Namchi is a small town in South Sikkim, despite it being the district headquarters of the South Sikkim district. We drove to Namchi after a lovely stay at Baiguney on the banks of the River Rangeet. Chardham or Siddheshwar Dham located on Solophok Hill here was our biggest attraction for visiting Namchi.
We heard a lot about it from people who had visited it the day before us. We were extra excited to visit the newly built complex that has become the favorite destination of Sikkim tourism.
Chardham or Siddheswar Dham
History of Solophok Hill at Namchi Sikkim
In the epic Mahabharat, there is an episode where Arjun did ‘Tapasya’ to obtain Pashupatastra from Lord Shiva. When Shiva was happy with his dedicated patience, he appeared before him and gave him the Pashupatastra. It is said that this episode took place at Solophok Hill in Namchi. As per a book that I read on the Spiritual Sikkim, the Chardham complex kind of celebrates the appearance of Shiva on this hill to bless Arjuna with Pashupatastra.
The complex was opened in Nov of 2011 when the Pran Pratishthan was done in presence of Shri Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Swarupananda Sarasota Maharaja and many other spiritual dignitaries.
Located on a high hill, clouds are always a part of this unique pilgrimage. You walk through clouds, you see the temples and Shiva Murti emerging out of clouds. Giving you a glimpse and then getting lost in the cloud again. It almost feels like God is giving you a darshan before moving on to do other things.
If clouds made the place look a tad bit drab, the vibrant flowers added their color to cheer up the place. There were so many hill flowers all around that we kept stopping to click their pictures.
Chardham Complex at Namchi Sikkim
At the center of the complex at Namchi is the towering Shiva statue that measures 87 feet and is situated on the peak of the hill. Shiva overlooks the rest of the complex and the valleys around the complex. The statue is situated at the western end of the hill facing east.
It is surrounded by the 12 Jyotirlingas – or 12 prominent Shiva temples spread across the sacred geography of India. Each Shivalinga here is an exact replica of the one that exists in its original place.
As soon as you enter the complex you meet the standing statue of Kirateshwar – holding a bow in its hands. This is the local avatar of Shiva in Sikkim and we found many old temples across Sikkim dedicated to Kirateshwar. Kirateshwar literally means the protector of animals.
In the middle of the complex flows a multi-tiered fountain that has statues of Ganga and Yamuna standing on their respective vehicles – Crocodile and Tortoise. This is the manifestation of Sangam of two rivers at Prayag.
The 4 temples are collectively called Chardham and are located in 4 corners of India. Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Somnath at Dwarka in Gujarat, Jagannath at Puri in Odisha, and Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. Each of these Dhams is replicated here at Namchi in Sikkim. As per Hindu beliefs, everyone must visit these 4 temples in their lifetime. When I look at these geographically disbursed temples, it tells me many things about the richness of our culture and traditions. It tells me that travel was an inbuilt part of our lives. As we had to travel to all 4 corners of India in our lifetime. Given the fact that people traveled mostly by foot, you would end up covering the whole of the country interacting with communities and nature that you meet on the way.
It also tells me that we were always a well-knit nation and our sacred geography bound us as nothing else can.
Temples at Chardham at Namchi, Sikkim
We entered the complex through a lovely gate and the temples surrounded by colorful flowers greeted us. We began from the left-hand side so that we move around the complex in a clockwise manner. This would help us do the parikrama or circumambulation of the whole complex.
Our first stop was Rameshwaram temple, in a distinct Dravidian temple style. We entered through the tall colorful Gopuram. Said a prayer to the Shivalinga that was set up by none other than Lord Ram in Ramayana on his way back from Sri Lanka.
We moved on to the next Dham which was Somnath Temple at Dwarka on the western coast of India. The temple is built in a typical Gujarati style with a pyramidal roof. Temples are relatively simple inside and of course much smaller in size than the original one. But they do give you a feeling of visiting them by proxy.
The path then leads to the Shiva Murti via Sai temple which has an interesting Jaali work structure outside it. The red wish-seeking threads are tied all around it reminding you of Ajmer Sharif or Chisti dargah at Fatehpur Sikri.
Shiva Murthy & 12 Jyotirlingas
Closer to Shiva Murti we visited all the 12 Jyotirlingas. Since we saw them one after the other, we could admire the subtle differences between all of them. For example, the Shivalinga at Kedarnath is just a hump of stone. While the Rameshwaram one is in a square Yoni typical of South Indian style. A small board gives the story of each Jyotirlinga. A Sanskrit Shloka sums up the geography of all 12 of them in a single verse.
It was time to admire the Shiv Murti from close. The massive platform on which the Shiva sits has the incarnations of goddess carved all around it. You suddenly feel small in front of the Shiva and you naturally bow down to his Shakti. Below the Idol is a Shiva temple where the episodes from Shiv Purana are depicted. Right from Shiva’s marriage to his carrying Sati’s body after Daksha’s Yagna to Parvati’s Tapasya to get him. There is a team of Pujaris with their musical instruments who do Satsang and Kirtan here every day.
Jagannath Puri Temple
The next temple was Jagannath Puri where Krishna lives with Balaram and Subhadra. The idols again are a brilliant copy of the ones you see at Puri.
The best was reserved for the last – the colorful Badrinath temple. I am yet to visit Badrinath, but the temple architecture and the colorful decor of it gave me another reason to plan a trip to Badrinath. My camera and I were damn happy soaking in the bright colors of Badrinath temple here.
We loved the time we spent at the place. We expected it to be good, but it was well beyond our expectations – both in terms of quality, size, and upkeep.
A visit to this place is like visiting India in a nutshell. You realize that these pilgrimage sites connect India in a way that political boundaries no longer carry any meaning – it is these destinations of faith that define the boundaries of India.
- You need a minimum of 2 hours to see the place properly.
- Entry fees for the complex are Rs 50/- per head.
- The complex has a Yatri Niwas where you can stay.
- You can also visit it from Gangtok which is about 2 hours’ driving distance or from South Sikkim towns like Pelling or Jorethang. For other destinations check the Sikkim Tourism website.
- It can get a bit chilly at the top, carry some woolens with you.
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