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Location of Sikkim in India
Map of Sikkim
Coordinates (Gangtok): 27.33°N 88.62°E / 27.33; 88.62 Coordinates: 27.33°N 88.62°E / 27.33; 88.62
Country  India
Established 16 May 1975
Capital Gangtok
Largest city Gangtok
Districts 4
 •  Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh
 •  Chief Minister Pawan Chamling ( SDF)
 •  Legislature Unicameral (32 seats)
 • Total 7,096 km2 (2,740 sq mi)
Area rank 27th
Population (2011)
 • Total 607,688
 • Rank 28th
 • Density Bad rounding here86/km2 (Bad rounding here220/sq mi)
Time zone IST ( UTC+05:30)
ISO 3166 code IN-SK
HDI Increase 0.684 (medium)
HDI rank 7th (2005)
Literacy 76.6% (7th)
Official languages Nepali ( lingua franca), Bhutia, Lepcha (since 1977), Limbu (since 1981), Newari, Gurung, Mangar, Sherpa, Tamang (since 1995) and Sunwar (since 1996)

Sikkim ( / ˈ s ɪ k ɨ m /, also known as Shikim or Shikimpati) is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. The state borders Nepal to the west, China's Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the southeast. 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.

According to legend, the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche visited Sikkim in the 8th century AD, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the monarchy. Sikkim's Namgyal dynasty was established in 1642. Over the next 150 years, the kingdom witnessed frequent raids and territorial losses to Nepalese invaders. In the 19th century, it allied itself with the British rulers of India, eventually becoming a British protectorate. In 1975, a referendum abolished the Sikkimese monarchy, and the territory was merged with India.

Sikkim is the only state in India with an ethnic Nepali majority. Sikkim has 11 official languages: Nepali (which is its lingua franca), Bhutia, Lepcha, Limbu, Newari, Rai, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Tamang and Sunwar. English is taught in schools and used in government documents. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Sikkim's economy is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, and as of 2011 the state has the fourth-smallest GDP among Indian states, although it is also among the fastest-growing.


The most widely accepted origin theory of the name Sikkim is that it is a combination of two Limbu words: su, which means "new", and khyim, which means "palace" or "house". The name is believed to be a reference to the palace built by the state's first ruler, Phuntsog Namgyal. The Tibetan name for Sikkim is Denjong, which means "valley of rice". The Lepcha people, the original inhabitants of Sikkim, called it Nye-mae-el, meaning "paradise", while the Bhutias call it Beyul Demazong, which means '"the hidden valley of rice". In Hindu religious texts, Sikkim is known as Indrakil, the garden of the war god Indra.


Founding of the monarchy

The earliest historical mention of Sikkim is a record of the passage of the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche through the land in the 8th century AD. The Guru is reported to have blessed the land, introduced Buddhism, and foretold the era of monarchy that would arrive in Sikkim centuries later. However, Dr. Sailen Debnath writes that the Tibetan Emperor Srongtsen Gampo had occupied Sikkim and Bhutan prior to Rinpoche's arrival, and that a Tibetan military establishment was constructed at Gangdoz (present-day Gangtok). In the 14th century, according to legend, Khye Bumsa, a prince from the Minyak House in Kham in eastern Tibet, received a divine revelation instructing him to travel south to seek his fortunes. A fifth-generation descendant of Khye Bumsa, Phuntsog Namgyal, became the founder of Sikkim's monarchy in 1642, when he was consecrated as the first Chogyal, or priest-king, of Sikkim by the three venerated lamas at Yuksom.

Statue of Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim. The statue in Namchi is the tallest statue of the saint in the world, at 36 metres (120 ft).

Phuntsog Namgyal was succeeded in 1670 by his son, Tensung Namgyal, who moved the capital from Yuksom to Rabdentse. In 1700, Sikkim was invaded by the Bhutanese with the help of the half-sister of the Chogyal, who had been denied the throne. The Bhutanese were driven away by the Tibetans, who restored the throne to the Chogyal ten years later. Between 1717 and 1733, the kingdom faced many raids by the Nepalese in the west and Bhutanese in the east, culminating with the destruction of the capital Rabdentse by the Nepalese. In 1791, China sent troops to support Sikkim and defend Tibet against the Gorkha Kingdom. Following its subsequent defeat, the Chinese Qing Dynasty established control over Sikkim.

