Sikkim - Quick Facts

Area: 7096 Sq. Km

Population: 607,608

Altitude: 280m

Climate: Temperate

Average Rainfall: 325m

Annual Temperature: 180C

Capital: Gangatok

Languages: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Limboo, Magar, Rai, Gurung, Sherpa, Tamang, Newari, Sunuwar (Mukhia)

Religion: Hinduisim  & buddhism

Best Time To Visit: March-june & Sep-Dec

The modern history of Sikkim begins from 1642 A.D. with the coronation of Phuntsog Namgyal as the first Chogyal or king of Sikkim in a tranquil pine covered hill in Yuksom Norbugang in West Sikkim. The Namgyals were scions of the Mi-nyak House in Kham in Eastern Tibet. It is said that there were three brothers, chiefs of Kham Mi-nyak. A letter dropped from heaven directed the middle brother to go south towards Sikkim where his descendents were fated to rule. It was in Sakya that his eldest son single-handedly raised the pillars of the Sakya monastery and earned himself the sobriquet of 'Khye Bumsa'(the strength of a lakh of men) Khye Bumsa also earned himself the hand of the daughter of the Sakya hierarch and settled in Chumbi Valley, which remained, for a long time, the epicenter of the later kingdom of Sikkim.

Long troubled by the fact that he and his wife were issueless, Khye Bumsa sought the blessings of the Lepcha chieftain Thekongtek who was reputed to be able to grant the boon of progeny. Khye Bumsa's wife subsequently bore him three sons. Later Khye Bumsa and Thekong Tek swore the historic pact of eternal friendship at Kabi Longtsok in North Sikkim. Khye Bumsa's third son Mipon Rab succeeded his father. He, in turn, was succeeded by his fourth son Guru Tashi who moved to Gangtok. Meanwhile Thekongtek passed away and the Lepchas who started fragmenting into small tribes turned to Guru Tashi for leadership and protection. The Sikkim Coronation book describes Guru Tashi as the 'first ruler of Sikkim who paved way for a regular monarchy'.

Five generations later, it was Phuntsog Namgyal who was consecrated as the first Denjong Gyalpo or the king of Sikkim by the three great Lamas who came from the North, West and South to Yuksom Norbugang in West Sikkim in 1642 A.D. The event, predicted as it was by Guru Rinpoche, was the 'Naljor Chezhi' or the meeting of the four yogic brothers or the four saints or four sages. It was preordained that three saints of great repute from different parts of Tibet make their way to Bayul Demajong (Sikkim) to discharge their responsibility of upholding and propogating the essence of Dharma in the hidden land of Demajong. Thus it was that Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, Kathog Kuntu Zangpo and Gnadak Sempa Phuntsog Rigzin made their way to Sikkim separately, and through impenetrable routes.

By Air
The closest Indian Airport is at a distance of 124 kms from Gangtok at Bagdogra in Siliguri in West Bengal, where scheduled flights operates from Kolkata(Calcutta), Delhi and Guwahati and connecting flights onwards. Travel time from the airport to Gangtok is 4 hours.

By Rail
The closest Railhead is at New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, 148 km and Siliguri which are connected to Calcutta, New Delhi Guwahati and other major Indian cities.

By Road
Gangtok is well connected by road to Siliguri, 114 kms. 4 hours, which functions as the major transit point for the North and North Eastern sections of the Indian Sub-continent Gangtok is further well connected by road with Darjeeling(4 Hrs), Kalimpong and with Bhutan, Phuntsholing (6 Hrs).

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. A majority of population of North Sikkim comprises of Bhutias, Lepchas and less number of Nepalis. The Lepchas are predominantly concentrated in the Dzongu Areas, Bhutias are seen from Kabi-Tingda to Lachen-Lachung. Nepalies are found mixed up around Phodong, Mangshila and Mangan. Bhutias and Lepchas are usually Bhuddist and Nepalis are Hindus, whereas around 1 % of populations from all tribes have lately converted to Christians.

The food pattern in Sikkim is not limited to either vegetarian or non vegetarian as both are easily available here. One can relish Indian, Tibetan and Chinese cuisines at Sikkim with a very limited range of continental cuisine also available. A wide array of local fare is available in Sikkim that proves to be a gourmet's real delight.

Momo is a very popular Tibetan delicacy in Sikkim. It is a kind of a meat dumpling.

Gya Thuk or Thukpa
Gya Thuk or Thukpa is a noodle-based soup with vegetables or meat.

Ningro with Churpi
Ningro is an alpine fiddle-head fern and its tendrils when sauteed with 'Churpi' (cottage cheese) makes an irresistible dish.

Chhurpi is a fermented dairy product prepared from cow milk. It is a traditional cottage cheese which gives a texture of a white soft mass with mild sour taste. It is fermented by lactic acid bacteria.

Other Famous Cuisine are-

•        Gundruk and Sinki
•        Kinema
•        Tama
•        Sael Roti
•        Chaang

People of Sikkim seem to be born with exceptional skill required for craft making. You will find some of the most beautiful woolen items like woven woolen carpets and woolen blankets along with other items like Sikkimese motifs, and table called Choktse. From ages, craft items of Sikkim have generated a lot of market in India. However what is most heartening to see is that, today it is in great demand even in foreign countries. There are different communities in Sikkim and almost all possess expertise in at least one handicraft item. Another reason for so much popularity of Sikkimese item is the traditional method of production still employed. Development has definitely taken place in Sikkim, but the people of Sikkim prefer the olden ways as it more cheap, better quality and way more rewarding. And looking at the demand of Sikkim crafts products, it seems even buyers prefer the same way.

Ther are numerous festivals celebrated in Sikkim throughout the year. As people of Sikkim mostly follow Buddhism, the festivals celebrated here are associated to the Buddhist festivals. Mostly the festivals are celebrated in the Gompas or Monasteries of Sikkim, where people gather in large number to commemorate the occasion.
•        Saga Dawa
•        Lhabab Dhuechein
•        Phang Lhabsol
•        Drupka Teshi
•        Bumchu
•        Losoong
•        Lossar
•        Tendong Lho Rum Faat
•        Tihaar
•        Dasain

Shopping can be a real wholesome experience to the tourists visiting Sikkim. The local handicrafts are a must buy here which can be picked up from the Government Institute of Cottage Industry in Gangtok or the Dalai Lama Trust Fund shop in the basement of Hotel Tibet. Though some other shops in the region also sell these but the prices and quality differ. Apart from the handicrafts, canvas wall hangings, thankas, prayer wheels, Tibetan carpets, rugs and jewellery can also be picked as return gifts for your friends and family. One of the most unique items to be bought from Sikkim is a Dragon set. Exclusively carved in silver and gold, these sets are inlaid with precious stones. You can also bring home the popular tea of Sikkim and cardamoms.

Gangatok | Pelling | Yuksom | Gazing | Jorthang | Mangan.

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