Situated about five kilometres uphill from White Hall on a bifurcation road of the Gangtok Nathula Highway, is a temple of God Hanuman at an altitude of 2195 m (7200 ft). From the temple, the snowy peaks of Kanchendzonga present a panoramic picture. As you offer your prayers, the statue of Lord Hanuman gazes down at you. The temple of Hanuman is flanked by a small temple of Shirdi Saibaba.
A short distance before the stair case leading to the Hanuman Temple is the cremation ground of the erstwhile royal family of Sikkim. The cremation ground has stupas and chortens each marking the place where the mortal remains of the departed souls were consigned to the flames.
Situated about 7 Kilometers from Gangtok on the way to Ranka,
these waterfall is a popular picnic spot. BanJhakri is a mythical magician whose wife was a witch who used to eat children. But Ban Jhakri himself was a protector of children. Different masks of Ban Jhakri have been put up at this spot. An Energy Park using Non-
conventional energy like solar power also co-exists here. There are exhibits especially educative for children like slides,swings that generate electricity when you use them and this is used to power a demonstration bulb or a speaker.
Gangtok-Rumtek road towards Ranka can be fruitful.
It is the seat of the incarnation of Zurmang Gharwang Rimpoche. Built in 1997, this monastery is palatial in size.
The monastery is at a distance of 23 kilometres from Gangtok. In fact it is located on the hill facing Gangtok.
The present monastery was constructed by His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa in 1960s. Gyalwa Karmapa was the sixteenth Karmapa and came to settle in Sikkim in the late fifties when the Chinese invaded Tibet. He passed away in 1981.
The Kargyugpa Sect of Buddhism has its origins in Tibet in the twelfth century. It is said that after the first Karmapa spent many years meditating in a cave, ten thousand fairies came to congratulate him and each offered a strand of hair. These strand of hair were woven into a black hat. This black hat came to be passed down and is still at the Rumtek Monastery. It is said that unless held with the hand, or kept in a box, it will fly away. It was worn by the Karmapas on ceremonial occasions.
The monastery is certainly the largest in Sikkim and is an example of fine Tibetan architecture. The Main Monastery is three storied and has a large prayerhall on the ground floor lined with small tables which the monks use to keep their religious books to read during prayers. The prayer hall is intricately decorated with Statues, wall paintings, thankas and tubular silk banners. On the first floor are the living quarters of the last Karmapa. The top floor has a terrace and a small stupa. The monastery is surrounded by a courtyard and the living quarters of the lamas. A flight of stairs from just outside the Main Monastery Complex takes you to the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist studies. You are greeted by a huge painting of Lord Buddha just outside the Nalanda Institute: for the Buddhists gods loom large in art as they do in belief.
Just adjacent to it is a small hall that has a stupa that contains the bone and ashes of the Sixteenth Karmapa. The stupa is surrounded by small statues of all the earlier Karmapas. On the same level as the Nalanda Institute is a small two storied building, in which the Gyalwa Karmapa used to reside during the summers. A few metres ahead is an aviary containing the most exotic birds. The Gyalwa Karmapa had a special liking for birds and dogs and I have fond memories, as a child, of playing with his dog during one of my many visits there.
About half a kilometre uphill from the aviary is a hermitage in which monks go into complete seclusion for meditation for periods upto 3 years.
A fifteen minutes walk downhill from the Main Monastery takes one to the old Rumtek Monastery, which was first built in 1730 by the ninth Karmapa but was destroyed due to a fire and had to be reconstructed to its present state.
The main puja or dances of Rumtek also called the Tse-Chu Chaams are held on the 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan calender around June. Dances called the Kagyat are also held on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calender in the Old Rumtek Monastery.
After the XVIth Karmapa passed away in 1981, the search began for his reincarnation. But it was almost ten years later that a boy who met the requirements was traced in Tibet. Ugen Thinley was recognised as the XVII th Karmapa by the Dalai Lama. Ugen Thinley escaped from Tibet in 2000 and is presently staying in Dharamshall in Himachal Pradesh.
Half a kilometre before the Main Monastery is the Shambala Tourist Resort((03592-252240 or252243) which provides modern amenities in typical rural settings with tourist huts built in traditional Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali style.The Martam Village resort ((223314,236843) 10 kilometres ahead of Rumtek is located in the tranquil countryside and offers accommodation in nine thatched cottages built in traditional syle but providing all modern facilities: a good place to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
This temple lies on the road between the Nathula and the Jelepla pass. There is a touching story behind the establishment of the temple. Harbhajan Singh was a sepoy in the Punjab Regiment. In October 1968, while escorting a column of mules carrying provisions, he fell into a stream and drowned. A few days later he appeared in the dream of a colleague of his and expressed a desire that a monument in his memory be built. His colleagues in the regiment considered the dream to be auspicious and felt that if they fulfilled his desire he would protect them from agression and mishap. The temple was thus built and has over the years acquired the status of a place of pilgrimage. Visitors leave a bottle of water which they then arrange to collect a few days later. It is said that drinking the water is wish-yielding.
Although long dead, it is understood that the sepoy has been promoted to the rank of Honorary captain and his salary is even sent to his home in Punjab. Once a year arrangements are made to send him on leave to his home town. A berth is booked in a train and his uniform placed on it. A soldier from the regiment accompanies.
