Char Dham, Namchi

Among giants: How Namchi got the best of me as a kid

Author: Sushil Subba
Date: 2020-12-03

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Let me tell you how Namchi holds a special place in my list filled with amazing trips and journeys. The place, just by its looks, is like every other town you find around Sikkim, but the towering figures of Guru Padmasambhava and Lord Shiva hovering over the city horizon make it quite different from the usual. The first time I went there, it was a really scary experience – not overall, but most of the parts really were scary as I was a small kid back then.

Back in my school days, my family had planned a trip to Namchi. It was a cold winter and foggy throughout the day as we set off to Namchi. Back in the day, it felt like a 4-hour journey, whereas it takes around 2-2.5 hours; if the road conditions are harsh then might take you upto 3 hours or longer. That particular day, our journey felt like an eternity. We crossed many hamlets and intersections, but there was still no sign or a milestone that read “Namchi.” After hours and hours of travelling, “we have finally arrived” said my dad. Hearing those words was so relaxing to my ears because I was starting to get tired, and the excitement of seeing a new place had faded. 

Namchi broke every assumption I had of it

Before reaching Namchi, I thought it would be the usual sights, where I’d see lush green valleys of Sikkim, the local people, and popular sightseeing spots. But my assumption was so wrong because the first thing I saw was a big statue of Lord Shiva hovering over the city horizon. The statue itself was so huge that it made the surrounding buildings look like a bunch of dominos stacked in very closely. I was both intimidated and excited and wondered how big it would actually be when I stood in front of it. I told dad with excitement: “let’s go where that big statue is!” He said we would visit the place eventually, but first we were heading to Samdrupste. I agreed because he had told me one night at home that Samdruptse also had a big statue, and it was established way before the statue of Lord Shiva that I saw earlier. “Ai pugyo hami” my dad said in his native language, which means “we have arrived at our destination.” After we parked, I started nagging my parents saying “well, where is the statue?” “Walk down that gravel road until you start seeing Guru Padmasambhava” said my dad. I looked around and there was a road that led upwards but I couldn’t see the statue. Being an energetic kid, I ran towards the road but got exhausted as my anticipation of the gravel road was incorrect. It takes about 25 min or even half an hour if you’re really slow and dislike steep climbing. 

Terrified at my first glimpse of Guru Padmasambhava 

I was way ahead of my family in terms of distance, and I kept walking until I saw the statue emerging from the forest. The sheer size of it made me think twice before taking another step towards it, but it was the face that made me quite terrified. I honestly can’t describe how the statue's face made me feel. Even from afar, it looked like it would come to life, turn its head, and strike down upon us with his great wrath. My family caught up to me and my dad said, “See that is where we will be heading.” “But dad, it looks so scary,” I said with innocence. “Wait till we reach the top,” he responded and took me with him. We started walking again, and with each step, the statue seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. Along the way I asked my dad silly kid questions like “who made it and how long did it take.” My dad gave me very simple answers —not because I would understand that way better but so that I would keep my mouth shut for a while. I nagged him along the way and didn’t even pay attention to how long I had been walking. My dad and I had finally reached our destination, and I started looking at sunflowers planted around the area while we waited for my mom and sister. I didn’t take my eyes away from the statue even for a second as I wanted to see how big it really was in person. And finally, there it was—a giant, sitting still. Huge but stately, making you so grateful he’s not rumbling down to crush you. Even trying to look at him was complicated, with the way we had to crane our neck up. I was bamboozled.

Statue of Guru Padmasambhava

Statue of Guru Padmasambhava

“What now? Can we go to the top?” I asked my dad. He smiled and said, “Inside the statue? Well, no, but we can circle around it if you want.” I agreed and went there to click some pictures. Mom and my sister had arrived till then and we were all together. We didn’t have much to do there and had already spent a good amount of time. We clicked some pictures together and returned to our car. The place was majestic, the statue–the biggest I have ever seen with my naked eyes, and the atmosphere was serene. And when I looked back while returning, the statue had faded into the woods again. A hidden paradise I would say.

Char Dham

After that, we headed to Sideshwar Dhaam or Char Dham as the locals call it. It’s the place where the statue of Lord Shiva is located. It’s become more of a tourist spot than a place of pilgrimage. The parking lot here is way bigger than at Samdrupste, and you have to buy tickets to go inside. We had to remove our shoes before entering, which made me a little nervous about my shoes getting stolen. The place looked great with many vivid temples all over the place and the big statue of Lord Shiva at the top. That was the main thing I wanted to see and measure. We started from the bottom and went from temple to temple. Some looked unique and were different from what I had been used to. A great amount of work had been done while making them I assumed. After clicking pictures and roaming around a bit we went to the statue. By size, it looked the same size as the one in Samdrupste but was less detailed in my opinion. I circled it a couple of times when I overheard my family mention “3D cinema.” I asked them what it was, and my sister told me it’s cinema but you can see the images outside of the white frame. I was intrigued and insisted that we go there next. Luckily, it was inside the Char Dham area. The 3D cinema was truly immersive. We had two options to choose from: rollercoaster ride and rocket racing; both were equally entertaining. After enjoying everything this place had to offer, we felt hungry and left the place for Namchi Ropeway. 

Namchi Ropeway

A warm afternoon was upon us as our journey was about to end. The Namchi Ropeway is more a mode of transportation than a thrill ride but the scenic views of the lush green valleys covered in thick clouds make it a serene experience. We reached the entrance point of the ropeway and booked a ticket till Rock Garden. The space inside the compartments was a bit small, but the overall experience was great. The way we were just gliding atop of the trees was exciting yet scary none the less. I was a bit nervous and was hoping the cable wouldn’t break. As it was getting dark, we skipped Rock Garden and took a return trip to Namchi Bazaar; the adventure was officially over. 

Namchi at that time was all about big things, literally, from the sheer size of statues to scaling valleys, which in a way also gave us a sort of reality check on how small we are and our problems mean so little. Be sure to check these places out whenever you come here. Trust me, you’ll not be disappointed. 


East and South Sikkim Tour Package


1 Comments

  • pinkykhampa12@gmail.com     December 04, 2020

I'd love to visit there again. Namchi has a different scene all around.


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