Genral Information - Gangtok
Nestling in the lush greenery of the Himalayas is Gangtok (5,800 ft), the small capital city of Sikkim, where Buddhist prayer flags flutter in the mountain breeze, exotic orchids and chirruping birds run riot in a colourful melee. Visit Gangtok for a peek at the profusion of blooming rhododendrons in the deepest of reds and savour the serene cool beauty of the snow clad peaks in an ambience enhanced by the cheerful bustle of a warm, hospitable, pleasant and hard-working people. History :
Gangtok is a blend of the traditional and modern, where modern concrete multi-storeyed structures clinging to the hillside stand alongside 'chortens' (stupas) and monasteries; young college girls in trendy dresses rub shoulders in the market place with elderly matrons clad in traditional 'bakus' and lamas in colourful maroon and mustard robes play football with youngsters in blue jeans and T-shirts.
Like the rest of Sikkim, not much is known about the early history of GangtokThe earliest records date from the construction of the hermitic Gangtok monastery in 1716.Gangtok remained a small hamlet until the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840 made it a pilgrimage center. After the defeat of the Tibetans by the British, Gangtok became a major stopover in the trade between Tibet and British India at the end of the 19th century.Most of the roads and the telegraph in the area were built during this time. Place To See :
In 1894, Thutob Namgyal, the Sikkimese monarch under British rule, shifted the capital from Tumlong to Gangtok, increasing its importance. A new grand palace along with other state buildings was built in the new capital. Following India's independence in 1947, Sikkim became a nation-state with Gangtok as its capital. Sikkim became a suzerain of India, with the condition that it would retain its independence, by the treaty signed between the Chogyal and the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.Trade between India and Tibet continued to flourish through the Nathula and Jelepla passes, offshoots of the ancient Silk Road near Gangtok. These border passes were sealed after the Sino-Indian War in 1962, which deprived Gangtok of its trading business.In 1975, the monarchy was abrogated and Sikkim became India's twenty-second state, with Gangtok as its capital. Gangtok has witnessed annual landslides, resulting in damage to life and properties. The largest disaster occurred in June 1997, when 38 were killed and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.
huge white Do-Drul Chorten with
its golden spire is a landmark of
Gangtok. Built in 1945, it is surrounded
by 108 prayer wheels and houses several
rare religious tetxs. Nearby are two
gompas (Tibetan Buddhist temples)
housing huge statues of Guru
Padmasambhava. About three km from the
town, set on a prominent ridge, is the
Enchey Monastery, the seat of the
Nyingma order. This is where you can see
masked dances performed during the
'Chaam' festival in January every year. How Get There :
Government Institute of Cottage Industries
(also called the Directorate of Handicrafts and
Handloom) promotes and teaches the ancient
crafts of Sikkim (like painting, mask making,
weaving, wood carving) to keep them alive. You
can spend hours exploring the Research
Institute of Tibetology, housed in a
traditional terracotta-and-white building. It is
a unique centre for the study of Buddhist
philosophy and religion. It has a collection of
rare Buddhist manuscripts, 'thankas' (religious
tapestries), and other artefacts. It is open
throughout the week – 10 am to 4 pm.
There are several interesting places
around Gangtok, such as Ganesh Tok
(7 km), Hanuman Tok (11 km) and
Tashi View Point (8 km) from
where you get the most amazing views of
the Kanchenjunga, Mt. Siniolchu and
other snow-clad peaks.
By Air Accomodation :
Gangtok is not directly served by air. The closest airport is at Bagdogra, West Bengal. The 124 km drive to Gangtok takes 5 hours and is facilitated by numerous taxis, shared jeeps and hired cars with chauffeurs.
The drive to Gangtok from Siliguri (West Bengal), 114 km away, is the shortest. Darjeeling, the beautiful and oft-visited hill station in West Bengal is also connected by road to Gangtok. Taxis, buses and hired cars with drivers ply regularly on these routes as they inch past the narrow but well maintained mountain roads. Passengers request a vegetable-shopping stop as they pass through little hamlets with fresh vegetables sold on the roadsides. The drive is very scenic with the Teesta River flowing on the left hand side and the green hills on the right. As you get closer to Gangtok, look out for the multihued flowers that dot the landscape, especially in spring.
Note: Roads can get blocked due to landslides during the rainy season (June to September) and you can get stuck in Sikkim but not for more than 2 or 3 days. The army bulldozers get to work immediately and clear up roads, which are the lifeline of Sikkim.
Gangtok is not on the railway map. The nearest railhead is New Jalpaiguri (West Bengal), 125km away from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Trains from all the major cities of India connect to New Jalpaiguri. The drive to Gangtok city takes about five hours and numerous buses, taxis, shared 4WDs and hired cars with chauffeurs cover the distance all through the day.
There is a wide variety of hotel accommodation available at Gangtok - deluxe, standard, budget - depending on what you want to spend. Don’t expect international standard of 5 star luxury and facilities though. Peak season means higher costs and off-season discounts are not uncommon.
In Gangtok, the capital city, the main areas for shopping are Old Market, New Market and Lal Market. The government handicraft and handloom emporia are on the crossing of M.G. Marg and New Market and are the best places to buy carpets, masks, religious scroll "tankha" paintings on silk, Buddhist prayer wheels and bright Choktse tables.
On this day people go to monasteries to offer butter lamps and worship. A huge procession of monks goes around Gangtok carrying the holy scriptures.
It is celebrated to offer thanks to Mount Khangchendzonga, the guardian deity of Sikkim and to Yabdu, the supreme commander.
It is the biggest and most important festival of the Hindu Nepali population is celebrated in September-October. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil.