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 Sikkim Introduction


Tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas, Sikkim is a wonderland with its lovely views and exotic orchids, and its forest-trails. A virtual Shangrila overlooked by Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, is attractive equally for the sightseer, the adventure sports enthusiast and those interested in Buddhism and Tibetology.

Buddhism is the predominant religion here, with many fine old monasteries rich with frescoes, religious paintings on silk and statues of the Buddha's various incarnations. 

Sikkim offers several treks that lead through pine forests, through picturesque valleys, monasteries and to mountain lakes. It is also the base for mountaineering expeditions and the rivers Teesta and Rangeet offer excellent river rafting. 

Prior permission must be sought from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, by all foreigners wishing to visit Sikkim. 

With a backdrop of the Himalayas, Sikkim offers breathtaking vistas, colorful lifestyles, Buddhist shrines, adventure, water sports, exquisite flora and fauna. 

General information 

Population 5,40,493
Area 7,096 sq km
Capital Gangtok
Languages Spoken Lepcha, Bhutia, Hindi, Nepali.
District 4
People Per Sq. km 76
Literacy 69.68%
Best Season March - May and September - November



Fairs and Festivals

Saga Dawa
It is also known as the Triple Blessed festival. On this day (the full moon of the 4th month of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar) Lord Buddha is supposed to have entered the soul of this mother, attained Buddha hood and also Nirvana. On this day people in Sikkim go to the monasteries to offer butter lamps and worship. A huge colorful procession of monks with gyalings and ragdungs go around Gangtok with the holy scriptures (Kangyur and Tangyur).

Rumtek ' Chaams' 
Rumtek monastery is famous for its 'chaams' -- the ritual lama dances as well as the stylized 'opera' performed by the lay people who live around the monastery. The important 'chaams' of Rumtek are those performed two days prior to the Tibetan New Year and that performed on the 10th day of the fifth month of the Tibetan calendar. This 'chaam' know as Tse Chu 'Chaam' basically presents the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava.Padmasambhava( the lotus- born) was the Indian sage who was responsible for consolidating Buddhism in Tibet. 

Pang Lhabsol
this festival is celebrated to offer thanks to Mount Khangchendzonga, the guardian deity of Sikkim and to Yabdu, the supreme commander of Mount Khangchendzonga. It is staged in front of the Tsuklakhang monastery. The essence of the dance is the war-like costumes of the dancers, the pomp and the pageantry. 

At the dramatic moment during the dance the God Mahakala makes his appearance. Shouts of victory greet his appearance, as it is he who commands the god Khangchendzonga, to defend the faith and bring peace and prosperity to the people. 

Kagyat Dance 
Kagyat Dance is performed every 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar. This dance is performed by the monks in the Tsuklakhang (palace monastery) compound two days prior to Losoong (the Sikkimese New Year). The ritual dance culminates with the burning of effigies made of flour, wood and paper-symbolizing the destruction of the forces of evil. 

Drukpa Tseshi 
This festival commemorates the first teaching of Lord Buddha ( the turning of the Wheel of Dharma). On this day ( 4th day of the 6th month of the Tibetan Buddhist lunar calendar ) devotees go to the Deorali Chorten, near the Institute of Tibetology in Gangtok, to worship and offer prayers.

Losoong 
It is New year for the Sikkimese. It is also called 'Sonam Losar' (or the Farmer's New Year) for the farmer's rejoice and celebrate their harvest. Although Losoong is celebrated privately among family members and friends, there is an air of festivity and the youth all over Sikkim have archery competitions. There are also lama dances held in some of the important monastries two days prior to Losoong. 

Losar 
This is the Tibetan New Year and is celebrated by inviting friends and relatives for family gatherings. Two to three days prior to Losar is the Guthor Chaam when colourful lama dances are held in the Pemayangtse and Rumtek monasteries to welcome the Tibetan New Year.

Enchey Chaam 
The annual 'chaam'-- ritual dance of the Lamas of Enchey monastery, is performed every year on the 18th and 19th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar (corresponding to the month of December). Like the Chaams in other monasteries, here too, the gathering watch the Lamas in their splendid costumes and fierce masks perform mystic dances.

Dasain - Dipavali 
Dasain is important festival celebrated by the Hindu Nepali population of Sikkim. This festival begins on the first day of the bright lunar half of the month of Aswin (September-October). In private homes, on this day invocations are made to Goddess Durga and barley seeds are planted in the prayer rooms. 

The other important festival is Dipavali (the festival of lights). This is part of the Tihar festival which begins 10 days after Dasain. On the third day of Tihar Goddess Laxmi (the goddess of wealth) is worshipped. In the evening on this day, women, young and old, visit door to door singing Bhailo and accepting Bhaili offerings and gifts spreading the message of victory of good over evil.

Tashiding Bumchu/Sinek 
The Bumchu is a sacred vessel whose water level foretells the luck of the year ahead. It occurs on the 15th day of first Tibetan month and continuous for three days when devotees from different parts of Himalayas come for blessings and celebrations at Tashiding monastery.


Places of interest

Gangtok
Entry to Sikkim is most convenient by coach, taxi or helicopter. The state of Sikkim lies in the shadow of the mighty Kanchenjunga and its capital, Gangtok, is a picturesque mountain clinging town with monasteries, parks, pagoda style houses and colorful bazars. The hills, parks and the lush trees with Kanchenjunga looming large in the distance, provide it a magnificent setting. 

