|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|Area||7,096 km² (2,740 sq mi)|
• 76.17 /km² (197 /sq mi)
|Chief Minister||Pawan Kumar Chamling|
|Established||May 16, 1975|
|Legislature (seats)||Unicameral (32)|
Sikkim (Nepali: सिक्किम ▶, also Sikhim) - a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. The least populous state in India, ranking as the second-smallest in area after Goa. The thumb-shaped state borders Nepal in the west, Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and east, and Bhutan in the southeast. The Indian state of West Bengal borders Sikkim to its south. Hindi , Bhutia, Nepali, Lepcha, Limbu, and English constitute the official languages, although people conduct almost all written transactions in English. Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism represent the majority religions. Gangtok serves as the capital and ranks as largest town.
Despite its tiny size, Sikkim enjoys geographical diversity, owing to its location on the Himalaya. The climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine. Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, sits in the northwestern part of the state on the boundary with Nepal, and can be seen from most parts of the state. Sikkim has become a popular tourist destination for its culture, scenic beauty and biodiversity.
The origin of the name Sikkim arose from combining the two words in the Limbu Su, meaning "new," and Khyim, meaning "palace" or house, referring to the palace built by the state's first ruler, Phuntsok Namgyal. The Tibetan name for Sikkim, Denjong, means the "valley of rice".
The passage of the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche through the land in the eighth century represents the earliest recorded event related to Sikkim. Records state that the Guru blessed the land, introduced Buddhism to Sikkim, and foretold the era of monarchy in the state that would arrive centuries later. In the fourteenth century, according to legend, Khye Bumsa, a prince from the Minyak House in Kham in Eastern Tibet, had a divine revelation one night instructing him to travel south to seek his fortunes. His descendants formed the royal family of Sikkim. In 1642, the fifth-generation descendant of Khye Bumsa, Phuntsog Namgyal, had been consecrated the first Chogyal (king) of Sikkim by the three venerated Lamas who came from the north, west and south to Yuksom, marking the beginning of the monarchy.
Phuntsog Namgyal's son, Tensung Namgyal, succeeded him in 1670 by his son who moved the capital from Yuksom to Rabdentse. In 1700, the Bhutanese invaded Sikkim with the help of the half-sister of the Chogyal, who had been denied the throne. The Tibetans, who restored the throne to the Chogyal ten years later, drove away the Bhutanese. Between 1717 and 1733, the kingdom faced many raids by the Nepalese in the west and Bhutanese in the east, culminating with the destruction of the capital Rabdentse by the Nepalese.
In 1791, China sent troops to support Sikkim and defend Tibet against the Gurkhas. Following Nepal's subsequent defeat, the Qing Dynasty established control over Sikkim. Following the arrival of the British Raj in neighboring India, Sikkim allied with them against their common enemy, Nepal. The Nepalese attacked Sikkim, overrunning most of the region including the Terai. That prompted the British East India Company to attack Nepal, resulting in the Gurkha War of 1814. Treaties signed between Sikkim and Nepal—the Sugauli Treaty—and Sikkim and British India—the Titalia Treaty—returned the territory annexed by the Nepalese to Sikkim in 1817. Ties between Sikkim and the British administrators of India grew sour with the beginning of British taxation of the Morang region. In 1849 two British doctors, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker and Dr. Archibald Campbell, the latter being in charge of relations between the British and Sikkim Government, ventured into the mountains of Sikkim unannounced and unauthorized. The Sikkim government detained the doctors, leading to a punitive British expedition against the Himalayan kingdom, after which the British annexed Darjeeling district and Morang to India in 1835. The invasion led to the chogyal's becoming a puppet king under the directive of the British governor.