Sikkim during the British Raj

An 1876 map of Sikkim, depicting Chomto Dong Lake in northern Sikkim. However, the whole of Chumbi and Darjeeling are not depicted as part of Sikkim in the map.

Following the beginning of British rule in neighbouring India, Sikkim allied with Britain against their common enemy, Nepal. The Nepalese attacked Sikkim, overrunning most of the region including the Terai. This prompted the British East India Company to attack Nepal, resulting in the Gurkha War of 1814. Treaties signed between Sikkim and Nepal resulted in the return of the territory annexed by the Nepalese in 1817. However, ties between Sikkim and the British weakened when the latter began taxation of the Morang region. In 1849, two British physicians, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker and Dr. Archibald Campbell, the latter being in charge of relations between the British and Sikkimese governments, ventured into the mountains of Sikkim unannounced and unauthorised. The doctors were detained by the Sikkimese government, leading to a punitive British expedition against the kingdom, after which the Darjeeling district and Morang were annexed to British India in 1853. The invasion led to the Chogyal of Sikkim becoming a titular ruler under the directive of the British governor. In 1890, Sikkim became a British protectorate, and was gradually granted more sovereignty over the next three decades.

After Indian independence

In 1947, when India became independent, a popular vote rejected Sikkim's joining the Indian Union, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained administrative autonomy. A state council was established in 1953 to allow for constitutional government under the Chogyal. Meanwhile, the Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh elections and greater representation for Nepalis in Sikkim. Palden Thondup Namgyal, the Chogyal at the time, proved to be extremely unpopular with the people, and in 1973, riots in front of the Chogyal's palace led to a formal request for protection from India.

In 1975, the Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a state of India. In April of that year, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the Chogyal's palace guards. Thereafter, a referendum was held in which 97.5 per cent of voters supported abolishing the monarchy, effectively approving union with India. On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished. To enable the incorporation of the new state, the Indian Parliament amended the Indian Constitution. First, the 35th Amendment laid down a set of conditions that made Sikkim an "Associate State," a special designation not used by any other state. Later, the 36th Amendment repealed the 35th Amendment, and made Sikkim a full state, adding its name to the First Schedule of the Constitution.

Recent history

In 2000, the seventeenth Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje, who had been confirmed by the Dalai Lama and accepted as a tulku by the Chinese government, escaped from Tibet, seeking to return to the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. Chinese officials were in a quandary on this issue, as any protests to India would mean an explicit endorsement of India's governance of Sikkim, which the Chinese still regarded as an independent state occupied by India. China eventually recognised Sikkim as an Indian state in 2003, on the condition that India accepted the Tibet Autonomous Region as a part of China. This mutual agreement led to a thaw in Sino-Indian relations. New Delhi had originally accepted Tibet as a part of China in 1953 during the government of then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On 6 July 2006, the Himalayan pass of Nathu La in Sikkim was opened to cross-border trade.

On 18 September 2011, a magnitude 6.9Mw earthquake struck Sikkim, killing at least 116 people in the state and in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Tibet. More than 60 people died in Sikkim alone, and the city of Gangtok suffered significant damage.


Kangchenjunga, which stands 8,586 metres (28,169 ft) tall, is the highest peak in India and the third-highest on Earth.

Nestling as it does in the Himalayan mountains, the state of Sikkim is characterised by mountainous terrain. Almost the entire state is hilly, with an elevation ranging from 280 metres (920 ft) to 8,586 metres (28,169 ft). The summit of Kangchenjunga—the world's third-highest peak—is the state's highest point, situated on the border between Sikkim and Nepal. For the most part, the land is unfit for agriculture because of the rocky, precipitous slopes. However, some hill slopes have been converted into terrace farms. Numerous snow-fed streams have carved out river valleys in the west and south of the state. These streams combine into the major Teesta River and its tributary, the Rangeet, which flow through the state from north to south. About a third of the state is heavily forested.

