FACTS & FIGURES:-
Language: Nepali, Sikkimese, Bhutia, Lepcha, Hindi, English
Best time to visit:- October to March
STD Code:- 03592
A journey to Sikkim necessarily means awakening the senses and discovering the pristine and mystic beauty of the land. What one will find most fascinating is the journey itself-a continuum of sights, sounds, and feelings. Sikkim is a dream that one can realize and enjoy, now that the area is open to all. It is a state cloaked in the mystery of remoteness, and far away from the din and bustle of the modern world.
Located in the eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is bound by Tibet (China) in the north, West Bengal in the south, Tibet and Bhutan in the east and Nepal in the west. The state is spread below Mount Kanchanjunga (8,534 m), the third highest peak in the world. The locals worship the mountain as a protecting deity. The elevation of the state ranges between 300 m and over 8,500 m above sea level.
A part of the lesser, central, and Tethys Himalaya; Sikkim is a mountainous state without any significant flat land. The larger part of the state is made up of Precambrian rock and is comparatively younger than the Northern, Eastern and Western portion of the state. The rise of the mountains is northward. The state is cut into steep escarpments in the north and except in the Lachung and Lachen valleys, is thinly populated. In contrast to Northern Sikkim is Southern Sikkim, which is lower, more open, and fairly well cultivated. The drainage of the rivers in the state is towards south. The Rangeet and the Teesta are the major river systems of state. These rivers cut through the valleys and in addition there are 180 perennial lakes at different altitudes. The state has many hot water springs like Phur-Cha, Ralang Sachu, Yumthang, and Momay. The snowline starts at around 5,248 m in Sikkim.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Due to its location and altitude, there is an immense variation in climate and vegetation in Sikkim. In the state, the climate is tropical up to 1,624 m, temperate between 1,624 m-4,222 m, alpine above 4,222 m, and snowbound at 5,248 m.
The best time to visit Sikkim is between mid-March and June but especially, April and May, when the rhododendrons and orchids are in full bloom. However, temperatures can be high, especially in the valleys. During monsoons, from the end of June till early September, rivers and roads become impassable, though plants damaged by the incessant rain spring back to life again and bloom towards the end of August. October, when orchids bloom once again, and November tend to have the clearest weather of all. As December approaches, it gets bitterly cold in the high altitude areas, and remains that way until early March, though interspersed with spells of clear weather.
Buddhism, the major religion in the state, arrived from Tibet in the 13th century. It took its distinctive Sikkimese form four centuries later, when three Tibetan monks of the old Nyingamapa order, dissatisfied with the rise of the reformist Gelukpas, migrated to Yoksum in western Sikkim. Having consulted an oracle, they went to Gangtok looking for a certain Phuntsong Namgyal, whom they crowned as the first Chogyal or ‘Righteous King’ of Denzong in 1642. Being the secular and religious head, he was soon recognized by Tibet, and brought sweeping reforms. His kingdom was far larger than today’s Sikkim and included Kalimpong and parts of western Bhutan. Over the centuries, the territory was lost to the Bhutanese, the Nepalese and the British. The British policy to diminish the strong Tibetan influence resulted in the import of workers from Nepal to work in the tea plantations of Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong and these soon outnumbered the indigenous population.
After India’s Independence, the eleventh Chogyal, Tashi Namgyal, strove hard to prevent the dissolution of his kingdom. Officially, Sikkim was a protectorate of India, and the role of India became increasingly crucial with the Chinese military build-up along the northern borders that culminated in an actual invasion early in the 1960s. The next king Palden Thondup was a weak ruler and in 1975, succumbed to the demands of the Nepalese majority of becoming a part of India.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
The people of Sikkim celebrate the anniversaries relating to birth, enlightenment, and nirvana of the Buddha, besides the Buddhist New Year and the harvest festivals. Several festivals are celebrated in Gangtok and its adjoining areas.
The Buddhist festival of Bumchu is held in the Tashiding Gompa during January.
