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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dream Destination :- Sikkim



Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It is the least populous state in India,[1] and the second-smallest in area after Goa. The thumb-shaped state borders Nepal in the west, Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and east, and Bhutan in the southeast. The Indian state of West Bengal borders Sikkim to its south.[2] The official language of the state is English, but there is a sizable population that converses in Nepali (the lingua franca of the state), Lepcha, Bhutia, and Limbu. It is the only state in India with an ethnic Nepalese majority. It is an ancient land also known as Indrakil, the garden of Indra, the king-god of heaven in Hindu religious texts. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Gangtok is the capital and largest town.[citation needed]

Despite its tiny size, with an area of 2,745 sq mi (7,110 km²), Sikkim is geographically diverse, owing to its location on the Himalaya. The climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine. Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, is located in the northwestern part of the state on the boundary with Nepal, and can be seen from most parts of the state.[2] Sikkim is a popular tourist destination for its culture, scenic beauty and biodiversity.

The most widely accepted origin of the name Sikkim is that it is a combination of two words in the Limbu Su, which means "new", and Khyim, which means "palace" or house, in reference to the palace built by the state's first ruler, Phuntsog Namgyal. The Tibetan name for Sikkim is Denjong, which means the "valley of rice".[3] The Lepchas, original inhabitants of Sikkim called it Nye-mae-el or paradise and the Bhutias call it Beymul Demazong, which means the hidden valley of rice

Geography

Kangchenjunga (8'586 m), highest peak of India and 3rd highest on earth
Cities and towns of Sikkim.The thumb-shaped state of Sikkim is characterised by wholly mountainous terrain. Almost the entire state is hilly, with the elevation ranging from 280 metres (920 ft) to 8,585 metres (28,000 ft). The summit of the Kangchenjunga is the highest point which falls in Nepal among the top 8 mountains residing on Nepal. For the most part, the land is unfit for agriculture because of the precipitous and rocky slopes. However, certain hill slopes have been converted into farm lands using terrace farming techniques. Numerous snow-fed streams in Sikkim have carved out river valleys in the west and south of the state. These streams combine into the Teesta and its tributary, the Rangeet. The Teesta, described as the "lifeline of Sikkim", flows through the state from north to south. About a third of the land is heavily forested.

The lofty Himalayan ranges surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim in a crescent. The populated areas lie in the southern reaches of the state, in the Lower Himalayas. The state has twenty-eight mountain peaks, twenty-one glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes, including the Tsongmo Lake, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lakes, five hot springs, and over 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.[2]


Unfrozen Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim.

Geology
The hills of Sikkim mainly consist of gneissose and half-schistose rocks, making their soil brown clay, and generally poor and shallow. The soil is coarse, with large amounts of iron oxide concentrations, ranging from neutral to acidic and has poor organic and mineral nutrients. This type of soil tends to support evergreen and deciduous forests.

A large portion of the Sikkim territory is covered by the Precambrian rock and is much younger in age than the hills. The rock consists of phyllites and schists and therefore the slopes are highly susceptible to weathering and prone to erosion. This, combined with the intense rain, causes extensive soil erosion and heavy loss of soil nutrients through leaching. As a result, landslides are frequent, isolating the numerous small towns and villages from the major urban centres

Hot springs
Sikkim has many hot springs known for medicinal and therapeutic values. The most important hot springs are at Phurchachu (Reshi), Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong. All these hot springs have high sulphur content and are located near river banks. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50°C.


Climate
The climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the northern parts. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim, however, enjoy a temperate climate, with the temperatures seldom exceeding 28 °C (82 °F) in summer or dropping below 0 °C (32 °F) in winter. The state enjoys five seasons: winter, summer, spring, and autumn, and a monsoon season between June and September. 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 is around 6 000 metres (19,600 feet).

During the monsoon months, the state is lashed by heavy rains that increase the number of landslides. The state record for the longest period of non-stop rain is eleven days. In the northern region, because of high altitude, temperatures drop below −40 °C in winter. Fog also affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making transportation extremely perilous

Flora and fauna

The Rhododendron is the state tree.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 to temperate to alpine and tundra, and is perhaps one of the few regions to exhibit such a diversity within such a small area.

The flora of Sikkim includes the rhododendron, the state tree, with a huge range of species occurring from subtropical to alpine regions. Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo in the lower altitudes of Sikkim, which enjoy a subtropical-type climate. In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres, oaks, chestnuts, maples, birches, alders, and magnolias grow in large numbers. The alpine-type vegetation includes juniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendrons, and is typically found between an altitude of 3,500 to 5 000 m. Sikkim boasts around 5,000 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 orchid Dendrobium nobile is the official flower of Sikkim.


The Red Panda is the state animal of SikkimThe fauna includes the snow leopard, the musk deer, the Himalayan Tahr, the red panda, the Himalayan marmot, the serow, the goral, the barking deer, the common langur, the Himalayan Black Bear, the clouded leopard, the Marbled Cat, the leopard cat, the wild dog, the Tibetan wolf, the hog badger, the binturong, the jungle cat and the civet 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 consists of the Impeyan pheasant, the crimson horned pheasant, the snow partridge, the snow cock, the lammergeyer and griffon vultures, as well as golden eagles, quail, plovers, woodcock, sandpipers, pigeons, Old World flycatchers, babblers and robins. A total of 550 species of birds have been recorded in Sikkim, some of which have been declared endangered.[2]

Sikkim also has a rich diversity of arthropods, much of which remains unexplored even today. The best studied group remains, as with the rest of India, the butterflies. Of the approximately 1438[10] butterfly species found in the Indian subcontinent, 695 have been recorded from Sikkim. These include the endangered Kaiser-i-hind, Yellow Gorgon and the Bhutan Glory amongst others

Transport

The River Teesta said to be the lifeline of Sikkim.Sikkim does not have any airports or railheads because of its rough terrain, however a Government Grant has been approved for an airport in Pakyong.[2] The closest airport, Bagdogra Airport, is near the town of Siliguri, West Bengal. The airport is about 124 km away from Gangtok. A regular 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 4 people.[16] The Gangtok helipad is the only civilian helipad in the state. The closest railway station is New Jalpaiguri which is situated sixteen kilometres from Siliguri.[citation needed]

National Highway 31A links Siliguri to Gangtok. The highway is an all-weather metalled road which mostly runs parallel to the river Teesta, entering Sikkim at Rangpo. Numerous public and privately run bus and jeep services connect the airport, railway station, and Siliguri to Gangtok. A branch of the highway from Melli connects western Sikkim. Towns in southern and western Sikkim are connected to the northern West Bengal hill stations of Kalimpong and Darjeeling. Within the state, four wheel drives are the most popular means of transport, as they can navigate rocky slopes. Minibuses link the smaller towns to the state and district headquarters

Culture

The Gumpa being performed in Lachung during the Buddhist festival of Losar.Sikkim residents celebrate all major Indian festivals such as Diwali and Dussera, the popular Hindu festivals. Losar, Loosong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu are Buddhist festivals that are also celebrated. During the Losar – the Tibetan New Year – 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.[20]


Stone carvings at TashidingIt 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 meat) or pork and served with a soup are a popular snack. The mountain peoples have a diet rich in beef, pork and other meats. Alcohol is cheap owing to the low excise duty in Sikkim and beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are consumed by many Sikkimese - indeed, Sikkim has the highest alcoholism rate per capita of any Indian state.