Foreigner must obtain inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim. The permits can be obtained from all Indian Missions Tourism Office – New Delhi, Sikkim, Tourism office – Kolkata and Sikkim Tourism Office – Siliguri, Rangpo Tourist Lodge on the strength of an Indian visa. The 15 days duration permit is issued on the spot without any delay provided photocopies of passport and visa details along with two passport photos of the applicants are made available then & there. The permissible duration of stay by foreign tourists would be 15 days initially with the state Government authorized to extend the same by a further period of 30 days of 15 days each. The extension of permits can be obtained from ERO at Gangtok, Superintendent of Police of the North, West and South Districts.
For those interested in going for trekking in the interior regions of the State, the Department of Tourism issues Protected Area Permit (PAP) at Gangtok which is available for certain specified area for group consisting of two or more foreigners subjected to the conditions that the trekking programme is arranged through a Registered Travel Agency.
Nathula can be visited only by Indian citizen and Tsangu Lake can be visited both by Indian and Foreign citizen after obtaining the permission from Tourism Department through registered travels agent.
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
Nearest airport is Bagdogra in North Bengal which is 124 kms. and approximately 4 hours drive from Gangtok. There are Indian Airlines and other Airline services operating from Bagdogra linking Kolkata, Guwahati and New Delhi. Sikkim Tourism operates daily five seater helicopter service between Gangtok and Bagdogra connecting all Civil Flights.
The two closest railway stations are Siliguri (114 kms) and New Jalpaiguri (125 kms) connecting Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Lucknow and other important cities in India. There is an out agency booking facility in Gangtok located at the SNT Bus Terminus.
Gangtok is connected by road to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri and also to all district Headquarters within Sikkim. The Sikkikm Nationalised Transport (SNT) plies regular bus services from Gangtok to all major cities and towns in North Bengal and within the State. Booking facilities are available at Siliguri and Gangtok.
7096 sq. Kms
Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus)
Noble Orchid( Dendrobium nobile)
Rhododendron( Rhododendron niveum)
Mid February – late May / October – December
Copper, Zinc, Lead, Pyrites, Limestone, and coal
Maize and Rice. Millet, Buckwheat, Barley, Pulses, are subsidiary crops.
Cardamom, ginger, Apples, Oranges, Pine-apples
Three ethnic group, Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese.
North – Mangan, South – Namchi, East – Gangtok , West – Gyalshing.
Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and other religion are also practised.
Nepali, English, Hindi, Bhutia (Sikkimese), Bhutia (Tibetan), Lepcha, Limbu.
History of Sikkim
Sikkim ( also known as Shikim or Sukkim)The New Place”; is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. The state borders Nepal to the west, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the southeast. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south.
With 607,688 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 (2,740 sq mi).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. Sikkim is a popular tourist destination, owing to its culture, scenery and biodiversity. It also has the only open land border between India and China. Sikkim’s capital and largest city is Gangtok.
According to legend, the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche visited Sikkim in the 8th century AD, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the 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 the British rulers of India, but was soon annexed by them. Later, Sikkim became a British protectorate, before merging with India following a referendum on abolishing the monarchy in 1975.
Sikkim is the only state in India with an ethnic Nepali majority. Sikkim has 11 official languages: Nepali (which is its lingua franca), Bhutia, Lepcha, Limbu, Newari, Rai, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Tamang and Sunwar.English is taught in schools and used in government documents. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Sikkim’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, and as of 2011 the state has the fourth-smallest GDP among Indian states,although it is also among the fastest-growing.
After Indian independence
In 1975, the Prime Minister of India appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a state of India. In April of that year, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the Chogyal’s palace guards. Thereafter, a referendum was held in which 97.5 per cent of voters supported abolishing the monarchy, effectively approving union with India.
On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished. To enable the incorporation of the new state, the Indian Parliament amended the Indian Constitution. First, the 35th Amendment laid down a set of conditions that made Sikkim an “Associate State,” a special designation not used by any other state. Later, the 36th Amendment repealed the 35th Amendment, and made Sikkim a full state, adding its name to the First Schedule of the Constituti
Sikkim Flora and Fauna
Sikkim’s local name “Denzong” translates as the Valley of Rice which is the chief crop of the State. Basically, Sikkim can be divided into three zones-the tropical, temperate and the alpine.
