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Climbing the Stairway to Heaven.

Byline: AB

Spend time at one of Sikkim's most respected monasteries discovering your own spirituality quotient--quite literally!

There's a kind of test in Sikkim gompas to deduce whether you're getting close to spiritual enlightenment or not. After you've climbed up to the top and caught your breath--which takes quite a while because the monasteries are right up there on the peak of those forested hills--look around. You'll see monks in maroon spinning their prayer wheels as they begin to circle the outer walls. And most of the locals are following them. An X doesn't mark the spot, but it's quite clear when you've got there. You have to stand on one side of the path with your eyes shut and hold out your index finger. Across is a hole centred in a white rock called the Thakar Tashiding. To judge your spiritual enlightenment, you've got to place your finger exactly in that hole without opening your eyes. If you hit the bull's eye, you'll go straight to heaven. However no one tells you what happens if you miss it (which is very likely given the unevenness of the path). Instead the monks and devout visitors laugh and move on, spinning their prayer wheels. It's half a joke, someone will explain consolingly, and everyone misses.

Tashiding in any case is quite close to heaven. It lies near the foothills of the Khangchendzonga. The hairpin bends on the road up have gentle signs in English advising caution. It starts with "Be gentle with the curves" but as you get closer and the bends get more and more precarious, a note of philosophy creeps in: "If you judge people, you won't have time to love them" or "Imagination is better than wisdom". Whether the bus and lorry drivers have time to read these is debatable. And their positioning defies all logic--unless they signify that you're getting closer and closer to heaven.

Presumably pre·sum·a·ble  
adj.
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster.
 whoever put them there was influenced by the closeness of the monastery and was transported to Nirvana, which accounts for the Confucius say factor.

Tashiding perches on a camel's hump kind of ridge. It takes a good half an hour of huffing and puffing to get up there. The landscape is splashed with orchids of all kinds and colours and there are rows and rows of prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Around the boundary walls some ancient master craftsman A master craftsman (sometimes called only master or grandmaster) was a member of a guild. In the European guild system, only master craftsmen were allowed to actually be members of the guild.  has carved the 'Om Mane Padme Hum' mantra. Butterflies flit here and there amongst the white washed stupas. There is a rather considerate stone with a hollow that will fit a knee, which is rumoured to heal any aches and pains you had on the walk up. Take a moment and do try it.

Cheerful monks come out through the exquisitely carved and painted wooden pillars to snatch some sunshine, taking a break from their prayers. Butter tea Butter tea, also known as po cha (Tibetan: བོད་ཇ་; Wylie: bod ja, "Tibetan tea"), cha süma (Tibetan: ཇ་སྲུབ་མ་; Wylie: ja srub ma  will be offered as a kind of consolation prize consolation prize
n.
A prize given to a competitor who loses or does not win the first prize.


consolation prize
Noun

something given to console the loser of a game
 for missing the hole in the wall. The tea is Tibetan, has a layer of fat floating on the surface and a distinctly salty taste.

Tashiding is the holiest of the monasteries in Sikkim run by the Nyingma-pa Sect, which is different from the sect to which the Dalai Lama Dalai Lama (dä`lī lä`mə) [Tibetan,=oceanic teacher], title of the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Believed like his predecessors to be the incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, 1935–,  belongs. It dates back to 1641, but the original building was wrecked in an earthquake. Chortens, in honour of chogyals over the centuries, dot the courtyard. And in their middle is a huge cypress tree with four gnarled gnarled  
adj.
1. Having gnarls; knotty or misshapen: gnarled branches.

2. Morose or peevish; crabbed.

3.
 branches below which lies a huge stone covering a secret pond.

On the way back you'll find another test for your spiritual enlightenment: two holy caves. Sinners get stuck in the narrow tunnels inside. Incredible or scary, you could try it out--it may be easier than the rock. At least you'll do this with your eyes open.

GOOD TO KNOW

Bagdogra Airport Bagdogra Airport or Civil Aerodrome Bagdogra (IATA: IXB, ICAO: VEBD), a military airport that is open for civilian flights, is located about 16 kilometres from the city of Siliguri in northern West Bengal, India.  in Siliguri is 140 km away from Yuksom. There are daily flights from Delhi and Calcutta and a helicopter to Gangtok. The nearest railway stations The following is a list of railway stations (also called train stations) that is indexed by country. :Further information: List of IATA-indexed train stations Africa
Morocco
  • Casablanca
 are at Siliguri (114 km) and New Jalpaiguri (125 km) from Gangtok, linked to Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati and other important cities. Gyalshing is about 140 km from Gangtok, and about 40 km from the Tashiding Monastery (Sikkim). You can drive to Yuksom from Siliguri, the main base city from where one can get road transport to Sikkim, 140 km away.

--AB

TOP 5 MUST-DOs

In Sikkim

Sip millet beer Millet beer, also known as Bantu beer, kaffir beer, or opaque beer, is an alcoholic beverage made from malted millet. This type of beer is common throughout Africa. Related African drinks include maize beer and sorghum beer.  from antiquated tongba-tubs in postcards from the edge Postcards from the Edge is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Carrie Fisher, first published in 1987. It was later adapted, by Fisher herself, into a motion picture directed by Mike Nichols which was released by Columbia Pictures in 1990.  hamlets like Thanggu

Watch two giant statues confront each other at Namchi from facing hillsides across this market town.

Hitch a ride to Yuksom (via Khecheopalri Lake Khecheopalri lake in West Sikkim district of the Indian state of Sikkim is considered a holy lake both by the Buddhist and the Hindu population.[1] The lake is enveloped in a dense forest cover of temperate vegetation and bamboo.  using tour jeeps) and hiking from there to the quaint gompa village of Tashiding and then up to the monastery.

Watch the Khangchendzonga over a cup of espresso from a cafe in Pelling, or from its helipad hel·i·pad  
n.
See heliport.


A prepared area designated and used for takeoff and landing of helicopters. (Includes touchdown or hover point.)
.

Take a short yak ride round the Chhangu Lake.

TOP 5 MUST-SEEs

In Sikkim

Tashiding monastery's main event is the Bumchu ceremony held between Feb and March. This ancient ritual is one of the holiest Buddhist festivals in Sikkim.

Visit the 'monastery of the flying monk', Enchey Monastery The Enchey Monastery is an old Buddhist monastery situated just above the township of Gangtok, capital of Sikkim state India. An important seat of the Nyingma order, the Enchey Monastery is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his power of . Lama Druptob Karpo was a tantric tan·tra  
n.
Any of a comparatively recent class of Hindu or Buddhist religious literature written in Sanskrit and concerned with powerful ritual acts of body, speech, and mind.
 master who had the gift of flight. Enchey is known worldwide for the religious masked Chham dance, part of a festival in January.

See the Alpine meadows and wildflowers of Yumthang, surrounded by mountains at 11,800 ft, 140 km from Gangtok.

Visit one of Sikkim's holiest and the second oldest Pemayangtse monastery, 3 km from Pelling.

Visit the sacred and serene Chhangu Lake, 18 km from the Chinese border. The Lake is frozen for most of the year but comes alive between May and Sept.

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:950
Previous Article:The Slow Train to Darjeeling.
Next Article:Chasing the Rain in Cherrapunjee.


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