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Sikkim at a Glance

Sikkim is sheer magic. This is not just the most beautiful place in the world but cleanest and safest too. If once the charms of the State were limited to mists, mountains and colorful butterflies, they are now complimented by tangible development and progress. With its unique culture and natural landscape, Sikkim is a picture of perfection and pristine purity. Nestled in the Himalayas and endowed with exceptional natural resources, Sikkim is a hotspot of biodiversity and development. Though small in size, yet Sikkim has been identified world over as an important repository of germ plasmas of unknown dimensions. Perhaps, there is no part of the world, which offers a spectacular scene with every turn of the road as Sikkim. Though land-locked, Sikkim is one of the most beautiful and strategically important states of the Indian Union.

Bounded by foreign nations on three sides, it shares its boundary with the sister state of West Bengal. Surrounded on three sides by precipitous mountain walls, Sikkim appears as a small rectangular Gem. Sikkim is like a stupendous stairway leading from the western border of the Tibetan plateau down to the plains of West Bengal, with a fall of about 5,215 metres in 240 kms. Sikkim, in the west is bound by the north-south spur of the Great Himalayan Range which includes the world's third highest peak, Khangchendzonga and down to its south is Singalila ridge. In the north it is bound by Dongkia range and also partly includes the Tibetan Plateau. In the east it is bound by the Chola range. The average steepness is about 45 degree. Sikkim is the main catchment area for the beautiful river Teesta, which has its main source from Chho Lhamo lake in the north and is further strengthened by many streams and rivers of which Tholung, Lachung, Great Rangeet and Rangpo are important drainers. It also has about 180 perennial lakes, among which Khachoedpalri, Gurudongmar, Chho Lhamo and Men Moi Tso are some of the most scenic.

Dominating both legend and landscape of Sikkim is the mighty Khangchendzonga. Known to outside world as Kanchenjunga, it is the third highest peak in the world. But to the Sikkemese it is much more than a mountain: Khangchendzonga is the Guardian deity, a country God whose benign watchfulness ensures peace and prosperity for the land. The five peaks of Khangchendzonga are the five Treasures of the Eternal Snow, a belief beautifully interpreted by the great Lama Lhatsun Chenpo: "The peak most conspicuously gilded by the rising sun is the treasury of gold, the peak that remains in cold grey shade is the storehouse for silver and other peaks are vaults for gems, grains and the holy books." Each of the five peaks is believed to be crowned by an animal-the highest by a tiger and others by a lion, elephant, horse and the mythical bird Garuda. Along with the Guardian deity, the Nepal Peak, Tent Peak, Pyramid, Jonsang, Lhonak, Pahunri etc. and glaciers like Zemu, Changsang, Teesta, Changme are also important. The most important passes are Jelep-la, Nathu-la, Cho-la and Thanka-la in the east; Donkiua, Kongralamu and Naku in the north and Kanglanangma and Chia Bhanjyang in the west.

The divine status of the mountain, sanctified by legend, has been made enduring by the widespread worship of Khangchendzonga by all the people of Sikkim - Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese alike. The God is depicted as being red of colour, armed and mounted on a white snow lion; offerings are made to this majestic presence, ceremonies are held in his name and dances consecrated to him. Pang Lhabsol is one of the famous festivals of Sikkim which is a thanks giving celebration in honour of Sikkim's presiding deity, Khangchendzonga. Dancers portray the guardian deity, its supreme commander Yabdu and the God Mahakala. It is a warrior dance and the dancers are chosen for their physical strength, quick reflexes and skill swordsmanship.

Now a word about the origin of the term Sikkim itself. The various ethnic groups have their own nomenclature. As far as the Lepcha and the Bhutia names are concerned, Waddel has it that, " the Lepchas call it Nelyang or 'The place of caves'. Lepchas also call it Myel Lyang, which means "the land of hidden paradise or the delightful region or abode". While the Bhutias call it Beyul Demazong or "the hidden valley of rice." Another version says that Tensung Namgyal married three wives, a Tibetan, a Bhutanese and a Limbu girl. The Limbu girl, daughter of Limbu Chief Yo- Yo- Hang, brought seven maidens with her. These maidens were married into leading families of Sikkim. These Limbu maidens who had come to Sikkim for the marries' called the place 'Sukhim' or "bride's new house", comfortable home. The Nepalis who came to Sikkim could not relate to Limbu pronouncement and thus corrupted the name to Sukkhim which underwent further distortion under the British.

