South Sikkim, India

Tashiding Monastery

Miraculous vase predicts the future at this Tibetan Buddhist site in the Himalayas

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Legend has it that when guru Padmasambhava wanted to find a place to meditate in solitude, he shot an arrow into the sky and it landed on a site known today as the Tashiding Monastery.

Tashiding, which means "devoted central glory," represents the Nyingmapa order of Tibetan Buddhism and has been a center of worship in the Kingdom of Sikkim since the 1700s. At an elevation of almost 5,000 feet in the Himalayan mountains, it's not hard to see why.

The monastery looks over a lush valley carved out by two winding rivers and offers breathtaking views of the dominating Mt. Kanchendzonga, one of the tallest mountains in the world after Everest. The land is marked with thousands of prayer flags that line every stairwell and walkway along with 41 stupas and hundreds of stone plates inscribed with Buddhist mantras. A particularly significant stupa displays the carving, "saviours by mere sight" — a phrase that indicates karmic cleansing for those who meditate at the monastery.

If relinquishing bad karma amongst prayer flags in the idyllic Himalayan mountain range isn't enough, Tashiding possesses one more object of interest: a magic vase. This auspicious vase is the subject of the Bhuchu festival. This festival draws Buddhists from all over the globe who come to witness the yearly ritual in which the sealed vase is opened and its contents inspected.

Much like a divinely motivated Groundhog's Day, Nyingmapa Buddhists believe that prosperity for the following year can be predicted by the water level. When the vase is full, a prosperous year is ahead. When low, a year of famine is in store. When dusty, an ominous year is foretold of strife and clash. The festival takes place at midnight during the full moon in the first month of the Tibetan calendar, usually between February and March.

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    South Sikkim, 737111, India
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