The terraced farmlands have rice, maize and barley as the main crops. Other crops like ginger, potatoes and oranges are also grown. One of the chief cash crops of the state is large Cardamom. The jungles in the South District teem with plantains, bamboo tree ferns, walnut, sal and oak, while the North abounds in pine and silver Fir.
Sikkim’s orchids are world-famous as the State has more than 450 species of them. The colours range from the richest to the palest in species as varied as Cymbidiums, Vandas, Cattlelyas, Dendrobiums, Hooheriana, Farmeri and Amaneum. The State flower is the Nobile orchid of the Dendrobium family.
There are about 36 species of rhododendrons in Sikkim found at height of 10,000 ft. Their variety is as diverse as the sizes and colours. From the giant Rhododendron Crande (over 40 ft.) to the Rhododendron Nivale (A few inches off the ground), and from the blood red to pale white. The delicate but hardy Primulae are found at height of 12,000 ft. and above. The Himalayan rhubarb is a unique future of this area, standing upright like candles in the arid vasts.
Since the area of Sikkim range from the tropical to the alpine, the flora and fauna is unique in it’s diversity nowhere else on earth does such a small area comprise of so many species and varieties. Even the seemingly Himalayan desert landscape in the North has a plethora of wild ducks and wild asses that roam the plains.
The natural wealth of Sikkim has been surveyed in detail by, among others, Dr. J.D. Hooker in the mid 20th century and more recently by the celebrated ornithologist of India, Dr. Salim Ali, who was also known as the “Birdman”.
Sikkim has more than 500 species of avifauna ranging from the majestic Bearded Vulture with a wing-span of over 10 ft to the Olive Ground Warbler, just a few inches in length. Other delightful species include the emerald Dove, woodpeckers, cuckoos, kingfisher, and the fairy blue bird.
Sikkim also has more than 600 species of Butterflies many of them rare and endangered. The forests resound to the bark of the barking dear which shares its habitat with the adorable little Red Panda (also the State animal.) The musk Deer, Leopard cats, and flying squirrels to name a few. The higher regions have Blue Sheep known commonly as the Bharal, the, shapi which is similar to the Himalayan Tahr, the Tibetan Wild Ass, locally known as the Kyang and the Himalayan Black Bear.
Sikkim is India’s least populous state, with 607,688 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. Sikkim is also one of the least densely populated Indian states, with only 86 persons per square kilometer. However, it has a high population growth rate, averaging 12.36% per cent between 2001 and 2011. The sex ratio is 889 females per 1,000 males, with a total of 321,661 males and 286,027 females recorded in 2011. With 50,000 inhabitants, the capital Gangtok is the only significant town in the mostly rural state; the urban population in Sikkim constitutes around 11.06 per cent of the total. The per capita income in Sikkim stands at 11,356, which is one of the highest in the country.
A large, long-term population influx from Nepal has resulted in the majority of Sikkim’s residents being of Nepali ethnic origin. However, the native Sikkimese consist of the Bhutias, who migrated from the Kham district of Tibet in the 14th century, and the Lepchas, who are believed to have migrated from the Far East. Tibetans reside mostly in the northern and eastern reaches of the state. Migrant resident communities include Biharis, Bengalis and Marwaris, who are prominent in commerce in South Sikkim and Gangtok.
The Rumtek monastery is among Sikkim’s most famous monuments. 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 1 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 is Mun, which coexists with Buddhism and Christianity.
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.
Sikkim People, Culture and Cuisine.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
The Lepchas were the original inhabitants of Sikkim. They existed much before the Bhutias and Nepalese migrated to the state. The earliest Lepcha settlers were worshipper of Nature. This faith was basically based on spirits, good and bad.
They worshipped the spirits of mountains, rivers and forests that was natural for a tribe that co-exited harmoniously with the rich natural surroundings.
The Bhutias were responsible for introducing Buddhism to this community. Christianity is also practiced by some. The Lepchas were the original inhabitants of Sikkim. The earliest Lepcha were worshippers of Nature.
