Sikkim is the India's twenty second smallest state located in the north eastern part of India. Sikkim is spread over an area of 7096 square kms and is known for the beautiful scenic beauty. Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis are the different types of people that resides in Sikkim. The customs and cultures of these different communities present a very beautiful and picturesque picture. The Nepalis called this state as 'Sukhim' or the New Place, the Bhutias called it as the 'Demazong' or the Valley of rice and the Lepchas called it as the 'Nye-mae-el lang’ or the abode of the Gods. This state is bordered by the Nepal in the west, Bhutan in the east, Tibet in the north and West Bengal in the south. This state is divided into four districts which are North, South, West and East district. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim is located in the East District. Most of the population of Sikkim lives in the East and South Districts. A large variety of plants, animals, rivers, mountains, lakes, waterfalls are found in the state of Sikkim than any other place in this world. The mountain peaks, holy lakes, ancient monasteries, orchid nurseries and stunning trekking routes have made Sikkim a famous holiday destination.
Physical Features of Sikkim
Sikkim has a very rough topography due to which there are very less flat lands in Sikkim. The rivers and mountains are the main physical features that define the boundaries of the state of Sikkim with its neighbouring countries. Besides the rivers and mountains, the glaciers, mountain passes, lakes, hot springs and waterfalls are also found in this region. The Kanchenjunga mountain, one of the highest mountain peak in the world is also situated in Sikkim. The Yumthang hot springs are the famous hot springs located in Sikkim. These hot springs are rich in Sulphur content and have high medicinal value. Gurudogmar, Cholamu, Changu, Bidang Cho, Menmecho, Kechopari are some of the lakes which are also found in Sikkim.
History of Sikkim
The glorious history of Sikkim can be known only after the 17th century. Phunstok, the great grand son of Guru Tashi was consecrated as the King of Sikkim in 1642 by three holy men at Yoksum. The kingdom of Sikkim was attacked by the Bhutanese and Nepalis, which further led to the Chinese intervention. Tsudphud Namgyal who became king in 1793 shifted his capital to Tumlong. The Britishers also signed a treaty in Sikkim in order to control the internal and external affairs of Sikkim. Thutob Namgyal also shifted the capital to Gangtok in 1894. On 4th September 1974, the leader of Sikkim Congress Kazi Lendup Dorji was elected as the Chief Minister of the state. On 16th May 1975, Sikkim became a full fledged state of India.
Climate of Sikkim
The tropical and tundra climate is found in Sikkim. Some of the parts in the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim are covered with snow almost throughout the year because of high altitudes. Elevations of 16000 ft. and above remain snowbound throughout the year whereas places as low as 8000 ft. come within the snowline during the winters. In the southern border, altitudes plummeting down to as low as sea level full of rich tropical forests. The climate on the two opposite hill sides also varies considerably. Here one can also experience the sunshine on the flat Lachen valley studded with the beautiful Cholamu and Gurudogmar lake and a hailstorm on the other side in the Llachung valley with its muddy lakes that feed the Donkiaachu. The places in Sikkim with a moderate altitude have a more or less good climate. During the springs and autumn the weather is very pleasant. During the monsoons, there are torrential rains and winters are very cold where the temperature even drops below the freezing point. Due to the moderate to low temperatures, woolens are required in Sikkim almost throughout the year.
Temperature in Sikkim
The temperature that a particular place experiences varies considerably with altitude. At places of low altitude, the temperatures vary between 4 to 35 Degree Celsius. Places like Gangtok with moderate altitudes of about 6000 feet experience temperature between 1 and 25 Degree Celsius whereas at altitudes above 10,000 feet, the temperature never rise above 15 Degrees Celsius and remains much below the freezing point during the winters and great part of the spring and autumn. Because of the moderate to low temperatures, woolens are required in Sikkim almost throughout the year.
