Sikkim Diaries: Gurudongmar Lake

13-October-2017, 9:30 a.m., Gurudongmar Lake:

After traveling through an amazing route, we have reached the pristine Gurudongmar Lake. Nestled between 6000 m high peaks, the crystal clear lake is a sight to behold. One thing we were missing here is the peace and tranquility, which has been taken away by the noise of the visitors. So to get some calmness to enjoy the sights around us, we decided to take a hike on the nearby hill. The clear blue sky, the glaciers, the snow clad peaks are so magnificent that words just can’t do justice to this lake.

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The awesome road to Gurudongmar Lake; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim, India; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Looking out towards the Indo-Chinese border; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Sikkim Diaries: Into Higher Lands

13-October-2017, 9:00 a.m., Tangu to Gurudongmar Lake:

Ahead of Tangu, the landscape changes drastically as we gain altitude. Yesterday we traveled through lush green tropical forests, while today we have crossed the conifers and meadows and are now entering the barren altitude with lichen and moss. All the hard work of our morning chants has paid off, and the weather God is finally happy and its sunny outside. Braving the cold winds, we are literally hanging outside our car window capturing the beautiful sights all around.

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High time we hit the typical mountain road; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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The clouds don’t seem to be too willing to let go of the high peaks; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Clear blue skies cheer one up to no end; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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“Hanging Out” into the cold winds; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Where do the lines go? Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

Beautiful People Make A Beautiful Land

September 19, 2017; Day 3, Spiti Festival: 

It’s the third and final day of the Spiti Festival in Kaza. Today’s chief guest is the Tehsildar of Spiti. After the traditional welcome, he was escorted to the stage from where he addressed the gathering. The festivities then began with an award ceremony, wherein awards were presented to winners of the various sports activities held during the three-day festival. The sports events saw participation from different villages across Spiti, and also a Kabbadi team from Rekong Peo in Kinnaur. Memenṭos were also presented to all the volunteers who had helped organise the festival. The chief guest was then seated in the midst of the audience, as per usual practice. Singer Chunnit Chicham took the opportunity to launch her latest album in front of the massive Spiti gathering.

The first performance of the evening was a martial art dance wherein men dressed in traditional finery danced while wielding swords (much like the martial art movies we have seen groing up). As the beats started, the performers started moving their bodies very slowly but elegantly taking small steps forward, moving in a circle around the stage. With time, the beat also picked up as the performers steadily kept pace with it, building to a very fast pace. The performance ended to rousing cheers and thunderous applause.

The next performance was by the women of Mahila Manḍal Ṭangti, (Tangti is a village in Pin Valley). The troupe performed a traditional Spiti folk dance. This was followed by the performers from the Mahila Manḍal Sagnam (Pin Valley), all dressed in traditional Spiti costumes and finery, capped with different and vibrant coloured shawls around the shoulders. This performance was followed by a Dandiya performed by school children showcasing the popular dance form from Gujarat.

Meanwhile, refreshments were doing the rounds around the ground. Apart from the ‘feri walas’ selling munchies to the crowd, there was also a self-help group from Lidang who had set up a stall in one corner of the ground and they were selling hot momos and tea.

Up next was a performance by a school girl who danced to local songs beautifully sung by a young lad. They were followed by a troupe of girls from Lossar, and what struck me was their attire which was different from what we had seen so far. After the Lossar performers came a dazzling performance by the Mahila Mandal Chicham, a small village across a deep gorge from Kibber. A bridge has been recently constructed over the gorge between Chicham from Kibber – till last year this gorge was crossed using a span suspended hundreds of meters above the river, a journey not for the faint hearted. The finale came from Phurbu Negi whose soulful renditions got the crowd to its feet, as they danced and cheered in abandon.

The Spiti Festival has been an amazing experience for me. It gave me an opportunity to get an insight into the centuries old culture of this amazing part of India and it also showed the diversity and harmony among the the people here and how humble they really are. I have been to Spiti several times in the past couple of years, and this time around when I met and interacted with so many people from different walks of life in a social setting, I have come to realise that it is not just the landscapes that makes Spiti beautiful – it is the beautiful people that live here that makes the land beautiful.

I will eagerly wait for next year’s festival, till then it’s ‘see you soon’ from Kaza.

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Kids playing Kabaddi as the crowds start gathering for the festival; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Women from Tangti ready to welcome the Chief Guest; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Women from Kaza waiting to welcome the Chief Guest in a traditional manner; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Winner of the volley ball competition held during Spiti Festival 2017 receiving the award; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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The chief guest handing over a memento to one of the volunteers – Bharat Bhushan; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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The chief guest seated among the crowd with the SP Kaza; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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A mind blowing sword dance performance; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Women from Mahila Mandal Tangti performing at Spiti Festival 2017; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Women from Sagnam sing for a dance performance; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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The Sagnam ladies dance blissfully; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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School children performing Dandiya on the occasion; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Stall setup by the Self Help group from Lidang; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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A wonderful solo dance performance by a school girl; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Lossar girls during their performance at Spiti Festival 2017; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Mahila Mandal Chicham performing at Spiti festival 2017; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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School girls perform an awesome Tibetan dance; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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An exquisite dress with the accompanying waist ornament; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Beautifully attired women from Kaza performing a traditional dance; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Phurbu Negi ending the Spiti Festival 2017 with his soulful performance; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

 

Sikkim Diaries: Tangu at Last

13-October-2017, 8:00 a.m., Tangu:

After an hour and half of driving through the cold climes outside, we reached our first halt at Tangu. We were hungry and eagerly waiting for the sunrise and some hot breakfast. But the cold deterred us from moving. Then we noticed jawans from the Indian army going about their morning rub and exercise – and the sight immediately gave us the courage to step out of our cosy car and get going.

After having some hot noodles and tea, we are now on our way to the mystical Gurudongmar Lake.

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Smoky prayers for better weather? ; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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The sun seems to be out playing colourful games high up the mountains; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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We reach Tangu at last; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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We wouldn’t want to be traveling on this road if it rains; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

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Time to stretch the legs and get something warm to eat; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

Sikkim Diaries: Moving On From Lachen

13-October-2017, 5:00 a.m., Lachen to Tangu:

Leaving our cosy bed in Hotel Zomsa Residency at Lachen, we are off towards Tangu which is our final stop before Gurudongmar Lake. Dawn is on us with slightly overcast skies. I guess our relation with cloudy Sikkim is everlasting, as even the last time round it was cloudy for the entire duration that we were here, with the exception of the day of our departure. For now I hope the Buddhist prayer chants playing on our car stereo might get the attention of the weather God and he may smile upon us.

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Our abode at Lachen; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Well adorned entrance gate at Lachen; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Praying for better weather than what is; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Aaarghh this concrete menace; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Colourful houses along the way; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Old school but an essential; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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It’s always great to see typical mountain houses; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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The road ahead, or the one that we’ve already tread; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati