Sikkim – A Treat to Your Senses
Sikkim is a serene and peaceful state cuddling in the laps of the motherly Himalayas. The state lies in the north east parts of India close to the Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh, with a mountainous and hilly terrain elevating at a range of 280 meters to 8,586 meters. The state borders the neighboring nations of China, Bhutan, Nepal and West Bengal. It is connected to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal by eight mountain passes. The highest point of the state is the third-highest peak of the world, Kangchenjunga, which lay on the border between Sikkim and Nepal. In the western and southern parts of the state, valleys are formed by number of streams, flowing down from the mountains, due to the melting of snow. The streams flow further down and merge to form major rivers of the state, Teesta and Rangeet. Sikkim is enriched with 28 mountain peaks, more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes, five major hot springs, and more than 100 rivers and streams. The hot springs are well known for their medicinal and therapeutic values it has to be related to the two elements present in them sulphur and hydrogen as the springs have a high sulphur content and some emit hydrogen. The rocky terrain of Sikkim is said to be unfit for agriculture yet some slopes are transformed to long stretches of beautiful green terrace farms.
The state has a moderate soothing climate throughout the year, though the climate of the state is divided into all five seasons, winter, summer, spring, autumn, and monsoon. The temperature of Sikkim never exceeds 28 °C. The winters are chilly specially the northern parts, which receive snow every year and the temperatures in the mountains can drop to as low as −40 °C.
Sikkim is one of the three eco-regions of India, hence it is blessed with rich and diverse flora and fauna. Most of the land of Sikkim is blanketed with lush green forests. Nearly 81 per cent of the area of Sikkim comes under the administration of the forest department of Sikkim. The state houses around 5,000 species of flowering plants, 515 rare orchids, 60 primula species, 36 rhododendron species, 11 oak varieties, 23 bamboo varieties, 16 conifer species, 362 types of ferns and ferns allies, 8 tree ferns, and over 424 medicinal plants. The mountainous states are filled with Poinsettia, also known as the “Christmas Flower”. Of all the varieties, the Noble Dendrobium is the official flower of Sikkim, while the Rhododendron is the state tree. Other vegetations flourishing in the soils of Sikkim are Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees, bamboo, oaks, chestnuts, maples, birches, alders and magnolias. Sikkim has more than 550 species of birds, of which some are declared endangered. The fauna of Sikkim boasts snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, red panda, Himalayan marmot, Himalayan serow, Himalayan goral, muntjac, common langur, Asian black bear, clouded leopard, marbled cat, leopard cat, dhole, Tibetan wolf, hog badger, binturong, yaks, and Himalayan jungle cat. Sikkim is rich in avifauna as well consisting of amazing creatures like impeyan pheasant, crimson horned pheasant, snow partridge, Tibetan snowcock, bearded vulture and griffon vulture, golden eagles, quails, plovers, woodcocks, sandpipers, pigeons, old world flycatchers, babblers and robins. The State homes approximately 1,438 butterfly species too.
Not much of the history of Sikkim has been discovered. All that is known so far about Sikkim in the distant past is that, the original inhabitants of the place were Lepchas. Another important fact known is that in the 8th century, the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche had passed through India. It was then that the Buddhism was introduced in the State and the State was also blessed by the holy saint. The era of monarchy likely to arrive in Sikkim centuries later had also been foretold by the saint, which surprisingly came to be true. Later in 1947, when India became independent, Sikkim was rejected to be a part of the Indian Union my majority of votes but again in 1950, a treaty was made between India and Sikkim, The Indo-Sikkim treaty, in the interest of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru which brought Sikkim under the domain of India. In 1975, the Prime Minister of Sikkim made an appeal to the Indian Parliament to make Sikkim a state of India and on 16th May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union and the monarchy was abolished. On 6th July 2006, the Nathu La was opened to cross-border trade, becoming the first open border between India and China.
The economy of Sikkim is the fastest-growing in India. It is largely based on terraced farming. Mostly rice is cultivated along with other crops like maize, millet, wheat, barley, oranges, tea and cardamom. Sikkim homes the largest cultivated area of cardamom and is the most cardamom producing state than any other Indian states. The main industries of Sikkim are Brewing, distilling, tanning and watch-making located in Melli and Jorethang. It also has a small mining industry which extracts minerals like copper, dolomite, talc, graphite, quartzite, coal, zinc and lead. Today with the promotion of Tourism in the state, Tourism has become the main contributor to the economy of the State. There has been a noticeable increase in the revenue of the state, which has increased 14 times since the mid-1990s. The other contributing industries are Gambling and Playwin lottery. The opening of the Nathula Pass has also proven to be a boon for Sikkim’s economy as the trade between India and China continues through the Pass.
