Dali Monastery in Darjeeling
Dali Monastery is a massive monastic community that sits about 5 kilometers from Darjeeling. Perched atop a hill with a sprawling view, Dali Monastery (also known as DrukSangagCholing Monastery, houses some 200 monks and monks-to-be. It is one of my personal favorite spots in all of Darjeeling for a number of reasons. After stepping through the gate and climbing up the stairs, you immediately feel a sense of peace come over you. You must experience this for yourself. Become enchanted by the elaborate Tibetan architecture, characterized by rich symbolism and natural pigments of red, green, blue and green. Have a bite to eat at the Dali Monastery Coffee Shop where they serve delicious momo’s, potato chips, coffee, tea, etc. It’s a great place to hang out and read a book, and maybe make friends with a lama. At 4:30, head inside the temple for prayer time, when the monks hit drums (damaru), play the horns, and sing beautiful incantations. Meanwhile, younger monks deliver hot pots of tea for you to sip on. If you come to Dali Monastery, arriving during prayer time is a must!
Ghum Monastery in Darjeeling
The picturesque Ghum Monastery is a charming little place with superb views on all sides. The monastery was built in 1850 by the Mongolian astrologer and monk SokpoSherabGyatso, who was head of the monastery until 1905. Ghum, not to be confused with Old Ghum Monastery, is located roughly 7 kilometers outside of Darjeeling on the way to/from Tiger Hill. Make it to the monastery early in the morning to receive blessings before you make the ascent to Tiger Hill and see one of the most majestic views of your lifetime. Also, there is a small café on the premises that opens early in the morning for coffee, tea, biscuits, and light vegetarian snacks. After listening to the monks pray, climb up some stairs to an open roof of a single storey building and be amazed at the view. See the awe-inspiring Kanchenjunga ahead of you and the expansive valleys below. If you’re going to Tiger Hill, do not miss this wonderful side trip!
Tamang Monastery in Darjeeling
Tamang Monastery is a lesser known, but extraordinary monastery directly south of Darjeeling. It is said to be the oldest monastery of the Tamang ethnic group. The ornately designed monastery attracts both local and international spiritual seekers to gain knowledge about the mystical teachings of Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. Have some moments of self-reflection here. Ask anyone who has visited the monastery and they will tell you that the strong sense of peace here is most memorable. Find some inner peace at the Tamang Monastery, which lies on a scenic hill nearby Mirik, with incredible mountain view that includes Kanchenjunga (8586 meters/28,169 feet), the third highest peak in the world. The best time to visit the Tamang Monastery is during the fall and spring, when the skies are clearest and the flowers are brightest.
BhutiaBusti Monastery in Darjeeling
Considering the history of all Darjeeling’s monasteries, BhutiaBusti(meaning Bhutia colony) has perhaps the most tumultuous. Spanning about 250 years, the various buildings and locations of BhutiaBusti have faced numerous difficulties, though continues to persevere until this day. The original location of BhutiaBusti rested on Observatory Hill, where the Mahakal Temple is located today. It was built in 1761 by Lama DorjeRinzing. If you consider its origin on Observatory Hill, BhutiaBusti is the oldest monastery in Darjeeling. Unfortunately, the monastery was completely destroyed during the 1815 Gorkha Invasion. It was rebuilt in 1861 but due to troubles it was moved to its present location 18 years later in 1879. Again, the monastery was demolished in 1934 due to a powerful earthquake. It was rebuilt shortly thereafter and has fortunately maintained its structure since then. Today, very few permanent monks live there, so if you visit you may get a chance to talk one on one with the head monk!
YigaChoeling (Old Ghum) Monastery in Darjeeling
The Old Ghum Monastery (interchangeable with YigaChoeling Monastery) is one of the oldest and largest monasteries in the Darjeeling area. It is architecturally a masterpiece, designed with rich symbolism and remarkable symmetry. The monastery, constructed in 1850, belongs to the Gelukpa or yellow hat sect. Starting in 1959, the Chinese occupation forced a number of high ranking lamas to flee Tibet and reside in India. Many of them took refuge in the YigaChoeling Monastery. It is a very special place for this reason. One main attraction is a massive 15-foot model statue of Lord Buddha, known as the Maitreya Buddha (‘The Coming Buddha’). Tourists typically skip the Old Ghum Monastery and opt for the Ghum Monastery instead. Because of this, you will likely have a more intimate experience with the place and even have a conversation with one of the monks there. Learn about their story and daily routine as you have a nice talk with