The festival of Chaam is held in the Enchey Gompa during January-February and is marked by dancing. This dance is a mask dance held every month at Gangtok, Pemayangtse and Phodong. Losar marks the Tibetan New Year and is celebrated during February-March at Pemayangtse and Rumtek. Tse Chu is a Buddhist dance held in May at Rumtek. Saga Dawa (held in Gangtok during May) and Drukpa Teshi (celebrated statewide during July) mark the anniversary of the Buddha’s first teaching. Phang Lhabsol is a mask dance celebrated statewide during August. Dasain, celebrated during September-October, is marked by exchange of gifts and animal sacrifice.
HOW TO REACH
BY AIR – The busiest route in and out of Sikkim is the road between Gangtok and Siliguri. The town of Bagdogra at a distance of 124 km from Gangtok has the nearest airport. Flights from Bagdogra can be booked at the Indian Airlines office on Tibet Road in Gangtok (Phone 03592-23099). There are regular flights to Guwahati, Calcutta, and Delhi from Bagdogra.
BY RAIL – The nearest railway stations from Gangtok are New Jalpaiguri (125 km) and Siliguri (144 km) connected to Delhi, Calcutta, Guwahati, and other important cities in India.
BY ROAD – The Sikkim National Tourist Agency (Phone 22016) has daily bus services to Siliguri (5 hours), Darjeeling (7 hours), Kalimpong (3 hours) and Bagdogra (4½ hours). Share jeeps and taxis are a faster alternative to commute.
Gangtok is connected by road to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Siliguri. Cars, luxury coaches and jeeps are available for hire in the town. There are also regular bus services run by the Sikkim Nationalized Transport.
WHERE TO STAY
We offer excellent accommodation facilities in and around Sikkim
Tourism-of-India.com provides complete information about tourism in Sikkim. Tourism-of-India.com offers various tour packages to make your visit comfortable. You can pick the one that suits you best.
The Gumpa being performed in Lachung during the Buddhist festival of LOSHAR
Sikkim residents celebrate all major Indian festivals such as DIWALI and DUSSHERA , the popular Hindu festivals LOSHAR, LOOSONG, SAGA DAWA, LHABAB DUECHEN, DRUPKA TESHI AND BHUMCHU are Buddhist festivals that are also celebrated. During the Losar – the Tibetan New Year in mid-December – most government offices and tourist centres are closed for a week. CHRISTMAS has also recently been promoted in Gangtok to attract tourists during the off-season.
It is common to hear WESTERN ROCK MUSIC being played in homes and in restaurants even in the countryside. HINDI SONGS have gained wide acceptance among the masses. Indigenous Nepali rock, music suffused with a Western rock beat and Nepali lyrics, is also particularly popular. FOOTBALL and CRICKET are the two most popular sports.
NOODLE-based dishes such as the thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are common in Sikkim. MOMOS, steamed dumplings filled with vegetable, BUFF (buffalo’s meat) or PORK and served with a soup is a popular snack. The mountainous peoples have a diet rich in beef, pork and other meats. ALCOHOL is cheap owing to the low excise duty in Sikkim and, BEER, WHISKY RUM and BRANDY are consumed by many Sikkimese.
Almost all dwellings in Sikkim are rustic, consisting of a BAMBOO frame, woven with pliable bamboo and coated with COW-DUNG, providing a warm interior. In the higher elevations, houses are made of wood.
Khang-chen-dzod-nga Dance: The two day festival of dance performed during the worship of snowy range of Kanchanjunga (Khang-chen-dzod-nga) is a dance peculiar to Sikkim alone. It is celebrated in September. The third Chogyal of Sikkim, Chador Namgyal (1686-1716) introduced this dance about two and a half centuries ago as a result of a vision.
Kanchendzonga is portrayed as a fiery red – countenanced deity with a crown of five skulls, riding the mythical snow lion and holding aloft the banner of victory. Esoteric masks, flashing SILKS, opulent brocades and embroidered boots are the COSTUMES of the dancers. The dancers are all male. In this warrior Dance the warlike pomp and panoply, the war deity resplendent the flaming robes, the fantastic Snow lion, comprise the essence of the dance. This mask dance is termed as Singhi Dance i.e. Lion Dance by Nepalese. They visualise the ferocious god of Kanchanjunga riding over a lion and hence call this dance as Singhi Dance.
