Profile of Sikkim

Sikkim is a landlocked state in the north-eastern region of India. It is the second smallest state in terms of area after Goa and the least populous state of the country. The state shares international borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan, and state boundary with West Bengal.


The geography of Sikkim is diverse owing to its location in Himalayan mountain regions. It is one of the prosperous states of India owing to its political stability and economic growth. The state has varied geographical features in form of high mountain peaks and steep river valleys.

The state of Sikkim has rich cultural heritage which reflects in its traditions and customs. The culture of Sikkim is accentuated by many art and craft forms practiced by the people. The people of Sikkim also are divided into three main groups residing together in harmony. The people also celebrate many festivals of Sikkim throughout the year. In addition to that, there are different graceful dance forms which are performed during festivals and occasions. The cultural essence of Sikkim is also reflected in the different cuisine types which are prepared by the local people. The state has also become one of India's preferred destinations for nature lovers. The land is replete with forests, mountains, lakes, Buddhists monasteries and so on.

History of Sikkim

The earliest historical mention of Sikkim is in the record as a passage of the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche through the land in the 9th century. The guru is said to have introduced Buddhism in Sikkim and foretold the era of monarchy that would arrive in Sikkim centuries later.

history of Sikkim

In 1642, Phuntsog Namgyal (fifth generation descendant of Khye Bumsa), was declared the first Chogyal (king) of Sikkim by the three revered Lamas who came from the north, west and south to Yuksom, marking the beginning of the monarchy. The Sikkim monarchy was subsequently founded in 1962 by a fifth generation descendant of a prince of Tibet. In the early 17th century, Sikkim was invaded by Bhutanese. In later periods the Tibetans and Nepalese attacked Sikkim and occupied some of its areas.

Finally during the British rule in India, the British drove them all away and established its rule. In 1947, when India got its Independence, a popular vote rejected Sikkim’s joining the Indian Union and then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim.

A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government for the Chogyal monarchy. However, in early 1970s the Chogyal became extremely unpopular with the people; and the people demanded fresh election based on which Sikkim would become a state of the Indian union.

In 1975, the Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a part of India. In April that year, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the royal guards of that time.

A referendum was held in 1975 in which 97.5% of the people voted to join the Indian Union. Thereby, on 16th May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union and the monarchy rule was abolished. China though regarded Sikkim as an independent state occupied by India, however in 2003, eventually recognized Sikkim as an Indian state on the condition that India accepted the Tibet Autonomous Region as a part of China. This mutual agreement led a thaw in the Sino-Indian relations. New Delhi originally accepted Tibet as a part of China in 1953 during the government of the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

On 6th July, 2006, the Nathu-La pass was opened for cross border trade constituting further evidence of improving Sino-Indian relations. In recent years, the Greater Nepal movement had proposed that the territory of Sikkim be returned to Nepal as a part of restitution of Nepalese lands seized by the British in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Geography of Sikkim

Sikkim is a small state situated in the foothills of the Great Himalayas. It is is surrounded by Bhutan and Nepal with West Bengal on its South. The world’s third highest peak Mount Kangchenjunga is located in Sikkim. Mount Kangchenjunga is India's highest mountain peak. It is also the Sikkim state's highest peak. The eastern, western and northern side of Sikkim is surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains. The state covers an area of 7096 kilometers.

sikkim geography

The state of Sikkim has hilly mountainous terrain. Tucked in between the Himalayan ranges, the state has mountainous terrain with elevations ranging from 280 meters to 8585 meters. The terrain of Sikkim is unfit for agriculture because of the Rocky Mountains and precipitous slopes. However, there are some slopes which are converted into terrace farms for agricultural purposes. Sikkim is distinguished by the splendid hillocks. The entire state is covered with hills and forests. Only the Lower Himalayas which lie on the southern part of the state are mostly populated.

About one third of the state of Sikkim is covered by forests. The state has altogether 28 peaks with more than 80 glaciers and 227 high altitude lakes. With several mountain peaks and glaciers there are also five hot springs and over a hundred rivers and streams in the state of Sikkim. The hot springs are known for their medicinal and therapeutic values.

springs in sikkim

The springs have high sulphur content and are located near the river banks. Some of these hot springs also emit hydrogen. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50°C. Sikkim is connected by eight major mountain passes to the countries of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim is rich in bio-diversity. The state has more than 600 orchid and a large number of species of butterflies.

