TODAY -

Solophok Shivalaya in Sikkim

S Balakrishnan *



On this sacred Maha Shivratri occasion, let me take you on a trekking pilgrimage or pilgrimage trekking to a Shiva temple at Solophok in Sikkim. In Sikkim, the Land of Buddha, one might wonder! Yes, indeed.

The legend has it that Lord Shiva incarnated as Kirateshwar in Indrakeel (present Sikkim). Hence He is worshipped by the people of Sikkim as Lord Kirateshwar (Lord Shiva in hunter manifestation). A 16 ½ -feet-high statue of Lord Kirateshwar is also installed at Solophok in South Sikkim.

This centre is part of the earlier SDF government’s endeavor to promote rural tourism that is also eco-friendly by creating new pilgrim-cum-cultural centres. Solophok hillock is 5 kms off Namchi, South Sikkim District Headquarters.

During the period since my departure from Sikkim in 1988 and until my revisit in 2014, many new tourism/pilgrim centres had been created. So the weeklong schedule turned out to be rather hectic. That particular day we left by a tourist cab early in the morning from my friend’s house in Gangtok.

Mr. Sundaram, the first Registrar of Sikkim SRM University, and Mrs. Sundaram were a gracious host. They packed idli-chutney-gun powder for the travel, though I was sure I would not eat anything for fear of throwing up.

Instead, I gulped down – not one but two – Avomine tablets, because it was indeed a long and winding journey to Pelling in West Sikkim with various halts en route. The thought itself made me giddy. In a Himalayan State like Sikkim there is no escape from winding hilly roads.

I had to endure it. The first halt on the way was Temi-Tarku tea plantations. As we were enjoying the scenery it started drizzling, so we huddled into the car to proceed to Samdruptse for darshan of Guru Padmasambhava statue.

Then it was Solophok, Buddha Park and at last Pelling by night fall.

While it was drizzling in Temi-Tarku, the weather was pleasantin Samdruptse, but it started blazing in Solophok. It was almost noon when we reached this hillock. It was so hot in June that we had to hop from one shade to another.

I don’t remember if it was a weekend, because there was much crowd which added to my irritant quotient.

Though the complex has 12 shrines housing 12 Jyothirlingas and another four shrines representing the four dhams - Puri (East), Dwaraka (West), Badrinath (North) and Rameshwaram (South) in their traditional temple architecture style- we could not visit any of them because the marble pavement was unbearably hot.

People were putting kangaroos to shame, hopping from one shade to another. Wish they had spread coir mat and sprinkled water on it, as is done in South Indian temples. It was a relief to get into the shade of the main temple (108’ tall) upon which is situated the 87’ Lord Shiva in padmasana.

Facing East, Lord Shiva commands a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and valleys. Spread over 29 hectares, the complex has a builtup area of 7 acres with facilities for pilgrims like yatri niwas, dormitory, cafeteria, etc.

Weary by the travel and the heat, we could not have a peaceful and leisurely darshan of the Solophok Char Dham complex.

Therefore, the thought of the visit leaves me in mere despair than peace. Neither could I click more than one snap as the sun was blazing from exactly above the head and everything would appear black.

Nor could we visit our own Tamil Nadu’s Rameshwaram shrine builtthere in the Dravidian temple architectural style.

Maybe it is Lord Shiva’s disposition that I visit Solophokagain during spring or autumn or pleasant early or late winter season for a peaceful and fulfilling darshan.

Hope it is realized sooner than later before He finally invites me to the Shivlok up & above on a no-return one-way pass.

Om! Shivaya Namaha!


* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is based in Chennai and can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on February 28 2019.



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