Sikkim is a small state in northeast India, a place of outstanding natural beauty. With 40% of its land covered by forests, it displays a combination of snow-covered mountains, lush green valleys and wondrous waterfalls until the eyes can reach. It is a great place for eco-tourism also because of its biodiversity with more than 4,000 species of flowering plants, including its famous rhododendrons.

Looming over Sikkim and often shrouded by a heavy mist is the imposing Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the World. The Mountain is said to be a guardian deity protecting the people of Sikkim, created from deep inside its vastness.

Because of its natural beauty, its current inhabitants call it ‘Su him’ – ‘Sikkim’, which stands for ‘beautiful home’. Its original inhabitants called it ‘Nye-al-ale’, which stands for ‘Heaven’, the Nepalese call it ‘Suk him’ or ‘new home’, and the Tibetans call it ‘Denzong’, or ‘valley of rice’.

This formerly independent kingdom is now the smallest state of East India, with a total area of just 7,096 sq. kilometres, bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China to the North, Nepal to the West and Bhutan to the East.

With altitudes ranging from 300 to 8,586 meters from sea level, it has just 440 villages, eight towns and four districts; with three major ethnic groups, namely the Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis.

The original inhabitants of Sikkim are the Lepchas, or the “Ravine folk”, and they account for about 13 percent of the population. Of indigenous origin, they used to live solely by hunting, gathering and cultivating the dense forests where they constructed their homes. They are now concentrated in central Sikkim at the confluence of the Lachen and Lachung rivers. Dickchu is their language, and it belongs to the Himalayan language-family of the Tibetan-Chinese.

The Bhutias are of Tibetan origin and account for about 14 percent of the total population. They have spread throughout all of Sikkim around the 15th and 16th centuries and share the same language family as the Lepchas.

Besides these two tribes and Nepalis, several thousands of Tibetan refugees now also live in Sikkim.

The Nepali’s are the dominant community of Sikkim. They have migrated around the mid 19th century, when Nepali’s were permitted to settle in large numbers in British India after the victory of British India in the Anglo Nepal war. That was largely due to the fact that the British were impressed by the Gurkhas’ incredible bravery and talents for warfare, and started to strategically adopt large numbers of them into the British army.

Darjeeling was annexed from Sikkim to British India in 1861, mainly for growing tea. It was the Nepali settlers who then introduced the terraced system of cultivation to both Sikkim and Darjeeling, a technique that turned the large terrains of hills into a place that produced high yield crops.

Nowadays the official language in Sikkim is Nepali. Hindi is widely spoken as a second language, and Dzongkha (Bhutanese) and Tibetan are also used, although to a lesser extent.

Sikkim prides itself on the fact that all cultures, religions, customs and “hues” are valued and coexist harmonious. This can be seen through the display of Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, Christian churches, Muslim mosques, and Sikh Gurdwaras, which all coexist in a happy way throughout Sikkim’s territory.

Sikkim’s vision for 2015 reflects their values: it was focused on becoming a 100% Literate State, affording a 5000MW Power Generation, reaching the status of a Poverty-Free, Total Organic, and Self-Reliant State.