Travel notes from trip to Gurudongmar Lake in the Himalayas in Sikkim, India

A trip to Sikkim – Part 3. Gurudongmar Lake

This is part of a series on my trip to Sikkim in 2017. You can read about reaching Gangtok in  A trip to SikkimPart 1 and about Lachen in A trip to Sikkim – Part 2


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.

Gurudongmar is a glacial lake in SIkkim
Gurudongmar is a glacial lake, one of the few in India. You need a permit to visit the lake.

 

road to Gurudongmar. Bike travel route from Lachen to Gurudongmar
Gurudongmar is a three-hour drive from Lachen. This route is very popular among bikers, so we inevitably saw many going up the mountain. They were the customers who bought most of the goods offered here.

 

Sikkim. gurudongmar road. snow covered mountains
The drive had taken us out of Lachen into the mountains, offering more scenic spots. One could see the snow dressing the mountains, covering them in white robes.

 

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.

 

When we finally reached the top, it was a sight to behold. Unlike how we thought, Gurudongmar, the holy lake, was not covered in ice. Only about half of the lake was covered in ice, and the ground was without snow.

 

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.

Feel free to pay the meagre sum of ₨ 10 at the Amitabh Bachchan falls (Bhim Nala falls), as the wooden structure can give a good platform for photos, mainly selfies. Many made this mistake of trying to get the same kind of photos outside the structure.

 

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.

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  1. […] This is part of a series on my trip to Sikkim in 2017. You can read about reaching Gangtok in  A trip to Sikkim–Part 1 , about Lachen in A trip to Sikkim – Part 2  and about Gurudongmar lake in A trip to Sikkim – Part 3 […]

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