The Kangchengyao Himalayan mountains of northern Sikkim.

The Himalayan mountains surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim. The Lower Himalayas, lying in the southern reaches of the state, are the most densely populated. The state has 28 mountain peaks, more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes (including the Tsongmo, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lakes), five major hot springs, and more than 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.

Sikkim's hot springs are renowned for their medicinal and therapeutic values. Among the state's most notable hot springs are those at Phurchachu, Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong. The springs, which have a high sulphur content, are located near river banks; some are known to emit hydrogen. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50 °C (122 °F).


The hills of Sikkim mainly consist of gneissose and half-schistose rocks, producing generally poor and shallow brown clay soils. The soil is coarse, with large concentrations of iron oxide; it ranges from neutral to acidic and is poor in organic and mineral nutrients. This type of soil tends to support evergreen and deciduous forests.

Most of Sikkim is covered by Precambrian rock, which is much younger in age than the hills. The rock consists of phyllites and schists, is highly susceptible to weathering and erosion. This, combined with the state's heavy rainfall, causes extensive soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients through leaching. As a result, landslides are frequent, often isolating rural towns and villages from the major urban centres.


The state has five seasons: winter, summer, spring, autumn, and a monsoon season between June and September. Sikkim's climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the north. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim experience a temperate climate, with temperatures seldom exceeding 28 °C (82 °F) in summer. The average annual temperature for most of Sikkim is around 18 °C (64 °F).

Sikkim is one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. The snow line ranges from 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) in the north of the state to 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) in the south. The tundra-type region in the north is snowbound for four months every year, and the temperature drops below 0 °C (32 °F) almost every night. In north-western Sikkim, the peaks are frozen year-round; because of the high altitude, temperatures in the mountains can drop to as low as −40 °C (−40 °F) in winter.

During the monsoon, heavy rains increase the risk of landslides. The record for the longest period of continuous rain in Sikkim is 11 days. Fog affects many parts of the state during winter and the monsoons, making transportation perilous.

Government and politics

State symbols
State day 16 May (day of accession to India)
State animal Red Panda
State bird Blood Pheasant
State tree Rhododendron
State flower Noble orchid

Like all states of India, the head of Sikkim's state government is a governor appointed by the Central Indian Government. His/her appointment is largely ceremonial, and his/her main role is to oversee the swearing in of the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, who holds the real executive powers, is the head of the party or coalition garnering the largest majority in the state elections. The governor also appoints the cabinet ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister. Sikkim has a unicameral legislature like most other Indian states. Sikkim is allocated one seat in each of both chambers of India's national bicameral legislature, the Lok Sabha, and the Rajya Sabha. There are a total of 32 state assembly seats including one reserved for the Sangha. The Sikkim High Court is the smallest high court in the country.

The White Hall complex houses the residences of the Chief Minister and Governor of Sikkim.

In 1975, after the abrogation of Sikkim's monarchy, the Indian National Congress gained a majority in the 1977 elections. In 1979, after a period of instability, a popular ministry headed by Nar Bahadur Bhandari, leader of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad Party was sworn in. Bhandari held on to power in the 1984 and 1989 elections. In the 1994 elections Pawan Kumar Chamling from the Sikkim Democratic Front became the Chief Minister of the state. The party has since held on to power by winning the 1999 and 2004 elections. The party won all 32 state assembly seats in the 2009 election.

In recent years, the Greater Nepal movement has proposed that the territory of Sikkim be returned to Nepal as part of the restitution of Nepalese lands seized by the British in the 19th and 20th centuries. The movement's supporters claim that, as the 1815 Sugauli Treaty was voided by the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the land on which the state of Sikkim exists legally belongs to Nepal. However, this is largely a fringe viewpoint, lacking widespread support.


A clickable map of Sikkim exhibiting its four districts.

