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OFFBEAT THINGS TO DO IN WEST SIKKIM –RABDENTSE RUIN SITE IN PELLING
This detailed blog is reported based upon my visit to Rabdentse ruins near upper Pelling and the ancient Pemayangtse Monastry in West Sikkim. It is a must see place during Pelling sightseeing. The locals call Rabdentse ruins as the Machu Pichu Of India. It is the best offbeat things to do in Sikkim.
It was a part of my 10 days long epic road trip through both offbeat and touristy places of Sikkim. The blog is a complete guide to Rabdentse ruins along-with a brief history of the Kingdom of Sikkim and its Chogyals.
RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – MACHU PICHU OF INDIA?
It was about to get dark when we arrived at the Rabdentse site near Pelling in Sikkim. It was quite far from the main entrance of the actual Rabdentse site. Through dense green foliage and through occasionally steep paths, we hurried up. Maybe it was my impatience to see what ‘Machu Pichu of India’ was all about or maybe it was my fear that it would close down before we reach as it appeared darker as we walked through the woods.
TSHO NAM CHU AT RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT PLACE TO SEE IN SIKKIM
Even before we arrived at the Rabdentse site, we passed through some places of historical importance right at the entrance of the Rabdentse site, apart from some very old worn down stupas. One of them was called Tsho Nam Chu. As per the local folklore, monks from the ancient Pemayangtse Monastry, would visit Tsho Nam Chu in the sixth month of Tibetan calendar to perform their annual pooja at Daflhagang, Rabdentse. The monks would take bath in this lake and were allowed to have a little fun without any code of conduct imposed on them on one day.
SIMIKOK CHU – AT RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT PLACE TO VISIT IN SIKKIM
Another nearby small pond Simikok Chu is religiously important. Since the water in Simikok Chu is away from the direct sun rays, it is considered auspicious. Each year, the water from this pond is taken to the Pemayangtse Monastry to perform poojas and rituals known as Tarkyap.
THE PATH TO RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – TOURIST PLACE TO VISIT IN SIKKIM
“Do not get tired, Great excitement is awaiting. 200 meters away.” (sic) The signboard by Archaeological Survey of India (Kolkata circle) kept our morale high as we inched closer to the Rabdentse site. We increased our pace. What if it is as vast as Machu Pichu? We walked with anticipation as the mystery deepened.
We emerged from the darkness of the dense forest and arrived at the Rabdentse site after few minutes of slightly uphill walk. A huge ancient stupa and signboards by Archaeological Survey of India, Kolkata circle welcomed us. The Taphap Chorten was where the visitors were required to get off from their horses and take off their hats as a mark of respect.
ABOUT RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT SIGHTSEEING IN SIKKIM
Below is an extract from the signboard (Caps on!) at the Rabdentse ruins:
Tensung Namgyal, the second Chogyal of Sikkim and son of Phuntshog Namgyal shifted the capital from Yuksom to Rabdenste in late 17th century A.D.
The ruins of this ancient capital surrounded by rubble fortification are scattered over a conspicuous spur within a thickly forested valley on the South West of Pemayangtse Monastry, the main settlement which lies on the highest portion of the spur is divided in to two sections by a dividing wall, the sector to the North constitutes the palace complex whereas the sector to the south was the religious complex probably meant for both the royal family and common people. Three chortens fronted by a stone paved open floor and attached to the double storeyed palace were probably for religious pursuits of the royal family. Only the religious complex constitutes a throne and a chorten above a platform. The settlement was probably extending towards western side beyond the rubble fortification where the common people lived in this area there is a lake and a connecting stone bridge.
During the time of Tenzing Namgyal who succeeded his father in 1780 A.D., Nepalese forces attacked the Capital of Rabdentse when Tenzing Namgyal had to flee to Tibet. After the Sino-Nepal treaty was signed Tsudphud Namgyal, son of Tenzing Namgyal was sent to Sikkim in 1793 A.D. and reinstated as Chogyal. Rabdentse, too close to Nepal borders and being unsafe the capital was shifted to Tumlong.
