Knowledge Corner

Sikkim is a landlocked state of India, the last to give up its monarchy and fully integrate into India, in 1975. Located in the Himalayan mountains, the state is bordered by Nepal to the west, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the east. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south.

With 607,688 inhabitants as of the 2011 census, Sikkim is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest state after Goa in total area, covering approximately 7,096 km2 (2,740 sq mi). Sikkim is nonetheless geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas; the climate ranges from subtropical to highalpine, and Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, is located on Sikkim’s border with Nepal. Sikkim is a popular tourist destination, owing to its culture, scenery and biodiversity. It also has the only open land border between India and China. Sikkim’s capital and largest city is Gangtok. Almost 25% of the state is covered by the Khangchendzonga National Park.

According to legend, the Buddhist guru Padmasambhava visited Sikkim in the 8th century CE, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the Sikkimese monarchy. Sikkim’s Namgyal dynasty was established in 1642. Over the next 150 years, the kingdom witnessed frequent raids and territorial losses to Nepalese invaders. In the 19th century, it allied itself with British India, eventually becoming a British protectorate. In 1975, a referendum abolished the Sikkimese monarchy, and the territory instead became part of India.

Sikkim has 11 official languages: Nepali (which is its lingua franca), Sikkimese, Hindi, Lepcha, Tamang, Limbu, Newari, Rai, Gurung, Magar, Sunwar and English. English is taught in schools and used in government documents. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Sikkim’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, and as of 2014 the state had the third-smallest GDP among Indian states, although it is also among the fastest-growing. In 2015, Sikkim fully implemented organic farming statewide, becoming India’s first “organic state”.

The most widely accepted origin theory of the name Sikkim is that it is a combination of two Limbu words: su, which means “new”, and khyim, which means “palace” or “house”. The name is believed to be a reference to the palace built by the state’s first ruler, Phuntsog Namgyal. The Tibetan name for Sikkim is Drenjong (Wylie-transliteration: ´bras ljongs), which means “valley of rice”, while the Bhutias call it Beyul Demazong, which means ‘”the hidden valley of rice”. The Lepcha people, the original inhabitants of Sikkim, called it Nye-mae-el, meaning “paradise”. In History, Sikkim is known as Indrakil, the garden of the war god Indra.

History

Little is known about Sikkim’s ancient history, beyond the fact that its original inhabitants were the Lepcha. The earliest historical mention of Sikkim is a record of the passage of the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, through the land in the 8th century. The Guru is reported to have blessed the land, introduced Buddhism, and foretold the era of monarchy that would arrive in Sikkim centuries later. According to legend, Khye Bumsa, a 14th-century prince from theMinyak House in Kham in eastern Tibet, received a divine revelation instructing him to travel south to seek his fortunes. A fifth-generation descendant of Khye Bumsa, Phuntsog Namgyal, became the founder of Sikkim’s monarchy in 1642, when he was consecrated as the first Chogyal, or priest-king, of Sikkim by the three venerated lamas at Yuksom. Phuntsog Namgyal was succeeded in 1670 by his son, Tensung Namgyal, who moved the capital from Yuksom to Rabdentse (near modern Pelling). In 1700, Sikkim was invaded by the Bhutanese with the help of the half-sister of the Chogyal, who had been denied the throne. The Bhutanese were driven away by the Tibetans, who restored the throne to the Chogyal ten years later. 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 Gorkha Kingdom. Following the subsequent defeat of Gorkha, the Chinese Qing dynasty established control over Sikkim.

Geography

Nestling 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 (920 ft) to 8,586 metres (28,169 ft). The summit of Kangchenjunga—the world’s third-highest peak—is the state’s highest point, situated on the border between Sikkim and Nepal. For the most part, the land is unfit for agriculture because of the rocky, precipitous slopes. However, some hill slopes have been converted into terrace farms. 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, theRangeet, which flow through the state from north to south. About a third of the state is heavily forested. The Himalayan mountains surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim. The Lower Himalayas, lying in the southern reaches of the state, are the most densely populated. The state has 28 mountain peaks, more than 80glaciers, 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 (122 °F).

Demographics

Sikkim is India’s least populous state, with 610,577 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. Sikkim is also one of the least densely populated Indian states, with only 86 persons per square kilometre. However, it has a high population growth rate, averaging 12.36% per cent between 2001 and 2011. The sex ratio is 889 females per 1,000 males, with a total of 321,661 males and 286,027 females recorded in 2011. With around 98,000 inhabitants as of 2011, the capital Gangtok is the most significant urban area in the mostly rural state; in 2005, the urban population in Sikkim constituted around 11.06 per cent of the total. In 2011, the average per capita income in Sikkim stood at ₹81,159 (US$1,305).

Languages

 Nepali is the lingua franca of Sikkim, while Sikkimese (Bhutia) and Lepcha are spoken in certain areas. English is also spoken and understood in most of Sikkim. Other languages include Dzongkha, Groma, Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Majhi, Majhwar, Nepal Bhasa, Rai,Sherpa, Sunuwar, Tamang, Thulung, Tibetan, and Yakha.

The major languages spoken as per census 2001 are Nepali (338,606), Sikkimese (41,825), Hindi (36,072), Lepcha (35,728), Limbu (34,292), Sherpa (13,922), Tamang (10,089), etc.

Religion

Hinduism is the state’s major religion and is practised mainly by ethnic Nepalis; an estimated 57.75 per cent of the total population are adherents of the religion. There exist manyHindu temples. Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple is very popular, since it consists of the chardham altogether.

Vajrayana Buddhism, which accounts for 27.3 per cent of the population, is Sikkim’s second-largest, yet most prominent religion. Prior to Sikkim’s becoming a part of the Indian Union, Vajrayana Buddhism was the state religion under the Chogyal. Sikkim has 75 Buddhist monasteries, the oldest dating back to the 1700s. The public and visual aesthetics of Sikkim are executed in shades of Vajrayana Buddhism and Buddhism plays a significant role in public life, even among Sikkim’s majority Nepali Hindu population.

Skill Test

1. What is the major resource of income for the state of Sikkim?
2. The State of Sikkim is known as the largest exporter of what?
3. In which district of Sikkim is Gangtok located in?
4. Name the only state that borders the state of Sikkim?
5. The international Rhododendron festival was held in Sikkim in which year?
6. Which pass connects Tibet with India and is located in Sikkim?
7. Which is the second largest religion of Sikkim?
8. Which is the state animal of Sikkim?
9. What is the total area of the Sikkim?
10. In which year the Sikkim became a renowned state of India
11. What is the total number of districts in the state of Sikkim?
12. Which is the state bird of Sikkim?
13. Which National Highway links Gangtok from Sikkim?
14. In which year did the state of Sikkim merged with the Union of India?
15. Name the only tea garden in Sikkim which is considered as the best in the country?
16. What is the number of districts in Sikkim?
17. Enchey, Rumtek and Phodong are the names of what?
18. Pang Lhabsol is a famous Sikkimese?
19. What is the name of the world’s 3rd highest peak located on the border with Nepal?
20. Which river is considered as the life line of Sikkim?
21. Phurchachu, Yumthang, Borand, Ralang, Taram-chu and YumeySamdong in Sikkim are famous?