Guru Padmasambhava is the patron saint of Sikkim. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Travelling through most of Sikkim, you get a welcome companion — the majestic River Teesta storming its way through sullen, big boulders. From Siliguri, it’s a five-hour drive to the Welcom Heritage Denzong Regency — a sprawling old heritage property.
Sikkim’s capital may be picture perfect Gangtok, but a trip to the capital of South — Namchi — is taken through winding roads curled around mountain slopes. Now the traveller is accompanied by the gurgling River Rangeet. It’s a couple of hours to Namchi from Gangtok.The first stop is the ‘wish fulfilling hill’ — Samdruptse — which hosts the world’s highest statue of Guru Padmasambhava who is venerated as the second Buddha in Tibetan culture; 135 feet high, this statue draws a huge number of devotees. Samdruptse is a dormant volcano and legend says that it is the prayer of Buddhist monks that keep it calm. From the temple at the top of the hill, it is an endless stretch of dense forests and valleys; Namchi lies below like a little jewel. Guru Padmasambhava is the patron saint of Sikkim. A short walk away is the Sai Temple.
Namchi is home to salvation, too. Siddheshwar Dham, a dream project of Sikkim’s Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, a Buddhist, was consecrated by Shri Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati in November 2011. Referred to as Sikkim’s ‘Chaar Dham’, it is situated five kilometres from Samdruptse. A facsimile of the actual four dhams of the Hindu religion, Siddheshwar Dham, reimagines the holiest four pilgrimage sites of India — Badrinath, Puri, Dwarka and Rameswaram — in a single destination. A 108-ft high deity of Lord Shiva with replicas of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ enclosing it presides over the place. Sikkimese believe Lord Shiva incarnated as Kirateshwar in Indrakeel, where he is locally worshipped as Lord Kirateshwar, whose sixteen-and-a-half feet high statue is also installed in the complex. Alongside is a milky white statue of ‘Rishapa’, the bull, which is Shiva’s vahana (vehicle). Legend has it that Lord Shiva, who was consumed by agni in Daksh’s yagya after Satee, went into seclusion to become a hunter in the forests of Sikkim.
Hindus believe that a pilgrimage to the four dhams is the path to Moksha; Sikkim offers moksha of its own. Locals believe a visit to Siddheshwar Dham is enough to wash away all sins. So the next time you plan to visit Sikkim, include Namchi in the agenda — for God’s sake.
Gangtok to Namchi: 73 km. By road: 1 hr, 20 minutes. Taxi: Rs 2,200. Nearest airport: Bagdogra, Siliguri (54 km). Gangtok does not have a railway station. Nearest is New Jalpaiguri