A new tourist destination
Photo: The Statue of Ban Jhankri, the folk legendary healers
Sikkim is continuously making headway in the tourism sector. Many new tourists’ spots are being developed by the State Government in all parts of the state taking full advantage of its natural beauties and giving stress on eco-tourism by harnessing the natural resourses. The most visited tourist destinations in the recent past were Tsomo or Tchangu lake, Nathula, Yumthang in the North District while Khechupalry lake, Pemayanchi monastery attracted the tourists in the West District. Now, Namchi and Ravangla in the South Sikkim and Daramdin, Sarvadharma Mandir are the most visited places and the centers of attraction. There is a 135 tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the religious guru who preached Buddhism in Tibet from India via Sikkim at Samdrupse, Namchi and the Government is developing the new holy place called Chardham at Solokphu, near Namchi by installing the large statue of Lord shiva. Equally interesting place is being developed at Ravangla where the tallest statue of Lord Buddha is being installed.
While all these developmental works in the field of tourism are being carried out by the State Government in full swing, the new tourist spots too are being inaugurated on the other hand. On January 5, 2008, a new tourist spot was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling at Lower Sichey, 4 kilo meters away from Gangtok. The name of new tourist spot is Jhankri water falls Enegy Park which is spread over an area of 2 acres. The park is designed, constructed and maintained by the Rural Management and Development Department, Government of Sikkim and it was completed at an estimated cost of Rs 2.8 crores.
photo: The statue of dragon on the water pond
The significance of the park is associated with local tradition and custom. The local term jhankri means the spiritual healer, shaman who performs prayer for the patients since ancient times. There is approximately 100 feet high waterfalls there. The area is surrounded by natural and man made lakes, stream and the hill top. The beautiful landscapes, footbridges in Sikkimese style, splash pool adorned by a dragon at the centre, sculptures and figurines of the Jhankri culture etc. at once fascinate the visiting tourists there. In the very entrance of the centre, there is the facility for parking vehicles. There is status of Lepcha Bungthing, traditional spiritual healer and Jhankri, the Nepali spiritual healer. The set of statue of jhankris, the traditional spiritual healers attracts the visitors mostly where a main jhankri is performing puja for a patient. A patient is lying on the bed. The two assistants called dholeys of spiritual healer are playing the Dyangro, a traditional drum. The practice of shamanism and performing puja in this way is still prevalent in the society. There is a small park where children can make joyride in a toy cars. A beautiful lake is also constructed with the statue of a dragon in the middle. The children and visitors can do swimming and do merrymaking.
There is equally interesting myth about Bungthing of Lepcha. They also perform puja for the patient and well being of the community. On the bank of stream and hill top, there are some statues of Bungthing. All the rest house , bridge and hill top are decorated in traditional architectural design of Sikkim. In the upward side, there is a set of statue which makes everybody delighted particularly to children. This is the statue of Ban Jhakri, the spiritual healer who is believed to have been lived in the dense forest away from human habitats with his wife called ban jhankrini.
There is so many myths about the Ban Jhankri and Ban jhankrini (Lemlemma, which means the mother of long tongue in Rai language) in the society, who is considered as the devine healers, who invoke God and Godesses. They are considered the healers or Gurus who live in the forest doing penance and practice of spiritualism. According to popular myth still prevalent among the people, Ban Jhankrini is like lady giant who likes to eat the human flesh but Ban jhankri does not allow any human being to be sacrificed in vain. The feet of Banjhankrini are in reversial position unlike Banjhankri and common human being. The Banjhakri, it is believed makes choice of his own to make any person his follower who can follow his spiritual and devine practice. There is still belief in the society particularly among the Rai community that whoever is likened by Banjhankri, he will be taken by his magic and such a person can be disappeared from the village and will be re-appeared after some days, months and years being fully trained. During the training, he will be served only clean earthworm taken from the inside bark of the banana tree. According to popular myth, Banjhankrini is confined to a place fully tightened in a chain of iron so that she cannot come out and eat human being. If the human being fails to take training and preaching from Banjhankri it is believed that he gives and sacrifices human being to banjhankrini and in turn, the Banjhankirini can eat human flesh to satisfy her hunger. It is traditional belief and myth only but not scientifically proved fact.Study reveals that such kind of myths are prevalent in tribal regions of North East States of India too who worship nature. This kind of belief is prevalent among khasi people of NE region too who believe about the existence of such spiritual healers and ghosts.The various folk tales among the tribals of the region speak the truth of their believes and myths.Considering the myth prevalent in the society, the set of statue depicts the story in ones memory. Then there is breathtaking view and ecstatic feeling one can see and enjoy from the natural water falls coming from the hill downward with rhythm and sound like song. Many tourists take pleasure of the cool breeze here during sunshine and hot climate. One can take panoramic view of the area climbing on the top of the view point constructed on the other side of the stream. There are many tea stalls, restaurants and a hall to rest in there while there are plenty of open places for pleasure making trip and dry picnic too. With the opening of this spot, tens and thousands tourist thronged in the place during high season of the year. Even the local people, children enjoyed fully during the season. The Gangtokians found a place to go around too during halidays and at their leisure times with their members of family, particularly childrens.
