One of the most enchanting states in India; the traveller’s much-loved destination, this incredibly beautiful state has been given many names to its inhabitants for all the right reasons. The Lepchas, the original inhabitants called it Nye-mae-el or ‘paradise’. The Limbus named it Su Khyim or ‘new palace’ while to the Bhutias it was Beymul Demazong ‘the hidden valley of rice’. Alsoin Hindu religious texts, Sikkim is known as Indrakil, the garden of the god of war, Indra.
Sikkim isa wonderland in the bosom of Eastern Himalayas with its avant-garde surroundings and spectacular tableau of The Shangrila and Mt. Kanchenjunga, making it a charming land representing a concoction of Buddhism and Tibetology. Everywhere you look, you’ll find Buddhist monasteries and ruby clad monks, whose smiles awaken the love for peace in your heart. For nature lovers, the state has eminent orchid sanctuary where over 500 indigenous species of orchids are found. Sikkim is also a popularbase for mountaineering expeditions and, a perfect place for trekking to see many quaint dales and mountain lakes.
Nestling as it does in the Himalayan mountains, the state of Sikkim is characterised by mountainous terrain. Almost the entire state is hilly, with an elevation ranging from 280 metres to 8,586 metres. The summit of Kangchenjunga - the world's third-highest peak - is the state's highest point, situated on the border between Sikkim and Nepal. Numerous snow-fed streams have carved out river valleys in the west and south of the state. These streams combine into the major Teesta River and its tributary, the Rangeet, which flow through the state from north to south. About a third of the state is heavily covered by forest.
The Himalayan mountain ranges surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim. The state has 28 mountain peaks, more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes (including the Tsongmo, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lakes), five major hot springs, and more than 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.
Sikkim's hot springs are renowned for their medicinal and therapeutic values. Among the state's most notable hot springs are those at Phurchachu, Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong. The springs, which have a high sulphur content, are located near river banks; some are known to emit hydrogen. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50 °C
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 kilometre.There are three ethnic groups in Sikkim- Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese. The three ethnic groups of people represent a synthesis of three diverse cultures, traditions and religions in Sikkim.Due to a century-long population influx from Nepal, the majority of Sikkim's residents are of Nepali ethnic origin. These communities of Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese are an analogous interfusion with their distinct identity. If there is a temple, there is also a mosque, if there is a monastery there is also a church.
Lepchas are deemed as the primitive inhabitants of Sikkim much before the settlement of Bhutias and Nepalese. The earlier Lepchas believed in bone faith or mune faith based on good and bad spirits of mountains, rivers and forests but later adopted Buddhism and Christianity.
Bhutias are the people originally from Kham area in the Eastern Tibet who follow Lamanism and their lingua franca is Sikkimese language, a dialect of the Tibetan Language. They are called Lachenpas and Lachungpas in the North Sikkim.
Nepalese are the main residents of the state who migrated after Lepchas and Bhutias. The terrace farming style of cultivation and production of cardamom was introduced by these people. Except Sherpas and Tamangs who are Buddhists, other people are basically Hindu.
The three ethnic groups of people represent a synthesis of three diverse cultures, traditions, religions in Sikkim. These communities of Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese are an analogous interfusion with their distinct identity. If there is a temple, there is also a mosque, if there is a monastery there is also a church. The communities have their own traditional folk dance forms. The Nepalese, the Lepchas and the Sikkimese have unique folk dances, each different and each amusingly groovy.
Sikkim's Nepalese majority celebrate all major Hindu festivals, including Diwali and Dussera. Traditional local festivals, such as Maghe Sankranti and Bhimsen Puja, are also popular. Losar, Loosong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu are among the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Sikkim. During the Losar (Tibetan New Year), most offices and educational institutions are closed for a week. Sikkimese Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr and Muharram.
Western rock music and Indian pop have gained a wide following in Sikkim. Indigenous Nepali rock and Lepcha music are also popular. Sikkim's most popular sports are football and cricket, although hang gliding and river rafting have also grown popular as part of the tourism industry.
Sikkim has a rich cultural dance forms that include the folk dances of Lepcha like Zo-Mal-Lok, Chu Faat,Kar Gnok Lok, Dharma Jo and Mon Dryak Loks; the folk dances of Bhutia like Talachi, Lu Khangthamo, Gha To Kito, Be Yu Mista, Chi Rimu, Rechungma, Gnungmala Gnunghey, Tashi Zaldha and the folk dances of Nepali like Maruni, Tamang Selo, Dhaan Naach, Dau Ra JaneZo-Mal-Lok, Sebru Naach and many more.
Sikkim is also known for its festivals like Flower Festival, Gangtok Food and Culture Festival, Hee Bermiock Heritage & Tourism Festival, Khangchendzonga Tourist festival, Lampokhari Tourism Festival, Mangan Music Festival, Namchi Mahotsav, Ravangla Festival.
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.
This write-up on the State of Sikkim is just an introduction to the land and its people. It is not meant to be an exhaustive or authoritative document.