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Gurudongmar Lake: A Blend Of Ancient Indian And Tibetan Buddhist Folklore

Isn’t it rare to find a place that is breathtaking, beautiful, and sacred at the same time? One of these hidden gems is the Northeastern state of Sikkim. Part of the Himalayas, this culturally rich destination is home to breathtaking mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows, and sacred lakes.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

North Sikkim is where culture is a blend of centuries-old folklore and religious influence. One such place that will give you a true sense of multi ethnicity and ‘heaven’ on earth is the Gurudongmar Lake.

Named after Guru Padmasambhava, founder of Tibetan Buddhism, this lake is a revered site for Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. The water of this lake is emerald blue in color and is said to have curative properties. If you are a traveler who is intrigued by India’s cultural history and legends, then this place is tailor-made for you to figure out why it holds a sacred place among the people living in Sikkim.

One of the highest lakes in the world

Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world and is perched at an altitude of 16,900 ft. The lake derives its water from glaciers and acts as a source of the Teesta river (river in the east Himalayas).

This sacred worshiping site has an area of 290 acres and a length stretching to 5.34 kilometres. The lake appears to be small at the place where devotees offer their prayers. However, don’t let yourself get fooled because the larger part of the lake is hidden due to hilly and snowy mountain ranges.

The lake is filled with fresh water and its surrounding areas are inhabited by wildlife such as blue sheep and Yak.

A chapter dating back to the 8th century

Source: Unsplash

This chapter in Indian folklore dates back to the 8th century and has a Tibetan Buddhism connection. According to locals, Guru Padmasambhava visited this lake on his journey back from Tibet. When Padmasambhva saw the frozen water body, he deemed it to be worthy of a divine place.

Tourists with a keen eye for knowing and understanding ancient Indian history will be fascinated to know what comes next. According to legend, this lake remained frozen for almost the entire year, depriving locals of clean drinking water. People asked the guru to help them and he placed his hands on a particular part of the river, which stopped freezing during the winter season.

Since the miraculous incident, people consider this high-altitude lake to be sacred and carry its water for religious purposes.

Another popular legend has somewhat of a similar backstory. A few stories have fanned a superstitious belief that Guru Nanak Dev ji visited this lake in the 15th century. People of Gurudongmar Village asked him to make the frozen lake a source of drinking water during the winter months. Using his walking stick, he touched a part of the lake, making it free of ice throughout the year.

The fabled stories also say that he blessed the lake and said that whosoever drinks Gurudongmar’s water will be bestowed with virility and strength.

Best time to visit

Source: Flickr

If you like a freezing weather, travel between November- February to experience a frozen lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It is advisable to carry thermals and warm jackets due to extreme freezing temperatures.

How to reach

Air
The closest airport is Bagdogra and is connected to major cities such as Guwahati, Delhi, Kolkata etc. It is 128 km away from Gangtok. It is advisable to hire a cab which is available as you exit the airport. Helicopter services are also available from Bagdogra to Gangtok.

Road
The distance between Bagdogra and North Sikkim is 224 km. It takes roughly 8 hours to complete the road trip via NH10. However, it is advisable to make a day’s stop in Gangtok, Sikkim.

After a day’s rest in Gangtok, one can begin a journey to the town of Lachen, a quaint town in North Sikkim at height of 10,000 ft. The route is filled with scenic vistas.

Distance: 120 km
Time: 4.5 hours

A night’s halt in Lachen should be on your itinerary. You can start your trip to Gurudongmar Lake the very next day. The closest village to Lachen is Thangu, located at about a height of 14,000 ft.

Distance: 66.5 km
Time: 3 hours

Rail
The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri. The fastest route is via Gangtok-Chungthang Road and Gurudongmar Road

Distance: 185 km
Time: 7.5 hours

Gurudongmar Lake might not be a mainstream tourist attraction but it has an equally interesting fabled story worth checking out. So, if you are finding a place worthy enough to be recognized among travellers, this sacred and culturally rich lake will be a perfect addition to your bucket list.

Curated by Ruchit Rastogi