General Information

Small but beautiful, Sikkim is situated in the Eastern Himalayas spread below the world's third highest mountain Kangchendzonga (8585m) revered by the Sikkimese as their protective deity. Sikkim is separated by the Singalila range from Nepal in the west, Chola range from Tibet in the northeast and Bhutan in the southeast. Rangit and Rangpo rivers form the borders with the Indian state of West Bengal in the south.

Though measuring just 65 Km by 115 Km- the size of Switzerland it ranges from sweltering deep valleys a mere three hundred meters above sea level to lofty snow peaks such as Kangchendzonga . On its west side is the massive 31 Km long Zemu glacier. Various explorers and mountaineers have claimed to have seen Yeti or its foot prints in the vicinity of the mountain and its glacier- "The abominable snowman" has its place in folklore.

Sikkim's botanical and zoological affluence is truely impressive. The varities of bords and butterflies in Sikkim is matched only by incredible diversity in the animal and botanical world, nourished by unique and dramatic geographical features.

The lower altitudes are sub-tropical and abound in some of Sikkim's more than ```six hundred orchid varities, sprays of cardamom fruit orchards and terraced rice paddies. To the Lepchas- this was "Nye-mae-el" (Paradise), to the Bhutias it is "Beymul Denzong" (The hidden valley of Rice). Sikkim is commonly attributed to the Tsong's word "Sukhim" meaning (New or Happy Home) .

The people of Sikkim are warm, simple and friendly with a natural gaeity. The custom and rituals of sikkimese are as diverse as the ethnic groups that inhabit the land. they have an impressive repertoire of folk songs and dances. People of Sikkim love to celebrated with a gay abandon and their way of life is inextricably bound up with nature.

Just as Mt. Kangchendzonga is an indisputable part of the consciousness of the Sikkimese people, so too the rivers Tista and Rangitt with deep ravines and their valleys allowing monsoon to penetrate in the northernmost parts which nourishes this "Garden of the Himalayas".

At higher altitudes, monsoon mist cling to huge tracts of lichen covered forest, where every conceivable species of Rhododendron and giant magnolia trees, conifers and beautiful flowering plants as Primulas, Gentians, Blue poppies, Wild strawberry, Raspberry. All over Sikkim forest and wilderness areas are inhabited by the Snow- Leopard, Thar, Yaks, wild Ass in the Tibetan pleatue, Bharal or Blue Sheep, Shapi and the symbol of Sikkim- the endangered Red Panda.

The land of five Treasures-Mt. Kangchendzonga - the massive part of massive Himalayan range and other spectacular peaks of lives of Sikkimese people. The best known peaks are Pauhunri (7125m), Pandim (6691m), Talung (6147m), Tent Peak (7365m), Jongsang (7459m), Rathong (6679m), Koktang (6147m) and Sinioulchu (6887m) regarded by the mountaineers as the most beautiful peak in the world.

Amidst the grandeur of the mountain peaks lush valleys, fast flowing rivers, Sikkim offers her visitors a rare and singular experience. Within a matter of hour one can move from its sub-tropical heat of the lower valleys to the cold of the rugged mountain slopes that reach up to the areas of perpetual snow.

LOCATION :

Sikkim is a very small hilly state in the Eastern Himalayas, extending approximately 114 Kms from north to south and 64Kms from east to west, surrounded by vast stretches of Tibetan Plateau in the North, Chumbi Valley of Tibet and the kingdom of Bhutan in the east, Darjeeling district of West Bengal in the south and the kingdom in Nepal in the west . The state being a part of inner ranges of the mountains of Himalayaa has no open valley and no plains but caried elevations ranging from 300 to 8583 mtrs above means sea level consisting of lower hill, middle and higher hills, alpine zones and snow bound land, the highest elevation 8583 mtrs. being the top of the Mt. Kangchendzonga itself.

TOTAL AREA STATEMENT :

The total geographical area of the state is 7096 sq. Kms. but according to 1958-60 survey operation and the gazatteer fo Sikkim, the land area under different utilization categories is 7299 sq. Kms. Detail break up as follow :

CLIMATE :

The climate of the state has been roughly divided into the tropical, temperature and alphine zones. For most of the period in a a year, the climate is cold and humid as rainfall occurs in each month. The area experience a heavy rainfall due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal. The rainfall in north district is comparatively less than of the other districts. The general trend of decrease in temperature with increase in altitude holds good every where. Pre-monsoon rain occurs in April-May and monsoon (south-west) operates normally from the month of May and continues up to early October.

TEMPERATURE :

The mean temperature in the lower altitudinal zone, it varies from 1.5 degree centigrade to 9.5 degree centigrade. Temperature varies with altitude and slope. The maximum temperature is recorded usually during July and August, and minimum during December & January. Fog is a common feature in the entire state from May to September. Biting cold is experienced at high altitude places in the winter months and snowfall is also not uncommon during this period.

RAINFALL :

An examination of availble rainfall date shows that the mean annual rainfall is minimum at Thangu (82 mm.) and maximum at Gangtok (3494 mm.) . An isohyatal analysis of these data reveals that there are two maximum rainfall areas (i) South-East quadrant, including including Mangan, Singhik, Dikchu, Gangtok, Rongli etc. (ii) South-West corner including Hilley . In between these two regions, there is a low rainfall region e.g. Namchi. Rainfall in this area is about half of that in the former areas. There is an area in the North-West Sikkim which gets very little rainfall (even less than 4.9 mm.). This area is having mainly snow -covered mountains. Rainfall is heavy and well distributed during the months from May to early October. July is the wettest month in most of the places. The intensity of rainfall during South-West monsoon season decreases from south to North, while the ditribution of winter rainfall is in the opposite order. The highest annual rainfall for the individual station may exceed 5000 mm. and average number of rainy days ( days with rain of 2.5 mm. or more) ranges from 100 at Thangu to 184 at Gangtok.

GEOMORPHOLOGY :

Sikkim encompasses the lesser Himalaya, Central Himalaya, and the Tethys Himalaya. It is essentially a mountainous state without flate piece of land of any extent any where. The mountains rise in elevation northward. The northern portion of the state is deeply cut into steep escarpments, and except in the Lachen and Lachung valleys, is not populated. Southern Sikkim is lower, more open, and fairly well cultivated. This configuration of the State is partly due to the direction of the main drainage which is southern. The physical configuration of Sikkim is also partly due to geological struture. Major portion od state is covered by Precambrian rock and is much younger in age. The Northern, Eastern and Western portion of the state are constituted of hard massive gneissose rocks capable of resisting denudation. The central and southern portion is formed of comparatively soft, thin, slaty and half-schistore rocks which denudes very easily. The trend of the mountain system is in a general east-west direction. However, chief ridges run in a more or less north south direction. The Rangeet and the Tista which form the main channels of drainage, run nearly north-south. The valleys cut by these rivers and their chief feeders are very deep. The valleys are rather open towards the top, but usually attain a steep gorge like structure as we approach the bed of the rivers. There are 180 perennial lakes of different altutudes. Many hot water springs i.e. Phur-Cha, Ralang Sachu, Yumthang, Momay are also found in the state. The Perpetual snow line in Sikkim may be approx. at 16,000 ft.

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