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SIKKIM- The Land of Hidden Paradise.


Sikkim known as Shikim or Su Khyim; see Toponymy for other names) is a landlocked Indian state 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.

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 high alpine, 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.

Sunrise over Kangchenjunga, as seen from Sikkim. Standing 8,586 metres (28,169 ft) tall, it is the second-highest peak in India and the third-highest on Earth. The state has five seasons: winter, summer, spring, autumn, and a monsoon season between June and September. Sikkim's climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the north. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim experience a temperate climate, with temperatures seldom exceeding 28 ℃ (82 ℉) in summer. The average annual temperature for most of Sikkim is around 18 ℃ (64 ℉).

Entry Formalities to Sikkim - Foreigners must obtain Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim. These can be obtained from all Indian Missions, Sikkim Tourism Offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, District Magistrates Office of Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Rangpo on the strength of an Indian Visa. The 30 days duration Permit is issued on the spot without any delay provided photocopies of the passport and visa along with two pass port photos of the applicants are made available. The permissible duration of the stay for foreign tourists is 30 days initially.

The State Government is authorized to extend the same by a further period of 30 days. The extension of the permit can be obtained from FRO at Gangtok and office of Superintendent of Police of the North, West and South Districts.

For those interested in going for trekking in the interior region of the state, the Tourism and Civil Aviation issues Protected Area Permit (PAP) at Gangtok which is available for certain specified area for groups consisting of two or more foreigners subject to condition that the trekking programme is arranged through a registered travel agency.

Restricted Area Permit and Protected Area Permit Regime in Sikkim - To visit Sikkim foreigners must obtain Restricted Area Permit (RAP) previously known as Inner Line Permit from Sikkim Tourism Officers on the strength of valid Indian Visa. The Nationalities of Pakistan, China, Maymmar and Nigeria will not be issued Permit without the prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi. Foreigners are advised to travel in a group of two or more in restricted areas of Sikkim. Foreigners are not allowed to travel single.

Restricted Area Permit is a valid permit for trekking anywhere in the South District for Foreign Tourist.

National park and Wildlife Sanctuary entry permits is issued by Forest Department at Gangtok.

Civilization - The People of Sikkim consist of three ethnic groups, that is, Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali. Communities of different hues intermingle freely in Sikkim to constitute a homogenous blend. Hindu Temples coexist with Buddhist Monasteries, Churches, Mosque and Gurudwara. The predominant Communities are Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese. These myriad Cultures has produced a quintessential Sikkimese Culture that encompasses all ways and walk of life, but has also managed to preserve their own identity. These can also be seen in the various places of Worship, Festivals and Cultural dances that are celebrated through the year.

Languages - 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. Other languages include Dzongkha, Groma, Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Majhi, Majhwar, Nepal Bhasa, Rai, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Tamang, Thulung, Tibetan, and Yakha.

Festivals - Sikkim has a very colourful festivals through out the year.

Sakewa (Rai) - Sakewa is one of the important festivals of Kirat Rai Community, which is celebrated annually in the month Baisak. The nine day long ceremony starts from the full moon day of Baisak, in which mother earth is worshipped. The Sakewa Puja is usually performed by the Nakchhong (priest) with the help of mongpas in a open place as community puja.

Mha Puja (Newar) - The worship of inner self, Mha Puja, is an important festival of New people. Mha puja is performed for purification, strengthening and understanding of oneself. It also exposes relationship between human and the nature and its cosmos.

Dassai (Nepali) - The fortnight long festival usually falls in the month of October, in which Goddess Durga is worshipped.

Tyohar - Just after fortnight of celebration of Dassai, Tyohar is celebrated. The day marks the return of Hindu God Ram to his capital after vanquishing Ravana in a bloody battle at Lanka. The day is also observed as Laxmi Puja, the festival of lights. Bhaitika is a unique feature of Tyohar festival in which sisters prays for the betterment and long life of their brothers.

Maghey Sakkranti - Like in other parts of the country, Maghey Sankranti is also observed in the month of January. It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Magh (January) continues for three days: It is one of the holy festivals of Hindus. Huge fairs are organised along the river banks and confluence of the rivers, Jorethang, Saramsa, Rorathang and Triveni are the important places where such fairs are held every year. The rituals are solemnised from dawn at the banks of the rivers, which is indeed a rare spectle to watch.

