Sikkim, a tiny and once a remote
independent Buddhist Kingdom ruled by the Chogyal
Dynasty whose root goes back to the 13th century is
nestled between Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. The Chogyal
Dynasty started with Khye Bumsa, a Tibetan warlord who happened
to come to this land of Demazong meaning “Valley of Rice”.
During the British Raj in India, Sikkim was given the status
of Protectorate State. In 1975, under the 16th
Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union.
Measuring just 40 by 70 miles (2800 square kilometers), its
terrain rises from just above sea level to the icebound
summits of Khangchendzonga (28,208 ft), third highest peak in the
world, revered by the locals as their protective deity. Each
year, in order to appease the Lord Khangchendzonga, a state
sponsored religious festival of Pang Lhabsol is held at the
four major monasteries of Sikkim.
Referred to as the ‘Garden Kingdom of the Himalayas’, flora
and fauna of Sikkim with over 600 varieties of Orchids, 30
species of Rhododendrons and Primulas, is considered one of
the botanical minefields in the world. Seventy percent of the
landscape is still untouched by the modern civilisation .
Forest life as such are still magically primeval and
refreshingly intact, spared the chopper’s axe due to the
eco-consciousness of the people advocated widely.
The people of Sikkim are of three distinct heritages: Lepcha,
believed to have originated from the border area of Assam and
Burma; the Bhutia, of Tibetan origin, settled in Sikkim after
the 15th century; and the Nepalese, who migrated from Nepal in
the middle of the 17th century. Communities, cultures,
religions and customs of different hue intermingle freely and
the Sikkimese’s natural friendliness adds immeasurably to the
Highlighting a visit to Sikkim are the stunning monasteries
which form an integral part of Sikkim: it is here that Gods
mix with the mortals. Built in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition
(Nyingma and Kargyu sects), set amidst thick forests and on
isolated hilltops, these monasteries are host to a number of
festivals, which are singular experience in pomp and
GANGTOK, the hillside capital of Sikkim (5,800ft) retains a
small-town feeling, neat and clean, but undergoing rapid
modernization. An open air vegetable bazaar and bustling
handicraft center selling hand-woven carpets, intricately
carved chokste(tables), and exquisitely carved silver and gold
jewelry attract visitors. Attractive hotels and restaurants
feature Sikkimese, Tibetan and Chinese dishes.
GENERAL INFORMATION : HOW TO GET TO SIKKIM
The primary means of communication within Sikkim is by road. A
daily helicopter service between Gangtok and Bagdogra is the
only other alternate option. However Sikkim is well connected
to rest of the country by rail and air through Siliguri in
West Bengal which is about 115 kms from Gangtok and forms the
railhead to Sikkim. Bagdogra, the airport of Siliguri has
daily flights to Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati. Sikkim is also
well-connected by road with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and
Phuntsoling, the border town of Bhutan.
Sikkim has an unusual variety of climate influenced by varying
altitudes so much so, it is possible to drop from arctic
heights to the tropical lowlands within a matter of couple of
hours. Places with moderate altitude (4,000 ft – 10,000 ft) like
Gangtok have a more or less good climate. During the spring
(March-May) and autumn (September-November), the weather is
pleasant. June-August, the monsoons bring torrential rain for
days together and winter (December-February), the days become
cold and nights chilly but the snow line remains above 12,000
Sikkim became a constituent unit of India on 10 April, 1975
after abolishing the institution of the Chogyal (the king) who
had ruled since the first king had been consecrated in the
year 1642 in Yuksom. The people of Sikkim submitted a general
referendum in favour of the resolution, after which the two
houses of the Indian parliment passed the 38th Consitution
Amendment Bill, which made Sikkim the 22nd state of the Indian
Union. As a democratic state, election to the 32 seats in the
state legislature is held after every 5 years .
The main religions are Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity
whereby the Hindus constitute nearly 67%, Buddhists 30% and
Important festivals are Saga Dawa (4th month of the lunar
calendar), Phang Lhabsol (15th day of the 7th month of the
lunar calendar), Loosong (Sikkimese New Year held during the
December usually), Lossar (Tibetan New Year which normally is
celebrated in the month of February)
The official language of Sikkim is Nepali. English is widely
spoken and even used as the medium of communication in
AND PERMITS : In addition to an Indian
visa, foreigners 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, Calcutta and
Sikkim Tourism Office, Siliguri on the strength of
an Indian Visa.
Foreigners are issued a permit
for initial period of 15 days duration on the spot
without any delay provided photocopies of Passport
and Visa details along with two passport photos of
applicants are made available then and there. It
can be extended for further 30 days of 15 days
each. The extenstion of permits can be obtained
from FRO at Gangtok, Superintendent of Police of
North, South and West Districts.
If you are visiting the
interior regions, you also require a Restricted
Area Permit (RAP) OR Protected Area Permit(PAP)
which is obtainable in Gangtok from the Police
Check Post and Department of Tourism.
Flight : The
closest Indian Airport is at
Bagdogra,124 kms from Gangtok, where
scheduled flights operates from Calcutta, Delhi,
Guwahati. Travel time from the airport to Gangtok
is 4 hours. Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation
also operates a daily helicopter service flight
from Bagdogra to Gangtok (20 minutes). From
to Bhadrapur in the east Nepal(1 hour), then drive
to Kakarbhitta (Nepal-India border,35 kms), to
Siliguri(37 kms) and to Gangtok (110 kms,4 hrs).
Or fly to Biratnagar also in the east.
By Rail : The
closest Railhead is at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri
which are connected to Calcutta ,New Delhi
Guwahati and other major Indian cities.
Road : Gangtok is at a distance
of 110 kms from Siliguri and will take 4 hours
from Siliguri to reach Gangtok. Gangtok is
road with Darjeeling,(4 Hrs) and with Bhutan,
Phuntsholing (6 Hrs).
BEST SEASON TO VISIT
: March to June and September to December
ADVENTURE SPORTS : Trekking, mountaineering,
rafting and yak safari
ACCOMMODATION : There are modern hotels and
restaurants in Gangtok. Comfortable resort lodges
are available in the outlying areas.
TRANSPORT is provided by buses. Vehicles are
also available on hire. Taxis are available for
getting around Gangtok. Sikkim helicopter
service operates sight-seeing flights to
different points in Sikkim.