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Nathula, Tsomgo, Baba Mandir

Nathula

Nathula Pass was a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962. Located around 56 kms from Gangtok at an altitude of 14450 ft, the road to Nathula passes through the Tsomgo lake. It is one of the highest motorable roads in the world and is richly surrounded by alpine flora. On a clear day you can even see the road winding down the Chumbi valley. Tourists are allowed to go close to the international border from where you can see Chinese soldiers on the other side of the barbed wire.

Nathula is open for Indian nationals on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The visitors have to get the permit to visit the place by applying to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department through a registered and recognised Travel Agency. Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Nathula. Photography is strictly prohibited. One can find ATM facility here which is the worlds highest Automated Teller Machine (ATM).

Tsomgo(Changu Lake)

38 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,400 ft, the ethereally beautiful Tsomgo lake is a must on every visitors itinerary. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes you to Tsomgo, which means source of the water in Bhutia language. The lake derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains surrounding the lake. Of legendary beauty, the lake looks different at different seasons. In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered in snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a riot of colours around the lake. 

The lake is associated with many myths and legends and is revered by the Sikkimese as sacred. It is believed that in olden times, Buddhist monks would study the colour of the water of the lake to forecast the future.

The lake is also of special significance for the Jhakris [faith healers] of Sikkim who congregate here annually on Guru Purnima, which coincides with the festival of Raksha Bandhan, from all over the state to offer prayers.

For the tourist a visit to the lake offers a wonderful outing. Rides on colourfully decorated yaks and mules are offered at the lake site, which also has a variety of eating stalls serving snacks and beverages. Snowboots and gumboots can be hired here.

Tsomgo lake is open for both Indian and foreign nationals, however foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitors permit through a registered travel agency.

Baba Mandir

At a distance of 60 km from the majestic Gangtok city towards the legendary Nathula, you will find a road leading towards the Kupup valley up to Tukla. A bifurcated road from Tukla would connect to the Old Baba Mandir (Bunker). At this place; the samadhi of Baba Harbhajan, famously known, as Old Baba Mandir has been built.

Harbhajan Singh was born in the Sadrana village of Gujranwala district (Presently in Pakistan) into a Sikh family on August 30, 1946. On 9th February 1966 he got enrolled into the Punjab Regiment of Indian army as a sepoy. The year 1968 brought havoc misfortune for the states of Sikkim and North Bengal, as they were under the fury of natural disaster. Floods, landslides and heavy rainfall claimed thousands of lives in the two states. Sepoy Harbhajan Singh made an immense contribution during this time in helping the sufferers to sustain. On October 4, 1968, while he was escorting a mule column from Tuku La, his battalion headquarters to Donguchui La, Harbhajan Singh suddenly slipped and fell into a fast flowing nullah and unfortunately drowned. Strong water current carried his body for about 2 kms from the site of the accident. He was searched with all efforts, but his body went missing. On the fifth day of his missing, his fellow Pritam Singh had a dream, where Harbhajan Singh himself informed him of his tragic death and he also mentioned that his body is lying underneath the heap of snows. Harbhajan Singh also expressed the strong desire to have a samadhi made after him. However, Pritam Singh did not pay much importance to his dream. But later, when Harbhajan Singh’s body was discovered at the very place, which he had mentioned in the dream, all were taken aback. And, to honor his wish, a samadhi was built near Chhokya Chho at an elevation of around 4,000 meters, which gained popularity as the Old Baba Mandir. This samadhi is less visited by tourists. Visitors need to climb 50 stairs to reach the bunker, the site where the samadhi has been built. This was the place where Baba was posted during his service period in Indian army.