In 1947, a popular vote rejected Sikkim's joining the Indian Union and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim would exist in a suzerain relationship with India, India governing its defense, diplomacy and communication. A state council had been established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government for the Chogyal. Meanwhile trouble brewed in the state after the Sikkim National Congress demanded new elections and greater representation for the Nepalese. In 1973, riots in front of the palace led to a formal request for protection from India. The chogyal proved extremely unpopular with the people. In 1975, the Kazi (Prime Minister) appealed to the Indian Parliament for representation and change of Sikkim's status to a state of India. In April, the Indian Army moved into Sikkim, seizing the city of Gangtok, disarming the Palace Guards. A referendum resulted in 97.5% of the people voting to join the Indian Union. A few weeks later on May 16 1975, Sikkim officially became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, abolishing the monarchy. In 2000, in a major embarrassment for the government of People's Republic of China, the seventeenth Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje, who had been proclaimed a Lama by China, made a dramatic escape from Tibet to the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. Chinese officials faced a quandary on that issue as any protests to India on the issue would mean an explicit endorsement of India's governance of Sikkim, which the Chinese still regarded as an independent state occupied by India. China eventually recognized Sikkim as an Indian state in 2003, which led to a thaw in Sino-Indian relations. In return, India announced its official recognition of Tibet as an integrated part of China. As part of a significant pact between India and China signed by the prime ministers of the two countries, Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao, China released an official map clearly showing Sikkim as part of the Republic of India. On July 6, 2006 the Himalayan pass of Nathula opened to cross-border trade, a further evidence of improving sentiment over the region.
Wholly mountainous terrain characterized the thumb-shaped state of Sikkim, with almost the entire state hilly, the elevation ranging from 280 metres (920 feet) to 8,585 metres (28,000 feet). The summit of the Kanchenjunga represents the highest point. For the most part, the land agriculture has been impossible because of the precipitous and rocky slopes. Certain hill slopes have been converted into farm lands using terrace farming techniques. Numerous snow-fed streams in Sikkim have carved out river valleys in the west and south of the state. Those streams combine into the Teesta and its tributary, the Rangeet. The Teesta, described as the "lifeline of Sikkim," flows through the state from north to south. Heavy forests cover about a third of the land.
The lofty Himalayan ranges surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim in a crescent. The populated areas lie in the southern reaches of the state, in the Lower Himalayas. The state has twenty-eight mountain peaks, twenty-one glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes, including the Tsongmo Lake, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lakes, five hot springs, and over 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.
The hills of Sikkim mainly consist of gneissose and half-schistose rocks, making their soil brown clay, and generally poor and shallow. Coarse soil, with large amounts of iron oxide concentrations, ranging from neutral to acidic and has poor organic and mineral nutrients make up most the soil. That type of soil tends to support evergreen and deciduous forests.
Precambrian rock covers a large portion of the Sikkim territory . The rock consists of phyllites and schists and therefore the slopes weather and erode easily through intense rain, causing extensive soil erosion and heavy loss of soil nutrients through leaching. As a result, landslides occur frequently, isolating the numerous small towns and villages from the major urban centers.
Sikkim has many hot springs known for medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Phurchachu(Reshi), Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong host the most popular hot springs. Located near river banks, all those hot springs have high sulfur content. 50°C marks the average temperature of the water in those hot springs.
The climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the northern parts. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim, enjoy a temperate climate, with the temperatures seldom exceeding 28 °C (82 °F) in summer or dropping below 0 °C (32 °F) in winter. The state enjoys five seasons: winter, summer, spring, and autumn, and a monsoon season between June and September. The average annual temperature for most of Sikkim ranges around 18 °C (64 °F). Sikkim numbers among one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. The snow line reaches around 6 000 metres (19,600 feet).
During the monsoon months, heavy rains lash the state, increasing the number of landslides. Eleven days of non-stop rain set the state record for the longest period. In the northern region, because of high altitude, temperatures drop below −40 °C in winter. Fog also affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making transportation extremely perilous.
Sikkim has four districts, each overseen by a Central Government appointee, the district collector, who oversees the administration of the civilian areas of the districts. The Indian army has control of a large territory, as the state constitutes a sensitive border area. The government restricts many areas and require permits to visit them. A total of eight towns and nine subdivisions comprise Sikkim.
