Siddhi Danda in Taplejung attracting visitorsLocals believe the area has huge potential to be popular among tourists looking for a spiritual experience.
Siddhi Danda, located one-and-a-half kilometres away from Phungling, the district headquarters of Taplejung district in northeastern Nepal, has seen an increase in the number of visitors lately.
The local residents and visitors say the area has a huge potential to be a popular destination for tourists looking for a spiritual experience and natural beauty.
An artistic stone tap welcomes the visitor right at the entrance to Siddhi Danda. Right next to it is an entrance gate to the park which leads to a pond.
The stairs from the pond lead to the hill-top. The cardamom gardens on either side of the stairs add to the serenity of the trail.
A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and a Buddhist monastery are located 500-metre away from the pond.
Besides being the locals’ first choice for morning walks, the area has of late become an attraction to people of all faiths and age groups, not only from Nepal but parts of India such as Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling too.
“The natural spot near the city feels heavenly,” said Durga Prasad Shrestha, a retired civil servant. “The natural beauty of the countryside with houses made of clay and stone can be a breath of fresh air for city dwellers.”
Suresh Limbu, owner of Mewa Khola Hill Resort, does not miss a chance to inform his guests about Siddhi Danda. “I have been recommending everyone to visit the area,” said Limbu.
Sanjay Poudel, a visitor from Jhapa, said he had a wonderful experience visiting the area. “The beauty of Siddhi Danda exceeded my expectations,” he said.
Much of the credit for upgrading the area goes to Gopiman Gurung, a resident of Darjeeling.
After his retirement from the job in the Indian army, Gurung initially settled in a Shiva temple at Medibung in Phungling Municipality’s ward 3 to live a spiritual life.
Later, he shifted to Ukali Paani, built a temple there, and settled at Siddhi Danda.
Gurung had himself started building the physical infrastructures before the locals supported his mission by forming a Siddhi Danda Committee.
“The temple and monastery here are built to unify people of all faiths and ethnicities,” said Gurung.
Phungling’s Mayor Amir Maden hailed Gurung’s work as an “exemplary” one that would promote religious tolerance in the region.
“I frequently visit the place,” said Maden, who aims to further develop the area with a master plan in the coming days.
There are multiple ponds in the area, each containing varieties of fish which are neither for commercial nor consumption purposes.
Hindu women visit the area to worship Lord Shiva from mid-July to mid-August and a fair is organised every year during Bala Chaturdashi.
“We are planning to make homestays to facilitate the visitors,” said Laxuman Gurung, ward chairman of Phungling-9. “We have even sent a proposal to the Tourism Ministry to develop this place as a tourist destination.”
Though it is much easier to visit the area on a vehicle during the dry season, the streams flowing in the area with high current make the travel riskier during the monsoon.
“Along with the development of infrastructure and advertisement, the locals also need to learn to be tourist-friendly,” said Mohan Kumar Rai, chief of Pathivara Multiple Campus.
Sujan Poudel, assistant lecturer at Pathivara Campus, believes that local delicacies can be an X-factor to engage the tourists visiting the area.
But despite formulating plans to develop and promote Siddhi Danda, the municipality has failed to allocate enough budget, say locals.
“What contribution will Rs300,000 or Rs400,000 allocated every year make in the development of Siddhi Danda?” asked Chhatra Gurung, president of Siddhi Danda Consumer Committee.
The municipality, however, said that it has already started work to blacktop the road leading to the area with a budget of Rs40 million.