Climate of Sikkim

Climate of Sikkim

The climate of Sikkim varies from subtropical in the south to tundra in the northern parts. The tundra region in northern Sikkim is covered by snow for four months consecutively every year. The temperature during these winter months drops down to below 0°C. Most of the populated lower regions of Sikkim experience a temperate climate with temperatures ranging from 28°C in summer at times and dropping below 0°C in winters.

Facts of Sikkim

Total Geographical Area: 7,096 sq. km
Date of Formation: 16-May-75
Capital: Gangtok
No. of Districts: 4
No. of Lok Sabha seats: 1
No. of Rajya Sabha seats: 1
No. of Vidhan Sabha seats: 32
No. of Sub-divisions: 9
No. of blocks: 453
No. of villages: 452
No. of towns: 9
Largest City : Gangtok
Population (2001): 540,851
Population Density: 76 per sq. km
Male population: 288,484
Female population: 252,367
Sex Ratio: 875 female per 1000 males
Literacy rate: 68.80%
Per Capita Income: Rs.23786 (2003-04)
Language (s): English, Bhutia, Nepali, Lepcha, Limbu, and Hindi etc
Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity
Average Rainfall: 2,739 mm

Sikkim is one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. The snow line is around 6,000 metres (19,600 feet). Sikkim is divided into four sub-divisions- East Sikkim, West Sikkim, North Sikkim and South Sikkim. The state enjoys five seasons- winter, summer, spring, autumn and monsoon.

The average annual temperature for Sikkim is around 18°C. The state of Sikkim receives regular snowfall and the snowline ranges from 20,000 feet in the northern side to 16,000 feet in the southern side. The monsoon months are characterized by heavy rains which increase the risk of landslides. Heavy rains occur during monsoon seasons i.e. from mid-June to August.

The record for the longest period of continuous rain in Sikkim is 11 days. The rainfall in Sikkim happens because of the proximity of Sikkim to the Bay of Bengal and the mountains of the state come directly in the way of the monsoon clouds. Rainfall in the state varies because of the hill features. During winters, the temperatures in the higher altitudes drop to below -40°C. Fog also affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making the state extremely difficult to access.

Resources of Sikkim

Sikkim is gifted with vast forest resources including a variety of flora and fauna. It is a paradise for nature lovers, trekkers, environmentalists, botanists, and conservationists. The state is rich in both mineral resources and forest resources. There are many valleys and rivers flowing through the state.

Forests in Sikkim

About 80% of Sikkim is covered by forests which includes Tropical Dry Deciduous forest, Grasslands and Alpine Scrub. The grasslands are seen in the higher elevation areas of the state. The forests include various medicinal trees, flora and fauna species.

forests of sikkim

The forests include 400 species of flowering plants, 300 species of ferns and its allies, 11 species of oaks, 8 species of Tree Ferns, 40 species of Primulas and 20 species of Bamboo. Several species of medicinal plants and herbs are also found all over the state.

The fauna wealth of Sikkim comprises of 144 species of mammals, 600 species of Birds, 400 species of Butterflies and Moths and many species of Reptiles.

Rivers in Sikkim

The most important river of Sikkim is Teesta (Tista). Its major tributary is the Rangeet which has its source at the Rathong Glacier. It meets Teesta at the border between Sikkim and West Bengal. Teesta originates from the Cholamu Lake where it is hardly a stream.

teesta river

Teesta River is an important river of the state of Sikkim. It is said to be the lifeline of Sikkim as the entire length of the river flows through the state and creates river valleys for ardent life support. The Teesta River is the largest river system of Sikkim and it flows through the entire length of state of Sikkim before joining the Brahmaputra in the country of Bangladesh. The total length of the river is 302 kms and with it drains an area of 12,540 sq kms.

Course of Teesta river:

The river originates in Tso Lhamo Lake in the Himalayan mountain range in North Sikkim district at an elevation of 5300 meters above sea level. This lake is situated in the east of Donkia pass next to the western base of Pauhunri. The lake and the river are formed by the melting of the Tista Khantse glacier. The river is then fed by rivulets which arise in the Thangu, Yumthang and Donkia-La ranges in its course.

