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Rumtek Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in Sikkim

Marija Georgievska

Rumtek Monastery, also known as Dharmachakra Centre, is located in the Indian state of Sikkim, near the city of Gangtok.

It is the center of the Karmapa controversy, the sectarian tensions within the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism which originated in the 12th century.

Rumtek Monastery. Photo Credit

Rumtek Monastery. Photo Credit

It was built in the 1700s by Changchub Dorje, 12th Karmapa Lama directions and for a while it served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim.

The monastery is currently the largest in Sikkim. Photo Credit

The monastery is currently the largest in Sikkim. Photo Credit

In 1959, the monastery was in ruins until the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, with the help of the Sikkim royal family and the locals, decided to rebuild it. The Karmapa loved the site of the ruined monastery because it possessed many auspicious qualities and was surrounded with flowing streams, a river below and a mountain behind.

Students of Rumtek Monastery. Photo Credit

Students of Rumtek Monastery. Photo Credit

It took four years to complete the construction of the monastery. Sacred items and relics were brought from the Tsurphu Monastery, the Karmapa’s seat in Tibet.

Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time. Photo Credit

Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time. Photo Credit

The monastery is currently the largest in Sikkim with a golden stupa that contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa.

Prayer Wheels in the Monastery. Photo Credit

Prayer Wheels in the Monastery. Photo Credit

Rumtek’s main building has three storeys and it’s filled with some of the rarest Buddhist artworks and miniatures. On the ground floor there is a large hand painted prayer hall while on the first floor lived the 16th Karmapa.

On the third floor, there is a balcony from where surrounding buildings, the residence of the monks, can be seen.

Since 1992, the monastery has been the site of pitched battles between monks. Photo Credit

Since 1992, the monastery has been the site of pitched battles between monks. Photo Credit

The subject of the Karmapa controversy is the recognition of the Seventeenth Karmapa. Since the death of the sixteenth Karmapa in 1981, two candidates had been selected, Ogyen Trinley Dorje and Trinley Thaye Dorje.

Both have already been enthroned as the 17th Karmapa but they have never met. Some of the monks accept Ogyen while others accept Trinley.

Rumtek is at the centre of the Karmapa controversy. Photo Credit

Rumtek is at the center of the Karmapa controversy. Photo Credit

No one has any exact information about the events for the most important developments are known only from the conflicting accounts.

We have another story about monastery:Skellig Michael: The mysterious abandoned medieval monastery

The monks who supported Trinley were thrown out of Rumtek in order to queel violence between the two sects.