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Sikkim

CAPITAL GANGTOK
AREA IN Sq. km 7,000
PRINCIPAL LANGUAGES LEPCHA, BHUTIA, NEPALI, LIMBU

Sikkim state in northeastern India, on the southern slopes of the Himalayas Sikkim is bounded on the north and northeast by Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on the southeast by Bhutan, on the south by West Bengal and on the west by Nepal. The area is 7096 sq km. One of the highest regions in India, Sikkim is traversed by the main range of the Himalayas and by several spur ranges. It is entirely mountainous, with one - third of the land covered with dense forests of sal, sambal and bamboo, which are mostly inaccessible and unexploited. Kanchenjunga (8,598 m/28,209 ft) one of the highest peaks in the world lie in Sikkim

Sikkim receives heavy rainfall. It is watered by the perennial river Tista, and its tributaries, which are fed by both snow and rain. The climate ranges from tropical to alpine. Generally the lowlands are hot and humid, the hills are temperate, and the mountains are permanently covered with snow. Average January temperatures in Gangtok, a hill city, range from 4 to 14 C (39 to 57 F); in May the average temperatures range from 14 to 22 C (57 to 72 F). Annual rainfall varies from about 1300 to 5000 mm (about 50 to 200 in), depending on the altitude and region of the state

Sikkim has a single-chamber legislative assembly with 32 members. The state sends two members to the Indian national parliament: one to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and one to the Lok Sabha (Lower House). Local government is based on four administrative districts. Gangtok is the Capital of this hilly state.

History

Sikkim is, today, a state of the Indian Union, due to a combination of politically significant events. Ruled by the Gyalpo rulers as a political entity till the 18th century, Sikkim appealed to the British for help to overthrow the emigrant Bhutanese and Nepali Gorkhas, who threatened to outnumber the natives. A series of events led to the state becoming a protectorate of the British. In 1950, three years after India attained independence from Britain, a treaty was signed between Sikkim and India that made Sikkim an Indian protectorate. India assumed responsibility for the external relations, defense, and strategic communications of Sikkim. The terms of the 1950 Indo-Sikkimese treaty, however, included increased popular participation in government, and five general elections based on adult suffrage were held between 1952 and 1974. In the last of these elections, two rival parties merged to form the Sikkim Congress, which swept the polls. The party launched a campaign to obtain greater political liberties and rights that the chogyal attempted to suppress. With the situation getting out of control, the chogyal asked the government of India to take over the administration. India prepared a constitution for Sikkim that was approved by its national assembly in 1974. In a 1975 special referendum, more than 97 percent of the electorate voted for the merger of Sikkim with India. Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union on May 15, 1975

Society and Culture

The population of Sikkim comprises three main groups of people, the Lepchas, Bhutias and the Nepalese.The Lephhas, also called Kongpa, or the people of the ravines are said to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim. There is a popular legend about them that, from beneath the slopes of Kanchenjunga, God created a man and a woman from whom all Sikkimese descended. These first people were called Lepcha and their land was known as Mayal Lyang. The Lepcha are great industrialists, speak a distinct dialect and have their own names for rivers, flowers, plants, animals, and even insects.


Bhutias, the next major community had their original home in Tibet, and came and settled in Sikkim about seven centuries ago. They introduced Buddhism in Sikkim, and this is today the state's major religion. The Bhutias are successful traders and agriculturists, are generally more tough than the others, and can be found tending cattle even at very high altitudes.

The Nepalese form the third major ethnic group in Sikkim, and today form the dominant population. They came to Sikkim as recently as two centuries ago, many during the Gurkha invasions and they are Hindu by religion.

The population is mostly rural, living in scattered hamlets and villages. Gangtok, with fewer than 30,000 people, is Sikkim's largest settlement; other towns, in descending order of population, include Singtam, Rongphu, Jorthang, Nayabazar, Mangan, Gyalshing, and Namchi.

Hindi is the official language, with English as the working language of the government; Lepcha, Bhutia, Nepali, and Limbu are also spoken.


The Sikkimese, are by nature, a simple, polite and non - aggressive people. Being devout Buddhists, they celebrate their festivals with a characteristic mixture of abandon and reserve. Life in Sikkim is according to some, a never - ending festival, for there are vibrant festivities throughout the year. They are the reflection of the rich cultural heritage of the state, which combines Buddhism and Hinduism with the original traditions of the Lepchas. The major monastries like Pemayangtse, Tsuklakhang, Enchey and Rumtek are important venues for Buddhist festivals. Pang Lhabsol, Drukpa Tseshi, Losoong, Saga Dawa and Dasain are the most popular festivals. A favourite form of celebration is drinking of 'Chang', the millet beer of the Himalayas. Packed into tall bamboo containers, the drink is sipped through a bamboo pipe.

One of the most colourful performances in the world are Sikkim's mask dances, performed by Lamas in the 'gompa' (monastery) courtyards. The fascinating dances of Kagyat and the masked Rumtek, and Enchey 'Chaams' (ritual dance of the lamas), are the popular dances, which recreate legends and myths, connected with Buddhism, and the eternal triumph of good over evil.

Knotted woollen carpets with the dominating dragon emblem, and eight auspicious signs; wood carvings, Lepcha handlooms in traditional designs and rich colours for clothes, bags, linen and accessories; leather jackets and handbags, articles of homemade paper, Thanka (religious scroll paintings) and Sikkimese Dragon Jewellery make a fascinating collection of handicrafts, inspired by an age old culture.

Economy and Infrastructure

The economy of Sikkim is basically agrarian. Maize, rice, wheat, potato, large cardamom, ginger and orange are the principal crops. Ginger, potato, orange and off season vegetables are the other cash crops. Sikkim is one of the world's main producers of cardamom.


Livestock includes cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry. Cattle and buffalo are limited mainly to the subtropical humid belt, while yaks and sheep are herded in the higher elevations in the north.

Copper, lead, zinc, coal, graphite, and limestone are among the minerals found in the state, though not all are commercially exploited. Forest resources and hydroelectric potential are considerable. A number of industrial units have also come up in the state in the area of fruit jams and juices, bakery products, beer, plastic goods, wrist watches and leather goods.Traditional handicrafts, tourism, and the development of new industry are also important to Sikkim's economy

Roads, though not extensive, are the primary mode of travel. Ropeways have also been provided at many points. The capital of Gangtok is nearly 75 miles from the nearest airport at Baghdogra and 70 miles from the railhead at Shiliguri, both in West Bengal.Important hydel power projects include Kalez Hydel Project and Lachung in North Sikki.

Tourist Centres

Some of the important tourist centres are: Gangktok, Bakkhim- a natural garden, Yoksum- meeting of three great Lamas, Dhubdi monastery, Tashing Monastary, Rumtek monastary, etc. There are 200 monastaries in Sikkim. Khangchendzonga National Park is one of the highest national parks in the world and includes the world's third highest mountain (Kanchenjunga). The Yak and the musk are the animals found in Sikkim. There are over 4000 species of plants.