Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning

Photo of Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning 1/1 by Anurag Banerjee

At first i couldn't believe my eyes- temp 104 degree fahrenheit !! I thought there must be some problem with this thermometer.After 5 minutes it showed 106! We started to panic. Baba isn't well. He is suffering from high fever and loss of appetite since we started our trip. We consulted a doctor in darjeeling, he assured that this is nothing serious and prescribed few medicines. Now we are in Lachung- 125 km away from gangtok city , where there is no medicine shop, but you can find off shop frequently -_- and the nearest hospital is in Mangan- 65km away from this village! Now let's go back to prelude. Gangtok City- Panoramic View

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Anurag Banerjee

One of the Himalaya's best-kept travel secrets, Sikkim is a welcome diversion from all conventional notions of an Indian holiday. Far from Rajasthan's royal trail, Goa's beaches and Kerala's backwaters, this tiny Indian hill state prides itself on pristine alpine forests, lofty snow-capped mountains, craggy landscapes dotted with quaint villages and a rich tribal culture brocaded with vibrant Tibetan Buddhist accents. As we were tired of our daily hustle-bustle , we needed a break from this monotonous life , and sikkim was the best option to get rejuvenated.

We planned our tour like this- First we are gonna stay in Darjeeling for 2 nights , then Go to gangtok- stay there for that night. Next morning off to Lachung ( 2 nights) and then back to gangtok. I was really excited about Lachung specifically because i have seen a lot of pictures of that place and heard this is called the Switzerland of India, but i was also a little tensed about this trip because there were two elderly people with us- my uncle and aunt.

We booked a resort Apple valley Inn which is in lachung and talked to the manager of the resort.Mr. Sengupta,He is a very friendly and helpful person. He told us to take a package tour of 2 nights and 3 days and offered us very attractive off-season discount.Village Lachung

On a sunny winter morning we started from gangtok for lachung. The sky was vibrantly blue, no trace of clouds. The whole gangtok city was shining. On our way we saw male Scarlet minivet, verditer flycatcher , Bat throated minla. suddenly we spotted a beauty- Himalayan Monal . It appeared like a blue colour burst and before i could take a picture it vanished.

We stopped for our lunch at Namok. its a little town at the bank of river Teesta. You can see the kanchenjungha from here for the last time, because from here the chuba-sagochen range starts. After lunch we started again. The road became hefty and bumpy, but then, one can forget this by seeing the beauty of snow-capped sagochen range throughout the whole journey till Chungthang.

Chungtang is a small village where Lachung-chu met Lachen-chu . The confluence of these two rivers form into River Teesta. A road goes downward to lachen which ends at Gurudongmar lake (17,000ft) the highest sweet water lake in India, and another goes up towards Lachung and yumthang (11,800ft) .Our car went straight to that road. The more we were getting closer to lachung the Temperature was decreasing . When we were about to enter the village, it started to rain. We finally reached lachung after a 7 hours journey from gangtok . The resort is located in the outskirt of the village. We were the only tourist there in lachung.

Photo of Chungthang, Sikkim, India by Anurag Banerjee

The Apple Valley Inn

Photo of Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning by Anurag Banerjee

The caretaker of this resort was a Bengali. He made some rice , dal, paneer and sabji for us, and we completed our dinner within 8 pm! But my father wasn't feeling well. Though he was on medication but the fever was there all the time. The rooms were made of wood and for that we didn't feel much cold inside. We Had a sound sleep that night.

Next morning we had a plan to go to yumthang. After having breakfast with hot alooparatha, I thought to check my father's temperature. I couldn't believe my eyes! it was 104 degree fahrenheit ! We were tensed, and started to panic. Then our driver Subba ji said there is an Army camp on our way to yumthang. We should take him there and they will take proper care of him.So, we started for yumthang.

We reached the army chekpost and told them about my father's condition. Immediately Two jawans came and took my father inside their camp. After checking Blood pressure they gave him 3 injections and some medicines. Meanwhile they told us to visit yumthang valley without my father because it will be dangerous for his health if we take him to that high altitude at that time . My uncle stayed back with my father and my mom, aunt, brother and me started towards yumthang.