The Lepcha population is concentrated in the central part of the Sikkim. This is the area that encompasses the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers and Dickchu. Life in a Lepcha dwelling is very simple. Men were a dress called a pagi made of striped cotton. Women were a two piece dress. They speak a language called Lapcha. It is rich in vocabulary related to the flora and fauna of Sikkim. Lepchas are very good at archery.
These are the people of Tibetan origin. They migrated to Sikkim somewhere after the fourteenth century. The Bhutias speak Sikkimese. Bhutia villages are as large as Lepcha settlements. A Bhutia house called Khim and is usually rectangular in shape.
In the inner dry valley of Northern Sikkim, where Bhutias are the major inhabitants. Conditions here are extremely severe and the valleys here are separated from each other by almost impassable high mountains.
The traditional dress of the men is known as the Bakhu, which is a loose cloak type garment with full sleeves. The ladies were a silken Honju which is a full sleeve blouse with a loose gown type garment worn over it. The womenfolk are very fond of heavy jewellery made of pure gold and stones.
The Nepalese were the last entrants and appeared on the Sikkim scene much after the Bhutias. They migrated in large numbers and soon became the dominant community. The Nepalese now constitute more than 80% of the population. The Nepali settlers introduced the terraced system of cultivation. Cardamom was as important cash crop introduced by the Nepalese. Except for the Sherpas some Gurungs and Tamangs who are Buddhists, the Nepalese are orthodox Hindus following the cast system. Nepali is spoken and understood all over the state. This language is similar to Hindi and uses the Devnagri script.
The traditional male dress consists of a long double breasted garment flowing below the waist and a trouser known as Daura Suruwal. The women wear a double – breasted garment with strings to tie on both sides at four different places. This is shorter than the Daura and is known as Chow Bandi Choli. They also wear a shawl known as Majetro. The Khukri which has become a symbol of the Nepali (Gurkha) culture, is a sharp edged, angled, heavy weapon carried in a wooden or leather scabbard known as Daab.
Noodle-based dishes such as thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are common in Sikkim. Momos – steamed dumplings filled with vegetables, buffalo meat or pork and served with a soup – are a popular snack. Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are widely consumed . Sikkim has the third-highest per capita alcoholism rate amongst all Indian states, behind Punjab and Haryana
Festivals of Sikkim
This Bhutia festival marks the end of the harvest season. Chaams (religious dances) symbolishing the victory of good over evil are performed at the Tsug Lakhang, Phodong and Rumtek monasteries. Archery competitions are held amidst much feasting and merry making.
More or less occurring a few weeks before Losoong, Dasain is the main festival of the Hindu Nepalese in Sikkim. This too signifies the victory of good over evil. The elders of the family apply ‘tika’ on the young and bless them.
TIHAAR: Corresponding to the Indian festival of Diwali, Tihaar is also celebrated as the Festival of Lights in Sikkim with the lighting of lamps accompanied with traditional caroling called Deusi and Bhailo.
LOSAR: The Tibetan New Year. Again, celebrated in inimitable Himalayan fashion with feasting and merry making. It generally falls around the first week of February.
TENDONG LHO RUM FAAT: Specific to the Lepchas, this festival marks the celebration of the Tendong Hill. According to the legend, the hill had risen like a horn during a great flood to save the Lepchas.
BHUMCHU: Held at the Tashidhing Monastery in West Sikkim, this festival occurs around Jan-Feb. The abbot of the monastery unveils a pot of holy water and foretells the future for the state. Overflow or too little water in the pot signifies a disturbed year ahead. If the level of the water is full, it foretells peace and prosperity.
Unique to Sikkim, this festival worships the snowy peaks of the guardian deity of Sikkim, Mt. Khangchendzonga. An important feature of the celebrations is the spectacular Warrior Dance with it’s intricate steps and leaps accompanied by martial war-cries.
Christmas is celebrated with fun & fervor along with the rest of the world. Gangtok wears festive look during the month of December since Lossong & Christmas fall in this month.
Unique feature of Sikkimese people is that every one celebrates & enjoys all the festival with great pomp and show.