In the cold, misty morning, before dusk, me and my uncle got ready to leave for Gurudongmar. We were ready to leave by half past four in the morning, wearing many layers of jackets to withstand the cold.
Soon, we reached a small tavern where people had stopped to have a small sip of tea and have some bread before taking the last leg of the journey towards Gurudongmar. At the tavern, we bought some equipment required at the top, like popcorn to keep our eustachian tubes popping, gumboots to help walking in the snow, and gloves to keep our hands warm.
Gurudongmar’s altitude is about 17,800 feet. It takes 8,000 feet for altitude sickness to commonly take place, so be sure to take adequate precautions. Do not try to move normally near the lake, instead move very, very slowly.
The altitude had reached my brain though, and I was forced to move back into the car. After some time of recovery, I went back out to look at the serene surroundings of the lake. There were many mountains around us, not even a speckle of brown on them.
After clicking many photos, I started to get affected by the altitude again, so I went back to the car. This time though, there was no coming out. We descended soon, shooting some last pictures before returning to Lachen. It is strictly prohibited to take pictures of areas in and around the military bases in the location.
Soon upon reaching Lachen, we had lunch in our rustic hotel and set out for Lachung. As our grandparents re-joined us, we piled into the car, getting ready for the long drive.
As we drove through the densely forested area, we came across the Amitabh Bachchan Falls (for Indian audiences- that is the real name, no jokes, apparently a scene in the film ‘Aankhe’ was shot here; for foreign audiences- Amitabh Bachchan is an iconic Indian actor) although it is also called the Bhim Nala falls. Here an old lady was charging a meagre sum of ₨ 10 (about 7 cents in USD) to give access to a structure on stilts.
After a photo session, we continued our journey, reaching Lachung. Lachung wasn’t as small as Lachen, but it was still not a city. There was not enough electricity to power some lifts, although heaters were available after paying a special fee, the same for more blankets than the two per person provided to us. There was also a working television here.
After having a leisurely dinner, we slept to get ready for tomorrow’s new adventure, sleeping very early, like the previous day to get up early tomorrow, to catch sunlight, and paint another beautiful memory onto the canvas of my brain.
History and cultural importance of Gurudongmar Lake
Gurudongmar lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism who is said to have visited this holy lake during the 8th century A.D.
According to the sacred buddhist texts, Guru Padmasambhava sought an omen in this lake before entering the Hidden Land of Demojong (Sikkim).
It is also believed that the guru, in order to provide drinking water to the local people during winter when the lake freezes, placed his hands on a part of the lake which miraculously stopped freezing during winter thereby facilitating in providing drinking water to the locals. Since then the water of the lake is considered sacred.
Gurudongmar lake is listed among the 108 sacred lakes of Sikkim and is regarded as the northern door for entry into Demojong. This sacred lake is said to have divine power to fulfill the wishes of devotees who visit the lake.
This holy lake has been notified as one the most sacred Buddhist places of worship in Sikkim and is under protection of the Government of Sikkim.