Khecheopalri Lake, West Sikkim Overview

Located at an altitude of 1700 m above sea level, Khecheopalri Lake is a sacred place for both Buddhists and Hindus which is a part of the famous Buddhist pilgrimage circuit. It is situated in the Khecheopalri Village in the West Sikkim district. The name of the lake, Khecheopalri, was originally known as, ‘Kha-Chot-Palri’, which refers to the heaven of Lord Padmasambhava. Popularly considered as a ‘wish fulfilling lake’, many people visit it from around the globe in the hope of getting their wishes fulfilled.

The Khecheopalri Lake has gained more popularity because of the fact that leaves are not allowed to float on the lake as they are picked up by birds instantly whenever they see a leaf floating on it. Due to this reason, many people wait near the lake to witness the magical moment in front of their eyes. The celebration of various Buddhist festivals have also attracted various devotees of Lord Buddha and they spend most of the time in the temples near the lake. The stunning Khecheopalri Lake lake is an integral part of Buddhist monasteries. Due to its rich biodiversity, it holds a lot of importance in terms of eco-tourism and pilgrimage. The sacredness and the purity of the lake are preserved till date.

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Legend of Khecheopalri Lake

The sanctity of Khecheopalri Lake is exemplified by the legend that the shape of the lake is in the form of a foot that represents the foot of Lord Buddha which could be seen from the surrounding hills.

There is another legend that is associated with the lake. It is said that once upon a time, the Deity, Goddess Tara Jetsun Dolma, was resting in front of a monk and asked him to fetch water in a vessel from a lake. The Goddess instructed him where to fetch water from. Following the instructions, the monk went reached a shallow lake from the Khecheopalri Hills. The monk prayed and poured water into the vessel from the lake. No sooner had he done that, the lake magically became bigger and deeper. This lake is none other the Khecheopalri Lake, which is popularly known today.

Flora and Fauna

The lake is surrounded by a broad-leaved mixed temperate forest. It comprises of various species of plants, like, Macrophytes, Phytoplankton and Zooplankton. They comprise of a variety of plants that belong to each of these families and are grown under different temperatures.

The lake is home to various Aquafauna that includes Cyprinus Carpio, Danio Aequipinnatus, Gaara and Schistura. Various other animals are also found near the lake who gather in the early morning when there is no human being around. Some of the animals include Grebe, Common Teal, White-Breasted Waterhen and Moorhen. The lake is also a resting place for Trans-Migratory Birds who come to the lake to drink water.

Things to Do at Khecheopalri Lake

There is a jetty that leads to the front of the lake and this is where prayers and incense are offered. Prayer wheels are fixed along the jetty with prayer flags and Tibetan inscriptions which adds to the beauty of the place. There are annual Buddhist rituals from the readings of the Naysul Prayer Book which describe the origin of Sikkim and several tantric secrets, which are chanted at the lake.

Apart from that, one can trek to a beautiful forest that passes through the main gate that leads to Khecheopalri Lake. It is a small trek of 10-15 minutes and one will observe beautiful small shops on the way.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Khecheopalri Lake is from February to March since the weather is pleasant during that time.

How to Reach Khecheopalri Lake

By Road
Khecheopalri Lake is located near Pelling in West Sikkim, which is well-connected to nearby towns and cities by road.
You can either drive to Pelling or take a bus/shared taxi from nearby towns like Gangtok, Siliguri, or Darjeeling to reach Pelling.
Once you reach Pelling, you can hire a taxi or take a local bus to reach Khecheopalri Lake, which is around 34 kilometers away from Pelling and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach by road.

Trekking Route

Alternatively, for adventure enthusiasts, there is also a trekking route from Pelling to Khecheopalri Lake, which takes around 3-4 hours to complete.

It's advisable to check the weather conditions and road conditions before planning your trip, especially during the monsoon season when landslides and road blockages are common in the region.

Festivals Celebrated at Khecheopalri Lake

A religious fair, one of the largest festivals at the lake, is held every year for two days in Maghe Purne or in the months of March/April. It is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all parts of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and India. They offer food material to the lake and carry the waters of the lake as prasad. It is believed that Lord Shiva exists in solemn meditation inside Khecheopalri Lake. During the festival, pilgrims float butter lamps in the lake on bamboo boats tied with sacred scarves, which are popularly known as khadas. This is done in the evenings when they chant prayers as a mark of reverence, along with other food supplies.

Another festival called Chho-Tsho, is also celebrated at Khecheopalri Lake. It is observed in the month of October after the cardamom harvest to offer gratitude for providing people with food.

Topography and Geography

The depth of water of Khecheopalri Lake varies from 3.2-11.2 m with an average depth of 7.2 m. The lake’s water spread is around 3.4-7 hectares. Inflow into the lake is through two perennial and five non-perennial streams, while the outflow is from one outlet. In addition, during the monsoon, two streams are also diverted temporarily into the lake to supplement its storage capacity.

The depression where the lake is situated was formed by the scooping action of the glacier. It forms the southern bank of the Lethang Valley. The lake is enveloped in a dense forest cover of temperate vegetation. There are 72 households and around 440 people live in the lake periphery. The climate of Khecheopalri Lake region is monsoonal. Agriculture is the main livelihood of people living over there and recently, some households have become involved in tourism as well.

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