Sikkim has four districts – East Sikkim, West Sikkim, North Sikkim and South Sikkim. The district capitals are Gangtok, Gyalshing, Mangan and Namchi respectively. These four districts are further divided into subdivisions; Pakyong and Rongli are the subdivisions of the East district, Soreng is the subdivision of the West district, Chungthang is the subdivision of the North district and Ravongla is the subdivision of the South district.

Each of Sikkim's districts is overseen by a Central Government appointee, the district collector, who is in charge of the administration of the civilian areas of the district. The Indian Army has control over a large part of the state, as Sikkim forms part of a sensitive border area with China. Many areas are restricted to foreigners, and official permits are needed to visit them.

Flora and fauna

Sikkim is situated in an ecological hotspot of the lower Himalayas, one of only three among the ecoregions of India. The forested regions of the state exhibit a diverse range of fauna and flora. Owing to its altitudinal gradation, the state has a wide variety of plants, from tropical species to temperate, alpine and tundra ones, and is perhaps one of the few regions to exhibit such a diversity within such a small area. Nearly 81 per cent of the area of Sikkim comes under the administration of its forest department.

The Rhododendron is the state tree of Sikkim.

Sikkim is home to around 5,000 species of flowering plants, 515 rare orchids, 60 primula species, 36 rhododendron species, 11 oak varieties, 23 bamboo varieties, 16 conifer species, 362 types of ferns and ferns allies, 8 tree ferns, and over 424 medicinal plants. A variant of the Poinsettia, locally known as "Christmas Flower", can be found in abundance in the mountainous state. The Noble Dendrobium, an orchid, is the official flower of Sikkim, while the rhododendron is the state tree.

Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo grow in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests of the lower altitudes of Sikkim. In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) there are Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests, where oaks, chestnuts, maples, birches, alders, and magnolias grow in large numbers, as well as Himalayan subtropical pine forests, dominated by Chir pine. Alpine-type vegetation is typically found between an altitude of 3,500 to 5,000 metres (11,500 to 16,000 ft). In lower elevations are found juniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendrons from the Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Higher up are Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows, home to a broad variety of rhododendrons and wildflowers.

The red panda is the state animal of Sikkim.

The fauna of Sikkim include the snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan Tahr, red panda, Himalayan marmot, Himalayan serow, Himalayan goral, muntjac, common langur, Asian black bear, clouded leopard, marbled cat, leopard cat, dhole, Tibetan wolf, hog badger, binturong, and Himalayan jungle cat. Among the animals more commonly found in the alpine zone are yaks, mainly reared for their milk, meat, and as a beast of burden.

The avifauna of Sikkim include the Impeyan pheasant, crimson horned pheasant, snow partridge, Tibetan snowcock, bearded vulture and griffon vulture, as well as golden eagles, quails, plovers, woodcocks, sandpipers, pigeons, Old World flycatchers, babblers and robins. Sikkim has more than 550 species of birds, some of which have been declared endangered.

Sikkim also has a rich diversity of arthropods, many of which remain unstudied; the most studied Sikkimese arthropods are butterflies. Of the approximately 1,438 butterfly species found in the Indian subcontinent, 695 have been recorded in Sikkim. These include the endangered Kaiser-i-hind, the Yellow Gorgon and the Bhutan Glory.


Sikkim's nominal state gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US$730 million in 2010, constituting the fourth-smallest GDP among India's 28 states. The state's economy is largely agrarian, based on the terraced farming of rice and the cultivation of crops such as maize, millet, wheat, barley, oranges, tea and cardamom. Sikkim has the highest production of cardamom in India, as well as the largest cultivated area of cardamom. Because of its hilly terrain, and the lack of transport infrastructure, Sikkim lacks a large-scale industrial base. Brewing, distilling, tanning and watchmaking are the main industries, and are mainly located in the southern reaches of the state, primarily in the towns of Melli and Jorethang. Despite the state's minimal industrial infrastructure, Sikkim's economy has been among the fastest-growing in India since 2000, with the state's GDP expanding by over 13 per cent in 2007 alone. Sikkim has announced plans to become the first state in India to transition its agriculture to entirely organic cultivation by 2015.