East Sikkim, West Sikkim, North Sikkim and South Sikkim make up the four districts of Sikkim. Gangtok, Geyzing, Mangan and Namchi, respectively, serve as the district capitals. Those Four Districts further divide into Subdivisions. "Pakyong" indicates the subdivision of East District, "Soreng" for West District, "Chungthang" for North District, and "Ravongla" the subdivision of South District.
Sikkim sits 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 to temperate to alpine and tundra, one of the few regions to exhibit such a diversity within such a small area.
The flora of Sikkim includes the rhododendron, the state tree, with a huge range of species occurring from subtropical to alpine regions. Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo in the lower altitudes of Sikkim, which enjoy a subtropical-type climate. In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres, oaks, chestnuts, maples, birches, alders, and magnolias grow in large numbers. The alpine-type vegetation includes juniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendrons, and typically grows between an altitude of 3,500 to 5 000 m. Sikkim boasts around 5,000 flowering plants, 515 rare orchids, 60 primula species, 36 rhododendron species, 11 oak varieties, 23 bamboo varieties, 16 conifer species, 362 types of ferns and ferns allies, 8 tree ferns, and over 424 medicinal plants. Sikkim named the orchid Dendrobium nobile its official flower.
The fauna includes the snow leopard, the musk deer, the Bhoral, the Himalayan Tahr, the red panda, the Himalayan marmot, the serow, the goral, the barking deer, the common langur, the Himalayan Black Bear, the clouded leopard, the Marbled Cat, the leopard cat, the wild dog, the Tibetan wolf, the hog badger, the binturong, the jungle cat and the civet cat. Herders raise yak, among the animals commonly found in the alpine zone, mainly for their milk, meat, and as a beast of burden.
The Impeyan pheasant, the crimson horned pheasant, the snow partridge, the snow cock, the lammergeyer and griffon vultures, as well as golden eagles, quail, plovers, woodcock, sandpipers, pigeons, Old World flycatchers, babblers and robins conprise the avifauna of Sikkim. A total of 550 species of birds have been recorded in Sikkim, some of which have been declared endangered.
Sikkim also has a rich diversity of arthropods, much of which remains unexplored even today. The best studied group remains, as with the rest of India, the butterflies. Of the approximately 1438 butterfly species found in the Indian subcontinent, 695 have been recorded from Sikkim. Those include the endangered Kaiser-i-hind, Yellow Gorgon and the Bhutan Glory amongst others..
This chart marks the trend of gross state domestic product of Sikkim at market prices estimated by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with figures in millions of Indian Rupees.
|Year||Gross State Domestic Product|
Sikkim's gross state domestic product for 2004 has been estimated at $478 million in current prices.
Sikkim has an agrarian-based economy, relying on traditional farming methods and on terraced slopes. Farms grow crops such as cardamom, ginger, oranges, apples, tea and orchids. Rice cultivation takes place on terraced hillsides in the southern reaches. Sikkim has the highest production and largest cultivated area of cardamom in India. Because of the hilly terrain, and lack of reliable transportation infrastructure, no large-scale industries have been established. Breweries, distilleries, tanning and watchmaking represent the main industries, located in the southern reaches of the state, primarily in the towns of Melli and Jorethang. The state has an impressive growth rate of 8.3%, the second highest in the country after Delhi.
In recent years, the government of Sikkim has promoted tourism. Sikkim has a vast tourism potential and by tapping into that the state has grossed an earnings windfall. With the general improvement in infrastructure, tourism will become the mainstay of Sikkim's economy. Online gambling has received state support. The "Playwin" lottery, played on custom-built terminals connected to the Internet, has been a commercial success, with operations all over the country. Copper, dolomite, limestone, graphite, mica, iron and coal number among the minerals mined in Sikkim.
