8th century was later introduced by LhatsunNamkha Jigme. In this monastery, after they have the texts revealed by him, the treasure text hides of Guru Rempoche. In addition to this, the choreography of the sacred mask dances. Guru Dragmar and PangtodChyaam was initially introduced and trained, in this monastery by the third Chogyal Chhyador Namgyal which are well preserved and performed lively. In this monastery main events attract large number of viewers and pilgrims on two different times of the year. To mark the ending of the Guru Dragmar Dance Festival every year, the 150th years old giant Thanka of Sakyamuni Buddha is displayed in front of the monastery, with ceremony to welcome and initiate long life for the devotees. The monks of Pemayangtse monastery are exceptionally chosen from physically fit sons from pure Bhutia families. They are entitled to perform the rituals of the Palace and initiate the king’s, enthronement who had strictly observed the novices for years. They have been honoured for years as upholders of the scared traditions, prayers and practices, which were imparted and introduced by the early gurus. The style of the prayers, recitations and performing music had been inspired from the Mindoling monastery of Tibet. The teachings on different practices were frequently imparted to the monks by different lamas in different times. Ven Dungzin Rempoche was also an eminent Buddhist monk and artist, who built the great Zangthokpalri, the celestial palace of Guru Rempoche on the top floor of the monastery. Today this masterpiece is the main attraction and loved by the visitors. The brother of VenDungzin, the Ven. Khecheo Rempoche had been the Vazra master of this monastery, who was one of the greatest learned guru this monastery had. Where as the incarnation of late KhecheoRempoche the VenKhecheoTulkuYangsee is presently receiving teaching and trainings at the Guru H.H. PenorRempoche’s Monastery (Mysore). Ever since, this monastery was established the enrolment of monks has always been increasing and even till date. Some hundreds years the old social rule was sending at least one son from each Bhutia family to the monastery which practice is still retained .One or Two sons from every family are still proudly sent to the monastery with a festive ceremony called Dichuk.These days, the child monks receive a proper classroom and teachings by the teachers in the proper monastic school called Laptha. With the progress of their education levels, these days, they are sent to higher level college called Sheda and accordingly Dubda for meditation trainings. Today many children belonging to this monastery are in the big Buddhist learning centers of other states of India, like Namdoling Monastery of H.H. Penor Rempoche (Mysore), Mindoling Monastery of Thichen Rempoche (Mousori) and within Sikkim are TakcheDubda of Ven. GonjangRempoche, FodangTsuklhagangDubda and Deorali Sheda. Therefore many young monks have to come back to this monastery,after fully attaining the higher knowledge on the Buddhist philosophy, metaphysics astrology , rituals and meditation. Though the rituals and prayers performances are many in this monastery , the noted root rituals and practices are Rigzinsodup,DrakpoDerzi, KunchokChidue, DorjeeNgingpo, ThujeeChenpo, DersheKundu, Gnaysol Pang lhasol, PangtodChaam (warrior dance) and Guru Dragmar (mask dance). Besides these usual annual rituals monastery has to perform many prayers on request by the devotees. The monastery has monastic discipline, rules and regulations, they strictly followed by the monks. The administration is led by the Vazra master, DorjeeLobon, who is regarded as the principal of monks. The other designation of senior monks are Omzay, Chutheempo, Chingay and Kongay. The lower designations do serving , daily cleaning and offerings. The present Lama is Dorjee Lopon ,Chewang Rinzing of Sindrang West Sikkim. These designated monks are nominated by judging the seniority and eligibility of the monks. The monastery of Pemayangtse though one of the oldest and exceptionally much bigger in size, than other old monasteries in Sikkim. They have one biggest and spacious assembly hall called Dugang’ The impressive alter with a Statue of Guru Rempoche in the center among other effigies, the sacred wall paintings and traditional Thankas. This is the main hall where most prayers and rituals are performed. The first floor consists of Kagyur Lhagang, where lavishly shelved are large numbers of old holy text of KagyurTengyur. Bum and statue of Sakyamuni Buddha which has a small shrine room called Gonkang, for worshipping an protectorate deities of Pemayantse and Guru Lhagang. In the spacious Prayer Room are the statues of eight different manifestations of Guru Rempoche. It is in this room where Pang LhasolNaysol the annual worshipping of the Guardian deity.
