Gurudongmar Lake

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Gurudongmar Lake
Buddhist Flag flutters in GuruDongmar Lake.JPG
Buddhist Holy Lake -Gurudongmar Lake
Location North Sikkim, India
Coordinates 28°01′N 88°43′E / 28.02°N 88.71°E / 28.02; 88.71Coordinates: 28°01′N 88°43′E / 28.02°N 88.71°E / 28.02; 88.71
Basin countries Sikkim, India
Surface area 118 hectares (290 acres)
Shore length1 5.34 kilometres (3.32 mi)
Surface elevation 17,004 ft (5,183 m)

Mangan, North Sikkim 122 km.

Lachen, North Sikkim 67 km.
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.
Gurudongmar in April
Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim.

Gurudongmar Lake, is one of the highest lakes in the world, located at an altitude of 17,800 ft (5,430 m)[1] in the Indian state of Sikkim.[2] It is a lake which is considered sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus.[1] The lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, founder of Tibetan Buddhism who visited the lake in the 8th century.[2]

The lake has been claimed to have been blessed during the 15th century by Guru Nanak, the spiritual leader of Sikhism while he had passed through this area. However, this claim has been falsified since by the Namgyal Institute of Technology, Gangtok. [3]


The high altitude lake which remains frozen during winter months is located in the region of northern Sikkim, in the district of North Sikkim. It is about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to the south of the Chinese border. The lake can be reached by road from Lachen via Thangu. It is 190 kilometres (120 mi) away from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. The approach road from Thangu to Gurudongmar passes through a rugged and enchanting terrain with "stony moraine", which has high alpine pastures covered with many rhododendron trees.[4][1] While Indian tourists are allowed to visit the lake, foreigners need to get a special permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi.[5]


A legend related to the frozen condition of the lake is linked to the visit of Guru Padmasambhava to the lake, on his way back from Tibet. When he saw the lake he felt that the lake was worthy of veneration as it represented the divine location of Dorje Nyima or Chhoedten Nyima. As the lake remained frozen most of the year with no possibility of providing for drinking water needs, the people of the area appealed to Padmasambhva to help them. Then the guru agreed to help them and placed his hands on a small part of the lake area which stopped freezing during winter thus facilitating the source of drinking water to the people. Since then the lake has been considered sacred and devotees carry this sacred water in containers.[1]

According to another legend when Padmasambhava visited the lake he saw an auspicious phenomenon in the lake and then he considered it a good augury to enter the mainland of Sikkim, then known as Demojong. It is now said that the lake grants a boon to any pregnant woman offering prayers at the lake.[2]

In another fable traced to the 15th century, the Sikh saint Guru Nanak is believed to have passed through the lake while on his return from Tibet. According to this story, he was requested by the local people of Gurudongmar village to help make the frozen lake a source of drinking water during the winter period. Nanak is said to have touched a part of the lake with his stick, making the lake has free of snow throughout the year since. Nanak is also said to have blessed the lake, announcing to the villagers that "whoever takes the water of this lake will gain virility and strength". According to this story, deemed false by the Buddhist community, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, as well as the Sikkim Government, the lake and the surrounding hills derive their name from Nanak's visit. [3][6]


GuruDongmar Lake
Panorama view of frozen Gurudongmar Lake in May 2015

The lake fed by glaciers is located to the north of the Kangchengyao range in a high plateau area connected with the Tibetan Plateau. The lake provides one of the source streams which joins the Tso Lahmu and then form the source of Teesta River. China is 5 km (3.1 mi) to the border on the east. The lake remains completely frozen in the winter months from November to Mid-May.[4][7]

The lake has an area of 118 hectares (290 acres) and its peripheral length is 5.34 kilometres (3.32 mi).[4] However, the size of the lake appears small at the place where the devotees offer worship but the larger part of the lake is not visible due to hilly topography obstructing the complete view at this location.[2] The area surrounding the lake, also known as Gurudongmar, is inhabited by Yaks, blue sheep and other wildlife of high altitude.[4]

This fresh-water lake, which once used to have very clear water, with even the bed of the lake being visible from the surface, now appears in white colour on account of local pollution.[2]


A dispute arose when on the bank of the lake an Indian Army regiment of the Sikhs located at the Indo-China border, considering the lake as the place visited by their saint Guru Nanak, constructed a Gurudwara in 1997–98. This created anger among the Sikkimese people of the area as they considered the Gurudwara as an illegal construction as their ancient sacred lake had been sanctified by the visit of their Guru Padmasambhava. The government of Sikkim then constituted a high level committee to examine the issue and submit a report. Documents furnished to the committee by the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok conclusively established the authentic claim of the local people that it was without doubt a Buddhist religious place. This was accepted by the committee. The building constructed by the Sikh regiment was then handed over by the army to the Lachen Monastery on 6 July 2001 in the presence of the Sub Divisional Magistrate, Chungthang, North Sikkim. Now the monastery has placed a lama as a watchman at the lake, entrusted with the task of maintenance of the lake.[2] At the time of the dispute, the president of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) had requested the Defense Minister of India to intervene and stop the demolition of this Gurudwara as it was linked to the visit of Guru Nanak.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Gurudongmar Lake". Official website of Sikkim Tourism, Government of Sikkim. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Lakes Of The Sacred Land Demojong, Sikkim". Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs, Government of Sikkim. 
  3. ^ a b Dalvindar Singh Grewal (January 1995). Guru Nanak's travel to Himalayan and East Asian Region: a new light. National Book Shop. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-81-7116-177-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d Panigrahy, S; Patel, J G; Parihar, J S (September 2012). "National Wetland Atlas: High Altitude Lakes Of India" (PDF). Gurudongmar Lake. Space Applications Centre, ISRO, Government of India. p. 83. 
  5. ^ Vanessa Betts; Victoria McCulloch (10 February 2014). Indian Himalaya Footprint Handbook: Includes Corbett National Park, Darjeeling, Leh, Sikkim. Footprint Travel Guides. p. 352. ISBN 978-1-907263-88-0. 
  6. ^ The Sikh Review. Sikh Cultural Centre. 2001. 
  7. ^ Husain. Understanding Geographical Map Entries. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 282–. ISBN 978-1-259-00090-4. 
  8. ^ Mohinder Singh (1 January 2001). Punjab 2000: Political and Socio-economic Developments. Anamika Publishers & Distributors. pp. 25–. ISBN 978-81-86565-90-2. 

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