There is a souvenir shop which also issues computerised certificates certifying your visit to this place. Just adjacent is a cafe.
A lake at 3753 m(12,310 ft)! Impossible you will say but it is a fact. Changulake is situated 35 kilometres from Gangtok on the Gangtok – Nathula highway The stretch of the route just below Karponang, 15 kilometres from Gangtok was particularly dangerous. Its steepness resulted in many mules slipping to their death into the ravine below. Karponang is at an altitude of 3000 metres: an ascend of 1500 metres fromGangtok in less than 15 kilometres. Slightly less than 10 kilometres away from Karponang is 15th Mile or Kyongnosla which lies on a saddle on the Chola Range and from where a panoramic view of part of Gangtok and other surrounding hills can be obtained. The road has less gradient and the vegetation adopts an alpine nature. About a kilometre ahead of Kyongnosla and about five minutes walk from the roadside is the TsetenTashi cave which is about twenty feet high and so named after a naturalist of Sikkim who was also the Private Secretary to the Chogyal.
Changu Lake, which is hardly 20 kilometres away from the famous Nathula Pass and about 400 kilometres from Lhasa, falls in the restricted area and hence an Inner Line Permit, which can be obtained from the Police through the Tourism Department or travel agent, is required by visitors to visit this place. Foreign nationals are also permitted to visit this lake. Photography is now allowed and in fact parts of few Hindi films have been shot here.
Its cool, placid water harmonises with the scenic beauty around which is doubled by its reflection in the lake. A small temple of Lord Siva is constructed on the lakeside. Primula flowers and other alpine vegetation grow around the lake, which has an average depth of 15 metres, lend a pristine beauty to this place. A footpath along the lake takes one to a resting shed – a walk of about half a kilometre. During the winter months the lake becomes frozen. The lake itself derives its water from the melting snow on the mountains around. The lake has a few rainbow trout and if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse at them.
Rides on yaks and mules are also offered at the lake site. Tea and snacks are available at the shoppingcompex about 200 metres before the lake. It has a pay and use toilet. Some of the stalls even keep offer jackets, snowboots and gumboots on hire.
Because of the high altitude, heavy woollens are required to be worn here throughout the year. There is no facility of accommodation for the tourist. It is advisable to visit the lake before noon as usually during the afternoons the weather becomes inclement. Those with breathing problems should avoid exerting themselves too much because of the scarcity of air at this altitude.
Nathula at 4320 m (14400 ft) remained as the major pass connecting Sikkim to Tibet till 1962. It was through this pass that trade between the two countries used to be carried out with trains of mules carrying wool, gold, rock-salt and borax and taking back essential items of daily use from India. From Nathula, Yathung the erstwhile famous tradepost in the Chumbi Valley in Tibet is just 30 kilometres away. During clear weather, the road winding down the Chumbi valley can clearly be seen and on the eastern horizon looms the Chomolhari peak that is situated in Bhutan. The Chinese soldiers are also visible a few metres away from the barbed wire that marks the border between the two countries. The exchange of mail takes place every Thursday and Sunday with the Indian postman crossing over to the Chinese outpost and meeting his counterpart to carry out the transaction. An engraved stone also known as the Nehru Stone marks the visit of the Late Prime Minister of India Jawarlal Nehru to Nathula in 1958. The Nathula border was quiet during the Indo-China war in 1962. However because of a dispute over the demaraction of territory by barbed wire firing took place between the armies of the two sides in 1965. In Sept 1967 there was a major confrontation in which many lives on both sides were lost. A memorial has been built in honour of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in this battle.The trade route through Nathula was reopened on 6th July 2006 for a few items.
The Kailash Mansorovar Yatra to Tibet has been opened through Nathula from June 2015.
Kailash Manosorvar is the Hindu pilgrim site located in Tibet, China. For many years the Government of India in association with the Government of China has been organising visits to this area during the summer months for Indian pilgrims in batches. Till now the journey involved an arduous trek which begins from near Almora in Uttarakhand, then a day journey by bus and finally the two day trek circum-ambulating. Total journey up and down takes 22 days.
In contrast the route via Nathula takes about 19 days up and down and the entire journey is done by road except the two day trek around Mount Kailash . Pilgrims who because of some reasons cannot take the Uttarakhand would prefer to take the Nathula route.
Pilgrims desirous of visiting Manosorovar lake have to apply to Ministry of Home Affaris. Those desiSelection is done after a medical test done in Delhi.
The Nathula pass can be visited by Indian tourists only on selected four days a week. Those desirous of visiting can obtain details from the website kmy.gov.in Travel Agents in Gangtok can arrange to get a pass to visit Nathula and also arrange a shared taxi .
Set amidst a thick forest this lake is situated in the South East corner of Sikkim a few kilmiters away from Rhenock. Boating facility is available at the lake. Aritar is also well known for the oldest Dak Bunglow (Rest House) in the state. This place is also well known for the popular Lampokhari festival held during spring. If you have the time visit the Aritar Monastery closeby.
The Vishwa Vinayak Mandir at Rhenock depicts the Hindu God Ganesh in different manifestations. It is an imposing and marvelous structure inaugurated in 2016. Particularly interesting are the Statues showing the churning of the Ocean. A must visit place. One should include it in the itinerary while visiting Lampokhari.