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Sikkim State Information

Capital : Gangtok

Districts :4

Languages: Lepcha, Bhutia, Hindi, Nepali, Limbu

Introduction to Sikkim

In Sikkim tourists can find most fascinating sights, sounds and feelings. Sikkim is a dream that one can realize and enjoy, now that the area is open to all. It is a state cloaked in the mystery of remoteness, and far away from the din and bustle of the modern world. Located in the eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is bound by Tibet (China) in the north, West Bengal in the south, Tibet and Bhutan in the east and Nepal in the west. The state is spread below Mount Kanchanjunga (8,534 m), the third highest peak in the world. The locals worship the mountain as a protecting deity. The elevation of the state ranges between 300 m and over 8,500 m above sea level.

Geography of Sikkim

Sikkim is a small mountain state in eastern Himalayas. Sikkim is located between 28o 07'48" and 27o04'46" north latitudes, and 88o00’58" and 88o55'25" east longitudes. It is bounded by Tibet on the north, Nepal on the west, Bhutan on the east and West Bengal lies to its south. It is the least populous state in the union. Sikkim is strategically important for India. It lies astride the shortest route from India to Tibet. Sikkim is a land of rich and varied scenic beauty, magnificent mountains, eternal snows, dark forests, green fertile valleys, raging torrents and calm, placid lakes. Her magnificent variety of flora and fauna are the naturalist's dream; the steep variations in elevation and rainfall give rise to a glorious multitude of species within a comparatively limited area.

The scenic grandeur of mighty snow-capped peaks, the highest of which is the 28,162 feet Kanchanjunga on the Nepal-Sikkim border, has been a symbol of romantic awe and wonder for the people. It is the world's third highest peak. Kanchanjunga has five satellite peaks: Jano, Kabru, Pandim, Narsim, Simiolchu. Two principle mountain ranges are the Singilela and Chola, which start in the north and continue, following a more or less southerly direction. Between these ranges are the principle rivers, the Rangit and the Teesta, forming the main channels of drainage. These rivers are fed by the monsoon rains as well as by melting glaciers.

Brief History of Sikkim

Buddhism, the major religion in the state, arrived from Tibet in the 13th century. It took its distinctive Sikkimese form four centuries later, when three Tibetan monks of the old Nyingamapa order, dissatisfied with the rise of the reformist Gelukpas, migrated to Yoksum in western Sikkim. Having consulted an oracle, they went to Gangtok looking for a certain Phuntsong Namgyal, whom they crowned as the first Chogyal or 'Righteous King' of Denzong in 1642. Being the secular and religious head, he was soon recognized by Tibet, and brought sweeping reforms. His kingdom was far larger than today's Sikkim and included Kalimpong and parts of western Bhutan. Over the centuries, the territory was lost to the Bhutanese, the Nepalese and the British.

The British policy to diminish the strong Tibetan influence resulted in the import of workers from Nepal to work in the tea plantations of Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong and these soon outnumbered the indigenous population. After India's Independence, the eleventh Chogyal, Tashi Namgyal, strove hard to prevent the dissolution of his kingdom. Officially, Sikkim was a protectorate of India, and the role of India became increasingly crucial with the Chinese military build-up along the northern borders that culminated in an actual invasion early in the 1960s. The next king Palden Thondup was a weak ruler and in 1975, succumbed to the demands of the Nepalese majority of becoming a part of India.

Districts of Sikkim

Sikkim has 4 districts: East, North, South and West.

Economy of Sikkim

The state has been declared as industrially backward area. A new industrial policy has been formulated and promotional efforts are on to industrialize the state. The important mineral resources of the state are copper, lead and zinc. The state's economy is basically agrarian. Maize, rice, wheat, potato, large cardamom, ginger and orange are the principal crops of Sikkim.

Sikkim Travel Information

In north Sikkim, one can visit Changthang (the origin of the river Teesta), Yumthang (140 km from Gangtok), the Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary (137 km from Gangtok), and the Kanchanjunga National Park. In the eastern part of the state, one can visit the capital Gangtok. Other sites in eastern Sikkim are The Directorate of Handicraft and Handloom, White Hall, Ridge Garden, Do-Drul Chorten Stupa, Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology, Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center, Tashi View Point, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, the Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary. In west Sikkim one can see the Rabdentse ruins, Pelling, and the former capital Yuksom. South Sikkim is famous for trekking and offers some of the best treks in the region. One can walk through the sylvan mountains of Namtse, 100 km from Gangtok, and Tendong hill, Varsey, Borong, Maenam hill, and Ravangla. The state offers a wide range of adventure sports opportunities, including mountaineering in the Himalayas. For trekking, one can follow any of the four trek routes: the Monastic Trek, Rhododendron Trek, Kanchanjunga Trek and Coronation Trek. River rafting is possible in the rough waters of the Teesta and Rangit. Kayaking is arranged on the Teesta on special request. Yak safari is arranged from Dzongri onwards. In north and west Sikkim, mountain biking is very popular these days. Jorethang, in west Sikkim, and certain parts of north Sikkim are popular locales for paragliding.

