Every year around August-September, Ravangla bustles with activities and crowds as the Pang Lhabsol festival is observed with three days of festivities. Ravangla is also home to the Tathagata Tsal (Buddha Park).
Forming an arresting vanguard to the mighty peaks of Mt Narsing and towering above all else, peaceful and poised, the majestic statue of the Tathagata commands the heart of the Tsal while the pulse of its influence throbs throughout the hills of Rabong. The statue itself is 98 feet in height; the inclusion of the thri (pedestal or the lotus throne) elevates it to a total height of 137 feet. The proportions of the statue were taken from the Gega Lama, the authoritative Tibetan manual for religious artwork.
Made of 60 tonnes of copper and three-and-a-half kilogrammes of gold, the statue employs the repoussé technique, one of the oldest metal-working practices in the world. Most Buddhist artworks depict the Buddha in a meditative pose while his hands perform various mudras. The statue at the Tsal depicts the sage in the Dharmachakra mudra.
The Dharmachakra mudra is formed when the thumb and index finger of both the hands touch at their tips to form a circle. This circle symbolises the Wheel of Dharma which was set in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath.
The entire complex of the Tathagata Tsal is dotted with important structures. The red-domed Congregation Hall, which can seat up to 2000 people, is one of the biggest venues in Sikkim built solely for the purpose of religious convocations. At the Tongchoe Lhakhang, visitors can light choemis (butter lamps) in memory of their loved ones.
A famous tourist spot, Namchi is the capital of South Sikkim. It offers great view of snow-clad mountains and green valleys. Home to the large statue (36m/118ft) of the Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, Namchi is also near the Temi Tea Garden, Sikkim’s only tea estate which produces the world-famous Sikkim tea (renowned for its aroma, taste and quality).
The border towns of Rangpo and Melli are entry points into Sikkim where foreigners are required to register and submit their Inner Line Permits (IPLs) before being allowed into the state.