- Rabdentse Ruins:
This was the second capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim after Yuksom. It is founded by the 2nd Chogyal of Sikkim TensungNamgyal in the year 1670 and till the year 1814 A.D., the king of Sikkim ruled the state from this place. Today, Rabdentse ruins lie hidden from the main road at a walking distance from Pelling (3kms) and the Pemayangtse monastery. When descending from Pemayangtse Monastery you can take a left turn and take a walk for 10 min to reach to the gateway of Rabdanse Ruins. It can be approached by following a footpath which branches off the main road. The walk towards Rabdantse is through a forest area with some rare species of orchids and a few lakes. These lakes are also home to local carp fish. Having left the uncared ruins for a long time it became thickly covered with wild jungle. The site has been recently very fully excavated and restored by the Archeological survey of India .After the restoration one can now visit the king’s bed room , assembley hall and kitchen, Public courtyard and other palace guards’ room etc. There are good views from the top of the ruins looking across the deep valley and to the Kanchanjungha ranges. The scenic view from the top of the ruin scanning across deep valley to the mystic heights of Kanchanjungha ranges is something to be cherished and etched in memory.
- Helipad Ground: Pelling has its own helipad ground at upper pelling by walking distance.
SangaChoeling Monastery & Sky Walk: Sanga Choeling means ‘the island of esoteric teaching’. The monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim. It is built by Lhatsun Namkha Zigme. It is located on the top of the mountain behind the town of Pelling and on a hill amidst thick pine forest opposite to Pemayangtse monastery. The distance to the monastery from town is about 3 km. One needs to take a 45 minute walk through a quite path to reach the monastery. As a result a visit to SangaChoeling Monastery is not part of any of the regular itinerary. But if you have time and energy, the effort of the uphill walk is well rewarded with great views of Pelling and surrounding hills including great views of Mount Kanchanjungha that can be seen from the monastery compound. The very old statues and Paintings are its attractions and its location advantage where the views are wonderful . The area is very appropriate for meditation practice. Discover a big flat stone lying on the side of the monastery overlooking the panoramic view of country side and mountains. This is the best view point for early morning sunrise and for enjoying the view. Nowadays there is motor able road and jeeps can go right up to the monastery. The admission in this monastery is limited to the families from Bhutia, Lepcha who are Buddhist by faith and the ethnic communities of Sikkim. Record: in the early period there used to be the monks admitted also from the limbo community along with Bhutia and lepcha. Due to its historical importance, location advantage and spiritual sanctity Sangachoeling always enjoys greater respect and faith from the devotees. There used to be a tradition of sending a learned monk from Pemayangtse monastery to each of its subordinate monastery to hold the throne of Vazra master (Tib; Dorjee Lobon) and Sangachoeling is one of them. Though many monasteries discontinued this tradition Sangachoeling still retains it. The present Vazra Master who was enthroned in the year 2007 is Yap Pon Lop Lama KungaTshering who had already passed Gay Dol Rank and is one of the revered senior monks at Pemayangtse. The enrolment of the monks at Sangachoeling crosses some hundreds combining three categories that are Senior, Junior and the child monks. The senior monks who had attained learning through old and traditional methods are available here, whereas, most of the young monks who have got opportunity to study in the higher learning centers within or outside state cannot be seen at this monastery except when they come back during holidays. The child monks are seen to be in good number living at the monastery as they have a monastic school attached to the monastery where they do primary level learning. The monks of this monastery are from the villages called Sindrang, Khorong, Lingchom, Tigjya , the places at the average distance of about 5 to 10 kilometers from the monastery. In the beginning Sangachoeling Monastery was established for the monks who chose Buddhists Tantric Wrath Practice and Learning (Tib;Ngagchen) within Ngingma’sDzongchen Linage. Later, in between , the female Buddhist practitioners (Nuns) from the villages lived in this monastery and practiced nunnery which might have begun from the reign of Chogyal Namgyal Phintsog(1733-1780) and lasted for long until Sidkyong’s Period. Subsequently, the nunnery disappeared and the monastery was restored to monks. In the course of change finally the Buddhist traditions ,rituals and philosophy and prayers which are practiced in Sikkim and bearing their root at Pemayangtse Monastery also became the permanent practices and learning at Sangachoeling except that mask dances and bigger rituals are not done here. Sangachoeling area also has a three hundred years old Buddhist crematorium which is very sacred . The site was blessed with the cremation of LhatsunNamkhaZigme after he went in Parinirwana . Since then, it bears a name DhuthoeSilwarTshar and it became ever a public crematorium for the people of Buddhist faith. Also after Lhatsun’ s death his costumes, worship articles were preserved in this monastery in the form of sacred relices. Following the frequent attacks of Gorkha Warriors from Nepal Lead by Prithivi Naryan Sha those relices of LhatsunNamkhaZigme were secretly transferred to Tumlong Monastery. On the other hand, newly built (November, 2018) Chenrezig statue at Pelling is the fourth tallest statue situated in Sikkim. It has a tallness of 137-ft arranged at Pelling, West Sikkim. “Chenrezig” is a sign of all the Buddha’s sympathy. His name signifies “One Who Looks with an Unwavering Eye”. Along with the statue there is a glass SKY WALK where visitor can appreciate the excite of strolling in the glass.