Thursday, June 25, 2015

Memories from Sikkim..........

Those who have visited the NorthEast region of India must be knowing how beautiful it is...
I got to live in Guwahati for 3 years ...from 2007 to 2010...as I pursued my PhD from IIT Guwahati...
And  during this time, I visited many places in Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Darjeeling etc....
Here I am posting some pictures from my trip to  the tiny but beautiful Sikkim.........

Do Drul Chorten. The biggest and the most famous Buddhist stupa ...stupas are mound-like structures housing religious relics. The unique architecture consisted of a  whitewashed foundation, a whitewashed cylinder, couple of rings and a gold-gilded steeple. Each part has its religious significance.There are quite a large number of these structures throughout Sikkim. Devotees and pilgrims throng  to pay homage at this sacred stupa.

This stunning Buddha statue in Samdruptse, near Namchi  is that of Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim. From the hill top, where this colossal statue (135 feet) is installed, we had a breathtaking view of the Mt. Kanchandzonga.

Momo or vegetable stuffed dumpling, is a delicacy very popular in North Eastern states of India. These steamed flour dumplings with vegetable fillings served with chilli sauce are healthy snacks apart from their taste and low price. We had a satisfying luncheon of these Chinese cuisine in a restaurant in Rumtek monastery  .....

This pristine lake cradled in the snow covered mountains, located at an altitude of 12,400ft  is Changu or Tsongmo Lake.. This placid lake is formed by the melting snow of the mountains. It was early January and  substantial part of the water body was frozen. Never in my life before had i seen such a wonderful  lake. But the cold wind  lashing like a whip and bruising our exposed body parts was playing a nuisance. Unaccustomed to such cold, we had a tough time feeling comfortable enough to admire the glassy beauty of the lake. My legs were starting to get numb and face purple. I was looking for a retreat to take refuge from the tyranny of cold. Exhausted and hungry from the involuntary shaking, we were looking for some food. A shop selling hot bowls of noodles seemed the ideal place. Nathu La pass, part of the historical Silk Route was not far from this glacial lake. However, the heavy snow fall and avalanche fear stalled our further high altitude exploration.

This was a hilarious experience...rode a yak..on the shore of the half-frozen lake...At more than 12K feet, it was bone-crunching chill...I remember it was early January..I am smiling for the photo, but my nose had gone purple and wind felt like whiplash..not to tell the mountain sickness..

It was an exciting experience to mount this long-haired mountain bovine at such high elevation. Some group members dared for a yak trek around the frozen lake, but I chickened out, the cold was taking toll of me to enjoy the safari. The yaks were decorated and saddled with vibrant woolens and fabrics to entice the tourists.Yaks, adapted to high altitudes, when domesticated,  provide milk, fiber, meat and transport. Many of these poor mountain people depend on these beasts of burden  for sustenance. It was a pity that these wild animals are in IUCN's vulnerable list.

Any part of India I visit, if get a chance to sport their regional costume, I never skip an opportunity. Perhaps, it is my way of showing admiration for their culture and embracing harmony, apart from it being a pleasant memory for me. Here, I am wearing a traditional dress of Bhutia community.  Bhutia people from Tibetan origin comprise one of the prominent tribe in Sikkim. This resplendent costume is made of two parts, the full-sleeved white silk blouse (honju) and the red colored, loose gown (kushen). The woolen wrap around with linear patterns (Pangden) tied at the waist, a furry cap (shambo) and a fake necklace completes the attire. Never mind the jeans trousers and boots peeping from the tunic:).

A woman vendor selling fresh vegetables in a stall on the bank of Teesta river. The make-shift stall displaying the mountain produce veggies against the backdrop of tree-studded mountains constitute an interesting picture. Magh Sankranti, a prominent Hindu festival in Sikkim was two days away. Spinachs and sweet potatoes are used to prepare delicacies as tradition of the festival. I expect, she did a good business before losing the shop for that day.

Saw  troops of macaques perched on the trees and  road on the bank of Teesta river, on our way to Gangtok ... It was exciting to see them in such abundance. It was fun to watch them groom each other's fur, picking salt beads and popping into their mouth. Female monkeys clutching their babies as they showed their acrobatic skills was amazing. Hope, these monkeys get enough berries to eat, safe habitat to live and are not vulnerable like many other wild denizens.

With a young Buddhist monk in the premise of the Rumtek monastery, the largest in Sikkim...they follow a disciplined, austere, celibate life in pursuit of enlightenment. In this remote and serene Dharma Chakra Centre, these resident trainees are initiated and taught the monastic practices of prayers and rituals. It was a hugely humbling experience to get to interact with these ascetics.

Bamboo and paper crafted foldable fan.  This Oriental work of art is sure to entice any tourist. The beautiful pictures of cherry blossoms and birds depicted on the bright yellow background can accentuate the beauty of any living room wall. I collected this piece of souvenir from Gangtok....

Rolling prayer wheels in Rumtek monastery...

In a souvenir shop of Gangtok...got many of these pretty bamboo folding fans..till date, some of them adorn my parents living room...

Its in Pelling, another town in Sikkim...We stayed a night there to visit the majestic Kanchenjanga mountains..its the house owner's furry pet...


Reminiscing these moments makes me happy and I hope, it will amuse the readers too...so I will post more interesting snapshots and snippets in subsequent posts...
Temi tea garden in Namchi, South Sikkim. This is an organic tea estate producing world class tea and the sole tea field in Sikkim state. During our trip to this mountain state, two years ago,we had visited this scenic estate.  Walking along the narrow paths flanked by the dense but manicured tea thickets, under the clear sunny sky, with a mild nip in the air, was refreshingly delightful. This breathtakingly lovely plantation laid on slopy hills fringed by pines, overlooking the serene Kanchenjunga mountain was truly a cherishable experience. In fact, it was materialization of one of my treasured childhood dream to lose myself in the lush greenery.
About four years, I had visited the foothills of Eastern Himalayas...mostly Sikkim and Darjeeling....
Its at 12,000 feet, near lake Psongo...

It was early January...the whipping cold was tough to bear, but the serenity prevailing around compensated for it..

Don't mistake the distant white blotches for clouds, that's the peaks of Kanchenjunga mountains......

The iconic range from another vantage point........

As the first rays of sun touched the snow-capped peak of the mountain, it turned golden, creating an enchanting panorama.

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