Interesting Facts About Sikkim That You Must Know
1. Gangtok: First Ever Litter Free and Spit Free Zone in India
This is the capital of the state of Sikkim lying peacefully at an elevation of 1,650 m. It is blessed with beautiful abundant nature and is one of the neatest towns, housing the first litter and spit free zone in India, MG Marg.
2. Sikkim, Not A Part of India Till 1975
Sikkim used to be an independent nation till 1975 when Prime Minister of Sikkim made an appeal to the Indian Parliament to make Sikkim a state of India and on 16th May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union. Sikkim was brought under the domain of India by The Indo-Sikkim treaty in 1950.
3. India’s First Organic State
Sikkim has done what other states could not. The announcement was made official by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, when e first visited Sikkim in 2015. The journey was full of struggle but they did it. Around 75000 hectars of land are converted to certified organic farms, in accordance with the guidelines laid by National Programme for Organic Production.
4. State with Maximum Foreign Population
The first inhabitants of Sikkim were the Lepchas, who had migrated from Tibet and Limbus, but over the time the foreign population took over. The Nepalese from Nepal, Bhutias from Tibet, later occupied the lands of Sikkim.
5. Sikkim has a Temple Built to Honor a Soldier
There was a soldier in the Indian Army named Harbhajan Singh. He worked in the Dogra Regiment during 1962 China-India War. He died near the Nathula Pass in eastern Sikkim – India while on duty by drowning in a glacier. He was searched everywhere but in vain. When he was still not found on the third day, it is said that the Search Party was led by his spirit to his body and then later, through, one of his colleagues had a dream of him where he was instructed to build and maintain a Temple after him. A Temple was built at his Samadhi in the hills. His spirit continues to serve in the camp at Nathula Pass and is treated and given the facilities like every other army. A camp bed is kept for him; his boots are polished and uniform kept ready every night and every morning the sheets are crumpled and boots muddy by evening. The Ghost soldier draws a salary and takes his annual leave as well.
6. Homes Second Highest Suspension Bridge in Asia
Singshore Bridge is the second highest suspension bridge in Asia. It is 198 meter long and is located at a distance of 5 km from Pelling, near Uttarey in West Sikkim.
7. Red Panda is an Endangered Species and Sikkim’s State Animal
The state animal of Sikkim is Red Panda. These are the most adorable creatures; with orange and black furs they look most elegant while they are basking in the sun. Outside India, these amazing creatures are found in Nepal, China, Tibet, Bhutan and Burma and in India they are in found in Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh
8. Rhododendron, The State Tree
Rhododendron is the state tree of Sikkim. The vast forests of this tree are found mostly in the hills of Barsey. The best time the whole area will be decorated by these magnificent trees is middle of April. Rhododendrons bloom alternately, bright red one year and white the next.
9. Siddheshwar Dham in Sikkim, Homes 108-Foot-Tall Statue of Lord Shiva
The gigantic 108-foot-tall statue of Lord Shiva is the main attraction of the Siddhesvara Dham which is situated on top of the Solophok hill. The hill is 5 kms from Namchi.
10. Sikkim Houses 533 Species of Bird, Including Some Rare Species
The flora and fauna of Sikkim flourishes as a result of perfect temperatures and terrain, holding huge variety of vegetation. Sikkim will be the perfect destination for the bird lovers.
11. There are 690 Species of Vivid Colored Butterflies
Sikkim has Open Air Butterfly Park, which is one of the butterfly diversity hot spots in the world. The Park came to existence with the view to conserve the breeding of imperil butterflies.
12. Sikkim Holds Holy Water Ceremony of Bum Chu
Bum Chu is the Buddhist festival, which one of the major festivals of Sikkim. Bum meaning ‘pot and ‘chu’ means ‘water’. It is celebrated at Tashiding Monastery.
13. 5 Popular Hot Water Springs in Sikkim
Sikkim is enriched with plenty of hot springs. The hot springs have medicinal value. It has high Sulphur content. The average temperature of the water in hot springs is around to 50°C. The famous five hot springs are;
14. Reshi Hot Spring
Reshi Hot Spring is located about 25 km from Gyalshing, near Reshi, on the banks of the Rangeet River.
15. Borong and Ralong Hot Spring
Borong and Ralong Hot Springs are located at a distance of 7 km and 40 minutes’ walk downhill from each other. In order to reach The Ralong Springs you need to walk from Ralong monastery for an hour. Temporary huts are available for overnight stay but you have to carry your own bedding and cooking utensils.
