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Sikkim

Good to Know

Destination
Sikkim
Inner-line permit Requirements
Yes for both Indians and Foreigners
Languages/Dialect spoken
Sikkimis,Neplali,Hindi,English,Urdu etc
Currency used
Rupees
Area (km2)
.... Sq Kms

General Info

Geography

Nestling as it does in the Himalayan Mountains, the state of Sikkim is characterised by mountainous terrain. Almost the entire state is hilly, with an elevation ranging from 280 metres (920 ft) to 8,586 metres (28,169 ft). The summit of Kangchenjunga—the world’s third-highest peak—is the state’s highest point, situated on the border between Sikkim and Nepal. For the most part, the land is unfit for agriculture because of the rocky, precipitous slopes. However, some hill slopes have been converted into terrace farms. Numerous snow-fed streams have carved out river valleys in the west and south of the state. These streams combine into the major Teesta River and its tributary, the Rangeet, which flow through the state from north to south. About a third of the state is heavily forested.

The Himalayan Mountains surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim. The Lower Himalayas, lying in the southern reaches of the state, are the most densely populated. The state has 28 mountain peaks, more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes (including theTsongmo, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lakes), five major hot springs, and more than 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.

Sikkim’s hot springs are renowned for their medicinal and therapeutic values. Among the state’s most notable hot springs are those at Phurchachu, Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong. The springs, which content high sulphur , are located near river banks; some are known to emit hydrogen. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50 °C (122 °F).

Formation

Geology

The hills of Sikkim mainly consist of gneissose and half-schistose rocks, producing generally poor and shallow brown clay soils. The soil is coarse, with large concentrations of iron oxide; it ranges from neutral to acidic and is lacking in organic and mineral nutrients. This type of soil tends to support evergreen and deciduous forests.

Most of Sikkim is covered by Precambrian rock, which is much younger in age than the hills. The rock consists of phyllites and schists, and is highly susceptible to weathering and erosion. This combined with the state’s heavy rainfall, causes extensive soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients through leaching. As a result, landslides are frequent, often isolating rural towns and villages from the major urban centres.

Climate

The state has five seasons: winter, summer, spring, autumn, and a monsoon season between June and September. Sikkim’s climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the north. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim experience a temperate climate, with temperatures seldom exceeding 28 °C (82 °F) in summer. The average annual temperature for most of Sikkim is around 18 °C (64 °F).

Sikkim is one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. The snow line ranges from 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) in the north of the state to 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) in the south. The tundra-type region in the north is snowbound for four months every year, and the temperature drops below 0 °C (32 °F) almost every night. In north-western Sikkim, the peaks are frozen year-round because of the high altitude, temperatures in the mountains can drop to as low as −40 °C (−40 °F) in winter.

During the monsoon, heavy rains increase the risk of landslides. The record for the longest period of continuous rain in Sikkim is 11 days. Fog affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making transportation perilous.

Flora and Fauna

Sikkim is situated in an ecological hotspot of the lower Himalayas, one of only three among the ecoregions of India. The forested regions of the state exhibit a diverse range of fauna and flora. Owing to its altitudinal gradation, the state has a wide variety of plants, from tropical species to temperate, alpine and tundra ones, and is perhaps one of the few regions to exhibit such diversity within such a small area. Nearly 81 per cent of the area of Sikkim comes under the administration of its forest department.

Sikkim is home to around 5,000 species of flowering plants, 515 rare orchids, 60 primula species, 36 rhododendron species, 11 oakvarieties, 23 bamboo varieties, 16 conifer species, 362 types of ferns and ferns allies, 8 tree ferns, and over 424 medicinal plants. A variant of the Poinsettia, locally known as “Christmas Flower”, can be found in abundance in the mountainous state. The Noble Dendrobium is the official flower of Sikkim, while the rhododendron is the state tree

Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo grow in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests of the lower altitudes of Sikkim. In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) there are Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests, where oaks, chestnuts, maples,birches, alders, and magnolias grow in large numbers, as well as Himalayan subtropical pine forests, dominated by Chir pine. Alpine-typevegetation is typically found between altitudes of 3,500 to 5,000 metres (11,500 to 16,400 ft). In lower elevations are found juniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendrons from the Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Higher up are Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows, home to a broad variety of rhododendrons and wildflowers.

The fauna of Sikkim include the 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, andHimalayan jungle cat. Among the animals more commonly found in the alpine zone are yaks, mainly reared for their milk, meat, and as a beast of burden.

The avifauna of Sikkim include the Impeyan pheasant, crimson horned pheasant, snow partridge,Tibetan snowcock, bearded vulture and griffon vulture, as well as golden eagles, quails, plovers,woodcocks, sandpipers, pigeons, Old World flycatchers, babblers and robins. Sikkim has more than 550 species of birds, some of which have been declared endangered.

Sikkim also has a rich diversity of arthropods, many of which remain unstudied; the most studied Sikkimese arthropods are butterflies. Of the approximately 1,438 butterfly species found in the Indian subcontinent, 695 have been recorded in Sikkim. These include the endangered Kaiser-i-hind, the Yellow Gorgon and the Bhutan Glory.

 

Buddhism,History and Heritage;

History

According to legend, the Buddhist guru Padmasambhava visited Sikkim in the 8th century AD, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the Sikkimese monarchy. Sikkim’s Namgyal dynasty was established in 1642. Over the next 150 years, the kingdom witnessed frequent raids and territorial losses to Nepalese invaders. In the 19th century, it allied itself with British India, eventually becoming a British protectorate. In 1975, a referendum abolished the Sikkimese monarchy, and the territory was merged with India.

Hinduism has been the state’s major religion since the arrival of the Nepalis; an estimated 60.93 per cent of the total population are now adherents of the religion. Sikkim’s second-largest religion is Buddhism, which accounts for 28.1 per cent of the population. Sikkim has 75 Buddhist monasteries, the oldest dating back to the 1700s. Christians in Sikkim are mostly descendants of Lepcha people who were converted by British missionaries in the late 19th century, and constitute around 6.6 per cent of the population. Other religious minorities include Muslims of Bihari ethnicity and Jains, who each account for roughly one per cent of the population. The traditional religions of the native Sikkimese account for much of the remainder of the population.

Although tensions between the Lepchas and the Nepalese escalated during the merger of Sikkim with India in the 1970s, there has never been any major degree of communal religious violence, unlike in other Indian states. The traditional religion of the Lepcha people isMun, an animist practice which coexists with Buddhism and Christianity. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sikkim is the largest Christian denomination in Sikkim.

Languages

Nepali is the lingua franca of Sikkim, while Sikkimese and Lepcha are spoken in certain areas. English and Hindi are also spoken and understood in most of Sikkim. Other languages include Dzongkha, Groma, Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Majhi, Majhwar, Nepal Bhasa, Rai, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Tamang, Thulung,Tibetan, and Yakha.

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. Sikkimese Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr and Muharram. Christmas has also been promoted in Gangtok to attract tourists during the off-season. 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.

Places to See