This Monastery at an altitude of about 1500 metres / 4900 feet is dedicated to the flourishing of the dharma activity of His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, for the benefit of all beings. Sikkim, at the border of India and Tibet, was consecrated as a hidden sanctuary for the Buddha's teachings during the present epoch by the second Buddha, the great master Padmasambhava, who blessed it with the vajra wisdom of his body, speech, and mind. This Monastery was originally built under the direction of Changchub Dorje, 12th Karmapa Lama in the mid-1700s. It served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time. But when Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa, arrived in Sikkim in 1959 after fleeing Tibet, the monastery was in ruins. He was offered to built in other places also but Karmapa decided to rebuild Rumtek. According to him, the site possessed many auspicious qualities and was surrounded by the most favorable attributes. Like flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, and a river below. The generosity and help of the Sikkim royal family and the local folks of Sikkim, it was built by the 16th Karmapa as his main seat in exile.
After four years, construction of the monastery was completed. The sacred items and relics brought out from Tsurphu Monastery, the Karmapa's seat in Tibet, were installed. On Losar in 1966, the 16th Karmapa officially inaugurated the new seat, called "The Dharmachakra Centre, a place of erudition and spiritual accomplishment, the seat of the glorious Karmapa. Rumtek monastery is currently the largest in Sikkim. It is home to the community of monks where they perform the rituals and practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage. A golden stupa contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa. Opposite that building is a college, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. The Rumtek Monastery features in the 2014 Indian mystery thriller novel The emperor's riddles by Satyarth Nayak.
This monastery is located in a place which is away from Gangtok town and in the opposite mountain. So if you visit Rumtek, there are vantage points from where you get amazing sights of the whole Gangtok town is visible. It requires an uphill walk (about half a kilometer) to reach up to the main monastery. The main building of the Rumtek monastery is three storeyed. It houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious artwork in the world in form of wall murals & thankas (scrolls with intricate hand paintings), 1001 miniature golden models of Buddha etc. It is also a world renowned center for Kargyu teachings.
The ground floor of the main monastery building has a large prayer hall. The hall has large hand painted and intricate wall murals, thankas, silk paintings and statues. You won't be allowed to use camera inside though. The first floor is where the 16th Karmapa lived. The top floor has a terrace and a small stupa. There is a large courtyard in front of the main monastery building. The courtyard has few other buildings surrounding it where the monks live. Just outside and at the backside a stairway leads to the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies.
Rumtek is located approximately 24 kilometres from Gangtok and its an hour drive from the capital of Sikkim. Nearest airport is located at Bagdogra Airport (IXB) in West Bengal which is around 124 kilometers from Gangtok. Flight from here connect to destinations like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Paro, Bangkok, Mumbai and Guwahati. From Bagdogra Airport (IXB) airport daily helicopter services reach Gangtok and requires early bookings. Nearest railway link is New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) at a distance of 134 kilometers from Gangtok. Trains from here link to destinations like Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati. From New Jalpaiguri jeeps are available to bring you to Gangtok. NH 10 connects Gangtok to Kolkata via Teesta Bazaar and Rangpo. Private vehiclesare available if booked early as there is shortage of registered Taxi.