16. Yumthang Hot Spring
The Yumthang Hot Spring is located at some distance away from Yumthang village. You will have to walk for few minutes from the road of the village and cross the pedestrian bridge on the River Lachung. There is also a hut with two pools containing hot spring water which are diverted in to the pools.
17. Yumesamdong (or Momay Samdong)
The Yume Samdong Hot Spring is located at the base of the Donkia-la Pass. You need to drive up 25 kilometer from Yumthang. More than 10 hot springs pools are located around.
18. Lhabha Tarum Hot Spring
Tarum Hot spring is located in the Northern part of Sikkim near Lachen. You need to trek 7 KM from the Lhabha Valleyto reach it. There are two hot water pools lying side by side.
19. Sikkim’s Nathu La Mountain Pass Connects India with China
This is a site most sorted by the tourists. Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India; the others being Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh at the trisection point of Uttarakhand–India, Nepal and China. The Pass was closed in 1962 after the Sino-Indian Warb but was reopened in 2006.
20. Danny Denzongpa
Dany Denzongpa, the internationally recognized actor hails from the town of Gangtok in Sikkim. He has acted in over 150 movies in Hindi, English, Bengali, Telugu and Nepali.
Sakewa is the planting season in Sikkim and the festival of Rais( one of the ethnic groups). Prayers, rituals and Silis or dance are offered during this time to pay homage to Mother Earth.
22. Tarundeep Rai
Tarundeep Rai, is one of the most experienced and dependable archers of India. He participated at the World Outdoor Archery Championship where he made his debut in International Archery at the age of 19.
23. Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhaichung Bhutia was born in the small town of Tinkitam of Sikkim. He holds the record of the highest number of goals, 43 individual goals in 109 international appearances.
24. International Flower Festival
Sikkim holds an International Flower Festival every year in summer from March to May, where exotic varieties of flowers, orchids rhododendrons gladioli, roses, cacti, alpine plants, creepers, climbers, ferns, herbs, etc., are showcased.
25. Best State – Clean India 2010-11
Sikkim was honored with the Best State in Campaign Clean India 2010-11 award for the state government’s initiatives for maintaining a clean and green Sikkim, efficient garbage management and disposal, health and hygiene, green mission and maintaining the environment and biodiversity of the state.
26. 135 Feet Guru Padmasambhava Statue
Sikkim prides its 135 feet grand statue of Guru Padmasambhava.The statue was built as a tribute to the holy saint, Guru Padmasambhava, who had passed through Sikkim long time back and had blessed the lands of Sikkim.
27. Chaang, A Local Flavor
This is an alcoholic beverage made in the homes of Sikkim by fermenting cereal. It is the most famous drink of Sikkim consumed during occasions, social activities or even as a regular drink. It is served in a long cylindrical bamboo vessel known as tongba, with a straw to sip it.
28. Sacred Souvenir – Thankas
Thankas are sacred and religious scrolls consisting of intricate drawings. It is believed that Thankas drive away evil spirits therefore they are hanged in Buddhist houses and monasteries. T also serves as a unique piece of souvenir to take back home from Sikkim.
29. Rumtek Monastery
Rumtek Monastery of Rumtek, a small town, 23 kilometers from Gangtok is the seat of Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of 900 – year old Karma Kagyu lineage. The main attraction of the monastery is the ‘Black Hat’ which is studded with rubies, golds, diamonds and other precious stones.
30. Ecclesiastical Department
This is a unique department catering to the needs of more than two hundred temples, monasteries, mosques, churches, and gurudwaras of the state of Sikkim. It ensures harmony and proper functioning of all.
31. Khangchendzonga National Park – India’s first “Mixed World Heritage Site
The Park was inscribed as the, India’s first “Mixed World Heritage Site” on UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016 because of its natural and cultural significance. It is the home to dozens of panoramic mountain peaks, 18 glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and some unique flora and fauna.
32. State Symbols of Sikkim
Below are given Sikkim state symbols;
State Bird: Blood Pheasant
State Tree: Rhododendron
State Animal: Red Panda
State Flower: Noble Dendrobium
33. One of the Least Populated States
Sikkim is one of the least populated states in India holding a feeble population of population of about 619,000 (2012 figure).
34. Sikkim A Tourism Hub
Sikkim is the favorite destination of millions of tourists across the world and the reason is endless. It is the epitome of beauty so almost every corner of the State is beautiful. Namchi, Lachung, Ravangla, Pelling, Yuksom and the Dzongri Trail, Lachung Lachen and Yumthang Valley, Teesta River Rafting, Zuluk, are a few to name.
35. Gurudongmar Lake
Gurudongmar Lake is situated at a height of 5180 meters and is considered sacred as per Buddhist beliefs. The lake stays clean throughout the year without a single leaf dropping on its surface.