If you want to be closer to nature, if the sky-touching Kanchanchungha attracts you, then do not delay. Instead, it would be best to head to this small village in Southern Sikkim named Ravangla, located between Pelling and Gangtok.
Well, we decided to fulfill our dream of visiting the awe-inspiring Kanchanchungha ranges. We reached Ravangla in a rented Xylo car on the 5th afternoon enjoying the scenic stretch from New Jalpaiguri, with a brief stop to explore Namche on the way. I have described the sightseeing of Nemchi in part-I of the story. The link to part-I is included at the end. Our itinerary also included Kaluk and Betel.
We got accommodation in Barfung Resort in Ravangla. It’s a lovely resort with lovely people. And from here from our suite, we had a splendid view of the mighty Mountain Kanchenchungha. Besides the Kanchenchungha, some other major Mountain peaks like Pandim, Sinoilchu, Kabru are visible from Ravangala.
Our resort is situated near the outskirts of the town, say around 5 to 10 Kilometers downhill, a little isolated. However, that’s the only resort there. So if you love nature and seclusion, Barfung resort is a perfect choice. The cottage we stayed in costed 3500 per day for three people, including complimentary breakfast. We asked for a tariff rate for all kinds of rooms in retreat from the resort manager for mentioning in my story. Later after our return home, in a what’s app message on 20 March, Barfung Retreat confirmed that it is 3500 for a cottage.
The Resort Manager, Mr. Dinesh, told me Ravangla usually experiences snowfall in winter.
So on the morning of the 6th, we started our Ravangla tour in our rented Xylo. We had booked the Xylo from the Pelling-based Western Tour Travels for a six-day Southern and Western Sikkim tour. As mentioned in part-I, a local Nepali boy, Dorji, was behind the wheel. Dorji. I observed from his driving that he got the required expertise and confidence for driving on a winding, hilly roads. Dorji, true to Nepalese character, was a jolly chap. I have given the details of the transporter, Mr. Chopel Dorjee Bhutia’s contact number and address at the end.
New Ralang Monastery
Well, our first destination of the day was New Ralang Monastery. Unfortunately, the road to New Ralang monastery is even worse than worst. If tourism is the mainstay of Sikkim’s revenue-earning, the government should make the road in good shape. Undoubtedly, driving on such a lousy road could be an endurance test for driver and vehicle. Anyway, I am a tourist here. Whether the path is good or bad, it is the government’s responsibility.
Coming back to the subject, I would like to tell you one thing-all monastery are almost of the same format. Maybe a Buddhist can comment upon better.
The new Ralang monastery is about 6 Kilometers from Rabangla town in southern Sikkim and belongs to the Kagyu sect. The Kagyu school is one of the leading Himalayan or Tibetan Buddhism schools. The Kagyu lineage traces itself back to the 11th century. The monastery which we are visiting now had its reconstruction in 1995. Unfortunately, we could not go inside the monastery as some repair work happened. The original or the root monastery, however has its location down the hill.
A visitor who came back from there told us the road to it is in bad shape that it is neither motorable nor walkable. Moreover, one is at risk of falling because of rough inclines, even while walking. Moreover, the visitors are not allowed to go inside the monastery [original root maonastery]. So we gave up our decision to go there.
Yet another experience I would like to share with you was that none of the monks at New Ralang Monastery here were ready to explain or reply to our queries. They could not do so because of the language barrier. Instead, they were fluent in their native language. While the younger monk explained what he understood of our queries, I could only smile gratefully, without understanding a word. Then I noticed a monk who looked older.
I thought he was a senior monk. When I asked him to explain to me about the monastery, he said he could not speak Hindi or English. So he asked us to go to a young monk standing nearby. He also said that the young monk was brilliant and knowledgeable. But that young monk said that he too does not know Hindi, and he is a junior. So it would be better if we requested the senior monk only. The young monk said his name was Gurmi.
After a lot of dilly-dallying and persuasion, Gurmi, in his broken Hindi, said the surrounding rectangular building is the hostel of trainee or student monk. The student studied Buddhism and other subjects and practiced meditation and rituals in the monastery. Then, after grooming, they become Lama.
You might have seen colored clothes suspended on pilar whenever you go to a monastery. Monk Gurmi said these colored flags are called Loongar. Loongar carries the Buddha mantra. When the flag swayed in the air, people’s pains mingled in the air and reached God, according to belief in Buddhism.
Buddha Park Ravangla, also known as Tathagata, was constructed between 2006-2013 and was consecrated on 25 March 2013 by the 14th Dalai Lamba. The statue is 130 feet tall. The statue commemorates the 2550 birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha. The authorities chose the religious complex of Rabong monastery, a centuries-old pilgrimage place, as a site for constructing this statue.
The Buddhist park has a tranquil setting. It has a meditation center and a museum with a spiral gallery.
Fortunately, we got exclusive permission from the person entrusted to the monastery entrance to photograph from inside. So the video footage is available in the end. You can see in video footage the Lord Buddha statue. There are displays of photos of the Lord Buddha relic ceremony, visits of dignitaries/ prominent Buddist monks, photographs of certification, etc. You could see the various mural of Buddhism also on the wall.
There is a chronological display of Buddha’s life from birth to death on the first floor. There are photographs and notes on the practice of austerity in life or how to shed negativism. The central idea that I could perceive is that Buddha was born as a normal human being. Still, he attains spirituality with his experience and observation in life’s journey.
Buddhism believed in ‘formless God’ (Nirakar sadhna). It thought on Karma. “As you sow, so shall you reap,” my limited mind says or concludes after visiting here.
The entry fee of Buddha park is Rs 50 per head. It remains open from 9 AM to 5 PM. There is plenty of restaurant beside Buddha Park. We had in one of them where vegetable thali cost Rs 200 per head.
With this, our tour of Ravangla came to an end according to a package given by the transporter. Although I had a strong desire to see, Borang, Rolling monastery, hot spring bathing, Hand made paper industry, and Meditation cave. But the resort manager Dinesh had to say that road on that side is very deplorable. Apart from this, Chopel Dorji, Manager Western Travel, said that the time of my tour package is limited to six days. So I would have to stop a day extra at Borong to enjoy the hot spring.
Moreover, the transportation has to bear additional costs. My contract with the transporter was 25000 for six days. So keeping this wish that I would visit those leftover places in my next visit, we returned to the resort.
On 7 March, we left for kaluk, where we have reserved our accommodation .in Ghondsay resort. But that story in the next part. I hope my readers will wait for it anxiously.
i)Important Contact Numbers & Address:
ii) Barfung Retreat, Babangla: Contact No. 8001609065, 7076175131
iii) Link address for the part-I story: https://www.unveil.press/author/saibal-ghosh/