Black Hat (Kali topi) Dance: On Lossoong, the Sikkimese New Year Day, Black Hat (kali topi) Dance demonstrating the triumph of good over evil is demonstrated. Male DANCERS mostly the Lamas also perform this masked dance. The dance revives the old story, which narrates that about twelve centuries ago King Land-Darma was slain for suppressing Buddhism in Tibet. The king was slain by a Lama wearing a fantastic BLACK ROBE lined with white and riding a white horse blackened with soot.
Other dances are ‘Bara Singha Dance (the Stag dance) and Kankal Dance (the Skeleton Dance) and folk dances like, the Limbus celebrating a good harvest. There are some soft rhythm dances too in which women can participate. The Tamang (Dampu Dance )and Maruni dances (Nepali Dance) are such in which a couple wavering lighted tapers on their open palms participate. The Limbus perform the Dhol Dance after harvesting their paddy crop. Lepcha people also perform a group dance after harvests. The Lepcha folk dances are quite bristle and Gay. The Sikkimese dances find their roots in the traditional culture seasonal cycles of this fabled Himalayan state.
State : Sikkim, in the north eastern state of India.
Time : Through out the year.
Venue : Sikkim, India
Know the Festivals of Sikkim
There are numerous festivals celebrated in Sikkim through out the year. As people of Sikkim mostly follow Buddhism, the festivals celebrated here are associated to the Buddhist festivals. Mostly the festivals are celebrated in the Gompas or Monasteries of Sikkim, where people gather in large number to commemorate the occasion.
On this day in different years of his life, Lord Buddha took birth, achieved enlightenment and attained nirvana. These three important events are celebrated in Saga Dawa Festival of Sikkim. A procession carries the holy books of the teachings of Buddha from the Tsuklakhang monastery. Saga Dawa is held on the full moon of the 4th month of the Buddhist calendar in the end of May or early June.
Lhabab Dhuechein: –
Lhabab Duchen commemorates the Lord Buddha’s descent from the deva (heavenly or angelic) realm after teaching his deceased mother, Mahamaya. Lhabab Duchen occurs on the 22nd day of the ninth lunar month each year.
Phang Lhabsol: –
Popularised by the third Chogyal of Sikkim, Chakdor Namgyal, the snow covered range of Kanchendzonga is worshipped for its unifying powers. This festival marks the signing of the treaty of brotherhood between the Lepchas and Bhutias by “Kye Bhumsa” and “Thekong Tek”. On this day, masked Lama dancers portray the guardian deity as a fiery red-faced deity with a crown of the five skulls, riding a snow-lion. It is held on the 15th day of August.
Falls on the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan month, around August, celebrates Buddha’s first preaching of the four “Noble Truths” to his first five disciples in deer park at Sarnath. At Gangtok, it is marked by prayers at the Deer Park and at a secluded place called “Muguthang” in extreme north Sikkim, followed by Yak race.
Bumchu, an age old festival of Sikkim is celebrated at Tashiding Monastery in the month of January / February. During this festival, the lamas of the monastery open the pot containing the holy water. The level of water in the pot foretells the future for the future. If the water is to the brim, it prophesises bloodshed and disturbances; if the pot is almost dry it symbolises famine and if it is half full, it foretells a year in which peace and prosperity will prevail.
Experience the Sikkim Festivals
A part of the holy water is distributed amongst the participants and then the pot is replenished with river water and sealed at the end of the festival to be opened only in the next Bumchu.
Losoong is a Bhutia festival, which marks the end of the harvest season and also the end of the Tibetan year. Chaam dancings at the monasteries at Palace (Tsuklakhang), Phodong and Rumtek, archery competitions and other festivities mark the occasion.
Lossar (also spelt as Losar) is the Tibetan ‘New Year’ festival that falls in the month of February and is marked with lot of gaiety and festivities.
Tendong Lho Rum Faat: –
Specific to the Lepchas, this festival marks the celebration of the Tendong hill. According to legend, the hill had risen like a horn during a great flood to save the Lepchas.
Corresponding to the Indian festival of Diwali, Tihaar is also celebrated as the festival of lights in Sikkim with the lighting of lamps accompanied with traditional caroling called “Deusi” and “Bhailo”.
More or less occurring a few weeks before Losoong, Dasain is the main festival of the Hindu Nepalese in Sikkim. This too signifies the victory of good over evil. The elders of the family apply ‘Tika’ on the young and bless them.