Rainfall in Sikkim
Sikkim is perhaps the rainiest place in India. Due to the proximity of Sikkim to the Bay of Bengal and fact that the mountains of the state come directly in the path of the monsoon clouds, most parts of Sikkim experience torrential rains during summers. Even during spring and autmn moisture laden clouds formed due to local evaporation, continue to batter a greater part of Sikkim. It is only during November to February that there is hardly any rains and the weather remains more or less clear. Rainfall varies considerably from place to place because of the hill features. The northern border of Sikkim experiences comparatively low rainfall because the monsoon clouds dry out by the time they hit the northern barrier. Gangtok registers an average of 325 cm rainfall per annum whereas Muguthang in the extreme north experience an average rainfall of only 60 cm per annumn. Most of Sikkim does not experience high intensity winds.
Geology and Mineral Resources in Sikkim
Sikkim is said to have been under the ocean millions of years ago and therefore the rocks are meta-sedimentary in nature. The northern, eastern and western borders of the state mainly consists of hard gneissose rocks whereas in the central and southern parts the ground consists of thin and slaty half-schistose rocks. The land below 10,000 ft is quite fertile and fit for agriculture. Alluvial soil is found in abundance on riversides making them ideal places for growing crops. During the last century, extensive mining of copper used to be done on the hillside below Pakyong at Pachekhani but these mines have now been depleted of their copper content and abandoned. Copper is found in Rangpo and is being mined for the last 30 years by the Sikkim Mining Corporation. Dolomite, Limestone and graphite have been found in abundance in West Sikkim and are being now commercially exploited. Marble in sizeable deposits has been found in Chungthang and Changu but has yet to be exploited commercially. Traces of other metals and minerals like Mica, coal, iron and precious stones also exist but these are not found in quantities that would make them commercially viable.
Cities in Sikkim
One can visit the various cities in Sikkim for the holiday and various other purposes. One of such city in Sikkim is Gangtok. Gangtok is the capital and cosmopolitan city in Sikkim. There are various places of sightseeing in Gangtok like the Research Institute of Tibetology, Phurba-Chorten, Himalayan Zoological Park, Government Institute of Cottage Industries, Enchey monastery, Rumtek monastery, Yumthang Hot Spring and Kechopari Lake. The other cities in Sikkim are Kalimpong, Namchi, Pemayangtse, Phodong, Ravangla, Yuksom and Yumthang.
Monasteries in Sikkim
The famous monasteries in Sikkim are the Tsuk-La-Khang Monastery, Enchey Monastery, Rumtek Monastery, Phodong Monastery, Pemayanste Monastery and Tashiding Monastery. Tsuk-La-Khang Monastery is a two storied monastery and was used during royal functions like weddings and coronations. The Enchey monastery is located in a dense wood and one can see the Kanchendzonga range over the crown of trees. Another monastery is the Rumtek monastery.
Fairs and Festivals in Sikkim
The fairs and festivals in Sikkim are celebrated according to Buddhist calendar. During these festivals the people of Sikkim perform colorful dance and music. Chaam is one of the most interesting form of ritual dance of the Lamas, which feature colorful masks and charming musical instruments and are held at various monasteries during the festivals. Costumed Lamas with gaily painted masks, ceremonial swords and sparkling jewels, leap and swing to the rhythm of drums, horns and music. Some of the festivals which are celebrated in Sikkim are Losoong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa and Pang Lhabsol, etc.
People of Sikkim
The culture, religion, customs and traditions of different communities of people living in Sikkim constitute a homogeneous blend. These three communities of people are the Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis. In urban areas many plainsmen have also settled which are engaged in business and Government service. The Lepchas were the original inhabitants of Sikkim before the Bhutias and Nepalis. Today, the Nepalis constitute more than 80 % of the total population of Sikkim.
Trekking in Sikkim
Sikkim offers a number of fascinating trekking routes to the people. The best time to trek is between mid of February to May and from October to December but the foreigners have to obtain permits for trekking on most of the routes in Sikkim. The trekking routes pass through beautiful gompas, colourful hamlets and forests. Yuksom is an ideal starting point of trekking.
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