East Himalaya

Friday, September 4, 2015

Explore Sikkim: Namthang Villages & Namchi Connections

I often do not understand that when I fall in love with a place, she has something to do with the sun. Last time the place was Namthang in East Sikkim. Nam means sun and thang means place or habitat. This is a new road which ascends from Melli Bazaar, immediately after the check-post and goes towards Namchi, Namthang is between, almost 45 minutes either ways. As per the Sikkimese tradition, the boy and the girl in love runs away from the house has to return to Namthang, where the parents of both sides will be called and the marriage will be fixed, and hence considered to be one of the most auspicious places to start life.

It is not alone about Namthang, but the cluster of villages, which are surrounded by forests, view-points, lakes and organic agricultural fields. The top of Namthang is a high forest overlooking the snow-capped peaks of the Mt.Khangchendzonga range. Many years ago, when people could hardly access this area, a monk from Bhutan (Druk Yul) came and meditated here. Learning about his powers, people slowly started visiting him, but only the blessed could do so. Finally when he left, it is believed that he hid all the treasures in the two small lakes at the top, which he left to two large King Cobras to guard them. Hence, the name Nagi Pokhari, pokhari meaning lake. Realising the importance of the area, since last year the local tourism committee started with the “Nagi Pokhari Tourism & Organic Festival”. This year again the Festival is starting on 31st of December, 2015 and will be there for 03 days.
The other places of interest would be the Holy cave of the Lepchas, Palitam. The local agriculture office offers interesting hands-on training in organic farming from 03 days to 02 weeks duration. The bamboo craft and candle making groups from the area has created sensation in Sikkim with their skills. For Birdwatchers, this is paradise, especially from the river beds of Rangit to the top of Nagi, which is 6000 feet plus, the Kitam Bird Sanctuary is a part. A very rare, but interesting trek routes exists between Namthang to Tendong Hill. Magajung, the place known for the historic war is a natural hub. The Ghanti Dara, the Samten Choeling Lepcha monastery, the tiny hamlet of Phongla and above all the culture of the people can be explored at Namthang. The Tamang Dance from Maniram has earned a name for themselves, nationally. The best part of the Namthang experience is that the only kinds of accommodation are Homestays with the local people.
Namchi is a deep rooted part of my journey, as my first exploration of Sikkim in Help Tourism, started with Nature Study and Adventure Camps for school children, where there were 02 National camps held at Namchi and 02 at Karfecter, near Namchi. The only accommodation at Namchi then was the Youth Hostel with a soccer ground beside it. A beautiful trek route, nature trail and rock-climbing site was found for the campers. The then tiny Bazaar or market place was on the other side and there was hardly of any need. Today it almost seems to be of the size of the Jorethang Bazaar or market and the places of interest developed around are some of the replicas of the most important Shiva temples of India, known as Char Dhaam (the four Holy Shrines of Lord Shiva).
Guru Rimpoche, popularly known as Guru Padmasambhava, the great soul who sowed the seed of Buddhism in the high Himalayan and Tibetan plateau region has been put as a high statue (118 feet tall) in the sky as Samdruptse. Not very far away, about 03 kms from the junction of Damthang is the Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Ecotourism (IHCAE) of Chemchey. Within half an hour drive from Chemchey is Ravangla, which now houses the world famous Tathagath Sthal or Buddha Park. The best part about Namchi is that she has evolved as one of largest Convention centres in East Himalaya, with some of the finest accommodating hotels, natural eco-resorts along with authentic Homestays. The journey can continue to the only tea estate of Sikkim, Temi or to Ralong and Borong. But I still need to explore the route from South to North Sikkim...


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