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Sikkim is a landlocked Indian State located in the Himalayan mountains. The state is bordered by Nepal to the west, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the east. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south.With 607,688 inhabitants as of the 2011 census,Sikkim is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest state after Goa in total area, covering approximately 7,096 km2 (2,740 sq mi).Sikkim is nonetheless geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas; the climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine, and Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, is located on Sikkim’s border with Nepal.Sikkim is a popular tourist destination, owing to its culture, scenery and biodiversity. It also has the only open land border between India and China.Sikkim’s capital and largest city is Gangtok. Almost 25% of the state is covered by the Khangchendzonga National Park.

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The history of Sikkim, an area in present-day North-East India, begins with contacts between ancient Hindus and Tibetans, followed by the establishment of a Buddhist kingdom or Chogyal in the 17th century. Sikkim emerged as a polity in its own right against a backdrop of incursions from Tibet and Bhutan, during which the kingdom enjoyed varying degrees of independence. In the early 18th century, the British Empire sought to establish trade routes with Tibet, leading Sikkim to fall under British suzerainty until independence in 1947. Initially, Sikkim remained an independent country, until it was annexed by India in 1975 in a move described as a merger. Many provisions of the Indian constitution had to be altered to accommodate the international treaties between Sikkim and India.

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Red panda

The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also called lesser panda, red bear-cat, and red cat-bear, is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs, and is slightly larger than a domestic cat. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day.

Blood pheasant

The blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) is the only species in genus Ithaginis of the pheasant family. This relatively small, short-tailed pheasant is widespread and fairly common in eastern Himalayas, ranging across India, Nepal, Bhutan and China. Since the trend of the population appears to be slowly decreasing, the species has been evaluated as Least Concern by IUCN in 2009.

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Rhododendron ponticum

Rhododendron ponticum, called common rhododendron or pontic rhododendron, is a species of Rhododendron native to southern Europe and southwest Asia.R. ponticum is a dense, suckering shrub or small tree growing to 5 m (16 ft) tall, rarely 8 m (26 ft). The leaves are evergreen, 6 to 18 cm (2.4 to 7.1 in) long and 2 to 5 cm (0.79 to 1.97 in) wide. The flowers are 3.5 to 5 cm (1.4 to 2.0 in) in diameter, violet-purple, often with small greenish-yellow spots or streaks. The fruit is a dry capsule 1.5 to 2.5 cm (0.59 to 0.98 in) long, containing numerous small seeds.

Dendrobium nobile

The Noble Dendrobium, Dendrobium nobile, is a member of the family Orchidaceae. It has become a popular cultivated decorative house plant, because it produces colourful blooms in winter and spring, at a time when little else is in flower. It is also one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. Dendrobium nobile is one of the most widespread ornamental members of orchid family. Its blooms are variegated in colour, shading from white through pink and purple, and the many different cultivated varieties produce different sized and coloured blooms.

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Sikkim currently does not have any operational airports or railheads because of its rough terrain. However, Pakyong Airport, the state’s first airport, located at a distance of 30 km (19 mi) from Gangtok, is expected to become operational in March 2016, after its completion was delayed from the original target of 2014.It is being constructed by the Airports Authority of India on 200 acres of land. At an altitude of 4,700 feet (1,400 m) above sea level, it will be one of the five highest airports in India.The airport will be capable of operating ATR aircraft.

As of 2015, the closest operational airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport, near the town of Siliguri in West Bengal. The airport is located about 124 km (77 mi) from Gangtok, and frequent buses connect the two.A daily 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 four people.The Gangtok helipad is the only civilian helipad in the state.National Highway 31A and National Highway 31 link Siliguri to Gangtok.Sikkim National Transport runs bus and truck services. Privately run bus, tourist taxi and jeep services operate throughout Sikkim, and also connect it to Siliguri. A branch of the highway from Melli connects western Sikkim. Towns in southern and western Sikkim are connected to the hill stations of Kalimpong and Darjeeling in northern West Bengal.The state is furthermore connected to Tibet by the mountain pass of Nathu La.Sikkim lacks significant railway infrastructure. The closest major railway stations are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri in neighbouring West Bengal.However, the New Sikkim Railway Project has been launched to connect the town of Rangpo in Sikkim with Sevoke on the West Bengal border.The five-station line is intended to support both economic development and Indian Army operations, and was initially planned to be completed by 2015,though as of 2013 its construction has met with delays.In addition, the Ministry of Railways proposed plans in 2010 for railway lines linking Mirik to Ranipool.

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Cuisine

The people of Sikkim love to eat and they cook some of the most delicious items available in north-east with momo being one of the most popular ones. Sikkim food primarily consist of noodles, thukpas, soups and other fermented dishes owing majorly to its very cold climate. Rice is however its main food item. Momos, also known as wantons and dumplings, are favorite amongst the locals as well as the tourists. People coming to Sikkim would never miss the opportunity to taste the amazing momos here which have different fillings ranging from chicken to pork to beef. Boiled and steamed items are found to be mainly existent here with not much use of masalas but other local herbs and spices. Food here is always accompanied by some drinks like the local beer, rum or whiskey.

Arts & Craft

There are different art and craft forms in Sikkim. Most of the people of the state live in rural areas and have their age old tradition of making various utility objects. The most popular handicraft objects of the state include woven woolen carpet, choksee table, thankas, and canvas wall hangings depicting painting on different aspects of Sikkim.For the development of the cottage industries in the state, the government has set up an Institute of Cottage Industries in South District. The locally made handicrafts are sold here for the benefit of the rural people. The state also has many art and craft forms and has many handicrafts in the form of bamboo and cane products and weaving. Gangtok, Namchi and Melli are the famous places of the state for cottage industries and handloom products.

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Dance

The dances of Sikkim are traditional celebrating harvest and the prosperity period in Sikkim. These dances are accompanied by chanting, traditional musical instruments and the dancers wear traditional masks and bright costumes. Some of the dance forms are Lu Khangthamo, Gnungmala Gnunghey, Rechungma, and Kagyed Dance. The dance and music of the state are accentuated by traditional musical instruments. The different types of dances celebrate the beauty of nature and harvesting period of Sikkim.There are different folk dances of Sikkim which are an integral part of Sikkim culture. These dances celebrate the harvesting period and prosperity of the state.

Music

Western rock music can be commonly heard from the houses, restaurants and business centres in Sikkim. Hindi songs are also gaining popularity among the young masses. Indigenous Nepali rock music with Western rock beat is also popular among the Sikkimese (people of Sikkim). The Nepali lyrics are so heart touching that you can stand a while to listen to its stanzas.

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