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Khecheopalri Lake - Footprint of Lord Shiva!
Khecheopalri Lake, originally known as Kha-Chot-Palri (meaning the heaven of Padmasambhava) is a lake located near Khecheopalri village, west of Gangtok in the West Sikkim. The lake is sacred for both Buddhists and Hindus, and is believed to be a wish fulfilling lake.The lake water has curative properties and hence permitted to be used only for performing rites and rituals and because of all the astonishing stories behind this lake, it is known as the "wish fulfilling lake."
The revered valley of "Demazong" meaning valley of rice is known as a land of hidden treasures blessed by Guru Padmasambhhava, who preached to 64 yoginis here. The local name for the lake is Sho Dzo Sho, which means "Oh Lady, Sit Here". It's name Khecheopalri Lake is based on the fact that it is ensconced in the midst of the Khechoedpaldi Hills, which is also considered a sacred hill.
A unique thing about this lake is that no leaves float on the lake, also the birds ensure that no leaves float and pick them up as soon as they drop into the lake surface.
It is believed that long time back this place used to be a grazing ground, with nothing special to it's account. Then suddenly one day a Lepcha couple were trimming off the bark of the nettle, when they saw a pair of conch shells (conch are medium to large sized shells - such shells have a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal) falling from air on the ground and spring water emerged from below and thus the lake was formed. Based on the sacred Nesol text, the lake was interpreted as the abode of "Tshomen Gyalmo or chief protective nymph of the Dharma as blessed by Goddess Tara".
It is considered the residing place of Goddess Tara. Jetsun Dolma and the Khecheopalri Lake is her footprint; the lake represents the Goddess Chho Pema; footprint of Macha Zemu Rinpocha are on a stone near the stupa, near the lake. From a high vantage point the contours of the lake appear like a footprint, thus the lake is known to be as the footprint of Goddess Tara. The lake is also considered to be the footprint of Lord Buddha which could be seen from the surrounding hills.
Another belief is that the footprints are of Lord Shiva. Hindu God Lord Shiva meditated in Dupukney Cave that is situated above the lake and hence worshipped specially on "Nag Panchami" day at the lake.
The Khecheopalri is said to represent one of the four plexus of the human body namely, the thorax; the other three plexes are said to be represented as follows:- Yuksom (the third eye), Tashiding (head) and Pemayangtse (the heart).
A religious fair, one of the largest festivals is held every year for 2 days in Maghe Purne (March/April), which is attended by large no. of pilgrims from all parts of Sikkim, India, Bhutan and Nepal. They offer food materials to the lake and carry waters of the lake as Prasad (food/drinks that is first served to a deity and then consumed.) People believe that Lord Shiva exists in "solemn meditation inside the lake". During this festival, pilgrims float butter lamps in the lake on bamboo boats tied with Khadas (sacred scarves), in the evenings chanting prayers as mark of reverence, along with many other food offerings.