Chaite Dassain/ Ram Nawami - This religious festival is usually observed in the month March. The day signifies the birth of Lord Rama.

Sonam Losoong - Sonam Losoong is a New Year celebration of Sikkimese Bhutia, falls on the 18th day of 10th month of Tibetan Lunar Calendar, when the harvesting season is over. On the occasion pujas are performed for peace and prosperity for the new year. The festival continues for 15 days.. Kagyed dance (Monastic dance) preceds the Lossong festival. Nyempo Guzom, which also falls during Lossong, is considered most inauspicious occasion. And no good works or venture are made during the period.

Namsoong - Namsoong Festival is celebrated by the Lepchas of Sikkim which also coincides with the Sonam Lossong festival of Bhutias. According to Dungkit Karchu (Lepcha Calendar), Namsoong festival begins from 1st day of the "Kurneet Lovo", corresponding to the month of December/January every year. The festival continues for seven days. Tendong Lho Rum Faat ( Worship of Mt. Tendong) is one of the oldest festivals of the Lepchas. According to Donkit Karch (Lepcha Calendar, this festival falls on "Purveem Lovo", the seventh month of the calendar, corresponding to August 8, every year.

Sunwar (Mukhia alias Koinch) Sagoon - This is a minor puja ceremony done twice a year by Natso with Syamboo, incense, Bospati to propitiate the Sunwar gods and spirits of the death ancestors.

Chhengoo - During the puja Poibos invoke Sunwar deities and the spirits of the dead camping temporarily in a monastery after death.

Kash - An expensive worship which lasts for three days.

Geel - This is a greatest and most puja ceremony of f Sunwars which requires sacrificing 360 birds and animals.

Chandee - This ceremony is performed in the month of Vaisak full day with pomp and grandeur.

Tamu Lochar (Gurung) - Tamu Lochar is one of the traditional festivals of the Gurung Community. It marks the beginning of the Gurung New Year which falls on the 15th day of Pusa, according Vikram Sambat and 30th December in English Calendar. The festival is celebrated with the family and community as a whole.

Sonam Lochar (Tamang) - Sonam Lochar is an important festival of Tamang community. The festival falls in the month January and February (Magha Sukla Pakcha) Spring saeason. Like other communities, the Tamangs also celebrate their festival with great joy and religious fervor which lasts for five to fifteen days from place to place.

Barahimzong (Mangar) - Barahimizong is observed on the fifth day of Mangar Purnima. In Mangar language Barahi means God, Minaat or Mi means worship or prayer and 'Zong' means fort. The Barahimizong has been named affter the day of Mangar worship their forefathers or Kul DevtaasL Losar (Tibetan New Year) Accoding to the Tibetan lunar calendar the first day of the first month of Tibetan Calendar corresponding with English Calendar the month of February-March. They offer prayers and welcome The New Year

Special Interest for Travelers focuses - 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.

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 species to temperate, alpine and tundra ones, and is perhaps one of the few regions to exhibit such a diversity within such a small area. Nearly 81 per cent of the area of Sikkim comes under the administration of its forest department. Noble orchid (top) is Sikkim's state flower. Rhododendron is its state tree; about 40 species of Rhododendron bloom late April - mid May across the state.

Sikkim is home to around 5,000 species of 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 Noble Dendrobium is the official flower of Sikkim, while the rhododendron is the state tree.

Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo grow in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests of the lower altitudes of Sikkim. In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) there 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. Alpine-type vegetation is typically found between an altitude of 3,500 to 5,000 metres (11,500 to 16,400 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.

The red panda is the state animal of Sikkim. The fauna of Sikkim include the snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, red panda, Himalayan marmot, Himalayan serow, Himalayan goral, muntjac, common langur, Asian black bear, clouded leopard,[56] marbled cat, leopard cat, dhole, Tibetan wolf, hog badger, binturong, and Himalayan jungle 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.

Destinations -

Shiva Mandir, Legship - known as Kirateshwar Mahadev temple, it is situated on the banks of beautiful Rangit river. A foot suspension bridge takes the devotees to its attractive location. People from all over the state visit this holy place of eminence. According to popular belief, whosoever worships here will earn virtues of two life times.

Dubdi Monastery - The first monastery established soon after the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal. The monastery is located on a hill top above Yuksom surrounded by verdant forest. It can be approached by trekking only, negotiating steep slope for about half an hour. It is an ideal place for lamas seeking meditation recluse.

