The Kingdom of Sikkim which was not a part of India decided to merge its state with the Indian Republic in the year 1975. With that decision, India got a gift of a beautiful hill station know as Gangtok, capital of the Himalayan state of Sikkim. The journey to this stunning place is equally beautiful and 90% of the road is by the side of the river Teesta.
Gangtok is situated at an altitude of 1437 meters above the main sea level. There is hardly any plateau in Gangtok and the entire place is located on different steps at various levels which add a special dimension to the view of the place. The word “Gangtok” has been derived from the Tibetan word for “hillside”. Although Sikkim has taken pains to preserve its history, ancient traditions, culture as well as historic monuments which are of religious significance to them, at the same time, it has taken care to keep pace with the modern age by building hospitals, wide roads and other modern amenities that the new age citizen wishes to have.
During the British rule, Sikkim was an important trade centre between India and Tibet. Gangtok has been the capital of the state of Sikkim since 1894. When India gained independence in 1947, Sikkim chose to remain an independent monarchy till 1975 when due to certain internal circumstances; it decided to become a part of the Indian Republic. During the Sino-Indian war when the Nathu La Pass was blocked for trade, Sikkim suffered economically. However, since 2006, the pass has been reopened and it has thrown open new opportunities for trade between India and Tibet and a gateway to the prosperity of the Sikkimese.
Sikkim has a long tradition of association with Buddhism. It boasts of quite a few ancient Buddhist monasteries and temples. The chief amongst them being the Enchey Monastery established in the latter part of the 19th century. These Buddhist temples have made Gangtok an important site of pilgrimage for Buddhists all over the world. The town’s former Royal Palace, the open-air Lall market and the Namgyal Institte of Tibetology also evoke the tourist’s interest. Lush parks and gardens are also spread over the landscape.
The city of Gangtok is quite cosmopolitan with people of different ethnicities such as Nepalese, Chinese, Tibetans, and Indians living side by side and celebrating the Sikkimese festivals like Losum and Losar enthusiastically. Gangtok also enjoys communal harmony despite the diversity of ethnic backgrounds in its population of about 80,000. Due to the multiplicity of the cultures in its population, Gangtok also offers a multi-cuisine menu to its tourists to satisfy everyone’s culinary habits. Gangtok market also offers a very different kind of merchandise with Buddhist designs right from carpets to wall hangings and many items of handicrafts. Lall Bazaar is one of the best and cheapest areas for shopping.
Overall, Gangtok offers a totally different and absolutely satisfying experience to every visitor. The best time to visit Gangtok is from March to late May or October to mid-December.