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Sikkim

Sikkim
Nepali: सिक्किम
Sikkimese: སུ་ཁྱིམ་
State of India
Official seal of Sikkim
Seal
Location of Sikkim (marked in red) in India
Location of Sikkim (marked in red) in India
Map of Sikkim
Map of Sikkim
Coordinates (Gangtok):
Country  India
Admission to Union 16 May 1975
Capital Gangtok
Largest city Gangtok
Districts 4
Government
 • Governor Shriniwas Dadasaheb Patil
 • Chief Minister Pawan Chamling (SDF)
 • Legislature Unicameral (32 seats)
 • Parliamentary constituency Rajya Sabha 1
Lok Sabha 1
 • High Court Sikkim High Court
Area
 • Total 7,096 km2 (2,740 sq mi)
Area rank 27th
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 607,688
 • Rank 28th
 • Density 86/km2 (220/sq mi)
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
ISO 3166 code IN-SK
HDI Increase 0.684 (medium)
HDI rank 7th (2005)
Literacy 82.2% (13th)
Official languages Nepali (lingua franca)
English
Sikkimese, and Lepcha (since 1977)
Limbu (since 1981)
Newari, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, and Tamang (since 1995)
Sunwar (since 1996)
Website sikkim.gov.in
Assembly of Sikkim abolished monarchy and resolved to be a constituent unit of India. A referendum was held on these issues and majority of the voters voted yes. On May 15, 1975 the President of India ratified a constitutional amendment that made Sikkim the 22nd state of India.

Sikkim () 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.[2]

With 607,688 inhabitants as of the 2011 census,[1] 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).[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Sikkim's capital and largest city is Gangtok. Almost 25% of the state is covered by the Khangchendzonga National Park.[6]

According to legend, the Buddhist guru Padmasambhava visited Sikkim in the 8th century CE, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the Sikkimese monarchy.[7] Sikkim's Namgyal dynasty was established in 1642. Over the next 150 years, the kingdom witnessed frequent raids and territorial losses to Nepalese invaders.[8] In the 19th century, it allied itself with British India, eventually becoming a British protectorate.[9] In 1975, a referendum abolished the Sikkimese monarchy, and the territory was merged with India.[10]

Sikkim has 11 official languages: Nepali (which is its lingua franca), Sikkimese, Lepcha, Tamang, Limbu, Newari, Rai, Gurung, Magar, Sunwar and English.[11][12] 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,[13] although it is also among the fastest-growing.[13][14]

Contents

  • Toponymy 1
  • History 2
    • Foundation of the monarchy 2.1
    • Sikkim during the British Raj 2.2
    • After Indian independence 2.3
    • Recent history 2.4
  • Geography 3
    • Geology 3.1
    • Climate 3.2
  • Government and politics 4
  • Subdivisions 5
  • Flora and fauna 6
  • Economy 7
  • Transport 8
    • Air 8.1
    • Roads 8.2
    • Rail 8.3
  • Infrastructure 9
  • Demographics 10
    • Languages 10.1
    • Ethnicity 10.2
    • Religion 10.3
  • Culture 11
    • Cuisine 11.1
  • Media 12
  • Education 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • Bibliography 16
  • Further reading 17
  • External links 18

Toponymy

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",[15] while the Bhutias call it Beyul Demazong, which means '"the hidden valley of rice".[16] The Lepcha people, the original inhabitants of Sikkim, called it Nye-mae-el, meaning "paradise".[16] In History, Sikkim is known as Indrakil, the garden of the war god Indra.[17]

History

Foundation of the monarchy

Little is known about Sikkim's ancient history, beyond the fact that its original inhabitants were the Lepcha.[18] 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.[7] 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 the Minyak 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.[19]

Statue of Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim. The statue in Namchi is the tallest statue of the saint in the world, at 36 metres (118 ft).

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.[8] 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.[20]

Sikkim during the British Raj

An 1876 map of Sikkim, depicting Chomto Dong Lake in northern Sikkim.[21] However, the whole of Chumbi and Darjeeling are not depicted as part of Sikkim in the map.

Following the beginning of British rule in neighbouring India, Sikkim allied with Britain against their common adversary, Nepal. The Nepalese attacked Sikkim, overrunning most of the region including the Terai. This prompted the British East India Company to attack Nepal, resulting in the Gurkha War of 1814.[22] Treaties signed between Sikkim and Nepal resulted in the return of the territory annexed by the Nepalese in 1817. However, ties between Sikkim and the British weakened when the latter began taxation of the Morang region. In 1849, two British physicians, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker and Dr. Archibald Campbell, the latter being in charge of relations between the British and Sikkimese governments, ventured into the mountains of Sikkim unannounced and unauthorised.[23] The doctors were detained by the Sikkimese government, leading to a punitive British expedition against the kingdom, after which the Darjeeling district and Morang were annexed to British India in 1853. The invasion led to the Chogyal of Sikkim becoming a titular ruler under the directive of the British governor.[9] In 1890, Sikkim became a British protectorate, and was gradually granted more sovereignty over the next three decades.[24]

After Indian independence

In 1947, when India became independent, a popular vote rejected Sikkim's joining the Indian Union. Although a treaty was made between India and Sikkim in 1950, in the interest of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. That Indo-Sikkim treaty made Sikkim an Indian protectorate status. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained administrative autonomy.

A state council was established in 1953 to allow for constitutional government under the Chogyal. Meanwhile, the Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh elections and greater representation for Nepalis in Sikkim. Palden Thondup Namgyal, the Chogyal at the time, proved to be extremely unpopular with the people. In 1973, riots in front of the Chogyal's palace led to a formal request for protection from India.

In 1975, the Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a state of India. In April of that year, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the Chogyal's palace guards. Thereafter, a referendum was held in which 97.5 per cent of voters supported abolishing the monarchy, effectively approving union with India. Although the union was presented as the will of the people by the Indian authorities, the merger was widely criticised as an annexation and India was accused of exploiting the ethnic divide and rigging the referendum.[25] On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished.[26] To enable the incorporation of the new state, the Indian Parliament amended the Indian Constitution. First, the 35th Amendment laid down a set of conditions that made Sikkim an "Associate State", a special designation not used by any other state. Later, the 36th Amendment repealed the 35th Amendment, and made Sikkim a full state, adding its name to the First Schedule of the Constitution.[27]

Recent history

In 2000, the seventeenth Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje, who had been confirmed by the Dalai Lama and accepted as a tulku by the Chinese government, escaped from Tibet, seeking to return 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 China still recognised as an independent state occupied by India. The Chinese government eventually recognised Sikkim as an Indian state in 2003, on the condition that India officially recognise Tibet as a part of China;[28] New Delhi had originally accepted Tibet as a part of China in 1953 during the government of Jawaharlal Nehru.[29] The 2003 agreement led to a thaw in Sino-Indian relations,[30] and on 6 July 2006, the Sikkimese Himalayan pass of Nathu La was opened to cross-border trade, becoming the first open border between India and China.[5] The pass, which had previously been closed since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, was an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road.[5]

On 18 September 2011, a magnitude 6.9Mw earthquake struck Sikkim, killing at least 116 people in the state and in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Tibet.[31] More than 60 people died in Sikkim alone, and the city of Gangtok suffered significant damage.[32]

Geography

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 Ban Jhakri waterfall and park near Gangtok.

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.[4] 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, the Rangeet, which flow through the state from north to south.[33] 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 80 glaciers,[34] 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.[35]

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.[36] The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50 °C (122 °F).[37]

Geology

The Kangchengyao Himalayan mountains of northern Sikkim.

The hills of Sikkim mainly consist of evergreen and deciduous forests.[38]

Most of Sikkim is covered by Precambrian rock, which is much younger in age than the hills. The rock consists of phyllites and schists, and is highly susceptible to weathering and erosion. This, combined with the state's heavy rainfall, causes extensive soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients through leaching. As a result, landslides are frequent, often isolating rural towns and villages from the major urban centres.[39]

Climate

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 °C (82 °F) in summer. 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 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) in the south of the state to 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) in the north.[40] The tundra-type region in the north is snowbound for four months every year, and the temperature drops below 0 °C (32 °F) almost every night.[36] In north-western Sikkim, the peaks are frozen year-round;[41] because of the high altitude, temperatures in the mountains can drop to as low as −40 °C (−40 °F) in winter.

During the monsoon, heavy rains increase the risk of landslides. The record for the longest period of continuous rain in Sikkim is 11 days. Fog affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making transportation perilous.[42]

Government and politics

State symbols
State day 16 May (day of accession to India)
State animal Red panda
State bird Blood pheasant[43]
State tree Rhododendron
State flower Noble orchid[44]

According to the Constitution of India, Sikkim has a parliamentary system of representative democracy for its governance; universal suffrage is granted to state residents. The government structure is organised into three branches:

  • Executive: As with all states of India, a governor stands at the head of the executive power of state, just like the president is the head of the executive power in the Union, and is appointed by the President of India. The governor's appointment is largely ceremonial, and his or her main role is to oversee the swearing-in of the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, who holds the real executive powers, is the head of the party or coalition garnering the largest majority in the state elections. The governor also appoints cabinet ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister.
  • Legislature: Sikkim has a unicameral legislature, the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, like most other Indian states. Its state assembly has 32 seats, including one reserved for the Sangha. Sikkim is allocated one seat in each of the two chambers of India's national bicameral legislature, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
  • Judiciary: The judiciary consists of the Sikkim High Court and a system of lower courts. The High Court, located at Gangtok, has a Chief Justice along with two permanent justices. The Sikkim High Court is the smallest state high court in the country.[45]
The White Hall complex in Gangtok houses the residences of the Chief Minister and Governor of Sikkim.

In 1975, after the abrogation of Sikkim's monarchy, the Indian National Congress gained a majority in the 1977 elections. In 1979, after a period of instability, a popular ministry headed by Nar Bahadur Bhandari, leader of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad Party, was sworn in. Bhandari held on to power in the 1984 and 1989 elections. In the 1994 elections, Pawan Kumar Chamling of the Sikkim Democratic Front became the Chief Minister of the state. Chamling and his party have since held on to power by winning the 1999, 2004,2009 and 2014 elections.[9][46] [47][48] Currently, the Governor of Sikkim is Shriniwas Dadasaheb Patil.[49]

Subdivisions

A clickable map of Sikkim exhibiting its four districts.

Sikkim has four districts – East Sikkim, West Sikkim, North Sikkim and South Sikkim. The district capitals are Gangtok, Gyalshing, Mangan and Namchi respectively.[50] These four districts are further divided into subdivisions; Pakyong and Rongli are the subdivisions of the East district, Soreng is the subdivision of the West district, Chungthang is the subdivision of the North district and Ravongla is the subdivision of the South district.[51]

Each of Sikkim's districts is overseen by a Central Government appointee, the district collector, who is in charge of the administration of the civilian areas of the district. The Indian Army has control over a large part of the state, as Sikkim forms part of a sensitive border area with China. Many areas are restricted to foreigners, and official permits are needed to visit them.[52]

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 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.[53]

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.[54]

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.[55] 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.[56]

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,[57] musk deer, Himalayan tahr, red panda, Himalayan marmot, Himalayan serow, Himalayan goral, muntjac, common langur, Asian black bear, clouded leopard,[58] marbled cat, leopard cat,[59] 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.

The avifauna of Sikkim include the impeyan pheasant, crimson horned pheasant, snow partridge, Tibetan snowcock, bearded vulture and griffon vulture, as well as golden eagles, quails, plovers, woodcocks, sandpipers, pigeons, Old World flycatchers, babblers and robins. Sikkim has more than 550 species of birds, some of which have been declared endangered.[60]

Sikkim also has a rich diversity of Bhutan Glory.[62]

Economy

Elaichi, or cardamom, is the chief cash crop of Sikkim.

Sikkim's nominal state

  • Official website of the Government of Sikkim
  • "Buddhist Monasteries of Sikkim". Sikkim.nic.in.
  • Sikkim at DMOZ
  • Geographic data related to Sikkim at OpenStreetMap
  • Sikkim

External links

  • Ray, Arundhati; Das, Sujoy (2001). Sikkim: A Traveller's Guide. Orient Blackswan, New Delhi. ISBN 81-7824-008-4.

Further reading

  • Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1854). Himalayan Journals: notes of a naturalist in Bengal, the Sikkim and Nepal Himalayas, the Khasia mountains etc. Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co.
  • Holidaying in Sikkim and Bhutan. Nest and Wings. ISBN 81-87592-07-9.
  • Sikkim – Land of Mystic and Splendour. Sikkim Tourism.
  • Manorama Yearbook 2003. ISBN 81-900461-8-7.
  • Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2011). 'The Tea Horse Road from Lhasa to Sikkim'. China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B005DQV7Q2.

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References

See also

In 2011 Sikkim's adult literacy rate was 82.2 per cent: 87.29 per cent for males and 76.43 per cent for females.[124] There are a total of 1,157 schools in the state, including 765 schools run by the state government, seven central government schools and 385 private schools.[125] Twelve colleges and other institutions in Sikkim offer higher education. The largest institution is the Sikkim Manipal University of Technological Sciences, which offers higher education in engineering, medicine and management. It also runs a host of distance education programs in diverse fields.[126] There are two state-run polytechnical schools, the Advanced Technical Training Centre (ATTC) and the Centre for Computers and Communication Technology (CCCT), which offer diploma courses in various branches of engineering. ATTC is situated at Bardang, Singtam, and CCCT at Chisopani, Namchi. Sikkim University began operating in 2008 at Yangang, which is situated about 28 kilometres (17 mi) from Singtam.[127] Many students, however, migrate to Siliguri, Kolkata, Bangalore and other Indian cities for their higher education.

Education

Internet cafés are well established in the district capitals, but broadband connectivity is not widely available. Satellite television channels through dish antennae are available in most homes in the state. Channels served are largely the same as those available in the rest of India, although Nepali-language channels are also available. The main service providers include Dish TV, Doordarshan and Nayuma.

The southern urban areas of Sikkim have English, Nepali and Hindi daily newspapers. Nepali-language newspapers, as well as some English newspapers, are locally printed, whereas Hindi and English newspapers are printed in Siliguri. Important local dailies and weeklies include Hamro Prajashakti (Nepali daily), Himalayan Mirror (English daily), the Samay Dainik, Sikkim Express (English), Sikkim Now (English), Kanchanjunga Times (Nepali weekly), Pragya Khabar (Nepali weekly) and Himalibela.[122] Furthermore, the state receives regional editions of national English newspapers such as The Statesman, The Telegraph, The Hindu and The Times of India. Himalaya Darpan, a Nepali daily published in Siliguri, is one of the leading Nepali daily newspapers in the region. The Sikkim Herald is an official weekly publication of the government. Online media covering Sikkim include the Nepali newspaper Himgiri, the English news portal Haalkhabar and the literary magazine Tistarangit. Avyakta, Bilokan, the Journal of Hill Research, Khaber Khagaj, Panda, and the Sikkim Science Society Newsletter are among other registered publications.[123]

The Dro-dul Chorten Stupa in Gangtok.

Media

Noodle-based dishes such as thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are common in Sikkim. Momos – steamed dumplings filled with vegetables, buffalo meat or pork and served with soup – are a popular snack.[119] Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are widely consumed in Sikkim,[120] as is tongba, a millet-based alcoholic beverage which is also popular in Nepal and Darjeeling. Sikkim has the third-highest per capita alcoholism rate amongst all Indian states, behind Punjab and Haryana.[121]

Cuisine

Western rock music and Indian pop have gained a wide following in Sikkim. Indigenous Nepali rock and Lepcha music are also popular.[117] 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.[118]

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.[113] 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.[114] Sikkimese Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr and Muharram.[115] Christmas has also been promoted in Gangtok to attract tourists during the off-season.[116]

The traditional Gumpa dance being performed in Lachung during the Buddhist festival of Losar.

Culture

Although tensions between the Lepchas and the Nepalese escalated during the merger of Sikkim with India in the 1970s, there has never been any major degree of communal religious violence, unlike in other Indian states.[110][111] The traditional religion of the Lepcha people is Mun, an animist practice which coexists with Buddhism and Christianity.[112]

Hinduism has been the state's major religion since the arrival of the Nepalis; an estimated 57.75 per cent of the total population are now adherents of the religion. There exist many Hindu temples. Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple is very popular, since it consists of the chardham altogether. Sikkim's second-largest religion is Buddhism, which accounts for 28.1 per cent of the population. Sikkim has 75 Buddhist monasteries, the oldest dating back to the 1700s.[107] Christians in Sikkim are mostly descendants of Lepcha people who were converted by British missionaries in the late 19th century, and constitute around 10 per cent of the population. As of 2014, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sikkim is the largest Christian denomination in Sikkim.[108] Other religious minorities include Muslims of Bihari ethnicity and Jains, who each account for roughly one per cent of the population.[109] The traditional religions of the native Sikkimese account for much of the remainder of the population.

The Rumtek monastery (top) is among Sikkim's most famous religious monuments.
Religion in Sikkim (2011)[106]
Religion Percent
Hinduism
  
57.7%
Buddhism
  
27.3%
Christianity
  
9.9%
Islam
  
1.4%
Others
  
3.4%

Religion

Due to a centuries-long population influx from Nepal, the majority of Sikkim's residents are of Nepali ethnic origin.[104] The native Sikkimese consist of the Bhutias, who migrated from the Kham district of Tibet in the 14th century, and the Lepchas, who are believed to have migrated from the Far East. Tibetans reside mostly in the northern and eastern reaches of the state. Migrant resident communities include Biharis, Bengalis and Marwaris, who are prominent in commerce in South Sikkim and Gangtok.[105]

Ethnicity

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.


Nepali is the lingua franca of Sikkim, while Sikkimese (Bhutia) 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.[103]




Languages of Sikkim in 2001[100][101] [102]

  Nepali (62.6%)
  Sikkimese (Bhutia) (7.6%)
  Hindi (6.6%)
  Lepcha (6.5%)
  Limbu (6.3%)
  Sherpa (2.4%)
  Tamang (1.8%)
  Other (6.2%)

Languages

Sikkim is India's least populous state, with 610,577 inhabitants according to the 2011 census.[1] 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.[51] In 2011, the average per capita income in Sikkim stood at 81,159 (US$1,305).[99]

Sikkimese woman with child in Gangtok, 2004.

Demographics

On 8 December 2008, it was announced that Sikkim had become the first state in India to achieve 100 per cent sanitation coverage, becoming completely free of public defecation, thus attaining the status of "Nirmal State".[96][97]

Sikkim receives most of its electricity from 19 hydroelectric power stations.[72] Power is also obtained from the National Thermal Power Corporation and Power Grid Corporation of India.[93] By 2006, the state had achieved 100 per cent rural electrification.[94] However, the voltage remains unstable and voltage stabilisers are needed. Per capita consumption of electricity in Sikkim was approximately 182 kWh in 2006. The state government has promoted biogas and solar power for cooking, but these have received a poor response and are used mostly for lighting purposes.[95] In 2005, 73.2 per cent of Sikkim's households were reported to have access to safe drinking water,[51] and the state's large number of mountain streams assures a sufficient water supply.

[51] Sikkim's roads are maintained by the

Infrastructure

Sikkim lacks significant railway infrastructure. The closest major railway stations are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri in neighbouring West Bengal.[87] However, the New Sikkim Railway Project has been launched to connect the town of Rangpo in Sikkim with Sevoke on the West Bengal border.[88] The five-station line is intended to support both economic development and Indian Army operations, and was initially planned to be completed by 2015,[89][90] though as of 2013 its construction has met with delays.[91] In addition, the Ministry of Railways proposed plans in 2010 for railway lines linking Mirik to Ranipool.[92]

Rail

National Highway 31A and National Highway 31 link Siliguri to Gangtok.[85] Sikkim National Transport runs bus and truck services. Privately run bus, tourist taxi and jeep services operate throughout Sikkim, and also connect it to Siliguri. A branch of the highway from Melli connects western Sikkim. Towns in southern and western Sikkim are connected to the hill stations of Kalimpong and Darjeeling in northern West Bengal.[86] The state is furthermore connected to Tibet by the mountain pass of Nathu La.

A mountain road through Temi Tea Garden.

Roads

As of 2015, the closest operational airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport, near the town of Siliguri in West Bengal. The airport is located about 124 km (77 mi) from Gangtok, and frequent buses connect the two.[84] A daily helicopter service run by the Sikkim Helicopter Service connects Gangtok to Bagdogra; the flight is thirty minutes long, operates only once a day, and can carry four people.[46] The Gangtok helipad is the only civilian helipad in the state.

Sikkim currently does not have any operational airports or railheads because of its rough terrain. However, Pakyong Airport, the state's first airport, located at a distance of 30 km (19 mi) from Gangtok, is expected to become operational in March 2016, after its completion was delayed from the original target of 2014.[79][80] It is being constructed by the Airports Authority of India on 200 acres of land. At an altitude of 4,700 feet (1,400 m) above sea level, it will be one of the five highest airports in India.[81][82] The airport will be capable of operating ATR aircraft.[83]

The Teesta River is considered the state's key waterway.

Air

Transport

The opening of the Nathu La pass on 6 July 2006, connecting Lhasa, Tibet, to India, was billed as a boon for Sikkim's economy. Trade through the pass remains hampered by Sikkim's limited infrastructure and government restrictions in both India and China, though the volume of traded goods has been steadily increasing.[77][78]

In recent years, the government of Sikkim has extensively promoted tourism. As a result, state revenue has increased 14 times since the mid-1990s.[72] Sikkim has furthermore invested in a fledgling gambling industry, promoting both casinos and online gambling. The state's first casino, the Casino Sikkim, opened in March 2009, and the government subsequently issued a number of additional casino licences and online sports betting licenses.[73][74] The Playwin lottery has been a notable success in the state.[75][76]

Terraced rice paddy fields of Sikkim

[71][70][69][68]

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