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Sikkim

Sikkim – The hidden valley of rice

Sikkim,  where hills tower like castles built on cloudy nothingness, where lakes dot the countryside like sparkling jewels on a carpet of lush green forest, where mighty rivers roar down deep ravines lined with the bloom of Rhododendron flowers, Where impossibly steep terraced farms give way to gentle slopes of grassland, where the air is fresh, the water pure and the people gentle, where courtesy and good manners are second nature.

 

Welcome to Sikkim, a  treasure trove of beauty, in its landscape, culture and people. A mystical wonderland of spectacular natural beauty. The panoramic perfection of the snow-capped Himalayas, the heady scent of flower-bedecked meadows, the infinite variety of its flora and fauna all make Sikkim a must visit destination.

 

Geography

Sikkim  also known as Shikim or Su Khyim is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. The state is bordered by Nepal to the west, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the east. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south.

 

With 610,577 inhabitants as of the 2011 census,Sikkim is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest state after Goa in total area, covering approximately 7,096 km2. Sikkim is nonetheless geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas; the climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine, and Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, is located on Sikkim’s border with Nepal.

 

History

Little is known about Sikkim’s ancient history, beyond the fact that its original inhabitants were the Lepcha. The earliest historical mention of Sikkim is a record of the passage of the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, through the land in the 8th century AD. The Guru is reported to have blessed the land, introduced Buddhism, and foretold the era of monarchy that would arrive in Sikkim centuries later.

 

In 1947, when India became independent, a popular vote rejected Sikkim’s joining the Indian Union. Although a treaty was made between India and Sikkim in 1950, that Indo-Sikkim treaty made Sikkim an Indian protectorate status. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained administrative autonomy.

 

On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished.

 

Culture

Sikkim’s Nepalese majority celebrate all major Hindu festivals, including Diwali and Dussera. Traditional local festivals, such as Maghe Sankranti and Bhimsen Puja, are also popular. Losar, Loosong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu are among the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Sikkim. During the Losar (Tibetan New Year), most offices and educational institutions are closed for a week.

 

Western rock music and Indian pop have gained a wide following in Sikkim. Indigenous Nepali rock and Lepcha music are also popular.  Sikkim’s most popular sports are football and cricket, although hang gliding and river rafting have also grown popular as part of the tourism industry.

 

Sikkim State Symbols

The Blood Pheasant is the state bird of Sikkim. The only species is genus Ithaginis of the Pheasant family, it has 15 different subspecies. It is so named because the males have vivid red coloring on the feathers of the breast, throat and forehead.

 

The State Animal of Sikkim is the Red Panda. This species belongs to the raccoon family and lives mostly on tree tops. It is found in altitudes ranging from 6000 to 12000 feet. The red panda is bright chestnut in colour, has a triangular face with a dark stripe covering the cheeks to the chin, sharp pointed ears and a bushy ringed tail.

 

Rhododendron niveum has been declared as the State Tree of Sikkim.

 

Things not to be missed in Sikkim

Gangtok

The capital of Sikkim, is constructed on a cloudy ridge 5,500 feet above sea level. The city is refreshingly clean and well organized, and most tourists spend a couple of days there to make travel arrangements and see the sights.

 

Things to see in Gangtok

Enchey Monastery

Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok

Himalayan Zoological Park

Tashi Viewpoint

Gangtok Ropeway

Flower Exhibition Center

 

Nathu La

Nathu La, three hours east of Gangtok on the Chinese border, was a major passageway on the Old Silk Route between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962.

 

Lachung, Lachen and Yumthang Valley

Six hours from Gangtok and 9,000 feet above sea level near the Tibetan/Chinese border, Lachung and the Yumthang Valley dazzle visitors with dramatic pristine scenery. Lachung served as a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet before Tibet was annexed by China.  Now, it’s the base camp for the renowned Rhododendron Valley

 

Pelling

Three to four hours drive west of Gangtokis the  place to go for unparallelled views of Mount Khangchendzonga at dawn. Apart from the views, monasteries are the main attraction, along with the ruins of Rabdentse. Previously the royal capital of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814.

 

Pemayangtse Gompa

Pemayangtse Gompa is one of Sikkim’s oldest and most significant Nyingmapa gompas. Magnificently set on a hilltop (2100m) overlooking the Rabdentse ruins, the atmospheric compound is ringed by gardens and traditional cottages used by resident monks

 

Gurudongmar Lake

Located at a height of approximately 17,000 ft, Gurudongmar one of the most beautiful, spectacular and sacred lakes surrounded on all sides by snow clad mountains. The beautiful and awe inspiring lake (190 kms from Gangtok) remains milky in colour throughout the year. According to a legend, when the Guru Padmasambhava passed by, while returning from Tibet, the local residents are reported to have approached him for providing source of water. The Guru obliged. A portion of the lake touched by him does not freeze in extreme winter.

 

Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake

Perched within mountains at an altitude of 12,400 ft. Located at Gangtok – Nathula Highway37 kms. from Gangtok,  Changu Lake is one of the most spectacular landscapes of Sikkim. It is surrounded by  picturesque mountains and is fed from the melting of the snow of its surrounding mountains. This azure blue lake remains completely frozen during winter.

 

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About Rohan K. Abraham

A simple attempt to document my travels, observations and experiences in this fantastic region of the world - The North East of India. Words cannot fully describe the beauty and diversity of this region, so click on the Instagram button here for the picture story.
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