The opening of Nathula Pass on July 6 2006 connecting Lhasa, Tibet to India will give a boost to the local economy, though the financial benefits will arrive slowly as the type and number of items traded expands. The Pass, closed since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had been an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road, essential to the wool, fur and spice trade.
Sikkim lacks airports or railheads, its rough terrain prohibiting. The closest airport, Bagdogra Airport, about 124 km away from Gangtok, operates in the town of Siliguri, West Bengal. A regular helicopter service run by the Sikkim Helicopter Service connects Gangtok to Bagdogra; the flight takes thirty minutes, scheduled only once a day, and can carry four people. The Gangtok helipad constitutes the only civilian helipad in the state. New Jalpaiguri, the closest railway station, lay sixteen kilometres from Siliguri.
National Highway 31A links Siliguri to Gangtok. The highway, an all-weather metaled road, mostly runs parallel to the river Teesta, entering Sikkim at Rangpo. Numerous public and privately run bus and jeep services connect the airport, railway station, and Siliguri to Gangtok. A branch of the highway from Melli connects western Sikkim. Towns in southern and western Sikkim connect by road to the northern West Bengal hill stations of Kalimpong and Darjeeling. Within the state, four wheel drives represent the most popular means of transport, as they can navigate rocky slopes. Minibuses link the smaller towns to the state and district headquarters.
Today the majority of Sikkim's residents have Nepali ethnic-national origin having come to the province in the nineteenth century. The native Sikkimese consist of the Bhutias, who migrated from the Kham district of Tibet in the fourteenth century, and the Lepchas believed to have migrated from the Far East. Tibetans reside mostly in the northern and eastern reaches of the state. Immigrant resident communities include the Marwaris, who own most of the shops in South Sikkim and Gangtok; the Biharis, most of whom work blue collar jobs; and the Bengalis.
Hinduism ranks as the majority religion in the state with 60.9 percent of the population professing the faith. . Buddhism forms a large minority with 28.1 percent of the population following the religion . Christians form 6.7 percent of the population , consisting mostly of people of Lepcha origin, converted to the faith after British missionaries started preaching in the region in the late nineteenth century. The state has never had inter-religious strife. Mosques in downtown Gangtok and Mangan also serve the Muslim population, numbering 1.4 percent of the population .
Nepali represents the lingua franca of Sikkim. Most people speak and understand English and Hindi in Sikkim. Other languages spoken in Sikkim include Bhutia, Dzongkha, Groma, Gurung, Lepcha, Limbu, Magar, Majhi, Majhwar, Nepal Bhasa, Rai, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Tamang, Thulung, Tibetan, and Yakha.
As India's least populous state, Sikkim has 540,493 inhabitants, with 288,217 males and 252,276 females and one of the least densely populated states with only 76 persons per square kilometer. Its growth rate measured 32.98 percent (1991–2001). The sex ratio has been recorded at 875 females per 1000 males. With 50,000 inhabitants, Gangtok constitutes the state's only significant town. The urban population in Sikkim makes 11.06 percent of the total. The per capita income stands at Rs. 11,356, one of the highest in the country.
Sikkim residents celebrate all major Indian festivals such as Diwali and Dussera, the popular Hindu festivals. Losar, Loosong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu, Buddhist festivals, also enjoy a wide celebration. During the Losar – the Tibetan New Year in mid-December – most government offices and tourist centers close for a week. Christmas has also recently been promoted in Gangtok to attract tourists during the off-season.
Western rock music plays in homes and in restaurants even in the countryside. Hindi songs have gained wide acceptance among the public. Indigenous Nepali rock, music suffused with a Western rock beat and Nepali lyrics, has become particularly popular. Football and cricket represent the two most popular sports.
In Sikkim, noodle-based dishes such as the thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton enjoy wide popularity. Momos, steamed dumplings filled with vegetable, buff (buffalo's meat) or pork and served with a soup represent a popular snack. The mountain peoples have a diet rich in beef, pork and other meats. Many Sikkimese consume beer, whiskey, rum and brandy, partly because low excise duty makes alcohol affordable for everyone.
