The Monastery at Dharma Chakra Center, Rumtek

Rumtek Monastery

Dharma Chakra Centre, or Rumtek Monastery, is one of the most important seats of the Kagyu lineage outside Tibet. In the early 1960's, His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa founded this seat near the 300 year old Kagyu monastery built in the sixteenth century by the Fourth King of Sikkim under the guidance of the ninth Karmapa. The new Rumtek monastery was built about two kilometers away from this old monastery.

Rumtek became the International Kagyu Headquarters during the life of His Holiness, from where lineage activities manifested throughout the world. It also became the residence of a new generation of Kagyu masters, who are being trained in a tradition of study and meditation practice which began 800 years ago.

Another photo of the Monastery; the 
monastic college buildings are in the background

Dharma Chakra Center includes a beautifully structured main shrine temple and monastery with monks' quarters, where the Karmapa resides and where the most of the important relics are enshrined; a three-year retreat center; a Shedra, or monastic college, where the relics of the Sixteenth Karmapa are enshrined; a nunnery; stupas; a protector's shrine; institutions for the lay community; and other establishments. Click here for a panoramic view of Rumtek (large image: 85k).


Dharma Chakra Center, known as the Rumtek Monastery, is located in eastern Sikkim, 24 kilometers away from Gangtok, the capital of the Sikkim, India. Rumtek is situated at an altitude of about 5800 ft (1,547 metres); the temperature in Summer is between a maximum of 20.7 and minimum of 13.1 (deg.C°.); in Winter, maximum 14.9 / minimum 7.7. The best season to visit, in terms of weather, is March to late May, or from October to mid-December. The following languages are spoken in the area: Sikkimese, Pahari (the local Nepalese dialect), Hindi, Tibetan and English.


The monastery holds annual events for the public. Two of the most festive and important events are held each summer and winter . In the fourth lunar month of the Tsurphu Tibetan calendar either the Guru Rinpoche or the Vajrakilaya Drupchen (great sadhana practice retreat) take place. The practice events lasts for ten days and are followed by the traditional sacred lama dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava (on the 10th day), Yidam dieties, and other protectors. At the end of the lunar year, in the 12th month (usually sometime between February and March), Rumtek holds another festive ten-day practice of the Mahakala Protector. This is followed by the traditional sacred lama dance of Mahakala (on the 29th day). The Tibetan New Year (1st day of the 1st month) celebration of the new year follows, which usually lasts for 3-8 days, with the cultural and spiritual festivities, typically involving many Tibetan opera dance performances. These are some of the most festive and important holidays for Rumtek. These events provide an unique opportunity for both practitioners and the general public to visit and enjoy the traditional sacred lama dance performances, intense week-long practices, and the cultural celebration of the Tibetan New Year. More on Annual Events


Air : The nearest airport is Bagdogra (124 kms). Both government and private airlines operate flights to and from New Delhi, Calcutta, Patna, and other cities.

Helicopter Service:

Schedule: Sikkim Helicopter Service operates a daily five-seater helicopter service between Ganktok and Bagdogra, connecting all civil flights to and from Bagdogra airport.

Time: Depart Gangtok - 12:30 hrs · Depart Bagdogra - 14:30 hrs except on Mondays/Fridays when departure time is moved to 15:30 hrs to accommodate the arrival of the Indian Airlines flight from Calcutta.

Duration: 30 minutes

Fare: (Indian Rupees) Rs. 1500.00 per person
Contact: RNC Enterprise, M.G.Marg, Gangtok · Phone [91] (0-3592) 23556 · Fax 23556 or Department of Tourism, Govt. of Sikkim · Ph:[91] (3592) 22064 / 22634

Rail: The nearest railway stations are in Siliguri (114 kilometers (kms)) and New Jalpaiguri (NJP) (125 kms). Train service runs to and from New and Old Delhi, Calcutta, Gaya, Varanasi and other cities and towns of India.

Road: Good motor roads connect Gangtok with Siliguri (114 kms), Darjeeling (139 kms), Calcutta (725 kms), and Guwahati (589 kms).

Bus Service: Regular bus services connect Gangtok with Bagdogra, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri and Calcutta. Sikkim Nationalized Transportation, which is a state government bus service, and other private services operate within Sikkim as well as outside the state.

Local Transportation: Buses and taxis are available.


In 1959, His Holiness the Sixteen Gyalwa Karmapa fled 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.

The Karmapa arrives in Sikkim

His Holiness and the party arrived in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, on the twenty-fifth day of the fourth month of the earth pig year (1959).

Of the several sites proposed by Choegyal Tashi Namgyal, H.H. Karmapa chose to settle at Rumtek area, an hour's drive from the capital. The site possessed many auspicious qualities and was surrounded by the most favorable attributes, such as the flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, a river below, and many others. 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.

Appearing above the trees is the top of the ancient Kagyu monastery 
in Rumtek, nearby the new monastery

Rumtek was the site of a monastery built by the ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje, and the old monastery was still standing. Indeed, the Karmapas have a long and storied connection to Sikkim. In the latter half of the Sixteenth Century A.D., the ninth Karmapa had been invited by the King of Sikkim to build monasteries, one of which was established by the Kagyu in Rumtek. The Kagyu order maintained strong ties to Sikkim for many centuries.

After the current Choegyal's reprise of his Sixteenth Century predecessor's offer, Karmapa and his party immediately departed for Rumtek, arriving on the fifth day of the fifth month of the earth pig year (1959). 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 jungle growth. The area was undeveloped and had no facilities for supporting the Karmapa and his party. Living conditions in the area were extremely difficult and hard. During this early period, His Holiness and his followers worked intensively to make the place habitable. For many years, His Holiness Karmapa, Rinpoches, lamas, monks and the lay community lived in temporary quarters. Meanwhile, His Holiness gathered resources to begin construction of new facilities to support his monastic seat and the lay people surrounding the monastery. Everyone worked with extreme exertion to fulfill the dream of establishing the seat and the community around it.

Construction of the monastery

In 1962, construction of a new monastery and other facilities for a monastic seat for the Karmapa began, which took three years to complete. The Choegyal who had invited the Karmapa to found his seat had passed away, but the foundation stone of the new monastic center was laid by the new King of Sikkim. The General Secretary for His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa, Dhamchoe Yongdu, led the project and the carried out the construction precisely in accordance with the instructions of His Holiness.

The generosity of the Sikkimese royal family 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.

The inauguration of Rumtek Monastery

In 1966, after four years, construction of the monastery was completed. The sacred items and relics brought out from Tsurphu were installed. On Tibetan New Year's day (losar) H.H. the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa officially inaugurated the new seat called, "The Dharmachakra Centre, a place of erudition and spiritual accomplishment, the seat of the glorious Karmapa."

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 in strict accord with the traditional architectural designs of the Tibetan monasteries. The whole structure is beautifully covered with murals, traditional Tibetan style paintings. Indeed, the General Secretary later received an architectural award for Rumtek Monastery from the State of Sikkim for the beauty, precision, and the authenticity of the traditional Tibetan architecture used to create the monastery. This was the first monastery built in India in the traditional design, and it became the model for many other monasteries built later throughout India.


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