from Sikkim Darjeeling East Himalaya Information|Sikkim-Darjeeling.Com
Gurudongmar Lake (also known as Gurudogmar Lake) is one of the highest lakes in the world located at an altitude of 17,100 feet (5,148 m). It lies on the North side of the Khangchengyao Range in a high plateau area contiguous to the Tibetan Plateau. The stream emerging from the lake is one of the source-streams of the Tista River.
The lake is named after Guru Nanak, who is also known as Guru Dongmar. It is located close to the Indo-China Border in the province of North Sikkim, Sikkim, India.
The lake remains completely frozen in the winter months from November to Mid-May except for one small part of the lake which is supposed to be touched and blessed by the Guru Nanak.
The lake is highly revered by the Sikkimese and Buddhists and the waters are supposed to have curative properties. The Indian Army got into a conflict with the Sikkim Government when they erected a gurdwara (a Sikh temple) near the lake in the 1990s : the gurdwara has now become a ‘Sarva Dharma Sthal’(House of worship for All Religions), and ruffled feathers have been smoothened.
Due to the extremely inhospitable terrain and the difficulties associated with reaching the place, the lake sees only a handful of visitors each year. Access is strictly controlled at the Army checkpost at Giagong. Due to the altitude, there is a scarcity of oxygen. Visitors are advised to acclimatise overnight at Lachen, carry medicines like Coca 10, Deryphyllin etc., and to descend quickly in case of acute or persistent discomfort. Over-excitement and loud, stressful talking should be avoided.
The third time Guru Nanak Dev Ji left home on his famous Udasis (journeys) in 1516 he trekked towards the north. Leaving Srinagar, Guru Nanak penetrated the Himalayas and travelled towards Tibet. When he arrived at Lake Manasarovar, he came across a large number of Yogis who had escaped from oppression and chaos in the plains and had found shelter in faraway caves in the mountains. The ascetics asked Guru Nanak Ji about the conditions prevailing in the country below. Guru Nanak chided them for running away from the hard realities of life the way they had done.
Guru Nanak is well respected by Tibetan Buddhists who consider him a saint. He reached the Chopta Valley is at an altitude of 13,200ft+. It has breathtaking alpine scenery with lofty snow capped peaks, meandering rivers and alpine flowers that bloom in June-July. It is about 20mins drive from Thangu. Gurudongmar Lake is a holy lake, it is beyond Chopta and armed with a special permit it is possible to visit it. (RAP [Restricted Area Permit] for North Sikkim - available from Gangtok) A Gurdwara here commemorates Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s visit and is one of the holiest Sikh pilgrim shrines in the Himalayas.
Guru Nanak visited the place during his third udasi in order to solace the Karmapa Nyingmapa sects then being hounded out from Tibet by the Gelugpa sect. These sects had fled from Tibet to the Himalayan belt of Northern India. Many from the Karmapa Nyingmapa sect were the followers of Guru Nanak, as their Head Lamas became Guru Nanak’s followers in Kailash Mansarovar area after being impressed by Guru Nanak’s discussions with the famous Sidhas of the age.
According to a legend some local people approached Guru Ji with an appeal for help. The lake remained frozen during most of the year and rendered it incapable as a source of water. Guru Nanak Dev Ji is said to have touched the lake and it has never frozen since. Guru Nanak’s footprints, a robe and a water-carrying utensil are preserved in a nearby place called Lachen Gompha. Here the locals refer to Guru Ji as Rimpoche Nanak Guru who on his way to Tibet had rested there.
Some grazers projected another problem to Guru Nanak Ji. Due to the effect of altitude, their virility was affected. They requested the Guru to do something about it. Guru Nanak blessed the lake, saying,” Whosoever takes the water of this lake will gain virility and strength and will be blessed with children.” The people of the area have firm faith in Guru’s words and consider the water of the lake as nectar. A Gurdwara was constructed in eighties to commemorate Guru Nanak’s visit to the place
A story they tell is that Guru Ji had brought with him a rice meal packed in banana leaves, as is the custom even today in banana growing areas. The two commodities were unknown to the hill folks. Guru Ji having noticed their inquisitiveness bestowed them with a share of this strange cereal. They displayed forethought andinstead of eating it sprinkled the rice over the meadow and buried the banana packing in a corner. Today the village harvests rice and bananas.
The local people of the area and Lamas of Karmapa Nyingmapa Sect confirm Guru Nanak’s visit to these areas. The Lamas from these areas have been visiting Golden Temple, Amritsar, regularly to pay obeisance to their beloved Guru Rimpoche, Guru Nanak, also known as Nanak Lama in their areas. Guru Nanak’s footprints, a robe and a water-carrying utensil (kamandal) are preserved in Lachen Gompha, Sikkim, commemorating his visit to the place. Records show that during his journeys to the Himalayas and the Far East, including China, Guru Nanak visited all these states around 1516 AD. This itinerary is found recorded in Janam Sakhee Bhai Bala; Janam Sakhee Walait Wali; Janam Sakhee Meharban; Janam Sakhee ; Suchak Parsang by Bhai Behlo; Mahima Parkash by Baba Sarup Chand; Parchian Sewa Das; Nanak Prakash by Bhai Santokh Singh;