MY EXPERIENCE OF RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – PLACES TO SEE IN PELLING
As I stepped on the stairs of the ruins which led me to the actual site, I forgot about what they told me about ‘Machu Pichu Of India’. I loved exploring Rabdentse for what it is. The ruins took me to a world I didn’t know existed. We have all heard a lot about Sikkim. But do we really know the history of Sikkim? I was curious and made sure that I saw the best places to see in Pelling.
I am sure even many locals are unaware about it. During my 10 days long trip with Sikkim Cab Rental Co and 2 other travel bloggers Jacomijn Heupink (Netherlands) and Jitaditya Narzary (India), I came across many vestiges of the tumultuous history of Kingdom of Sikkim. The mystical ruins at Rabdentse and the coronation site of the first Chogyal of Sikkim in Yuksom silenced me as I tried to piece together the puzzle of the history of Kingdom of Sikkim.
I climbed up on the left site (North) which was the residential place of the royal family. It is guarded by a metal fence as it is located on the edge of the cliff. There are even platforms which aid sightseeing and photography. A signboard says, “Palace area with places of worship.” Buddhist Prayer flags fluttered near the worship place. A white marble slab is the only thing which indicates human activity (present and past) here.
Perched on the edge of the ridge, it offered great views of the valley around.
On clear days, you can also see amazing views of the mighty Kanchendzonga and other snow capped mountains.
We could not see Kanchendzonga as the weather was not suitable when we visited. I however saw the newly inaugurated statue of Avalokiteshvara or the Chenrezig which is also the tallest statue of Sikkim at 137 feet height. Avalokiteshvara is a form of self born eternal Buddha known as Amitabha. We visited it the next day.
THE PALACE OF THE KING ALSO KNOWN AS CHOGYAL AT RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT PLACE TO SEE IN SIKKIM
I shifted my focus back to the palace of the Rabdentse ruins. Locals prayed at the marble ‘altar’. It was a large slab measuring around five feet into seven feet. As per the folklore, the marble slab was brought from the river by a man single handedly. Once, a monastery called Risum Gompa was located here. This was also the place where the Royal families prayed to their Gods with incense sticks etc. I saw many local people still offered money and marigold flowers at the worship place. One woman took selfie with the marble slab, I left.
THE THREE CHORTENS AT RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT PLACE TO SEE IN SIKKIM
I and my co-travelers were exploring the ruins of Rabdentse in different directions, exploring the ruins at our own pace, often lost in the ruins and our thoughts. The ruins had activated our grey cells and imagination! I stepped onto what was ‘Place of worship in the palace area – Three Chortens” according to a signboard. White on a rusted Blue signboard! Caps on! “No one should miss reading this!”, must have thought the Archaeological Survey of India official.
A familiar voice distracted me. Turned out some solo travelers from Europe were having a casual chat with Jacomijn. They were strangers. Jokes and smiles were exchanged. We bumped into one of them at the skywalk of Pelling the next day. Hair jutting out of his nose and ear was a easy way to identify him.
The three chortens were some of the few structures which survived the test of time. I had never seen such ancient chortens before though I have traveled to many places with Buddhist culture in India, Nepal and Bhutan. This place and other places in Sikkim have so many ancient sites preserved. The oldest I have seen were in Tibet though. I saw many of ancient Buddhist monasteries and homes during the once in a lifetime and rather life changing Kailash Mansarovar Yatra I did.
Royal family used to offer prayers to the deities here as well. Despite being so ancient the chortens looked like they could survive few more centuries. There was a stone throne nearby where the Chogyal or the King used to address the commoners. It is a very well maintained historical site. Full marks to the Archaeological Survey of India for wonderful restoration and preservation of the Rabdentse site! Though, I was not happy to see some tourists climbing up on the walls of the ruins, displaying zilch respect for the unparalleled heritage site that Rabdentse is. More security should be employed here to prevent this. I am sure it is as different from Machu Pichu as chalk is from cheese but who cares. I appreciate Rabdenste ruins for what it is. And we need to preserve our collective heritage for posterity.
SCULPTURE SHED AT RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT PLACE TO SEE IN SIKKIM
If you go a bit down from the stairs, you can see the foundation and the walls of what were once rooms. The Rabdentse site is on many levels. There is also a ‘Sculpture Shed’ if you go further down. It was unfortunately closed when we visited. I wonder what treasures did it hide. If you know, please let us know in the comment section below.
