Sikkim became the 22nd State of the Indian union on May 16, 1975. Sikkim was an Independent kingdom ruled by the Chogyals (King) with its first capital at Yuksam which was shifted to Rabdentse and later to Tumlong and at present to the capital Gangtok.
Though Lepchas, Bhutias and the Nepalis were the original inhabitants, today the population in Sikkim is a mix of various communities living in perfect harmony. The population of Sikkim as per the census report of 2011 was 6,10,577.
Sikkim is known by different names; the Lepchas called it Nye-mae-el (‘paradise’), the Limbus named it Su Khim (‘new house’) while to the Bhutias call it as Beymul Demazong (‘the hidden valley of rice’).
Tourism Destination Creation
Pilgrimage Tourism has been a prime sector towards developing new destinations. Realising this, the Sikkim Government has been very proactive in emerging tourism. The following pilgrimage sites have been recently incorporated to further boost the tourist footfall into the State:
Siddeshvara Dham (Char Dham), Solophok Hill, Namchi
Siddhesvara Dham, commonly known as Char Dham is a unique pilgrimage centre. It is the replica of all four Dhams considered sacred by the Hindus namely Badrinath, Jaganath, Dwarka and Rameshwaram. A 108 ft statue of Lord Shiva with 12 jyotir lingas is the centrepiece of this temple complex along with Sai Mandir.
Tataghata Tsal (Buddha Park), Ravangla
The State Government decided to construct and install a statue of Lord Buddha at Rabong to commemorate the 2550th Birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. The statue in Dharma Chakra Mudra is 137 feet 2 inches tall including the throne. The complex includes a congregation hall, landscaped garden, souvenir shops, cafeteria, etc.
Guru Padmasambhava Statue, Samdruptse Hill, Namchi
Sikkim paid homage to its patron saint Guru Padmasambhava by constructing the tallest statue of the world on the Samdruptse hill near Namchi, South Sikkim. The 135 ft statue was unveiled in February, 2004 and has been crafted with religious texts. The statue is visible from as far away as the India-Nepal border and Darjeeling. It has already become a major pilgrimage site with both domestic and foreign tourists making it a part of their itinerary. A two-kilometre long ropeway will soon connect the Samdruptse hilltop with Namchi. It has provision for meditation facilities too.
Pilgrimage to the four sacred holy caves of Sikkim
Sikkim has Four Great Holy Caves – ‘Phug Chen Zhi’, which are inclu-ded in ‘Gnas-chen-Inga’ (Paanch Dhaam) of Sikkim. These Caves are located at four cardinal directions of Tashiding (West Sikkim), namely - Sharchog Beyphug in the East, Lho Kando Sangphug in the South, Nub Dechenphug in the West and Jhang Lhari Nyingphug in the North. Tashiding, according to the Holy text, is the Navel point of “Bayul Demajong”, and is considered the 5th Dhaam of this Holy Land. Guru Padmasambhava sanctified these Caves as the abodes of various Protective Divinities of the Esoteric Buddhism. Today, these Caves have become the most important pilgrim destination of the Buddhist followers of Sikkim, Darjeeling and for the devotees of Bhutan.
Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra (KMY)
It is known for its religious value, cultural significance, physical beauty and thrilling nature. As the abode of Lord Shiva, it holds religious importance and significance for Hindus as well as Jains and the Buddhists. It is open to eligible Indian citizens, holding valid Indian passports, who wish to proceed to Kailash-Manasarovar for religious purposes. The yatra is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs every year between June and September.
Year 2015 is marked for reopening the Silk Route between Sikkim and erstwhile Tibet for pilgrimage tour to Manasarovar via Nathula Pass in Sikkim which became possible due to tireless efforts of the State and Central Governments. The historic bilateral agreement was signed between the two countries - India and China on September 18, 2014.
13,75,845 domestic tourists visited Sikkim in the year 2017 while 49,111 foreigners visited the State in the same period.
Upcoming tourism destinations :
l Chenrizig Statue at Pelling, West Sikkim.
l Sleeping Buddha, Statue at Singhik, North Sikkim.
l Bhaleydhunga Skywalk.
To attract tourists, prominent village areas have been added to the list of emerging sites. These sites are listed below:
In the east districts, the sites are Pasatanga, Zuluk, Gnathang, Tumin, Central Pendam Gadi Budang, and Yaakten Village.
In the south district the destinations are Lingee Payong, Maniram, Kewzing, Chalamthang, Rong, Jawbari, Assangthang, Pakzer, Sadam, Sumbuk, Kitam, Perbing, and Namthang.
The west district offer sites as Hee – Bermoik, Darap, Yuksam, Pelling, and Uttarey.
Dzongu, Tingchim, Kabi and Lachen are located in the north district. With emerging sites, the government is focusing on pilgrimage tourism for attracting tourists. Sikkim is becoming a place of beauty with peace.