The river then flows past the town of Rangpo where the Rangpo River merges into the Teesta River and it forms a border between Sikkim and West Bengal states. Again just before the Teesta Bridge it is met by its main tributary, the Rangeet River. At this point, the river change course and flows southwards into the state of West Bengal. The river enters the plains in Sevoke, situated 22 kms north of Siliguri.

The river is spanned by the Coronation Bridge which links the northeastern states of India to the rest of India. The river then changes course to Jalpaiguri and then to Rangpur district if Bangladesh before merging in with the mighty Brahmaputra at Fulchori.

The Teesta River has changed course over the years. The river earlier was running due south to Jalpaiguri in three channels which joined the Padma and Brahmaputra in different locations. However, during the destructive floods of 1787, the Teesta River changed its old course and started flowing south east to join the Brahmaputra.

Geography of Teesta river:

On its course, the Teesta River has created many ravines and gorges in Sikkim. Different vegetation types can also be seen in the course of the river. The river is flanked by white sand which is used by the construction industry in the region. In between the Rangpo town and the railway bridge, the Teesta River flows in a swift current and is ideal for river rafting. During the monsoons, the river becomes more turbulent and landslides often occur in dam parts of the river.

Proposed dams for Teesta river:

The Government of India has proposed dams in the river to generate electricity power. However, this has been on hold relating to concerns of river induced seismicity which may occur due to construction of the dams. The construction of dams of late has been however started.

Activities in Teesta river:

River rafting is one of the popular activities which occur in the river course. Due to its swift current and the flow, river rafting is a favorite activity of the tourists in the river.

Minerals of Sikkim:

Sikkim is rich in its geological resources. The state has established the department of mines and geology to explore the resources, with an objective of developing commercially exploitable mineral resources. Sikkim has various minerals including dolomite, coal, talc, lime stone, mineral water, graphite, thermal springs, building stones and other minerals. The state department mines and geology is responsible for the commercial exploration of various minerals resources.

Power in Sikkim:

The Hydro Electric Power of Sikkim is depends on the Rangit and Teesta rivers. These rivers provide the potential for the development of hydro electric power in the state. There are several hydro electric projects which have been established in the state.

teesta power

Agriculture in Sikkim:

A large number of people of Sikkim depend on agricultural activity. Agriculture activities of this state manage a part in economy activity of Sikkim. About 689 enterprises are established in the rural areas of Sikkim. Apart from rice and maize, the state also plants tea and coffee. Tea is exported to other countries like USSR and Germany.

Horticulture in Sikkim:

Horticulture is a major economic activity in Sikkim. Various fruits like orange, guava, banana, mango, and spices like ginger, cardamom, and turmeric are produced in the state. The horticulture department of Sikkim provides technical guidance to the farmers for better agriculture in the state. About 450 species of orchids are also found in Sikkim. A flower exhibition held every year in Sikkim to provide a universal platform to the flower growers.

Aqua Culture in Sikkim:

The Rangit and Teesta rivers, lakes, streams and tributaries of the state include many aqua lives. Lakes and the streams also lure the tourists. The rivers and streams are used for rafting activity.

Livestock in Sikkim:

Animal husbandry is a common feature in the rural areas of Sikkim. Yak,  cattle, sheep, pig, goat, buffaloes are found in the Sikkim villages. The villagers receive protein rich items like egg, milk, meat from the animals and birds.

Economy of Sikkim

Sikkim is a beautiful state of India known for the produce of tea and cardamom. The state is filled with beautiful valleys which provide good fertile land for a variety of crops. There are also few mineral deposits in the state.

The economy of Sikkim is largely dependent on agriculture. The principal crops grown here include paddy, wheat, millet, maize, and barley. Horticultural products include orange, potatoes, apples and cardamom.

Sikkim has the largest area under cardamom production. Tea is also grown in the state. Sikkim has also started producing coffee at Majitar. Sikkim is also rich in varieties of orchids. Although the state’s economy broadly depends on the agriculture but its progress remained limited due to difficult topography and other natural barriers. The state government is trying it's best to improve the situation.