Indeed, Jhankri waterfalls became the most visited place this year only after Tsomo lake as Former Chief Minister Shri. Pawan Chamling rightly said after the inauguration of the spot. This is really an ideal place to the visiting tourists to visit which is very near to the capital.The tourist spot is being operated and maintained by Rural Management and Development Department through local NGOs. In the forthcoming tourists season too, a large numbers of visters are expected to visit there. The management of the jhankri waterfalls committee smilingly offer a cup of tea free of cost as a gesture of Sikkimese hospitality to anyone who makes a trip there as the old saying goes like this, "come as a tourist and go as a friend" with sweet memory. - Snowline Bureau
SNOW LEOPARD at Bulbuley forest
Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan State has a total area of 7,096 square Kms. Surrounded by three international boundaries, the kaleidoscopic panoramic view of majestic Mt. Kanchendzonga, Sikkim is rich in abundant natural beauties bestowed with the beautiful Himalayan glaciers, the snow clad mountains, the lakes, the waterfall, the rich flora and fauna and rich cultural heritage and tradition.
The ruling SDF Government under the leadership of Dr. Pawan Chamling has taken various steps to build up the tourism infrastructure in the state to cope with the recent inflow of domestic and foreign tourists. Dr. Chamling’s Government has given top priority in the sector and has come up with a master plan to build tourism infrastructure in the State and at the same time looking for avenues of employment to many educated unemployed youths. With this objective, the State Government has chalked out the plan to construct model village in all 30 constituencies by constructing the traditional houses of Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali so that village tourism as a sustainable development can grow side by side thereby making the people economically self-dependent in this State. One of the most advantageous position for the growth of tourism in Sikkim is that it is one of the most peaceful hill State in India. Now, South Sikkim is already on tourist map with the installation of a large statue of 135 ft. tall in height of Guru Padmasambhav at Samdruptse.The large statue of Lord Shiva is being constructed while Ravangla is soon being attracted as a new tourist destination by installing a large statue of Lord Budha. The construction and beautification of these new tourists spots are taking place rapidly.
The recently operated ropeway from Deorali Bazar to Tashiling secretariat also attracted large number of domestic tourists while the large statue of Guru Padmasambhav at Samdruptse has become another attraction of tourist spot in the South District of the state. Apart from time, many spots of tourists importance have been identified and being development throughout the State.
Similarly, Jorethang in south district is also considered a place of tourist attraction, and many people call it as ‘the gateway of South and West Sikkim’. Jorethang is in the border area of Darjeeling and the great festival, Maghey Mela is being observed here at the beautiful valley of river Rongit.Now, it has become an annual feature. Similarly, the great flower show festival of orchids and other seasonal flowers are observed at Namchi and Gangtok annually. By organizing such festivals, there are two fold purposes , viz. to attract the tourist and develop the floriculture in the State.
Another most vistied and the centre of tourist attraction is Tsomo or Changu Lake, 40 kms. away from Gangtok at an altitude of 3,780 mtrs., another place is Nathula, border between India and China which is 56 Kms away from Gangtok at an altitude of 14,200 feet.Tashi View Point, Himalayan Zoological Park, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, Aritar etc.are the some of the places to visit while more new spots of tourist interest are being explored and developed in East Sikkim.
In West Sikkim, tourists prefer to visit Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the oldest and historical monasteries in the State. The ruins of Rabdenste, the second capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim is situated near the monastery. The State Government has taken the measure to renovate this historic palace. Khecheopalri or Khechuperi lake is one of the holy lakes both for the Buddhist and the Hindu as a place for pilgrimage and the people come here from very far and distant places every year.Varsey is also one of the spots of tourist interest at an elevation of 10,000 ft.. One can see the rhododendron flowering all over the forest on this spot. In North Sikkim, Yungthang, Thangu and Gur-dongmar lake are very popular tourist spot. Yumthang, at an elevation of 11,800 ft. and 140 Kms from Gangtok is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathtaking scenic grandeur.
The Sikkimese people Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali girls
Apart from that, there are many hot springs, himalayan graciers, waterfalls, monasteries, temples and many other beautiful places to visit in Sikkim. Adventurous tourism like white water rafting on the river Teesta, Trekking, Kayating, Yak riding or Safari, hand gliding etc. also are organized for the tourists.
Para gliding has become the recent craze of the tourists in the state with the successful operation and trial by two energetic youths over the sky of Gangtok and Jorethang in the recent past. With the success of the para gliding, adventurous tourism also expected to get fillip in the days to come in Sikkim with the initiative taken by the State government.
Sikkim is not only peaceful, beautiful and with rich flora and fauna but because of culture and tradition as well. The three major ethnic people, Sikkimese Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha have their own tradition and culture which is very interesting and characteristic.
The main festivals of Sikkim are Maghe Sankranti Mela, Guthor Chaam at Rumtek Monastery, Bhumchu at Tashiding, Lho Rum Faat at Tendong, Pang-Lhabsol, Durga Puja or Dassin, Tyohar, Detor Cham at Enchey Monastery, Kagyed Dance at old Rumtek monstery, Lingdum Monastery, Phodong Monstery, Losoong etc.
The main language or lingua franca of the State is Nepali or Gorkha Bhasa, However, Lepcha speaks in Lepcha language and Bhutia also speak in Bhoti language . English and Hindi are also spoken. The people of Sikkim are very simple, God fearing and nature loving. -Snowline bureau
Photo: The shade around the Jhankri water falls
Photo: The scene of pond at Jhankri water falls