Land of the Chogyal's
The history of Sikkim began in the year 1642 when it was established as a kingdom under the Chogyal's or the Dharma King. The kingdom of Sikkim with the background of Mt. Kanchenjunga was an independent kingdom ruled by the monarchs until the year 1975. The state of Sikkim has earned itself some reputation being a Clean Green and an All Organic state since 2016. The state of Sikkim is amazingly diverse as it has glacial lakes, gushing rivers, snowy peaks and beautiful forest cover with varieties of orchids and Rhododendrons. Once a Buddhist kingdom, Sikkim is now inhabited not only by the Lepchas but also by Bhutias, Nepalis, and Tibetans. There are a number of traditional monasteries in Sikkim, some of which are Tibetan monasteries and also some Hindu shrines which display the cultural variety and beauty of the state of Sikkim.
The culture of Sikkim
Sikkim is now a unique blend of different religion, customs, and traditions of different tribes and communities who co-exist peacefully here. Let us draw the line of cultures that existed in Sikkim in the ancient times. The first inhabitants of Sikkim were the three tribes, Naong, Chang and the Mon. With the course of time, Sikkim was inhabited by the Lepchas, the Nagas from Tibet, the Buddhist tribe of Bhutias and the Nepalese from the neighboring Nepal which still dominates the considerable part of the Sikkim's population. Though Sikkim is predominantly a Buddhist state it has grown into a more secular state with Churches, Monasteries, Gurdwaras, Mosques as well as Temples co-existing peacefully here.
Religion and ethnicity of Sikkim
The people of Sikkim is characterized by multiple ethnicities acquire features of plural society. The current population of the state is composed of various race, and ethnic groups such as the Lepchas, the Nepalese, and the Bhutias. Religions play a major role in Sikkim. The two major religions are Buddhism and Hinduism. Hinduism is leading religion and it is practiced by a larger number of people in Sikkim. On the other side, Buddhism is the main religion of Sikkim. The state boasts of innumerable monasteries that are assigned to the preaching of Buddhism. Sikkimese people are tolerance and mutual understanding with distinct religions like Christianity, Islam etc.
Languages are spoken and the traditional attire
The Gorkhas make up the majority of the population of Darjeeling yet the population actually consists of different ethnic groups and hence people here speak more than just Nepali. The presence of a variety of tribes now has led to the use of Hindi, Bengali and English among the inhabitants today besides the Tibetan refugees as well as the Tibetan tribes that originated in Tibet still speak Tibetan.
The masked Dances of Sikkim
Sikkim is home to rich and colorful festivals which are celebrated with great joy and celebrations. Sikkim's famous masked dances provide a unique experience which cannot be seen anywhere else in the entire world. Performed by lamas in the Monastery courtyard to celebrate religious festivals, these masked dances demonstrate perfect footwork, precision, and grace. Costumed lamas of the monastery with the painted masks, shiny sparkling jewels, and ceremonial swords leap upon each other and swing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and the chanting of resident monks. Some of the main masked dances of Sikkim are:
It is the annual feast celebrated at the Enchey Monastery with religious masked dances which are performed on the 18th and 19th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan Buddhist Calendar. It usually occurs in the month of December to January.
The masked dance celebration is held every year during the 28th and 29th days of the 10th month of Buddhist lunar calendar. Mask dances are held in various monasteries like Enchey, Phodong, Phensang and few other monasteries. The three days of mask dances usually fall during the months of December to January and it is based on the story of the victory over evil.
It is the most important chaam performed in the Rumtek Monastery on the 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar which usually falls on the month of June. The masked dance highlights eight manifestations of the Guru Rimpoche through highly colorful and spectacular masks and dance which draws many pilgrim and visitors.
PANG LHABSOL FESTIVAL
It is another unique festival of Sikkim which takes place in various Monasteries like Tshuklakhang, Rabangla, and few others. The festival is held during the months of July August and the prayers are conducted along with masked dances which are performed by the monks of the monastery.
The top attractions of Sikkim
Though it is just the second smallest state of India, Sikkim has various sightseeing locations across the variety of altitudes that it is spread upon. It must be noted that some parts of Sikkim may not be open to nationals of other countries due to its border issues yet everyone else must have to issue a valid permit from the state tourism department to visit some places which are close to the border areas.
Let us look at some of the most popular places you can visit inside Sikkim:
The capital city of Sikkim nestled in the lap of Himalayas and located at an altitude of 5,410ft in East Sikkim. Gangtok is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Sikkim. The heart of Gangtok is M.g Marg which is only pedestrian zone, where the vehicle is not allowed and the smoke free area with different shops, restaurants, and bars. Its central location to major tourist spots makes it the first place where everyone wants to stay on the first day of their Sikkim visit.
Yuksom is located in Western parts of Sikkim. It is an origin of several of thrilling treks into fabulous Mt. Kanchenjunga. This hamlet is known for its pristine beauty. It is also known as 'Meeting of three Lamas' recently stated gaining tourism attention. Magical hamlet is one amongst the most peaceful destination to visit in Sikkim.
Located only 38km from the capital city Gangtok, it is one of the highest lakes in India at an altitude of 12,400ft. The lake looks different at a different season, during winters lake remains frozen, summer brings in a magical charm and appeals to Tsomgo. The delicately beautiful Tsomgo Lake is a must on every visitor itinerary.
Located at an altitude of about 14,140 feet and almost 56kms from Gangtok, the Pass was part of the famous Silk Route which used to operate until 1962. Thegu is a high altitude location on the way to Nathula, which has the highest altitude ATM in the world. There is also a popular engraved “Nehru Stone” here which marks the visit of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958.
Unlike other popular destinations in Sikkim, Ravangla is an offbeat destination which is well known among the current tourist circuit for its untouched green. Its surrounding zones are excellent viewpoints of Mt Kanchenjunga, Mt Sinialchu, Mt Kabru and other peaks. The upper Ravangla sees snowfall and the area has a rich variety of flowers which gives it a lovely look during the months of April and May.
Located at a height of 10,000 feet on the lower Himalayas in the eastern part of Sikkim, Zuluk is an antique village with about 700 people stay that stays here. It once used to be a part of the Silk route and presently is being visited by many tourists as it also has homestay facilities here. There is 32 hairpin swirling roads that are absolutely picturesque and has been a popular sightseeing location.
How to reach Sikkim?
It must be noted that to arrive in Sikkim you must have to first take a flight or a train till Siliguri, which is the junction to North Bengal and Sikkim.
Bagdogra Airport : If you are taking a flight till Bagdogra Airport, you shall need to hire a car to Sikkim. The distance from the airport to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim is about 152 km and takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes to reach by road.
NJP Railway station : If you are taking a train till NJP, you shall have to hire a private car or share a jeep till Sikkim which will be about 148 km and should take around 5 hours of road trip.
The SNT near Junction also has many AC and Non AC buses that you can take from Siliguri.