Archaeologists discovered the remains of a 14th- century Christian monastery on its northern bank. Historical cartographic records suggest that this could be the burial site of Apostle Matthew, one of the 12 well-known disciples of Jesus Christ.
Dispute Over the Holy Ground With the holy lake revered by Buddhists and Sikhs alike, both faiths have long staked a claim to a shrine built beside it. Believing that the lake is holy, an Indian army regiment of Sikhs started construction of a gurdwara — a place of worship for Sikhs that translates into ‘ house of the guru’ — on its bank, at the India-china border in 1997 after demolishing an existing old stone structure, the Sangphur. The Sangphur was the place where the locals of this region have for centuries burnt incense and herbs in reverence and worship of Guru Rinpoche as well as the local deities that resided in the sacred lake and the surrounding mountains.
The Sikkimese people became furious at what they considered an illegal construction at the place that had been sanctified by Guru Nanak. In 1998, the Lachen Pipon — the elected head of the local community who is the equivalent of a village chief under the traditional adminstrative system of Lachen and Lachung called dzumsa — openly challenged the army’s claims that the Lachenpas (the people of Lachen) supported the construction. The Sikkim government got involved and formed a committee to investigate the dispute. The construction was halted by the Forest Department as the mandatory clearances had not been obtained from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Local Buddhists claim the monastery was built by them and documents submitted by the Namgayal Institute of Tibetology proved that Sikkim is a Buddhist place of worship as claimed by the local people.
The Sangphur has an inscription that reads: “It is further believed that Guru Rinpoche personally consecrated the site, where Lepcha Buddhists built a monastery in 1788 AD and named it Tsungthang Ridgzin Choeling Gonpa.” In 2001, the gurdwara was handed over to the Lachen monastery by the Indian Army, and the monastery appointed a lama to look after and maintain the lake. The place was renamed Seva Dharma Sthal, which means ‘worship place for all religions’ Strangely, it was reported that the shrine is closed to Sikhs. Despite the religious and political undercurrents surrounding the site, pilgrims and tourists continue to go there just to marvel at its magnificence and dwell in its spiritual atmosphere. ag
The lake used to remain frozen throughout winters, leaving the locals with no source of water, but it is believed that the guru placed his hands on a portion of the lake and it started melting miraculously.