Industry in Sikkim:

There are few industrial units engaged in food processing, tanning, watch assembling and distilleries, breweries, and flour mills. The state is not very rich in mineral resources. Only some deposits of copper, lead and zinc, have so far been discovered. The tourism and handicrafts are among other industries of economic importance.

Culture of Sikkim

The state of Sikkim is a beautiful state filled with river valleys and blue daunting peaks. Sikkim is a land of diverse tribes and races of people living together. These different tribes and communities have unique features of their own in addition to their distinctive dance forms, culture and craft forms. The diversity of ethnic groups, languages and religion is seen all over the state.

Broadly, there are three tribal groups among the Sikkimese people known for their distinct socio-religious practices. The first group includes the Lepchas which belongs to the Bodish-Himalayish group of Tibeto-Burman languages. The second group is the Bhutias who originally belong to Tibet. The third group of people is the Nepalis.

Food of Sikkim:

The cuisine of Sikkim is mostly characterized by noodles, momo, thupka and other fermented foods. Alcoholic drinks are enjoyed by both men and women. Beef is commonly taken by the Bhutias. Noodle-based items such as the thanthuk, thukpa, chowmein, gyathuk, fakthu, and wonton are the most popular dishes. Momos which are steamed dumplings filled with vegetable, buff (buffalo's meat) or pork and served with a soup is a popular snack in Sikkim.

sikkim momo

Festivals of Sikkim

All important festivals of India are celebrated in Sikkim with great fervor. Apart from these there are some regional festivals in Sikkim which include Losar, Lhabab Duechen, Saga Dawa, Loosong, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu that are celebrated by Buddhist religious communities. Losar – the Tibetan New Year in mid-December is an important festival of the state when most of the government offices and tourist centers are closed for a week.

Music and Dance in Sikkim

Western rock music can be commonly heard from the houses, restaurants and business centres in Sikkim. Hindi songs are also gaining popularity among the young masses. Indigenous Nepali rock music with Western rock beat is also popular among the Sikkimese (people of Sikkim). The Nepali lyrics are so heart touching that you can stand a while to listen to its stanzas.

The dances of Sikkim are traditional celebrating harvest and the prosperity period in Sikkim. These dances are accompanied by chanting, traditional musical instruments and the dancers wear traditional masks and bright costumes. Some of the dance forms are Maruni Dance, Lu Khangthamo, Singhi Chham, Gnungmala Gnunghey, Khukuri Dance, Rechungma, Enchey Chaam, Kagyed Dance, Chi Rimu, Rumtek Chaam,  Chu Faat Dance and Yak Chaam

Tribes of Sikkim:

The state of Sikkim has a number of tribes and ethnic communities which constitute the population of the state of Sikkim.

The Lepchas:

The Lepchas are the indigenous tribal people in Sikkim. The word Lepchas means the ravine folk. They are mostly Buddhist but many of them have now adopted Christianity. The earliest Lepcha people worshiped spirit of mountains, rivers and forests. They speak Lepcha language, belongs to the Bodish-Himalayish group of Tibeto-Burman languages. The male Lepcha wears Pagi made of cotton and the female Lepcha wears a two piece dress. Hunting and fishing are the main occupation of the Lepchas.

sikkim tribes

The Bhutias:

The Bhutias is another tribe found in Sikkim. They originally belong to the Tibet. After the 15th century they migrated and settled in Sikkim. According to 2001 census, about 70,300 Bhutias resides in the region. They speak Sikkimese language. A Bhutia hut is called Khin. The male Bhutia wears a traditional dress called Bakhu and the ladies Bhutia wears Honju. They speak Nepali and Bhutia language. The Bhutia people have a special weakness for gold. They wear pure gold ornaments.

The Nepalis:

The Nepalis are the third tribe residing in Sikkim. About 70% to 80% Nepali people resides in Sikkim. They are mainly cultivator. Apart from Sherpas and Tamangs, some of the Nepalis are influenced by Hinduism. The Nepali man wear a traditional dress called Dowra Suruwal and women wear Chobandi Cholo. Many Nepali folk dances and songs are connected with cultivating and harvesting season. They speak Nepali language which is similar to Hindi.

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