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SIKKIM : A Tourism Destination

    Sikkim

Tiny but most beautiful state with abundant natural resources

 

LACHEN


9,400 ft,  28 km from Chungthang,

129 km from Gangtok

Lachen or the big pass, which is located 50 km away from the Chinese border falls within the restricted area of Sikkim’s North District.
A land of plenty, yet unexploited Lachen is recently opened for tourists; the most welcome one being the entry to the sacred and biggest Guru Dongmar Lake in Sikkim. It is the base camp to many fascinating places, like Chopta Valley (14, 500ft), Alexander David Neil cave, Green Lake trek, Tso Lhamo, Lhonak Valley, Lashar Valley etc. It is a good acclimatization place for trekkers trekking up to 15, 000ft and above.
Acclimatization at Lachen is never a bad option. Staying there, one can take a stroll around Lachen village consisting of more than 300 traditionally built houses with a monastery at its top. Another ancient shrine tells you stories of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. Like Lachung, Lachen has also a peculiar system of government called Dzumsa something unique to the country. Be it collecting taxes or setting the dates for moving the herds, seeing to the peoples needs or representing the village to the outside world, every little work in this village is being functioned through this effective system of government.
In winters, there is snow all around. If visitors are interested to see monks dance on the ground laden with snows, then opt for a visit to Lachen in winters (January) when the monks from Lachen monastery perform their annual chaam.
Life of the 300 Lachenpa families in Lachen revolve around milking their yaks, making the churpis out of yak milk, weaving their warm clothes from the wool of high altitude sheep, building their houses, collecting firewood, making their special shoes out of yak skin, attending their Dzumsa meetings and dealing with the occasional tourists who visit the place.
Lachenpas spent their summers at Palung (16,000ft approx) or Tso Lahmo tending their flocks of yak. They go there in June and return only in September.

ACCESS

From Gangtok, ten seater vehicles (Mahindra Maxx or Tata Sumo) ply daily in the morning to Lachung and Lachen from Vajra, Gangtok. The journey to Lachen and Lachung takes about six hours and it will be comfortable to reserve a vehicle, though it is bit expensive

PLACES TO SEE

Two hours drive Lachen is Thangu. Few minutes from Thangu is Chopta Valley at an altitude of 13,200 ft. It is a hotspot in alpine vegetation, orchids, rhododendrons and other high-altitude vegetation. The valley is criss-crossed by meandering rivers. An adventurous trek through Chopta valley leads to Muguthang valley at an altitude of 15, 500ft. The high alpine valley of Muguthang is only inhabitable for rare high altitude ruminants and their predators. Very few Dokpas settle here for food and for grazing their yaks.

 

Gurudongmar Lake


Guru Dongmar Lake in extreme north Sikkim draws many pilgrims from all areas and is surrounded by many remarkable holy places like Tamding Rangjon, Namjom Truchu and Chorten Nyima. The lake is worshipped for long life and epidemic free existence in the land. Infertile women and couples wishing a male issue also seek blessings at the lake. Sometimes predictions are also made in the lake. The devout, it is said, get to see the future in the form of letters or scenes on the lakes water after the required prayers and offerings have been made.
Guru Dongmar literally means "The Red Faced Guru" and sounds similar to Guru Dragmar, which means "The Red Coloured Wrathful form of Guru Padmasambhava". The lake at an altitude of 17,100 ft freezes during winter except at one spot believed to be specially blessed by Guru Rinpoche.
Tso Lahmo at above 18, 000 ft is about half hour drive from Guru Dongmar.

Best Time: mid June to August for high altitude
For the scenic views as well as visit to the lakes, mid March to May and October-November is best time.

PLACES TO SEE


Cave temple at Ahley


On the way to Hee Goan, a flight of cemented steps lead you to Ahley cave. Prayers are performed here besides celebrating the Bala Chaturdesi. Views of the mountain ranges you enjoy walking the stairs is exceptionally wonderful.
 

Teyongsi Sirijunga Mangkhim


Manghim is a place of worship of the Limboos. It is a three storey structure with a star shaped object at top called the Namoksam, representing five power elements such as earth, fire, water, air and sky. The main altar is based on eight syllables, which constitutes the eight syllables of Sirijonga – T as Teyongsi, Y as Sangaraktshak (protector), Ong as Mangkhim, Si as Simahin (without boundary), Sh as Shiksha (teaching), Ri as Ritiriwaz (tradition), Jun as Janjagrankarta (awareness) and Ga as Gaon Samaj Kaa Tara (star of the vicinity).
There are no idols or images of gods inside the Manghim; but you will find a bust of Sirijunga.
Sirijonga or Teyongsi Sirijunga Tongnam, the incarnate of King Sirijunga Hang is considered by the Limboos as a holy spirit since there is a belief that Sirijunga’s soul in the form of white bird flew towards the sky from the sack in which his assassinated body had been thrown into the Kalej River at Martam, West Sikkim.
He was an Ongshi group of Phedangma and hence knew Yuma Samyo Mundhums. While he was in these areas, he wrote a volume Yakthung Mundhum Sapla, which was preserved in the India Office Library, London. The volume served as the base for development of early modern Sirijunga script. Sirijunga was successful in rediscovering and reviving this lost script. Thus the credit of bringing about mass awakening amongst Limboos goes to him.

The Secret Flat Stone


 

Sirijunga Teyongsi is known to preach Yuma religion and sermons sitting on this flat near the Yuma Samyo Mangkhim at Hee Goan. During the summer days, he is known to take rest at the base of the flat stone where there is a cave like shady place, which is still seen. Moreover, the flat looks taller with subsequent soil erosion over the years. People dare not tramp on this stone nor loop any plants and if one does, he may fall ill.

Sirijunga Phukku or Sirijunga Cave
One has to trek for about two hours towards the cave and Sirijunga Falls crossing through stretches of paddy fields, orange orchards and the beautiful villages of Lower Martam. But, if you take a vehicle till the end of the motorable road, then you need to walk for only about an hour.
Sirijunga cave is very sacred to the Limboos. It is located at the confluence of Kalej and Reshi Khola where Teyongshi Sirijunga took shelter. There is a white thick box-like structure seen from a distance. People believe that Teyongshi Sirijunga used to carry Limboo manuscripts in this wooden box and carry around wherever he went for preaching. Belief is there that this is the same box he had kept in the cave before his assassination. The box like structure is still seen in the cave, which is slowly being turned into a stone. In reverence, the Limboos don’t stamp on the cave and worship their saint at the base where a small platform has been made for the purpose.

Sirijunga Falls


On the right side of the cave there are three beautiful waterfalls in series of about 200 feet. This falls is also called Reshi Falls as falls from the Reshi River. The middle one is higher and is nearer to the cave.
People from surrounding area still believe it as a spiritual guarded place and every year the Limboos of Sikkim, West Bengal, Bhutan and Nepal come to this place to pay their tribute to the great saint.

WHERE TO STAY & EAT

Staying is not a problem in Hee–Bermiok. It has well developed homestays. Since eco-tourism is being developed in this region, you will get acquainted with the local culture, cuisine or religion.
For further info, can contact Hee-Bermiok Tourism Development & Heritage Conservation Society,
Hee Goan; Mob No: 94340-12212/94342-56950/94340-60563; www.heebermiok.com.
(write-up contributed by Yishey D.    

 

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