Hot Springs - Hot springs in North Sikkim like The Yumthang ,located some distance away from Yumthang village. To reach the hot spring one has to walk a few hundred yards from the road and across a pedestrian bridge on the River Lachung.

A 25 kilometre drive up from Yumthang takes you to the Yume Samdong Hot Spring at the base of the Donkia-la Pass.

Another popular hot spring is the Reshi Hot Spring, located about 25 kms from Gyalshing, near Reshi, on the banks of the Rangeet River. Borong and Ralong Hot Springs are located within a distance of 7 kms from each other. Popular with visitors from all over the region, these natural spas are said to have curative powers. Ralang Cha-chu can be reached after an hour long walk from Ralong monastery while Borang Cha-chu is reached after a 7 km drive to Ralong and then a 40 min walk downhill.

CAVES - The mountainsides are dotted with many caves which are considered holy by the people and revered as places of pilgrimage. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche and Lhatsun Chenpo have halted and meditated in these caves. Most of these caves are located in remote places requiring tough treks.

The holiest of them is Lha-ri nying phu or the old cave on Gods hill. Located in West Sikkim, it can be reached only after a difficult 3 day trek from Tashiding.

De-chhen phu or the cave of happiness is equally inaccessible located in the snows above Dzongri in West Sikkim.

Pe-phu, a huge cave, is located between Tendong and Maenam hills in South Sikkim around 5 kms from Ravangla.

Khando-sang - phu or the cave of the occult fairies is one of the easiest to reach and is located just beyond the Rishi hot springs.

Samdruptse - Sikkim paid homage to its patron saint by constructing the tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava in the world atop the Samdruptse hill near Namchi in South Sikkim. The grand 138 ft statue was unveiled in February, 2004 and has been crafted according to details specified in religious texts. The statue is visible from as far away as the India-Nepal border and Darjeeling. It has already become a major pilgrimage site with both domestic and foreign tourists making it a part of their itinerary.

Pemayangste - Perched on a hilltop with an impressive view of the Khangchendzonga range, Pemayangste [The perfect sublime lotus] is Sikkims premier monastery with all Nyingma monasteries here subordinate to it. Built during the reign of the third Chogyal, Chador Namgyal in 1705, on the spot where Lhatsun Chenpo had earlier erected a small shrine, Pemayangste houses exquisite works of religious art, including thankas and statues.

Tashiding - Tashiding, the most holy of all monasteries in Sikkim was built in 1716 on the spot consecrated by Guru Rimpoche. According to legend Guru Rimpoche shot an arrow and vowed to meditate where it fell. The arrow dropped on the spot where the monastery now stands. Located on a hill top between the rivers Ratong and Rangeet it is surrounded by deep valleys. Tashiding also has the famous chorten Thongwa Rangdol built by Lhatsun Chenpo and considered the most holy in Sikkim. It is believed that a glimpse of this chorten is enough to cleanse one of a lifetime of sin.

Rumtek - Rumtek monastery was built by the fourth Chogyal. This was damaged by an earthquake and has been rebuilt. The new Rumtek monastery was built by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. It is the largest in Sikkim and reflects the best of Tibetan architecture. It is also a treasure trove of some of the most unique religious objects found anywhere in the world, apart from also being a world-renowned centre of Kagyu teachings. Rumtek monastery is the seat of the Kargyupa sect of Buddhism and an almost replica of the Kagyu headquarters in Tsurphu [Tibet].

Enchey - The Enchey monastery was built in 1909 and follows the Nyingmapa order. It is believed that Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantrik master famous for his powers of flying had flown to the site from Maenam hill in South Sikkim and built a small hermitage here for his meditation. The monastery has around 90 monks.

Phensang - Phensang monastery was built in 1721 by Lama Jigme Pawo, who was the third incarnation of Lhatsun Chenpo. In 1947 it was completely destroyed by a devastating fire but rebuilt again the following year. The monastery is situated about 25 km from Gangtok, close to the North Sikkim highway and has 300 monks.

Ralong - Ralong monastery in South Sikkim was built after the return of the fourth Chogyal from his pilgrimage to Tibet.

Phodang - Phodang monastery is located around 28 kms from Gangtok towards North Sikkim. It belongs to the Kargyupa sect. The original monastery has been rebuilt although the old mural paintings and frescoes were preserved.

