|Area||7,096 sq. km|
|Principal Languaged||Lepcha, Bhutia, Limbu and Nepali|
History and Geography
Sikkim is a small hilly state, bounded by vast stretches of Tibetan Plateaux in the North, the Chumbi Valley of Tibet and the Kingdom of Bhutan in the East, the Kingdom of Nepal in the West, and Darjeeling (West Bengal) in the South. The State has a total area of 7,096 sq km, and is stretched over 112 km from North to South, and 64 km from East to West. It lies in the North-Eastern Himalayas between 27 degree 00′ 46″ to 28 degree 07′ 48″ North Latitude, and 88 degree 00′ 58″ to 88 degree 55′ 25″ East Longitude.
The world’s third highest mountain, Kanchenjunga, regarded as the guardian deity of Sikkim, dominates the tiny Himalayan State with its awe-inspiring beauty and majesty. Sikkim is one of the 18 bio diversity hotspots in the world. The Sikkim Himalayas show tremendous biological diversity. More than 5000 species of angiosperms are found in the State, which is nearly one third of the total species of angiosperm found in the country. There are 4,000 species of flowering plants, 300 species of ferns and allies, 450 to 500 species of orchids, 36 species of Rhododendrons, 40 species of oaks, 30 to 40 species of Primulas and bamboos, 144 species of mammals, 500 to 600 species of birds, over 400 species of butterflies and moths, and many species of reptiles in the State. Rare Blue Sheep, Tibetan Mastiff, Yaks and Red Pandas are found here.
The State’s economy is basically agrarian. More than 64 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Agricultural land in Sikkim is estimated to be around 1,09,000 hectares, i.e., 15.36 per cent of the total geographical area. Farmers commonly follow mixed farming. Maize, rice, wheat, potato, large cardamom, ginger and orange are the principal crops. Sikkim has the largest area and highest production of large brown cardamom in India. Ginger, potato, orange and off-season vegetables are other cash crops.
Though Sikkim has been declared an industrially backward state, the existence of craftsmanship based traditional Sikkimese cottage industries dates back to several centuries. Lepcha’s skill in bamboo-craft, woodwork, spinning of yarn and carpet weaving in traditional textures, Bhutia’s excellence in ancient Tibetan practice of carpet and rug weaving and Nepali’s celebrated craftsmanship of their metalwork, silverware and woodwork are very exclusive.
Sikkim Jewels Limited is one of the sophisticated and precision oriented industries for the manufacture of jewel bearings for electric meters, water meters and other measuring instruments like watches and clocks. Ten ancillary units have been set up to manufacture watch jewels. The SIDICO provides long-term loans for cottage, tiny, small and medium scale industrial units, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and taxis.
Irrigation and Power
Tenth Five Year Plan targets to irrigate 34,118 hectares of agricultural land. Total installed capacity of power in the State is 36 MW that is hydro based with transformation capacity of 123 MVA. Rangeet hydel project has installed capacity of 560 MW. The total power potential of the State is estimated at 8,000 MW. The Teesta Valley Project now under construction is a run of the river scheme located in the East District and the proposed installed capacity of this project is 510 MW.
Roads: Gangtok is connected by roads with Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri, and also with all the district headquarters within Sikkim. The total road length of the state is 2,383 km, including 41 km of National Highway.
Railways and Aviation: The closest railway stations are Siliguri (113) and New Jalpaiguri (125 km) connecting Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Lucknow and other important cities. There is no airport in Sikkim, although there is a helicopter service between Gangtok and Bagdogra, heavily subsidised by the State Government. The State has also initiated construction of a number of helipads to connect the district and sub-divisional headquarters and important tourist places.
A new Information Technology Department has been created in the State, and has prepared extensive projects to give top priority to this department. The newly created department has already launched a number of Web sites on Sikkim, and is now aiming for e-governance through the use of information tools. The official Web site of Sikkim, hosted and maintained by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of Sikkim, is www.sikkimgovt.org
Sikkim’s population comprises the three principal ethnic communities of the Bhutias, Lepchas and the Nepalese. Maghey Sankranti, Durga Puja, Laxmi Puja and Chaite Dassai/Ram Navami, Dassai, Tyohar, Sonam Losoong, Namsoog, Tendong Lho Rum Faat (Worship of Mt. Tendong), Lohsar (Tibetan New Year) are the major festivals. The other festivals include Sakewa (Rai), Sonam Lochar (Gurung), Barahimzong (Magor), etc.
The premier monastery of Sikkim is Pemayantshe in Pelling. Apart from this, there is Tashiding Monastery in West Sikkim, which is considered the holiest of all the monasteries in Sikkim. The most ancient monastery of Sikkim is in Yuksom, called the Drubdi monastery. It was the personal hermitage of Lhatsun Chenpo (Patron Saint of Sikkim), and was possibly built in 1700 A.D. Some of the other monasteries are Phodong, Phensang, Rumtek, Ngadak, Tolung, Ahlay, Tsuklakhand, Ralong, Lachen, Enchey and others. Of the Hindu temples, the best known is the Thakurbari, in the heart of Gangtok. There is also a holy cave in South district, which has a Shiva Lingam that irradiates the cave where no other light finds its way. There are some important Gurdwaras and Mosques, chief among them being in Gangtok and Ravangla.