Khecheopalri Lake, originally known as Kha-Chot-Palri (meaning the heaven of Padmasambhava), is a lake located near Khecheopalri village, 147 kilometers (91 mi) west of Gangtok in the West Sikkim district of the Northeastern Indian state of Sikkim.
Located 34 kilometers (21 mi) to the northwest of Pelling town, the lake is sacred for both Buddhists and Hindus and is believed to be a wish-fulfilling lake. The local name for the lake is Sho Dzo Sho, which means “Oh Lady, Sit Here”. The popularly known name of the lake, considering its location is Khecheopalri Lake, ensconced in the midst of the Khechoedpaldri hill, which is also considered a sacred hill.
The lake is an integral part of the much-revered valley of “Demazong” meaning valley of rice. This landscape is also known as a land of hidden treasures blessed by Guru Padmasambhava.
The Khecheopalri Lake is also part of the Buddhist religious pilgrimage circuit involving the Yuksom, the Dubdi Monastery in Yuksom, Pemayangtse Monastery, the Rabdentse ruins, the Sanga Choeling Monastery, and the Tashiding Monastery. An interesting feature of the lake is that leaves are not allowed to float on the lake, which is ensured by the birds which industriously pick them up as soon as they drop into the lake surface.
The Khecheopalri Lake and the Khangchendzonga National Park are conserved from the biodiversity perspective with ecotourism and pilgrimage as essential offshoots. As a result, their recreational and sacred values are enhanced.
The lake is enveloped in a dense forest cover of temperate vegetation and bamboo. The vegetation in the lake comprises Macrophytes, Phytoplankton, and Zooplankton. The fish species recorded in the lake are Cyprinus carpio, Danio aequipinnatus, Garra sp., Schistura sp., and Schziothorax sp.
The avifauna recorded in the lake, particularly in the festive season when they gather in the early hours of the morning at the middle of the lake are: grebe (Podiceps ruficollis), common merganser– Mergus merganser, large cormorant (phalacrocorax carbo), little cormorant (micro carbon niger), common teal (Anascrecca), tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), White-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus), moorhen (gallimlachorophy) and crane brown Amaurornisbi color. The lake is also a resting-place for Trans-Himalayan migratory birds and supports commercial and recreational tourism. Trans Himalayan migratory birds visit the lake.
A religious fair, one of the largest festivals, is held here every year for two days in Maghe purne (March/April), which 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 waters of the lake as Prasad (the substance that is first offered 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 (scared scarves), in the evenings chanting prayers as a mark of reverence, along with many other food offerings.
Chho-Tsho is another festival that is observed here in the month of October after the cardamom harvest to offer gratitude for providing people with food.
The climate of the lake region is monsoonal. The maximum and minimum temperatures recorded are 24 °C (75 °F) and 4 °C (39 °F).
Sikkim has one airport Pakyong Airport, which was opened in 2018. The best way to reach Khecheopalri Lake is via Pelling, which is the nearest major town. Pelling is well-connected with the capital city of Gangtok, which is 112 km away, and other major towns of Sikkim. Regular shared or private jeeps are available from Pelling to visit Khecheopalri Lake.