Almost all dwellings in Sikkim have a rustic construction, consisting of a bamboo frame, woven with pliable bamboo and coated with cow dung, providing a warm interior. In the higher elevations, most houses have been constructed of wood.
Like all states of India, a governor appointed by the Central Indian Government heads the state government. Largely a ceremonial appointment, he mainly oversees the swearing in of the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, who holds the real executive powers, heads of the party or coalition garnering the largest majority in the state elections. The governor also appoints the cabinet ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister. Sikkim has a unicameral legislature like most other Indian states. Sikkim has been allocated one seat in each of both chambers of India's national bicameral legislature, the Lok Sabha, and the Rajya Sabha. A total of 32 state assembly seats, including one reserved for the Sangha, exist. The Sikkim High Court represents the smallest high court in the country.
|State animal||Red Panda|
|State bird||Blood Pheasant|
|State flower||Noble orchid|
In 1975, after the abrogation of Sikkim's monarchy, the Congress Party got the largest majority in the 1977 elections. In 1979, after a period of instability, a popular ministry headed by Nar Bahadur Bhandari, leader of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad Party had been sworn in. Bhandari held on to power in the 1984 and 1989 elections. In the 1994 elections Pawan Kumar Chamling from the Sikkim Democratic Front becoming the Chief Minister of the state. The party has since held on to power by winning the 1999 and 2004 elections.
Although landslides and flooding by nearby streams often affect roads in Sikkim, they suffer less disruption then equivalent roads of other Indian states. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), an offshoot of the Indian army, maintain the roads. The roads in South Sikkim and NH-31A have less frequent landslides than other area. The state government maintains 1857.35 km of roadways that fall outside BRO jurisdiction.
Sikkim has a number of hydroelectric power stations, providing a source of steady electricity. The voltage fluctuates requiring the installation of voltage stabilizers. Per capita consumption of electricity in Sikkim measures 182 kWh. 73.2 percent of households have access to safe drinking water, and the large number of streams assures abundant water supply, thus the state never witnesses droughts. The government has a number of hydel projects under construction on the Teesta river and their anticipated environmental impact has become a matter of concern.
The southern urban areas have English, Nepali and Hindi dailies. Nepali language newspapers have local presses, while Hindi and English newspapers ship from presses in Siliguri. English newspapers include The Statesman and The Telegraph, printed in Siliguri, as well as The Hindu and The Times of India, printed in Calcutta, and the day after publication in the towns of Gangtok, Jorethang, Melli and Geyzing. The Sikkim Herald an official publication of the government, distributes weekly. The Haalkhabar represents the only International standard daily news portal from Sikkim.
Internet cafés abound in the district capitals, but broadband connectivity has limited availability, many rural areas lack links to the Internet. Most homes in the state enjoy satellite television channels through dish antennae, receiving the same channels broadcast throughout India, along with a Nepali language channels. Sikkim Cable, Dish TV, Doordarshan and Nayuma constitute the main service providers. Local cellular companies such as BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, and Airtel well service the area. BSNL has state wide coverage, whereas Reliance Infocomm and Airtel have coverage only in urban areas. The national All India Radio alone offers radio broadcasting in the state.
Literacy has reached 69.68 percent, which breaks down into 76.73 percent for males and 61.46 percent for females. A total of 1545 government-run educational institutions and 18 private schools operate mostly in the towns. Twelve colleges and other institutions in Sikkim offer higher education, the largest institution the Sikkim Manipal University of Health Medical and Technological Sciences which offers higher education in engineering, medicine and management. It also runs a host of distance education in diverse fields. Two state-run polytechnics, Advanced Technical Training Centre (ATTC) and Centre for Computers and Communication Technology (CCCT) in Sikkim offer diploma courses in various branches of engineering. ATTC has campuses at Bardang, Singtam and CCCT at Chisopani, Namchi. Many students migrate to Siliguri and Calcutta for their higher education.
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