Gangtok, Sikkim - Informative & researched article on Gangtok, Sikkim
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Gangtok, Sikkim
Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, has emerged as a major tourist attraction because of its panoramic scenic beauty.
 Gangtok, SikkimGangtok is the capital of Sikkim. It is largest town of Sikkim. Gangtok increased its prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage place after the construction of the Enchey Monastery.

Location of Gangtok
Gangtok is located in the eastern Himalayan mountain range, at an altitude of 5,800 feet. The overgrown hill town of Gangtok occupies a rising ridge in the southeast of the state. This is used as a busy trade route into Tibet. With a population of approximately 50,000 has emerged into the mainstream of the tourism industry, with more and more tourist visiting this little Himalayan state every year.

History of Gangtok
In 1840, Gangtok, then a village, came into its own with the establishment of the Enchey Monastery. Gangtok became the capital of Sikkim after British conquest in mid 19th century in response to a hostage crisis. After the defeat of the Tibetans by the British, Gangtok became a major stopover in the trade between Tibet and India during British rule in India at the end of the 19th century.

Gangtok, Sikkim In 1894, Thutob Namgyal, the Sikkimese King, who was under the British power, shifted the capital from Tumlong to Gangtok. From that time the importance of the city was gained. Following the independence of India in 1947, Sikkim became a nation-state with Gangtok. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, with the condition that it would retain its independence, by the treaty signed between the Chogyal (the former monarchs) and the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This pact gave the Indians control of External Affairs of India on behalf of Sikkimese. The trade between India and Tibet continued to prosper through the Nathula Pass and Jelepla passes. These border passes were sealed after the Sino-Indian War in 1962. It deprived Gangtok of its trading business. The Nathula pass was finally opened for limited trade with China in 2006.

Geography of Gangtok
Gangtok has a latitudinal and longitudinal limit of 27.33°N and 88.62°E. It is situated in the lower Himalayan region at an altitude of 5,500 ft. The town is located on one side of a hill, with "The Ridge", a boulevard royal housing of Governor of Sikkim. And at one end is the palace of Sikkim king. The palace of Sikkim king is situated at an altitude of about 6,000 ft. The city is flanked on east and west by two rivers called Roro Chu and Ranikhola. These two rivers separate the natural drainage system of Sikkim into two parts: one is the eastern part and another is the western part. Both the streams meet the Ranipul. Then it flows south as the main Ranikhola before it joins the Teesta at Singtam. The roads are steep, with the buildings built on compacted ground alongside them.

People of Gangtok
The population of Gangtok according to the census of 2011 shows 98,658. Out of them, the males constituted 53% of the population and females 47%. Hinduism and Buddhism are the most popular religions in Gangtok. Gangtok also has a Christian population and a small Muslim minority. The North East Presbyterian Church, Roman Catholic Church and Anjuman Mosque in Gangtok are places of worship. Nepali is the most widely spoken language in Gangtok. English language and Hindi language are the official language of Sikkim and Gangtok respectively. Other languages spoken in Gangtok include Bhutia, Tibetan and Lepcha.]

Culture of Gangtok
With different cultures and religion existing in perfect harmony, Gangtok has shown that "Unity in Diversity" exists in Sikkim. Sikkimese has strong bonding with their age-old traditions and customs. Diwali, Christmas, Dusshera, Holi and many other holy festivals are celebrated in Gangtok. The Lepchas tribe and Bhutias tribe celebrate New Year in January. The Tibetans celebrate the New Year called Losar Festival with "Devil Dance" in the month of January-February. The Maghe sankranti, Ram Navami are some of the important Nepali festivals. Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, the birthday of the Dalai Lama, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are some other festivals in Gangtok.

Gangtok, Sikkim A popular food in Gangtok is the "Momo". A form of noodle called "thukpa" served in soup form is also popular in Gangtok. Other noodle-based foods such as the Chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are available. Other traditional Sikkimese cuisine includes Shah-Phaley and Gack-ko soup. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from cow's or yak's milk is sometimes chewed. Chhang is a regional frothy millet beer conventionally served in bamboo tankards and drunk through bamboo or cane straws.

