Though in ruins, Rabdentse was the erstwhile royal capital of Sikkim. About 107 km west of Gangtok, the town was first established in 1670 by Chadok Namgyal after shifting the primary capital from Yuksom after it was declared sacred in 1642.
The ruins have been declared a monument of national importance by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Located in the district of West Sikkim, the ruins lie on a ridge which offers a panoramic view of the dense forest and snow-capped mountains. The ruins can be accessed by a two km trek from Pelling. The bird park and the ruins are attractions that pull tourists to the town.
The city was almost completely destroyed by the Nepalese Army leaving only the chortens and ruins of the palace. Recent excavations and restorations by ASI have been successful in recreating the king’s bedroom, hall, kitchen, assembly hall, public courtyard and guard’s rooms.
The ruins in the town are a part of Buddhist pilgrimage that starts from Yuksom at Dubdi Monastery, goes on to Norbugang Chorten, Tashiding Monastery, Pemayangtse Monastery, Sangachoeling Monastery and ends at the Khecheopalri Lake.
A feud between the third Chogyal (monarch), Chador Namgyal and his half-sister, Paden Wangmoo for accession to the throne led to the attack on the city by Bhutanese forces. Chador Namgyal fled the city and sought shelter in Lhasa. The attack led to the annexation of the territory which is now the hill station of Kalimpong. He remained in exile for ten years as he was a minor. He returned to the kingdom after his exile and with the help of Tibetans, took control of the kingdom.
The region was totally lost but was merged with Sikkim. The capital was shifted from Rabdentse to Tumlong as it was located close to the border with Tibet and vulnerable to attacks. Over the years, several attacks on Rabdentse reduced it to the ruins that remain today.
WHERE TO STAY
There are limited options for budget and mid-range accommodation but no luxury hotels in Rabdentse. Accommodation options are more in Pelling.
WHERE TO EAT
Carry food and water when visiting Rabdentse.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Rabdentse is between March and June.
WHAT TO SEE
Rabdentse Bird Park: The region is a popular site for bird watchers and is becoming popular among tourists as well.
NEAR TO RABDENTSE
Pemayangtse Monastery: The monastery is 300-years-old and in excellent condition. At an elevation of over 6500 ft, the monastery is a three storied structure with several statues including those of Padmasambhava (Lotus Born) and his companions.
Khecheopalri Lake: About 27 km northwest of the town, the lake is considered to fulfill all wishes and is believed to be sacred by Buddhists and Hindus.
Darjeeling: About 106 km south of the town, Darjeeling is one of the most scenic and hugely popular hill resorts in India. Nestled against the backdrop of the mighty snow clad Himalayan peaks, Darjeeling is popular with tourists for its beauty and salubrious climate.
Gangtok: About 107 km east of the town, Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and a hill resort. It is one of the most frequently visited places in the north-east.
Kalimpong: About 82 km southeast of the town, it was a part of Bhutan until it was wrested by colonial British and joined to Indian Territory. The hill station of Kalimpong boasts of ancient Buddhist monasteries, quaint old churches and popular temples.
Namchi: About 65 km southeast of the town, Namchi is famous for its Buddhist monastery, scenic locales and as a bio-diversity hotspot. It is also renowned for housing the world’s largest statue of Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim.
Pelling: About 3 km west of the town, Pelling is located at the foothills of Kanchenjunga. The Sangachoeling Monastery here attracts tourists from all over the country.