Places Of Interest
Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities.
Gangtok is a cosmopolitan town which offers the tourist all possible amenities. Hotels are available in a range of prices along with a variety of eateries serving cuisine for all tastes. Shopping complexes, cyber cafes, night clubs and pool parlours abound for those so inclined.
MG Marg, the main street of Gangtok town is a great place to chill out. The countrys first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the marg. You can sit at the Titanic Park or at the various benches stretched across the mall and take in the carnival like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season. The Mall is lined with shops on both sides of the road so shopping becomes an added pleasure.
MG Marg is also the venue for the annual Gangtok Food and Culture festival held in December each year when Sikkims multi-cultural cuisine, along with music and dance performances are showcased. This event attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year.
For a birds eye view of Gangtok take a ride on the bi-cable Zig-back ropeway. The one kilometre ride from Deorali to Tashiling Secretariat costs Rs. 30 one way and is
completed in 7 minutes. Each cabin has the capacity to ferry 25 people at a time. The ropeway has been fitted with fully computerized modern safety mechanism of international standards. On clear weather the ride offers a great view of the Khangchendzonga range apart from an overview of Gangtok town and the valley below. After you get off at Tashiling Secretariat you can walk to the Ridge Park and soak in the beautiful surroundings as well as visit the ongoing Flower Festival held just below the park.
For a view of Gangtok and all its surrounding, one can got to Ganest Tok situated on a ridge at a distance of 7 kms from Gangtok. From this Spot one can get a view of sprawling Gangtok town, while across the hills Mt. Khang-chen-Dzonga and Mt. Siniolchu loom over the horizon. A cafeteria serves hot tea, coffee and snacks. The view
from here is truly breathtaking with snow peaks providing the perfect backdrop for a panoramic view of Gangtok town. Hanuman Tok, a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman, is situated at an altitude of 7200 feet at a distance of about nine kilometres uphill from Gangtok on a blissfully calm and quiet hilltop. The location is completely free from the pollution of city life. Apart from the clear view of the peaks surrounding Mount Khangchendzonga, some portions of Gangtok town, one also gets a bird’s eye view of the Selep water works, which supplies drinking water to Gangtok. Adjacent to this area is Lukshyama, the royal cremation ground having stupas and chortens. Here the mortal remains of the erst-while royal family members of Sikkim are cremated.
Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology is the most prestigious research institute of its kind in the world, NIT is a treasure of vast collection of rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, statues and rare Thankas (colourful tapestries used in Buddhist liturgy). Apart from an attractive museum, it has over 200 Buddhist
icons and other prized objects of art. As far as its collections are concerned, it is only next to an institute in Tibet. Today it is renowned world wide centre for study of Buddhist philosophy and religion. The institute was established in 1958 to promote serious study and research on Buddhism.
38 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,400 ft, the ethereally beautiful Tsomgo lake is a must on every visitors itinerary. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes you to Tsomgo, which means source of the water in Bhutia language. The lake derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains surrounding the lake. Of legendary beauty, the lake looks different at different seasons. In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered in snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a riot of colours around the lake.
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake The lake is associated with many myths and legends and is revered by the Sikkimese as sacred. It is believed that in olden times, Buddhist monks would study the colour of the water of the lake to forecast the future.
The lake is also of special significance for the Jhakris [faith healers] of Sikkim who congregate here annually on Guru Purnima, which coincides with the festival of Raksha Bandhan, from all over the state to offer prayers.
For the tourist a visit to the lake offers a wonderful outing. Rides on colourfully decorated yaks and mules are offered at the lake site, which also has a variety of eating stalls serving snacks and beverages. Snowboots and gumboots can be hired here.
Tsomgo lake is open for both Indian and foreign nationals, however foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitors permit through a registered travel agency.
Situated around 23 kms from Gangtok, in the hill facing Gangtok is Rumtek, a quiet getaway and home to the Rumtek Monastery, seat of His Holiness, The Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
The drive to Rumtek snakes through typical Sikkimese villages and many paddy fields. The paddy fields resemble a green carpet from July to September and later in October-November, the entire place is a sight to behold with golden paddy swaying in the breeze.
The lush green hilly terrain, a breathtaking topography and misty mountains makes Rumtek an ideal place for some quiet time. Rumtek offer a host of sightseeing opportunities. These include local sightseeing within Rumtek, one day tours to places around Rumtek, monastery tours and adventurous exploits such as white water rafting and trekking.
The main attraction, however, is the Rumtek Monastery, seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Buddhism. The largest monastery in Sikkim it demonstrates the best of Tibetan architecture and is an almost replica of the original monastery in Tsurpu inTibet. The monastery houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious art objects found in the world and is also a world renowned centre for Kargyu teachings.
Just ahead of the Rumtek Monastery is the Nehru Botanical Garden which has a mix of tropical and temperate plants and trees as well as a big greenhouse of exotic orchids. It’s a good place to stop for a while. For children there is a small playground with swings and a see-saw and a winding footpath is ideal for a stroll. Rumtek offers many stay options. You can stay at the many lodges near the monastery or at the beautiful tourist resorts, which offer modern amenities in typical rural settings.
The temple lies on the road between the Nathula and the Jelepla Pass and is visited by hundreds of people each day. The temple is believed to have wish-fulfilling powers and many devotees leave behind bottles of water at the temple which they pick up on their way back as holy water. On Sundays a ‘langar’ is run at the temple which provides free meals to the visitors.
The legend of Baba goes back 35 years when Sepoy Harbhajan Singh of the 23rd Punjab Regiment went missing while leading a pack of mules from his battalion stationed at Tukla to Deng Dhukla, both remote areas located in East Sikkim. A manhunt was launched and it took the army three days to find his body. It is believed that he himself led the soldiers to the site. Soon after, soldiers in the regiment started reporting that Baba had been appearing in their dreams and directing that a shrine be built in his memory. A Samadhi was raised in his memory and believers say that even today Baba visits every night, puts on his uniform and does his rounds. He is worshipped as a saint who grants boons and guards the lives of soldiers posted along the border.
Each year in September Baba takes his annual holiday and travels back to Kapurthala, his hometown. People gather in large numbers and line the route that Baba will take to offer flowers and prayers. A berth on a train is reserved in his name and two orderlies accompany him on the journey. The legend of this Sepoy-Saint grows stronger with each passing day.