AVOID SIDKEONG TULKU BIRD PARK – TOP THINGS TO NOT DO IN SIKKIM.
There is also Sidkeong Tulku Bird Park. Please do not visit it. It is a glorified zoo. It was what my ridiculous childhood dreams were made up of. A huge area was covered with a very tall net. So far, still good. But they had caged the exotic looking species of birds like different pheasants.
I exited as soon as I entered. It is spread across 13,000 meter square. It would have been so much more wonderful if the birds were allowed to roam free. You need to step on a chemical infused water pool before stepping in the ‘zoo’. Much like you dip your feet in a pool of water before entering a Gurudwara.
As per their signboard, it was built in the memory of Chogyal Sidkeong Tulku (1879-1914) who was the 10th Chogyal of Sikkim. He was considered as the father of forestry in Sikkim as it was during his brief reign that organized forest management was introduced in Sikkim. Unfortunately, you end up buying ticket to Sidkeong Tulku Bird Park as well since it is included in the price of ticket of Rabdentse ruins. So, there is no way you cannot NOT support this ridiculous zoo. A true bird lover will hate this place.
TICKET PRICE OF RABDENTSE RUIN SITE –PLACE TO VISIT IN SIKKIM:
Indian tourists – INR 25
Foreigner Tourist – INR 50
Camera Fees – Free
ENTRY TIMING OF RABDENTSE RUIN SITE –SIKKIM DESTINATIONS:
The entry to Rabdentse Ruins is through Sidkeong Tulku Bird Park which is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is advised to visit early morning or by 2 p.m. since it gets dark early in North East India. Also, you need to hike up for 15-20 minutes amidst dense forest of sodden moss and chestnut trees before arriving at the Rabdentse ruin site.
HOW TO REACH RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT PLACE TO SEE IN SIKKIM:
Rabdentse ruins site is just 3 kilometers away from upper Pelling, which was our next stop. Our trip was organized by Sikkim Cab Rental Co. Their vehicle is of good quality. They also arranged nice stays and food for us throughout our 10 days long epic trip in Sikkim. You can get in touch with them to book a hassle free trip. They can also show you many hidden gems of Sikkim such as the other former capitals of the wonderful state which Sikkim is.
PELLING HOTELS – GOOD HOTELS IN PELLING, SIKKIM
There is a wide variety of hotels in Pelling, Sikkim. First of all you need to understand that Pelling is divided into lower, middle and upper Pelling, all of which can be visited on foot. I would suggest that you should book a hotel in upper Pelling as it’s a lively area and has many shops, restaurants etc unlike the lower and middle Pelling.
You will find many good hotels in Pelling, Sikkim as it is a developed tourist spot. If you are looking for breathtaking views of sunrise then Pelling hotels available in Lower Pelling are your best bet. I saw a memorable sunrise over snow peaked mountains. Pelling tourism is thriving and even better hotels are coming up.
SIKKIM TOURIST PACKAGE RATES – SIKKIM TOUR PACKAGES
I went on a 10 days long trip to Sikkim with Sikkim Cab Rental Co. Their cars are super clean, well maintained. They have efficient drivers who know the roads of Sikkim and well versed with both, the touristy and offbeat things to do in Sikkim. They have well designed Sikkim Tour Packages. They will also customize your Sikkim tour as per your taste, budget and time available. You may contact them here. Please get in touch with them for figuring out Sikkim Tourist Package rates for a hassle free holiday at reasonable rates.
Contact – You can also call them now to book Sikkim Tour Packages at: +91 – 9647593670 / 7407328887
THE LAST WORD ON RABDENTSE RUIN SITE – OFFBEAT THING TO DO IN SIKKIM
Visiting Rabdentse ruins is indeed one of the best offbeat things to do in Sikkim. It’s time people start including it in their Sikkim Tour. Many Sikkim packages do include it. If not, ask your Sikkim tour packages operator to include it. Go for a well tailored Sikkim Tour Package for a memorable holiday!
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