Sikkim State

Introduction :

Sikkim or Shikim, Shikimpati or Sikkim of the English and Indians.... is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest state after Goa. This thumb-shaped state borders Nepal in the west, the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and the east and Bhutan in the southeast. The Indian state of West Bengal borders Sikkim to its south. Despite its small area of 7,096 km2 (2,740 sq mi), Sikkim is geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas. The climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine. Kangchenjunga, the world's third-highest peak, is located on the border of Sikkim with Nepal. Sikkim is a popular tourist destination owing to its culture, scenic beauty and biodiversity.

Legend has it that the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche visited Sikkim in the 9th century, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the monarchy. Indeed, the Namgyal dynasty was established in 1642. Over the next 150 years, the kingdom witnessed frequent raids and territorial losses to Nepalese invaders. It allied itself with the British rulers of India but was soon annexed by them. Later, Sikkim became a British protectorate and merged with India following a referendum in 1975.

Sikkim has 11 official languages: Nepali (lingua franca), Bhutia, Lepcha (since 1977), Limbu (since 1981), Newari, Rai, Gurung, Mangar, Sherpa, Tamang (since 1995) and Sunwar (since 1996).[6] English is taught at schools and used in government documents. It is the only state in India with an ethnic Nepalese majority. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Gangtok is the capital and the largest town. Sikkim has a booming economy dependent on agriculture and tourism, and has the only open border between India and China.

History :

In 1890, Sikkim became a British protectorate and was granted more sovereignty over the next three decades. The Dro-dul Chorten Stupa in Gangtok.

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 came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained autonomy. A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government under the Chogyal. Meanwhile, the Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh 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 was proving to be extremely unpopular with the people. In 1975, the Kazi (Prime Minister) appealed to the Indian Parliament for a change in Sikkim's status so that it could become a state of India. In April, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the Palace Guards. A referendum was held in which 97.5% of the voting people (59% of the people entitled to vote) voted to join the Indian Union. A few weeks later, on 16 May 1975, Sikkim officially became the 22nd state of the Indian Union and the monarchy was abolished.

In 2000, the seventeenth Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje, who had been proclaimed a tulku by the atheist Chinese Communist party, escaped from Tibet to the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. Chinese officials were in a quandary on this issue, as any protests to India 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, on the condition that India accepted Tibet Autonomous Region as a part of China. This mutual agreement led to a thaw in Sino-Indian relations.[18] New Delhi accepted Tibet as a part of China in 1953 during the government of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On 6 July 2006, the Himalayan pass of Nathula was opened to cross-border trade, further evidence of improving relations in the region.

Geography And Climate :

The thumb-shaped state is characterized by wholly mountainous terrain. Almost the entire state is hilly, with an elevation ranging from 280 metres (920 ft) to 8,585 metres (28,000 ft). The summit of the Kangchenjunga is the highest point which falls on the border between Sikkim and Nepal. For the most part, the land is unfit for agriculture because of the precipitous and rocky slopes. However, 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. These 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. About a third of the land is heavily forested.

The Himalayan ranges surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim in a crescent. The Lower Himalayas in the southern reaches of the state are the most densely populated. The state has 28 mountain peaks, more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes including the Tsongmo Lake, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lake, 5 hot springs, and more than 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. Unfrozen Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim. Mountains of North Sikkim.

Sikkim's hot springs are known for medicinal and therapeutic values. The most important hot springs are at Phurchachu (Reshi), Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong. They have high sulphur content and are located near river banks. Some also emit hydrogen. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50 C (122 F).

The climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the northern parts. The tundra-type region in the north is clad by snow for four months a year though the temperature drops below 0 C (32 F) almost every night. The peaks of north-western Sikkim are perpetually frozen. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim, however, witness a temperate climate, with the temperatures seldom exceeding 28 C (82 F) in summer or dropping below 0 C (32 F) in winter. The mean monthly temperature in summer is 15 C. The state has five seasons: winter, summer, spring, and autumn, and a monsoon season between June and September. The average annual temperature for most of Sikkim is around 18 C (64 F). Sikkim is one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. The snow line ranges from 20,000 feet in the north to 16,000 feet in the south. During the monsoon, heavy rains increase the possibility of landslides. The record for the longest period of continuous rain is 11 days. In the northern region, because of high altitude, temperatures drop below -40 C (-40 F) in winter. Fog also affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making transportation perilous.

Flora And Fauna :

Sikkim is situated 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, and is perhaps one of the few regions to exhibit such a diversity within such a small area. Nearly 81% of the area of Sikkim comes under the administration of its forest department.

The flora of Sikkim include the rhododendron, the state tree, with a wide range of species occurring from subtropical to alpine regions.

Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo grow in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests of the lower altitudes of Sikkim, which enjoy a subtropical-type climate.

In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) are Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests, where oaks, chestnuts, maples, birches, alders, and magnolias grow in large numbers, as well as Himalayan subtropical pine forests, dominated by Chir pine.

The alpine-type vegetation is typically found between an altitude of 3,500 to 5,000 metres (11,500 to 16,000 ft). In lower elevations are found juniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendrons from the Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Higher up are Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows, home to a broad variety of rhododendrons and wildflowers.

Sikkim has 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. A variant of the Poinsettia, locally known as "Christmas Flower", can be found in abundance in the mountainous state. The orchid Dendrobium nobile is the official flower of Sikkim. The Red Panda is the state animal of Sikkim.

The fauna include the snow leopard, the musk deer, 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. Among the animals more commonly found in the alpine zone are yaks, mainly reared for their milk, meat, and as a beast of burden.

The avifauna of Sikkim consist of 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. Sikkim has more than 550 species of birds, some of which have been declared endangered.

Sikkim also has a rich diversity of arthropods, many of which remain unstudied even today. As with the rest of India, the most studied group is that of the butterflies. Of approximately 1438 butterfly species found in the Indian subcontinent, 695 have been recorded from Sikkim. These include the endangered Kaiser-i-hind, Yellow Gorgon and the Bhutan Glory.