The sky was surprisingly clear and blue, the lachung river was flowing freely and then there was the mighty chuba-sagochen range. The tree tops were covered with thick layer of snow. Our driver said we can't go to yumthang valley because the road from shingba to yumthang was totally closed due to heavy snow. After 30 minutes we reached shingba rhododendron sanctuary. Way to Yumthang through Shingba rhododendron sanctuary

Photo of Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning by Anurag Banerjee

The road is going to yumthang valley through this rhododendron sanctuary. Straddling the Yumthang river, the Sanctuary which lies beyond the frontier village of Lachung in North Sikkim, is characterized by Temperate Silver Fir - Rhododendron forest at the head of the narrow Lachung Valley surrounded by towering snowy mountains.After a few minutes it started to drizzle and the drops turned into snowflakes .

Just imagine you are surrounded by high snow covered peaks, no one is there in that forest except you and snowfall has started ! Truly heaven it is! After 30 minutes when we came back to the military camp, we found miracle done by the jawans , my father was feeling well as his fever was no more.

Kudos to those military men who helped not only us, but helps our entire nation! From afternoon it started to snow heavily. Personally I've never experienced snowfall before. The entire lachung village , the trees, the roofs everything got covered in thick layer of snow.Suddenly the power went off and it was snowing heavily outside.

Just imagine we are in a wooden room without electricity and fire,outside temperature is -11 degrees and still we were enjoying !! After having dinner with hot roti and dal, when the whole lachung village is in deep sleep and under thick cover of snow,I peeked out of the window and what i saw?? - "The sky was clear pitch black, millions of stars were over my head, glittering like diamonds. It was a full moon night, the moonlight was flowing over the snowy mountains, over the valley, over each and every trees and roofs and a light blue hue was everywhere".

The whole atmosphere was sooo surreal that it gave me goosebumps. It was like a fairy tale , like a wonderland. On next morning i was lucky enough to capture a few good snaps of chuba sagochen range. My father was unable to go to shingba last day, so our driver subbaji took us there one more time.

This time the beauty of the road was simply breathtaking and we were more happy bacause my father was enjoying like a child. One can not simply come to this hidden place , but if one comes here once, he/she cannot forget the experience which he/ she will get. When we were returning from snow covered lachung through the dense snow covered forest, just one poem came to my mind -

" Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

Photo of Yumthang, Sikkim, India by Anurag Banerjee

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep."

No, we can't take that risk! we have to postpone this plan, I'm not liking it - said one of my friend .

Photo of Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning by Anurag Banerjee

we are in Pemayangtse Monastery right now. Its chilling cold and super blue sky,this monastery is situated at the top of the pelling hills with Mt Kangchendzonga shining at the backdrop. Pelling was not in our tour plan, we were supposed to go to kalimpong and dello hill, but at the last moment we missed our bus and somehow managed to go to melli from where we could hire a private car to kalimpong. At about 9 am we reached melli, and we got to know that the road towards kalimpong is closed due to massive landslide and heavy rain!!!

We immediately changed our plan and decided to go to Pelling. We hired a car, the driver demanded Rs100 per person extra as the condition of the road was terrible. We had no other choice. We reached Jorethang at 2 pm and another bad news was waiting for us! There was only one share jeep for Geyjing, but for an unknown reason the driver refused to take us to Geyjing. After 1 hour of pleading and pleasing him, he agreed to go but demanded Rs.500 extra! At 4.30 we reached geyjing.

Its a small hamet. From there we had to trek 10 kms to reach pelling. When we reached , there were no sign of any human, no electricity,as if the city was abandoned. We were exhausted, hungry, worried and at the same time a bit scared too! we walked down the road and saw only one hotel was still open . Fortunately we booked a room for five of us and after having a heavenly Roti Egg curry we slept off. The Kangchendzonga

Next morning we went to visit Pemayangtse Monastery and Rabdantse Ruins - as Pema suggested. Oh, she is a good friend of mine and she is from Yuksom, presently studing at Scottish church college.By 8 am we reached Pemayangtse.

Pemayangtse Monastery is one of the six major monasteries of the Nyingma school in Sikkim, and the main holder of Lhatsun's tradition in the world. It was founded by Lhatsun Namkha Jigmed in 1647 A.D. It was originally started with a small shrine called Tsangkhang on the spot of present monastery probably in the year 1647 A.D.