Rivers of Sikkim

Tista or Teesta is the largest river of Sikkim. Winding its way through Sikkim the Teesta river divides the states into two parts. Teesta can be called as Ganga of the state of Sikkim as most of the Sikkim's settlements are found along the banks of this river. The Teesta comes out as a snout from the Zemu glacier above Lachen Gompha. The Lhonk stream from the north joins it. Another stream Lachung rises from Pauhunri and meets the Teesta at Chumthang. Rangit is another principle river.

Education of Sikkim

The literacy rate in state is 69.68% as per 2001 census, which breaks up into 76.73% for males and 61.46% for females. There are a total of 1545 government-run educational institutions and eighteen private schools mostly located in the towns. There are about twelve colleges and other institutions in Sikkim that offer higher education. The largest institution is the Sikkim Manipal University of Health Medical and Technological Sciences, which offers higher education in engineering, medicine and management. It also runs a host of distance education in diverse fields. There are two state-run polytechnics, Advanced Technical Training Centre (ATTC) and Centre for Computers and Communication Technology (CCCT) in Sikkim, which offer diploma courses in various branches of engineering. ATTC is situated at Bardang, Singtam and CCCT at Chisopani, Namchi. Many students however, migrate to Siliguri and Calcutta for their higher education.

Food of Sikkim

One can savor all delicacies in Sikkim, from Tibetan to Chinese and Indian to Japanese. Banana pancakes, chicken-fried rice and momos are hot favorites. Rice is the staple diet, and legumes are readily available. Gyakho is a traditional soup served on special occasions. Most restaurants serve alcohol. One can also look out for tomba, a traditional drink consisting largely of fermented millet, with a few grains of rice for flavor, served in a wooden or bamboo mug, and sipped through a bamboo straw.

Arts & Culture of Sikkim

Sikkim is the least populated state in the country. There are three principal communities of Nepalis (75%), Lepchas (20%), and smaller proportions of Bhutias and Limbus. The Lepchas or the Rong were the first tribe to come and settle in the region. In the 13th century, the Bhutias from Kham area of Tibet came and brought with them for the first time the Mahayana sect of Buddhism to the state. The Nepalis were the last to enter Sikkim, in the mid-19th century. The amalgamation of different cultures has resulted into development of a Sikkimese culture, which is a composite of all the three prominent communities.

Most of the people speak Nepali, which is also the state language. It is the harmony of the place that provides justification to the name of the state derived from Sukhim, meaning 'happy home, a place of peace'. Though Hinduism is followed too, Buddhism is entrenched in the tradition of the state. Soaked in religious tradition, the land has a spiritual ambience where prayer flags with inscriptions of Buddhist texts flutter around the boundary of the village to ward off evil spirits. The protecting deity of this land is the goddess of Kanchanjunga Mountain, which stands erect as a sentinel protecting the peace of the state.

The crafts of the region include Choksees - small wooden tables adorned with intricate local Tibetan designs, Tibetan woolen carpets done in very expensive and intricate patterns and exquisitely carved dragon sets of silver and gold inlaid with precious stones.

Sikkim's famous mask dances provide a marvelous spectacle. Performed by lamas in the Gompa courtyard to celebrate religious festivals, these dances demonstrate perfect footwork and grace. Costumed lamas with gaily-painted masks, ceremonial swords and sparkling jewels, leap and swing to the rhythm of resounding drums, trumpeting of horns and chanting of monks.

Festivals of Sikkim

The people of Sikkim celebrate the anniversaries relating to birth, enlightenment, and nirvana of the Buddha, besides the Buddhist New Year and the harvest festivals.

Costumes of Sikkim

The Lepcha men wear a dress called 'pagi' made of stripped cotton while the Lepcha women wear a two-piece dress. Among the Bhutias, the traditional dress of the men is known as the 'Bakhu', which is a loose cloak type garment with full sleeves. The women's dress consists of a silken 'Honju', which is a full sleeve blouse and a loose gown type garment.

The women are very fond of heavy jewelry made of pure gold. The traditional Nepali dress for men consists of a long double breast garment flowing below the waist and a trouser known as 'Daura Suruwal'. The women's dresses consist of a double breasted garment with strings to tie on both sides at four places, which is shorter than the Daura and is known as 'Chow Bandi Choli'. They also wear a shawl known as 'Majetro'. Gangtok, the capital, is a modern city where tradition coexists with contemporary fashions and modes. Whereas the women are fond of traditional dresses, the men folk have taken to western attire. Jeans, jackets and suits exist along with the baku (full-length dress).

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