Elaichi, or cardamom, is the chief cash crop of Sikkim.

In recent years, the government of Sikkim has extensively promoted tourism. As a result, state revenue has increased 14 times since the mid-1990s. Sikkim has furthermore invested in a fledgling gambling industry, promoting both casinos and online gambling. The state's first casino, the Casino Sikkim, opened in March 2009, and seven further casino licences are being considered by the state government. The Playwin lottery has been a notable success in the state. In October 2009, the government of Sikkim announced plans to offer three online sports betting licences. Among the minerals mined in Sikkim are copper, dolomite, talc, graphite, quartzite, coal, zinc and lead.

The opening of the Nathu La pass on 6 July 2006, connecting Lhasa, in Tibet, to India, was billed as a boon for Sikkim's economy, though the expected financial benefits will be slow to arrive. The pass, closed since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, was an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road.



The Teesta River is considered the state's key waterway.

Sikkim currently does not have any airports or railheads because of its rough terrain. However, Pakyong Airport, the state's first airport, is expected to be completed in 2012, at a distance of 30 km (19 mi) from Gangtok. The airport will be capable of operating ATR aircraft. Currently, the closest operational airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport, near the town of Siliguri in 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.


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. The project is expected to be complete by 2015. In addition, the Ministry of Railways has recently proposed plans for railway lines linking Mirik to Ranipool.

Rangpo–Sevoke railway

In October 2009, the Vice President of India laid the foundation stone for the planned railway line from Rangpo to Sevoke on Sikkim's border with West Bengal. In 2008, the track was proposed to be 53 kilometres (33 mi) long. However, the 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge track was later revised to a length of 45 kilometres (28 mi), only 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of which will be in Sikkim, with the rest lying within West Bengal. Of the route, 32 kilometres (20 mi) will be in tunnels, while numerous railway bridges will span gorges and valleys, with a proposed 65 kilometres per hour (40 mph) speed limit. Five railway stations will be constructed at Melli, Tista Bazar, Geilkhola, Riang and Rangpo. The track will be constructed through the foothills of the Kangchenjunga mountain range and the Teesta River valley.

The Rangpo–Sevoke line is intended to not only provide economic benefits for Sikkim, but also to permit the Indian Army to more easily move soldiers and equipment to the border with Chinese-ruled Tibet. In 2008, the project was planned to be completed in 2015 at an estimated cost of INR 33 billion, but its completion is likely to be delayed, as Indian Railways only signed a contract with the construction company, IRCON, in May 2010. By February 2013, the state government was still assessing the project before granting its approval; environmental advisors warned that the railway could pose a threat to local wildlife, including elephants.


The Tibetology Museum and research centre.

Sikkim's roads are maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), an offshoot of the Indian Army. The roads in South Sikkim and NH-31A are in relatively good condition, landslides being less frequent in these areas. The state government maintains 1,857 kilometres (1,154 mi) of roadways that do not fall in the BRO jurisdiction.

Sikkim receives most of its electricity from 19 hydroelectric power stations. It has achieved 100 per cent rural electrification. Power is also obtained from the National Thermal Power Corporation and Power Grid Corporation of India. However, the voltage is unstable and voltage stabilisers are needed. Per capita consumption of electricity in Sikkim is 182  kWh. The state government has promoted biogas and solar power for cooking, but these have received a poor response and are used mostly for lighting purposes. In 2005, 73.2 per cent of Sikkim's households were reported to have access to safe drinking water, and the large number of streams assures sufficient water supply.

On 8 December 2008, it was announced that Sikkim had become the first state in India to achieve 100% per cent sanitation coverage, becoming completely free of public defecation, thus attaining the status of "Nirmal State".


Sikkimese woman with child.