Later the third Dharma King Chogyal Chagdor Namgyal (1686-1716 A.D.) and Khenchen Rolpai Dorjee (Vajra Master of Pemayangtse) expanded this Lakhang and re-established it in the year 1705 A.D. and was named it as Sangchen Pedmayangtse monastery in Tibetan which means "most sacred lotus summit monastery" which was started with an enrolment of 108 monks.We entered the main shrine.

The first floor of the monastery has a notable collection of ancient Buddhist antique idols, sculptures and decorated paintings. In the second floor Padmasambahva's eight incarnations in fierce form and the Tripitaka texts are also seen there. On the third floor particular note is a seven-tiered painted wooden structure, portraying Guru Rimpoche 's Heavenly Palace known as "PEDMA DRAWAI SHING KOD", which was originally built by Lhatsun Namkha Jigmed himself and later renovated by Khenchen Tsundre Rinpoche.The room was dark, uncannily quiet, those scary paintings and those tibbetan masks and that low hymn created a surreal world.

Photo of Pelling, Sikkim, India by Anurag Banerjee

We entered a room where the "Kangyur" and "Tengyur" manuscripts are kept. Kangyur or "Translated Words" consists of works in about 108 volumes supposed to have been spoken by the Buddha himself. All texts presumably had a Sanskrit original and Tengyur or "Translated Treatises" is the section where commentaries, treatises and Abhidharma are assigned . We were amazed to see that those manuscripts were written on handmade paper and the ink was still visible. Front view of Pemayangtse Monastery

Suddenly a young lama came to us and asked us " where we are from and for how long we will be staying at pelling?". When he came to know that we will be leaving on 16th, he requested us to stay back as the festival called "Phang-lhab-sol" will be held on that day and invited us to witness the century old tradition. We got confused, we badly wanted to experience this festival but we have to go back to NJP. We didn't have enough cash to pay the hotel for one night more. Suddenly I decided to talk to the Monastery authority about our condition.

So I went to the office room and saw a lama sitting there, I briefed him about our condition and seeked for their help . He said he will try his best because no one from outside is allowed to stay in the monastery, but he will definitely do something for us and told us to come as early as possible on that day.

On the next day we got up early from bed and after paying the hotel bill we came to the monastery. The lawn , the benches were fully crowded. People from Gyalshing, Pelling, Ravangla, Namchi came to witness the festival. I was trying to find that lama whom i met other day but it was very difficult to find him out from their gathering , and I didn't even know his name so that i could ask anyone about him. My friends started to freak out!

Finally I spotted him and he took us to a room , which they use as their storeroom! and there it was,- a 10*10 feet room with no window and we 5 people with our luggages! Never mind, at least got a shelter to spend the night!

Photo of Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning by Anurag Banerjee

we came outside, the people weraing traditional Baku and Kira, The Yapayantra in their hand, chanting Om Mani Pedme Om continiously. A cheerful Sacred Ambiance. Monks were playing Gongs , Conchs . Phang Lha Sol festival falls on the 15th of 7th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to August of the Gregorian calendar. This festive marks a warrior dance and deities dance by young lay man and lamas of the monastery every year.

On this festive occasion,a very large and impressive embroidered scroll of Buddha Shakyamuni and his two disciples is displayed in front of the monastery. The Lama Dance

Photo of Lachung- On A Magical Misty Morning by Anurag Banerjee

Pang-Lha-Sol is the annual festival of offering invocations and prayers to the guardian deitie Khangchendzonga, Yapdud and all the deities of Bayul Dremojong who were the witness of taking an oath of blood brotherhood between the Bhutias progenitor Gyedbhumsag and the lepcha's ancestor Theg kong theg and Nyo kong ngal who were the emanation of Guru Padmasambhava.

The kangchendzonga and The mahakala are the two main gods worshipped on this day. The kanchendzonga who lives in the Highest point of sikkim, He is the God of light, and The mahakala, lives in the darkest gorge of sikkim, the God of everything dark and shadow. The lamas were dancing, after a while the Kanchendzonga came, followed by the mahakala. It started to rain, but the lamas were still chanting mantras, and the Mahakala was dancing -The God of darkness The Mahakala

Mahakala has never been known to harm one being,even in the slightest manner , because he is constantly benefiting beings through the continious play of the enlightened mind - Khenpo Karthar

This post was originally published on Miles To Go Before I Sleep.

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