While visiting Darjeeling, one is always eager to ride the toy train to Darjeeling’s Ghum station. Apart from the joyride, the Ghum station premise itself is a major tourist attraction and so are the monasteries in Ghum. There are two monasteries in Ghum. One is the Yiga Choeling, popularly called Old Ghoom Monastery. Another one is known as the Samten Choling Monastery.
Yiga Choeling Monastery
This monastery was built in 1850 and is one of the oldest monasteries in this area. The famous monk and astrologer Lama Sherab Gyatso built the external structure of this monastery who remained as first head of monastery till 1905. This monastery belongs to the Gelupka sect. The major attraction in this monastery is the Maitreya Buddha, meaning the Buddha of the future. It is a 15 feet statue of Lord Buddha built with clay brought from Tibet. This was made during the tenure of Lama Domo Geshe Rinpoche. There are 2 large oil lamps which remain lighted at all times all around the year.
Inside the monastery, you will find various images of Buddha and other Buddhist deities and Lamas. A large collection of manuscripts are also there including rare ones. Huge bells and drums are kept inside.
The monastery is going through a severe financial crisis as aids for running it has stopped for some unknown reason. Such is the distress that it has to unwillingly charge visitors for clicking Photographs and shooting videos. Local donations are the sole source of its sustention.
Apart from the beautiful decoration of the monastery, one cannot miss the paradisiacal views of Kanchenjunga.
How to reach:
This monastery is of 10 minutes walking distance from Ghoom station. Alternatively, you may take a 30-minute car ride from Darjeeling on the Hill cart road.
Samten Choling Monastery:
This beautiful monastery is built in white and has a golden crown-like top. Recently a 26-foot long statue of Lord Buddha has been placed in the monastery as a way to honor eminent Lama Anagarika Govinda.
A large statue of Lord Buddha in a seated position is inside the monastery.
On one side there is the residential place of the monks.
The open terrace, which is accessible to visitors is a wonderful place to catch the amazing views of snow-capped Kanchenjunga.
It is open every day from dawn till dusk.
How to reach:
Many locals even refer this as Ghum monastery although the Yiga Choeling Monastery is the original one. So one needs to clearly mention to the cab drivers exactly where to go. It is located about 7 km from the city of Darjeeling on the Hill Cart road.