Originally built under the direction of Changchub Dorje, 12th Karmapa Lama in the mid-1700s, Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time. But when Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa, arrived in Sikkim in 1959 after fleeing Tibet, the monastery was in ruins. Despite being offered other sites, the Karmapa decided to rebuild Rumtek. To him, the site possessed many auspicious qualities and was surrounded by the most favorable attributes. For example, flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, and a river below. With the generosity and help of the Sikkim royal family and the local folks of Sikkim, it was built by the 16th Karmapa as his main seat in exile.