Tolung - Tolung monastery is located in the Dzongu area of North Sikkim and is the most secluded of all the monasteries in Sikkim. It is reached after a strenuous trek through steep hillside and dense forests. This ancient monastery was built in the early part of the 18th century by Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal. The monastery possesses a fine collection of religious art, including some of the oldest thangkas in Sikkim. All the relics are kept sealed in 13 boxes and taken out every three years for public display, an occasion which sees large numbers of devotees making their way here.

Lakes in Sikkim - Sikkim has many beautiful lakes dotting its landscape.

Tsomgo Lake - The most visited lake in Sikkim is the Tsomgo Lake in East Sikkim. Located 35 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,000 ft

Menmecho Lake - Ahead of Tsomgo is the much larger Menmecho Lake at an altitude of 12,500 ft. It is a stunningly beautiful lake with snow cover from early winter to late spring.

Lampokari Lake - The Lampokari Lake at Aritar in East Sikkim saddled on the top of a hill. This serene Lake, surrounded by lush greenery is considered one of the oldest in Sikkim and is about 350 meters in length and 75 meters wide.

Khecheopalri Lake - Altitude: 1799 meters Another holy lake is Khecheopalri in West Sikkim. Located between Gyalshing and Yuksum and surrounded by hills, Khecheoplari Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Sikkim and is considered as sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus.

Gurudongmar Lake - At 17,100 ft, Gurudongmar is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus as a sacred lake. Encircled all around by snow-covered mountains the lake freezes during the winter, except at one spot said to be blessed by Guru Rimpoche.

Wild Life Sanctuaries -

Kanchendzonga National Park (KNP) - KNP encompasses an area covering 1784 sq km. The fauna includes the Snow leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda, Barking deer and many other species.

Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary - located about 20 kilometres from Gangtok and covers an area of about 5200 hectares above the road between Singtam and Dikchu with the highest point at a place called Tinjure where a wooden observation tower of the Forest Department exists. The Sanctuary is the home of Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda, Civet cat and many varieties of birds and butterflies.

Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary - Located in South Sikkim above the town of Rabongla and covers an area of about 3500 hectares with its highest point being at Maenam at 10,600 ft. It shelters the Red Panda, Leopard cat, civet cat, blood pheasant, black eagles and other animals of the temperate forest.

Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary - Located near Yumthang in north Sikkim and contains a vast variety of rhododendrons. When in blossom the rhododendrons provide a riot of colour to this small 33 hectare park.

Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary - It has an area of 400 hectares area adjoining the Changu lake.

Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary - This Rhododendron Sanctuary lies in the West corner of Sikkim.

Traditional shopping - No holiday is complete without taking back souvenirs and there is plenty you can take back from Sikkim apart from memories of a great holiday! The many shopping stores offer you all kinds of goods. The Government Institute of Cottage Industry and the many curio shops around town and you'll be spoilt for choice. Canvas paintings and scrolls with local motifs, the 'Tashi Tagey' or the eight lucky signs, wooden dragon wall hangings, cloth bags, handmade paper products, Buddhist religious items and a host of other things. Tibetan woollen carpets made of pure sheep wool woven with intricate designs and patterns maybe a little expensive but definitely worth the price.

Thankas are scrolls usually with religious depictions, represented by deities surrounded by followers and often contained within a mandala or magic circle. Choktses are small wooden ornate tables carved in traditional style. These can be conveniently folded and carried away.

Jewellery The Dragon set is unique to Sikkim. Intricately carved in silver and gold and inlaid with precious stones these consist of finely designed dragons on earrings, pendants, bracelets and finger-rings.

Tea Temi Tea Estate in Sikkim grows excellent tea which is highly prized in the world market. Large Cardamom or Bari Elaichi Cardamom or Elaichi grows in abundance in Sikkim. Alpine Cheese Made of pure cow milk this cheese has a sweet and fruity flavour. Jams and Juices Sikkim produces some excellent juices and jams at the Government Fruit Preservation Factory.

Sikkim Liquor & Liqueurs Sikkim Fireball Special Brandy, a fruit based alcohol that has been matured for a long time and is uniquely packaged is a popular item sought by tourists.

Sikkim is sheer magic. This is not just the most beautiful place in the world but cleanest and safest too. So SIKKIM "The Land of Hidden Paradise".


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