Lepchas are known to be the earliest inhabitants of this land. Originating from Mayel, a legendary kingdom on the slopes of Khangchendzonga, Lepchas were food gathering people. Getting all their eating needs fulfilled from nature, they lived in close harmony with it. Better known as Rong Pa or Mutanchi, they were the most beloved children of Mother Earth.
There is a very famous legend attached to the rule of Lepchas in Sikkim. It is said that the Khey Bumsa couple of Minyak dynasty of Tibet could not have any children for many years. They were advised by people to seek the blessings of contemporary Lepcha King Thekong Thek, possessing prophetic powers. Khey Bumsa went to the king who prophesized that Bumsa will be blessed with three children instead of one. Three sons were born to Khey Bumsa in due course of time. Feeling highly gratified to the king, Khey Bumsa swore blood brotherhood to the king and signed the same in blood at Khabe Longstok. This swerves as a base of the traditional Lepcha-Bhutia ruling alliance at Sikkim.
Lepchas used to call Sikkim as Nelyang or ‘The place of caves’. They also referred to the land sometimes as Myel Lyang, meaning “The Land of Hidden Paradise or the Delightful Region.” Another tribe named the Bhutias called it Beyul Demazong or “The Hidden Valley of Rice.” Folklore attached to the name of this place relates to its first ruler Tensung Namgyal. It is believed that Namgyal married three wives, a Tibetan, a Bhutanese and a Limbu girl. Third wife of his was the daughter of Limbu Chief. She thus brought seven maidens with her who were married into leading families of Sikkim. These Limbu maidens used to refer to the place as ‘Sukhim’ or “bride’s new house.” Later on, the Nepalis coming to Sikkim found themselves unable to relate to Limbu pronouncement and thus corrupted the name to Sukkhim which underwent further distortion under British rule and became Sikkim.
The Namgyal dynasty is supposed to have ruled over Sikkim for about 332 years. But some border disputes with Tibet occurred in due course of time. East India Company acquired the Southern borders and territories of Darjeeling district in 1817. Later on in 1880s Sikkim had to surrender its rights to Chumbi Valley to Tibeto- Chinese authorities.
It was only after the Treaty of Sigoli, that Sikkim acquired the status of an independent province. It was added to India as an associate State in 1975 and gradually attained full Statehood. Thus the cumbersome monarchy was brought to an end in Sikkim.
Reaching Sikkim in India
Juxtaposed between two neighboring countries namely Bhutan and Nepal with West Bengal on its South, Sikkim lies on the extreme North Eastern corner of India. Whether you are traveling by road, air and train, you can only reach Sikkim by passing through West Bengal. The state of Sikkim is well-connected with air, rail and road network. However there are certain restrictions for foreigners coming to Sikkim. Tourists coming from other countries have to fulfill certain formalities for entering into Sikkim. Get to know more on various means of transport available to reach Sikkim in India.
Sikkim by Road:
National Highway no. 31 serves as a connecting link between the state capital Gangtok and Siliguri, one of the major towns on the northern fringe of West Bengal. Gangtok is also well connected to Kolkata (721 km) and Darjeeling (139 km) with a good network of roads. Kalimpong is another well connected destination with Gangtok. However the NH no. 31 is the most famous route between Gangtok and Siliguri. There are regular buses plying between Siliguri to Sikkim and vice versa. Tourists can reach various towns of Sikkim through easily available cabs/taxi.
The nearest railhead to Sikkim is in New Jalpaiguri near Siliguri at 117 km from Gangtok. Overnight trains can be boarded from Kolkata to Sikkim that reaches New Jalpaiguri Station in the morning. Another railway station at Siliguri is also well connected with Gangtok in Sikkim. From railway stations, taxi’s and cabs are easily available for tourist service.
Sikkim by Air:
Bagdogra near Siliguri, 120 km from Gangtok is the nearest airport to the state. Regular flights connect it to the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata from where daily flights are available to New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and all the major cities of India. The state is also planning to have its own first airport soon. There are regular flights to and from Calcutta (Kolkata) throughout India.
Another special Helicopter service has come up in Bagdogra for reaching Sikkim. It takes around 20 minutes to reach Sikkim (Gangtok) from Bagdogra by this Helicopter. You can use this service once in a day and four people are allowed at one time. For booking related request, please contact a travel agent.
Formalities for Foreigners:
Foreigners cannot enter the state of Sikkim directly. They have to get an inner line permit for traveling to Sikkim. This permit is easily available with Indian Mission and embassies abroad. This entry permit allows a stay of seven days for traveling and sightseeing in Sikkim. However this limit extends to ten days in case of Group trekkers.