South of Sikkim is also known for its world famous tea garden “Temi Tea”. It is the only tea garden in Sikkim and considered one of the best in India and in the world. The gentle slope of hills and lush green tea garden is simply out of the world. Driving between these hills gives you one of the best experience of your life. When we reached there we experienced a distinct aroma all around. It was almost unbelievable that how beautiful the nature could be. It was looking like a green carpet of velvet.
Temi Tea Garden was established in 1969. In the year 1974 Tea board was formed to govern the day to day functioning of the estate and later it went on to become the subsidiary of Industries Department under Sikkim government. The total area of the Temi Tea garden is approximately 435 acres. The garden employs few hundred people and produces 100 metric ton of tea annually. The original tea saplings were brought from Darjeeling and therefore the produce of the garden are similar in quality and flavor of world famous tea from the gardens of Darjeeling hills. A half kg packet of Temi Tea was available for 200 Rs.
At one point of time it started raining and the beauty of the sight rises manifold. The colors become saturated all around and we witnessed possibly one of the best view of this garden.
This was the place where we stopped for a while and experienced the flavor of world famous Temi Tea along with a hot bowl of Maggie noodles, highly recommended for all. The environment was so serene, that you wouldn’t want to go away from this place. However against our will, we moved towards our next destination which was as fascinating as this one. I also saw few hotels there, which could be an ideal place to stay.
The four most revered Dhams or pilgrimage sites of the Hindus in India are Badrinath (North India in Uttarakhand), Rameshawaram (South India in Tamilnadu), Jagannath Puri (East India in Odissa ) and Dwarika Dham (West India in Gujrat ). It is considered as most sacred religious activity to visit all these four dhams in a life time of those who believes in Hindu religion.
In such a large country, it is difficult to visit these places situated at four corners. An unique solution of this problem was presented in this small hill state. South Sikkim has created maverick job by bringing the four Dhams under one roof at Solophok, Namchi. The complex of Siddhesvara Dham has been replicated all the four dhams in one place to benefit the devotees who visit this place.
As we arrived here it was indeed a long journey from Gangtok and we were feeling little tired, moreover altitude sickness was also catching up. But the refreshing mountain air helped us to get our nerves back. The entrance consist a ticket area followed by a place to deposit your shoes. After walking few steps we witnessed a massive complex of small temples of significant deities from all over the country. Usually one need a large amount of time and money to visit these places, but here all temples were right in front of my eyes. I was amazed to see the architect of south Indian temples especially the “Rameshwaram Dham”, that I want to visit since long but not able to do so till date. And here it was in front of me with all its glory. Not a single time a thought came across my mind that these are not actual temples and just a replica because people were worshiping here like any other temple and there were tourist from all over the country. So seeing south Indians who largely have Vaishnava traditions in Rameshwaram temple, and north Indians who have Shavism as principal tradition praying for Shiva, it was quite a religious conglomeration of entire country.
Photographs inside temples were not allowed. Usually a priest was there to take care of the visitors in almost every temple. Security arrangements were also very good, so everything was properly managed. As you can see in these images all the Hindu temples confined in a Pagoda like complex….what a sight! This is the true color of India, probably one can’t expect this much diversity at any other place in the world.
After spending good 3 hours we next moved towards Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava statue at Samdruptse hill. This hill was opposite to the Siddhesvara Dhaam. Guru Rinpoche is the patron saint of Sikkim. This 135 ft statue of Padmasambhava is largest in the world. It is believed that Padmasambhava was born in Northern India in a affluent family and took his early education in ancient Nalanda University in Bihar, India. He is considered as one of the principal early teachers to bring Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. Padmasambhava introduced the people of Tibet to the practice of tantric Buddhism.
The statue of Guru Rinpoche was massive with a intense look in his eyes. We also did “Kora” as other pilgrims were doing. Kora is a transliteration of a Tibetan word that means “circumambulation” or “revolution”. A Kora is performed by the practitioner making a circumambulation around a sacred site or object. In Hindu tradition we also use to take a stroll around the statue of deity known as “Pradakshina”. Though I am not an expert of Hinduism or Buddhism but these similarities in religious traditions certainly binds us in a great way.
It was already 5 in the evening and we had a long way to go till Gangtok, so we decided to call it a day and dozed off in our car preparing ourselves for a long journey. Next day our plan was to go further up in the hill at Tsomgo Lake.
The first thing you need to believe even after seeing the following images that it was not the winter in Sikkim rather a pleasant summer, yes you heard it rightly, a summer that was surprisingly pleasant even in the month of May. During our second last day in Sikkim we decided to visit the famous “Tsomgo lake” or “Changu lake” as it is known as popularly. The preparation to visit there go well before a day, as we needed to talk to an agent who took our ID proof and a passport sized picture for getting permit. In the morning they gave us a cab number which we supposed to board from the main taxi stand of Gangtok. The way to Tsomgo lake is such a steep that small private cars like Wagon-R, Alto etc. that otherwise run frequently as a taxi in and around Gangtok, refused to go there. Only the powerful Bollero Jeeps were allowed to ply on the way. We took a cab from M.G.Marg to the main taxi stand of Gangtok (charged 100 Rs.) for onward journey. From there we boarded on a shared cab, as suggested by the tour operator, which also carries 8 more passengers.
Our journey started around 8 in the morning and first we halted at a check-post in the outer limit of the city, where the condition of vehicle and the papers of all the passengers were thoroughly examined by the security personnel. From there it was a long and steep journey till Tsomgo lake. The traffic was open for one-sided journey only as the condition of road was extremely poor. There were many places where only a single vehicle can pass. Somehow we reached the lake in mid-noon after a tiring journey of approximately 3 hours.
In the parking area there were many people asking to submit our belongings and offering a long boot, made of plastic, especially designed to walk on snow. We went to such a shop, deposited our belongings and hired a pair of gloves and boots to walk further till lake. After walking few steps what we witnessed was one of the best sight we experienced ever. There were snow all over and a lake full of water. Within a walking distance there was permanent military settlement, as this place is quite near to Indo-China border. However due to bad weather it was not possible to go further up.
Like any other tourist places in hills there were sellers of hot Maggy, tea, momos, cigarettes which is otherwise ban in entire Sikkim and alcohol too. Considering the extreme cold weather of this place there were many takers of these offerings. We walked in snow and settled on a rock, watching the activities of tourists which constitutes a large part of honeymooners as well. Suddenly it started snowing and visibility reduced considerably. But we were enjoying like anything, what more one can ask for?
After spending a quality one hour or so it was time to return. All of us gathered near our cab and the backward journey started. The road was extremely narrow that it indeed requires special skills to drive in such a tough conditions. I was sitting in front with my wife and we were enjoying the conversation of fellow passengers, most of them were Bengalis and from a same family, and the way they were describing their personal experience, excitement and joy with full of exclamatory marks. These small moments actually fill us with the joy we can’t experience alone. Sitting in that cab, at some unknown place in Sikkim, far away from my home in Delhi, I was thinking that how beautiful the concept of traveling is, it gives us such a profound memories which can’t be experienced in any other ways. It was such a delight to visit new places, meet new people, experience their rituals, food and being part of their life, however brief it could be, but it’s significance carries a long.
From here our exciting and memorable journey to Sikkim concluded. But it certainly left us with more eagerness to visit new places of this beautiful land called India.