The Oldest Monastery in Sikkim

Guardian figures above the entrance to Dubdi gompa

Hem Kumar was our driver for the day. He was very enthusiastic about taking us to see all the “points” north of Pelling. The Family found him to be a very nice person, but completely impervious to our suggestions. We would have liked him to drive to Yuksom, drop us at the bazaar, and let us go off on a walk around the town. He would not hear of it, because he wanted to show us one of Danny Denzongpa’s houses on the way to Yuksom. He took a turn off the highway and drove up a steep stony road to show us this sight. Then he said there is a small monastery nearby which we might want to see.


I was quite sure this would be the Dubdi gompa: the oldest in Sikkim. I asked him whether it was, and he said “Yes, it is not very interesting, but it is nearby”. I felt a little hustled, because I had wanted to go to Pemyangtse first to arrange for this monastery to be opened. I’d read about the beautiful paintings inside, the statues of the founder, Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, and the two other monks who had together presided over the coronation of the first Chogyal, and the collection of rare books. But now Hem Kumar drove up to it, not having given us the chance to arrange the visit. We got out of his SUV to see this beautiful small structure (photo above). It did not look like it had been standing there since 1701, when it was completed.


The door was locked. There was nobody around. The outside had little decoration, but what little there was looked beautiful. I looked above the main door, and sure enough, the lintel held a beautifully carved set of wooden guardians (photo above). A snarling tiger and a snow lion flanked the central dharmapala. This seems to be a representation of Yamantaka. These beautiful figures makes me wonder about the interior. When The Family said that we will have to come back to this place to see it properly, I was in total agreement.


We circled the gompa in the canonical clockwise direction. The remainder of the outside was colourfully painted, but otherwise quite plain. As we came back to the front we saw on the left a small chorten standing under the shade of a tall clump of bamboo. It was a restful sight.

The day was overcast, and now it looked like it might rain at any time. We’d been looking forward to the spectacular view of mount Kabru which Yuksom is supposed to have. We asked Hem Kumar about the view, and he said that you cannot see Kabru from here. We’d read about the sight in too many places for the information to be wrong, so I began to suspect that Hem Kumar may be less well informed than he lets on. At it happened, we never managed to see Kabru from Yuksom, but the next morning we had a lovely sighting of this complex of peaks from our hotel in Pelling.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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