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Geography of Sikkim-Culture and Resources | North East India Info

Sikkim is a state in northeast India. It borders Tibet in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and West Bengal in the south. Sikkim is also located close to India's Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh. Sikkim is the least populous and second smallest among the Indian states.
Sikkim culture
Culture of Sikkim

 A part of the Eastern Himalaya, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in India and third highest on Earth. Sikkim's capital and largest city are Gangtok. 

Almost 35% of the state is covered by the Khangchendzonga National Park. With an area of 7,096 sq. km., which is about 0.22 percent of the total area of the country, Sikkim is one of the hilly states of North-East India. 

It is located in the Eastern Himalayas between the 27°5' N and 28°7' N latitudes and 88°0/ E and 88°55' E longitudes. From north to south its area extends for 112 km and from east to west 64 km. The State holds a strategic position because of its international boundaries with Tibet (China occupied) in the north and east, with Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the southeast. In the south, it has a boundary with the Darjeeling district of the state of West Bengal.

Short Historical Background

In ancient times, Sikkim was known as 'Mayel-Lyang’, meaning a hidden paradise to the Lepchas. Later on, the Tibetans called the region 'Denzong’ meaning the valley of rice. 

The present name of Sikkim is of Limboo or Tsong origin (Nepali), which means 'A new house’. According to Dr. Waddel, the name 'Sikkim’ is of Sanskrit origin meaning 'Crested’. 'Sikhim’ has been derived from the Limboo word 'Su’ and 'Khim’ meaning a new house or place. With the passage of time the word was corrupted into 'Sukhim’, which was later anglicised to 'Sikkim’ (Risley, 1894). 

The name thus seems to have originated more to mean a new place or house than any other else. The Kingdom of Sikkim was founded by the Namgyal dynasty in the 17th century. It was ruled by a Buddhist priest-king known as the Chogyal. 

It became a princely state of British India in 1890. After 1947, Sikkim continued its protectorate status with the Republic of India. 

It enjoyed the highest literacy rate and per capita income among Himalayan states. In 1973, anti-royalist riots took place in front of the Chogyal's palace. In 1975, the monarchy was deposed by the people. A referendum in 1975 led to Sikkim joining India as its 22nd state.


The topography of Sikkim is similar to that of any other young mountain terrain featured with high mountain peaks, gorges, sharp crest ridges, narrow valleys, hanging valleys, etc. 

The physical configuration of Sikkim is partly due to the southerly direction of the main drainage and partly due to the geological structure. As stated earlier, the three sides of the region, i.e. northern, eastern and western portions are constituted of hard massive gneiss rocks capable of resisting denudation to a considerable extent, on the other hand, the southern and the central part is formed of comparatively softer, thinner and salty half-schistose rocks, less resistant to denudation. 

Being a part of the inner mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the region has no open valley and no plains but varied elevations ranging from 300 to 5000 meters above the mean sea level. 

It may be viewed as a stupendous stairway leading from the northern border of the Tibetan plateau down to the plains of West Bengal. Sikkim encompasses Lesser Himalaya, Central Himalaya, and the Tethys Himalaya. Dominating both legend and landscape of Sikkim is the mighty Khangchendzonga. Known to the outside world as Kanchenjunga, it is the third highest peak in the world. 

But to the Sikkimese it is much more than a mountain: Khangchendzonga is the Guardian deity, a country God whose benign watchfulness ensures peace and prosperity for the land. 

The five peaks of Khangchendzonga are the five Treasures of the Eternal Snow, a belief About Sikkim beautifully interpreted by the great Lama Lhatsun Chenpo: "The peak most conspicuously gilded by the rising sun is the treasury of gold, the peak that remains in the cold grey shade is the storehouse for silver and other peaks are vaults for gems, grains, and the holy books." 

Each of the five peaks is believed to be crowned by an animal-the highest by a tiger and others by a lion, elephant, horse, and the mythical bird Garuda. Along with the Guardian deity, the Nepal Peak, Tent Peak, Pyramid, Jonsang, Lhonak, Pahunri, etc. and glaciers like Zemu, Changing, Teesta, Change is also important. The most important passes are Jelep-la, Nathu-la, Cho-la, and Thanka-la in the east; Donkiua, Kongralamu, and Naku in the north and Kanglanangma and Chia Bhanjyang in the west.


Sikkim is India's least populous state, with 610,577 inhabitants according to 2011 census. Sikkim is also one of the least densely populated Indian states, with only 86 persons per square kilometer. However, it has a high population growth rate, averaging 12.36% percent 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 percent of the total. In 2011, the average per capita income in Sikkim stood at ₹81,159 (US$1,305).

Ethnicity and Language

The majority of Sikkim's residents are of Nepali ethnic origin. 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. Nepali is the lingua franca of Sikkim, while Sikkimese (Bhutia) and Lepcha are spoken in certain areas. 

English is 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.

Natural Resources

The state is gifted with abundant natural resources. The resources can be grouped into biotic or abiotic, both of which can be renewable. Biotic resources include agriculture crops. fodder and forests. The entire Himalayan region is endowed with natural flora and fauna and is a natural paradise for nature lovers, conservationists, botanists, zoologists, and environmentalists. 

There are 4000 species of flowering plants, 300 species of ferns and its allies, 11species of Oaks, 8 species of tree ferns, 30-40 species of Premolars 20 species of bamboos. In Fauna, the state is also a very rich 144 species of mammals. 500-600 species of birds, over 400 species of butterflies and moths. Many species of reptiles etc. are available. 

Many medicinal plants/herbs/and important shrubs are found in low and high-altitude areas. Other resources are water resources, human resources, livestock resources, hydro-electric potential, tourism, agriculture, horticulture, etc. 

In the forest, non-wood forest produce has vast potential like sand, boulders, and other materials. Under economic geology, minerals like copper, iron, lime, dolomite/limestone, coal, quartzite and tale, silicate & graphite are available in the state. Garnet is abundant in the gneiss and mica schists at places. 

Large cardamoms production is very high in the state. The basic information on various natural resources is either not available or if available it is not adequate and up to date. There is a vast potential for hydro-electric power generation. Tourism development deserves consideration to add to the economy of the region.

To study more about Sikkim some books recommendation given below. These are also used as references for this article. So, I highly recommend you go through these books. For details click the book title.

Reccomendat Book for Study:

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