Today, May 16, is Sikkim Day. On this day in 1975, Sikkim, a small country, almost hidden from the world on the mighty Himalayas, became part of our ‘incredible’ India to add to its beauty and bounty. On its Anniversary day, greetings to you. Here is some information on Sikkim, which I thought I may share with you, as there could not be a better occasion and more appropriate way to honor the people of Sikkim, especially when the mainstream media almost ignored to cover such an important day for them.
Sikkim had retained guarantees of independence from Britain when she became independent, and such guarantees were transferred to the Indian government when it gained independence in 1947. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim was to be a tributary of India, in which India controlled its external defence, diplomacy and communication. In 1967, the People's Republic of China sent its troops to lay claim to Sikkim, which was then a protectorate of India. The Indian Army won a decisive victory in the resulting conflict which later came to be known as the Chola incident. As a result, China withdrew its claim to Sikkim. In April of 1975, a popular vote of the people of Sikkim overwhelmingly voted for merger of their country with their mighty neighbor, India, and Prime Minister Dorji appealed to the Indian Parliament for representation and change of status to statehood. On May 16, 1975, Sikkim officially became a state of the Indian Union.
Situated in the Eastern Himalayas, this beautiful state of Sikkim is sandwiched between the kingdom of Nepal in the West and Bhutan in the East, Tibet in the North and the state of West Bengal in the South. This small state belies its richness of culture, customs, heritage, flora and fauna. The population of the state is only 4,20,000 as per the last census. Amidst the grandeur of the mountain peaks, lush green valleys cascading waterfalls and fast flowing rivers, beautiful monasteries and terraced hills, Sikkim offers her visitor a rare and exotic experience
Sikkim does not have any airports or railheads because of its rough terrain. 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.The Gangtok helipad is the only civilian helipad in the state. The closest railway station is New Jalpaiguri which is situated 15 kilometres from Siliguri. 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.
The Tsomgo Lake also known as the Changu Lake is a glacial lake located in east Sikkim usually frozen during the winter season. It is one amongst the most famous tourist spots. Right before the Chumtang valley located in Lachung there is a natural hot spring on the right side of the road on the top of a mountain that not many people are aware of. The hot spring is accessible to all and is not charged for either. A dip in the hot spring is all that you need to prevent yourself from freezing to death while you are on your way to the Chumtang valley or zero point. Kangchenjunga in Sikkim is the third highest mountain in the world, with an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft) and located along the India-Nepal border in the Himalayas.
One of the most peculiar as well as pretty features about Sikkim is the presence of color in the state. Every street and road is filled with prayer flags of various colors. The Buddhist for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes as well as along the path that they travel for the wind to spread the positive vibrations of the flag across the countryside. The flags are said to bring happiness and prosperity. The 5 colours of prayer flags represent the 5 basic elements: yellow-earth, green–water, red-fire, white-air and blue-space. Balancing these elements externally brings harmony to the environment and balancing them internally brings health to the body and the mind. The various coloured flags are said to purify the human soul
White (om) purifies pride and ego, green (ma) purifies jealousy and lust for entertainment, yellow (ne) purifies passion and desire, blue (pad) purifies ignorance and prejudice, red (me) purifies greed and possessiveness and black (hum) purifies aggression and hatred.
If you are a late riser as well as a late sleeper, Sikkim is just the place you need to visit to get yourself on track. It is pitch dark by 6 in the evening and the entire town retires by 7, on the other hand morning light hits the place by 4 and all the shops, people and offices are fully functioning by 7 am. Every year in the month of summer from March to May, Sikkim organizes an International Flower Festival which is a rare show of 600 species of orchids, 240 species of trees and ferns, 150 varieties of gladioli, 46 types of rhododendrons along with a variety of magnolias and many other foliage plants. Sikkim is a paradise for all the bird-watchers with the recorded 552 species including the magnificent Himalayan Griffon or the bearded vulture.
Sikkim is one amongst the most serene and peaceful places to visit. The sight of the Himalayas, the rising of the sun amidst the snow caped mountains, the clean glacial water of the valleys, the freshness in the air, the sound of the monks chanting and the simplicity of life in the north east is something that everyone must experience once in a lifetime.