At a Glance

Area : 7,096 sq km (2.7% of total area of North East) 
Geographical Location : Situated between longitude 88’E to 89’E & latitude 27’N to 28’N 
Almost Sea level – 28208 fts
Major Religions:-
Hindu- 60.9%, Bhudhist-28%, Christian-6.7%. Islam-1.4%
Major People group
Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha and others Indian community
Capital : Gangtok 
Population : 600493 (2011 Census)
Literacy Rate (2007) : 76.6% (National Figure: 67.6%)
State Bird  : Blood Pheasant 
State Animal  : Red Panda 
State Flower  : Noble Orchid 
Languages : Nepali, English, Hindi, Bhutia (Sikkimese), Bhutia (Tibetan), Lepcha, Limboo
No. of Districts  : (04) North Sikkim, West Sikkim, East Sikkim, South Sikkim 
District with Capital
:- East(Gangtok), West (Geyzing), North(Mangan) and South(Namchi).
No. of  Block Administrative Centre
No. of  Zilla Panchayat
No. of  Gram Panchayat
No. of Revenue Blocks (Village):
No. of Assembly Seat
Major Towns  : Gangtok, Namchi, Geyzing, Mangan, Pelling
Major plantations : Tea, Medicinal Plants
Major Fruits, vegetables & spices : Cardamom, Orange, Ginger
Nearest Airport : Bagdogra

Religious Institution.

Bhudist Monastery - 324. Hindu Mandir -317. Churches - 73. Mosque -6. Guruduara -4.

People Profiles:

1.The Lepchas: Lepchas are said to be one of the original inhabitants of Sikkim. It has not yet been established from where the Lepchas originally came to Sikkim. There are some theories which indicate that they came from the border of Assam and Burma. Other theories speak of the Lepchas having migrated to Sikkim fro Southern part of Tibet. Although if it is not clear their original root it is clear that they are of  Mongoloid.

The Lephas are now predominantly  Buddhists but some are converted to Christian . The earliest Lepcha settlers were believer in the Bon faith or Mune faith. This faith was basically based on spirit good and bad. Witchcraftry and exorcism were very common. They worshiped spirits of mountains, rivers, and forests. The Lepcha priests are known as Bomthing and they perform intricate ceremonies to invoke the blessing of the spirits.

The Lepcha folklore is rich with stories. Some of the very popular  stories has parallel  with the legend of the Tower of Babel and The Flood from The Bible.

Lepcha hut which is usually made of bamboo and is raised about five feet above the ground on stilts, there are usually just a couple rooms.

The polyandry marriages are permitted amongst the Lepchas although this is now becoming very rare.

The Lepcha population is concentrated in the central part of Sikkim. This is the area that encompasses the confluence of Lachen ans Lachung rivers and Dikchu. They represent less than10% of the total population of Sikkim.

2.The Bhutias:

The Bhutias are of Tibetan origin. They migrated to Sikkim perhaps somewhere after the fifteen century through Bhutan. They are evenly distributed throughout the state of Sikkim. In the Northern Sikkim in and around Lachen and Lachung, where they are the major inhabitants, they are known as the Lachenpas and Lachungpas.

Bhutias constitute about 10% of the total population of Sikkim. They are the folower of Buddhism.

The language spoken by  the Sikkimese Bhutias is a dialect of Tibetan language and the script is same.

Marriage in a Bhutia family is arranged through negotiations by the paternal or maternal uncle of the boy who goes to the girl's place with gifts to ask for the hand in marriage for his nephew. A loose sheet of multicolored woolen cloth made of special design known as Pandin is a symbol of a married woman.

3.The Nepalis:

The Nepalis constitute around 80% of the total population of  Sikkim outnumbering the Lepchas and the Bhutias.

The British India permitted to settle a large number of Nepali in the hill tract of Darleeling to grow tea in a Tea Garden after they annexed Darjeeling from Sikkim in 1861. The growing influence had it implications in the context of migration of Nepalis to Sikkim. But it was somewhere in the 1860 that the then ruler of Sikkim granted a lease in Sikkim to some Nepali traders.

A major sub-cultural stock of the Nepalis are the Kiratis who along with the Lepchas are said to be the aboriginals of Sikkim. The Kiratis include Limbus, Rais, Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs and some others as well. Orijinally most of them were hunters and shepherds and semi-nomadic. Each Kirati sect has a dialect of its own. Some of the tribes of the Kiratis are animists, where as the others are either Hindu or Bhuddists. Pradhan Newars (Bussiness Class), Mangar (Miners), Kamis (Blacksmith), Damais (Tailors), Karkis (Cobblers), Sharmas (Priest or Pundits) and the Gorkha like Basnet, Thakuris and Chhetris (Worrior Class) settled in Sikkim in large numbers.

Majority of  Nepalis are the follower of  Hinduism.