Sikkim is India's least populous state, with 607,688 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. Sikkim is also one of the least densely populated Indian states, with only 86 persons per square kilometre. However, it has a high population growth rate, averaging 12.36% per cent between 2001 and 2011. The sex ratio is 889 females per 1,000 males, with a total of 321,661 males and 286,027 females recorded in 2011. With 50,000 inhabitants, the capital Gangtok is the only significant urban area in the mostly rural state; the urban population in Sikkim constitutes around 11.06 per cent of the total. The per capita income in Sikkim stands at INR11,356, which is one of the highest in the country.


Due to a centuries-long population influx from Nepal, the majority of Sikkim's residents are of Nepali ethnic origin. The native Sikkimese consist of the Bhutias, who migrated from the Kham district of Tibet in the 14th century, and the Lepchas, who are believed to have migrated from the Far East. Tibetans reside mostly in the northern and eastern reaches of the state. Migrant resident communities include Biharis, Bengalis and Marwaris, who are prominent in commerce in South Sikkim and Gangtok.


The Rumtek monastery is among Sikkim's most famous monuments.

Hinduism has been the state's major religion since the arrival of the Nepalis; an estimated 60.93 per cent of the total population are now adherents of the religion. Sikkim's second-largest religion is Buddhism, which accounts for 28.1 per cent of the population. Sikkim has 75 Buddhist monasteries, the oldest dating back to the 1700s. Christians in Sikkim are mostly descendants of Lepcha people who were converted by British missionaries in the late 19th century, and constitute around 6.6 per cent of the population. Other religious minorities include Muslims of Bihari ethnicity and Jains, who each account for roughly 1 per cent of the population. The traditional religions of the native Sikkimese account for much of the remainder of the population.

Although tensions between the Lepchas and the Nepalese escalated during the merger of Sikkim with India in the 1970s, there has never been any major degree of communal religious violence, unlike in other Indian states. The traditional religion of the Lepcha people is Mun, which coexists with Buddhism and Christianity.


Nepali is the lingua franca of Sikkim, while Sikkimese and Lepcha are spoken in certain areas. English and Hindi are also spoken and understood in most of Sikkim. Other languages include Dzongkha, Groma, Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Majhi, Majhwar, Nepal Bhasa, Rai, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Tamang, Thulung, Tibetan, and Yakha.


The traditional Gumpa dance being performed in Lachung during the Buddhist festival of Losar.

Sikkim's Nepalese majority celebrate all major Hindu festivals, including Diwali and Dussera. Traditional local festivals, such as Maghe Sankranti and Bhimsen Puja, are also popular. Losar, Loosong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu are among the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Sikkim. During the Losar (Tibetan New Year), most offices and educational institutions are closed for a week. Sikkimese Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr and Muharram. Christmas has also been promoted in Gangtok to attract tourists during the off-season.

Western rock music and Indian pop have gained a wide following in Sikkim. Indigenous Nepali rock and Lepcha music are also popular. Sikkim's most popular sports are football and cricket, although hang gliding and river rafting have also grown popular as part of the tourism industry.


Noodle-based dishes such as thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are common in Sikkim. Momos – steamed dumplings filled with vegetables, buffalo meat or pork and served with a soup – are a popular snack. Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are widely consumed. Sikkim has the third-highest per capita alcoholism rate amongst all Indian states, behind Punjab and Haryana.


Sikkim's adult literacy rate is 69.68 per cent: 76.73 per cent for males and 61.46 per cent for females. There are a total of 1,157 schools in the state, including 765 schools run by the state government, seven central government schools and 385 private schools. Twelve colleges and other institutions in Sikkim offer higher education. The largest institution is the Sikkim Manipal University of Technological Sciences, which offers higher education in engineering, medicine and management. It also runs a host of distance education programs in diverse fields. There are two state-run polytechnical schools, the Advanced Technical Training Centre (ATTC) and the Centre for Computers and Communication Technology (CCCT), which offer diploma courses in various branches of engineering. ATTC is situated at Bardang, Singtam, and CCCT at Chisopani, Namchi. Sikkim University began operating in 2008 at Yangang, which is situated about 28 kilometres (17 mi) from Singtam. Many students, however, migrate to Siliguri, Kolkata, Bangalore and other Indian cities for their higher education.

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