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Sikkim(sĭk`ĭm), state (2001 provisional pop. 540,493), 2,745 sq mi (7,110 sq km), India. It is located in the E Himalayas and bordered by Nepal (W), by the Tibet region of China (N), by Bhutan (E), and by the Indian state of West Bengal (S). The capital and only town is Gangtok. Most of Sikkim is mountainous, and rivers, including the Tista, flow through deep valleys, intersecting the country and hindering travel. In the mountains are extensive forests and grazing land for sheep, goats, cattle, and yaks. Corn is the major crop of the tropical lowland valleys, and rice, millet, wheat, barley, legumes, fruits, and cardamom are also grown. Agriculture is chiefly for subsistence. Sikkim has some copper deposits. There is a handicraft industry, and cotton weaving is common. In 1979 its first hydroelectric station was put on line.
Sikkim's people are predominantly of Nepalese extraction; the minority Bhotias (Tibetan in origin) and aboriginal Lepchas are mainly pastoral nomads. Although the Nepalese practice Hinduism, Buddhism was professed by the former chogyal ("king under the religious laws") and the official class, and Sikkim is noted for its Buddhist monasteries. Tibeto-Burmese languages and dialects are spoken widely.
In the 16th cent. Tibetans began to settle Sikkim, whose native Lepchas were probably converted to Buddhism by Tibetan lamas. In 1642 a Tibetan king started a hereditary line of Sikkimese rulers that lasted until 1975. Gurkhas from Nepal invaded Sikkim several times in the 18th and 19th cent., but the British, expanding their presence in India, forced the Gurkhas out of Sikkim (1814–16). Later (1835, 1849) the Sikkimese had to cede territory to the British, who assumed a protectorate. China, nominal suzerain of the area, finally recognized the protectorate in 1890, after a British victory over Tibet, but continued to maintain a claim over the area and later did not acknowledge that Sikkim was an Indian state until 2005.
British protection ended when India won independence in 1947, but political and social unrest in newly independent Sikkim led to a treaty (1950) by which the kingdom became an Indian protectorate. India directed defense and foreign relations and communications, while Sikkim retained internal autonomy. India financed construction of strategic roads traversing the mountain passes, thus ending Sikkim's long isolation from the outside world. Sikkim's administration was turned over to India in 1974, and in 1975 India ended Sikkim's last vestiges of independence, deposing the kingdom's chogyal. Sikkim became India's 22d state. It is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to a unicameral legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India.
a state in India located in the eastern Himalayas and bordering on Nepal, Bhutan, and China. Area, 7,300 sq km; population, 208,600 (1971 census). Gangtok is the capital.
Two-thirds of the population is of Nepalese origin— including Nepali in the strict sense, Tamang, Kirat, Sherpa, and Newar. About 35,000 Lepcha (1971) live in the Western District; the Lepcha constitute the most ancient group of the population. About 25,000 Bhotia (1971) are found in the northern and central regions. People of Indian origin, such as Bengali, live in the cities. The official languages are Nepali, English, and the Sikkim dialect of Tibetan. The religion of the Lepcha and the Bhotia is Lamaist Buddhism, and the other inhabitants are primarily Hindus.
History. In the late 16th century Tibetans began entering Sikkim, which was inhabited by Lepcha and other tribes. Sikkim remained dependent on Tibet until the end of the 18th century. British colonial expansion led to the subordination of the principality of Sikkim to Great Britain under the terms of a treaty signed in 1861. The borders of the principality of Sikkim were defined in 1890. After India won its independence in 1947, the autocratic rule of the chogyal (prince) of Sikkim provoked vigorous popular disturbances between 1947 and 1949, and the chogyal turned to India for assistance. In 1949 an Indian protectorate over Sikkim was established. Under a treaty signed in 1950, the government of India assumed responsibility for Sik-kim’s defense and territorial integrity. In April 1974 the first general elections to the Legislative Assembly were held in Sikkim. The constitution adopted on July 3, 1974, placed limitations on the power of the chogyal. Sikkim was granted the status of an associate state of India in September 1974. In a referendum held in April 1975, a majority of Sikkim’s population voted in favor of Sikkim’s becoming an Indian state. Since May 1975, Sikkim has been a state of India.
Economy. Sikkim is an agricultural region. Small plots of land are cultivated in the intermontane valleys and river bottomlands. Grain crops include rice and Indian corn; sweet potatoes, soybeans, and spice plants are also cultivated. Sikkim is the principal supplier of cardamom to the world market. Cattle and sheep are raised, and logging is carried on. Handicraft production is highly developed. Household articles, wood carvings, silverworks, and carpets are produced. Complex ores are processed at a mill in Rangpo, and there is an enterprise that cuts and polishes precious stones. Transport is primarily by pack animal. There are 1,500 km of paved roads. The nearest railroad station is at Siliguri, and the nearest airport is at Bagh-dogra. A ropeway links Gangtok with Natu La Pass. Sikkim has a tourist industry.
Education. Until recent times 90 percent of the population was illiterate. Both state and private schools exist. Most of the primary schools are state-run, and some private educational institutions receive financial aid from the government. The first two years of primary education are free of charge. The primary schools are divided into lower and higher. After completing secondary school, selected students are awarded scholarships and are sent to India to continue their education. The scholarships are granted by the governments of India and Sikkim. In 1972 the country had 164 lower primary schools, 21 higher primary schools, six secondary schools, and one handicrafts school, which includes a center that provides students with an elementary education. The total number of students enrolled in 1972 was 19,000.