General Information 

Altitude 5800 ft (1,547 meters).
Best Season March to late May, October to Mid-December
Temperature Summer- Max. 20.7, Min. 13.1; Winter- Max. 14.9, Min. 7.7.
STD Code 03592


How to get there 

Air
Nearest Airport is Bagdogra 124 km.

Rail
The nearest railway stations are Siliguri 114 Km, New Jalpaiguri (NJP) 125 Km. 

Road
Good motorable roads connect Gangtok with Siliguri 114 Km, Calcutta 725 Km, Darjeeling 139 Km and Guwahati 589 Km. 

In and around

Deer park 

Deer park is set up on the model of a similar one in Sarnath in homage to the Bodhisattva who got reincarnated as a musk deer. 

Research Institute of Tibetology 
Research Institute of Tibetology built in 1958 by last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, it has a faculity of scholars, a library with a large collection of documents and rare books on Buddhism, a museum with a collection of antiques, coins and Tibetan paintings (thankas). It is world famous for its research activities on Tibetan language and culture. 

Dodrul Chorten 
Dodrul Chorten adjacent to the institute of Tibetology, has one of the most important Stupas in Sikkim, its golden apex visible form many points in Gangtok. It was built by the head of the Nyinmgma Order, the late Trulsy Rimpoche, to invoke the gods to keep peace and tranquillity. The Chorten contains a complete set of Kagyur holy books, mantras, religious objects and relics. It is encircled by 108 prayer wheels. A small Chorten, Jhang Chub, was built in the memory of Trusly Rimpoche, next to the main Chorten. 

Orchid Sanctuary 
Orchid Sanctuary is where over 250 different types of Orchids bloom in April, and May, and in winter, during the months of December and January. 

Tashi View Point 
Tashi View Point along the north highway, 8 km from the city, offers a superb view of Kanchenjunga and mount Siniolchu in the early mornings. 

Enchey Monastery 
Enchey Monastery was blessed by tantric master Lama Druptab Karpa, who is believed to have the power to fly. 

Ganesh Tok 
Ganesh Tok on a ridge 7 km from Gangtok, offers a panoramic view of the city, villages and mountains. 

Hanuman Tok 
Hanuman Tok a Hindu temple, 11 km away, from where devotees also get a view of the city. 

Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre 
Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, 24 km away, is the seat of the Kagyu Order. The largest monastery in Sikkim, traditional in design, it is close replica of the original in Tibet with beautiful murals and religious artifacts.

Dzongri 
Dzongri is gateway to the Kanchenjunga base camp and offers a close up view of the world's third highest mountain. 

Phodong Monastery 
Phodong Monastery 38 km, is one of the six major monasteries here and was rebuilt recently.

Tashiding Monastery 
Tashiding Monastery built in 1717, is 103 km away. It was set up by Ngadak Sempa Chempo, one of the three lamas who consecrated the first Chogyal. On top of a hill, it has many chortens and plates with mantras carved by master craftsman Yanchong Lodil. 

Entry Formalities for Foreign Tourists

Individual tourist along with group tourists can visit Gangtok, Rumtek, Phodong and Pemayangtse for 15 days. Group min. 4 persons can only visit Dzongri (in West Sikkim) for 15 days for the purpose of trekking. Given below are the list of the authorities, who can issue the permit:

1) All Indian Missions abroad;
2) All Foreigners' Regional Registration Offices in Calcutta, Delhi, Madras & Bombay;
3) Assistant Director (Tourism), Govt. of Sikkim, Siliguri;
4) Deputy Director (Tourism), Govt. of sikkim, New Delhi;
5) Assistant Resident Commissioner, Govt. of Sikkim, Calcutta;
6) Deputy Commissioner, Darjeeling.

Pemayangtse 

This is where 6000 ft above sea level one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries is located. The Pemayangtse monastery is the second oldest monastery in Sikkim and is the headquarters of the Nyingma sect. 

There seems to have been an earlier shrine at the sight of the monastery, which dates back to 1705. Many priceless antique idols are housed here, and the top-most floor, the most fascinating, contains some magnificent sculptures, very intricate and very intriguing. 

From the monastery one can also see the ruins of the first palace of the Chogyals at Gezing where only a chorten and a bit of masonry have been left, though excavations could reveal more. On one side of the monastery are some typical old stone and wooden dwellings: rough, with wooden pieces slotted together rather than nailed, and decorated with wooden carvings. 

The Pemayangtse monastery, an oasis of serenity and a repository of centuries-old wisdom and scriptures, surrounded by mountains, glaciers and passes, is where you feel time is frozen in a frame of yesteryears. The evergreen shrubs of rhododendron, with those large clusters of trumpet shaped flowers can be seen blooming everywhere, and yaks and musk deer and red pandas follow you around the terrain.


NORTHERN STATES- Delhi -|- Hariyana  -|- Himachal -|- Jammu- Kashmir -|- Punjab  -|- 
Uttar Pradesh
-|- Uttranchal 
SOUTHERN STATES - Andaman & Nikkobar  -|- Karnataka -|- Kerala -|- Lakshdweep
Pondicherry 
-|-  Tamilnadu -|-  Andhra Pradesh
WESTERN STATES - Daman and Diu -|- Goa  -|- Gujrat  -|- Rajasthan  -|- Maharastra 
EASTERN STATES - Arunachal -|- Assam -|-  Manipur -|- Meghalaya -|- 
Mizoram
-|- Nagaland  -|- Orissa  -|- Sikkim -|- Tripura -|- West Bengal  -|- Bihar -|- Jharkhand
CENTRAL STATES- Madhya Pradesh -|-   Chattisgarh
 

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