Education of Gangtok
The schools of Gangtok are either run by the state government or by private and religious organizations. Schools mainly use English and Nepali mode of instructions. The schools are affiliated with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education, Central Board of Secondary Education and National Institute of Open Schooling. Some of the notable schools include the Tashi Namgyal Academy, Paljor Namgyal Girls School, Taktse International School and Kendriya Vidyalaya. Colleges confer graduate degrees include Sikkim Government College, Sikkim Government Law College and Damber Singh College. Sikkim University established in 2007 is presently functioning in Gangtok. The Indira GandhiNational Open University (IGNOU) also has a regional centre in the city. There are other organizations offering diplomas in Buddhist literature, catering and other non-mainstream fields. The District Institute of Education and Training and State Institute of Education conduct the teacher training programs.

Tourism in Gangtok
Gangtok is dotted with monasteries and is a centre for Buddhism, its teachings and culture. It's one of the cleanest cities in the world, well organized and well-maintained. That is why it is called as the "Switzerland of the East".

The capital is definitely not behind the rest of the world in terms of urbanization - Broad roads, flyovers, posh markets, state-of-art hospital, educational institutes, fast food outlets, discothÅ ques, and all other modern amenities that the heart can desire for. One imposing manmade landmark of the town is the 200 ft-high TV tower which overlooks the town and is situated near the Enchey Monastry below Ganesh Tok. A stroll along the Mahatma GandhiMarg is shopper's delight- Hotels, restaurants, footwear and almost everything is available.

Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies
Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies is initiated by the late 16th Karmapa, the institute in housed in the adjoining building of the Rumtek Monastery. The Jamyang Khang Primary School meant for five years of primary monastic studies is also located here.

Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre
A short drive from Gangtok will take you to Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre. Built in 1960 by His Holiness the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa it is a replica of the original Kagyurpa Monastery in Tsurphu, Tibet, the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa Rinpoche, head of the Karmapa sub sect of Kargyudpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. It now functions as the headquarters of the Dharma Chakra Religious Centre.

Located within the complex are the main monastery, the memorial Stupa of the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa inlaid with gold plate and semi precious stones, Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies and the Jamyang Khang Primary School. The centre houses some of the world's most unique religious scriptures, manuscripts and religious art objects.

A fifteen minute walk downhill from Dharma Chakra Centre takes one to the Old Rumtek monastery which was originally built in 1730 by the ninth Karmapa but was destroyed by fire and had to be reconstructed to the present state. His Holiness late Gyalwa Karmapa lived in this monastery till the completion of the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre.

Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden
Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden is located very close to Rumtek Monastery just half a kilometre before reaching Rumtek Monastery on the highway, it is maintained by the parks and Gardens unit of the Forest Department of the Government of Sikkim, the Garden is an enchanting and soothing experience among the lush green vegetation, rare plants and trees and certain species of Himalayan flowers and Orchids.

This garden is a mixture of well tended tropical and temperate plants and trees can be found here. A huge greenhouse containing many species of orchids has been constructed within the garden. For children there is even a small playground with a merry-go-round, swings and a see-saw. A cemented footpath winds its way through the garden and is good for taking a relaxed stroll. The sprawling town of Gangtok can be seen on the hill opposite. The garden is indeed an ideal picnic spot.

Tsomgo/ Changu Lake
The drive to Tsomgo/ Changu Lake from Gangtok takes about more than two hours by bus. The lake is about 1 km. long and oval in shape, 50ft deep. This is an alpine zone and snowbound from December to April and the lake is regarded extremely Holy and head of all lakes in Sikkim remains frozen from January to April, and attracts 99% of tourists visiting Gangtok, Sikkim. It is also a home of Brahmini ducks besides stopover for various migratory ducks.

Lake Menmecho
This is another beautiful lake located twenty kilometres ahead of the (Changu) lake. Quite big in size, it lies cradled between the mountains below the Jelepla pass and is also the source of the river Rangpo-chu which meets the Teesta Riverat Rangpo. Like the (Changu) Lake, it also derives its water from the melting snow around especially from the stream that originates just below the Jelepla pass.

The lake is famous for its trout and a farm to cultivate these fish also exists nearby. Accommodation for the visitors coming here is available at the dak bungalow and tourist lodge near the lake. Tourists are not yet permitted to visit this area.

Gangtok has been a favoured destination for vacationers in search of peace and tranquillity for a while. Nestled amongst the verdant Shivalik Hill ranges, this little city enjoys mild, temperate climate all year through. Perhaps it's because the world's third tallest peak Kanchenjunga lies to the east of the city.

(Last Updated on : 29/11/2012)
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