By Bhudeb Chakrabarti
Sikkim, the enchanting Mountain State in the Eastern Himalayas, is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. The land of the sacred Kanchenjunga borders Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.
Kanchenjunga Mountain, the third highest mountain in the world, is sacred to the people of Sikkim. There are five peaks towering the sky, known as the ’Five Treasures of Snow’. These icy peaks of Kanchenjunga along with the enormous ridges make a formidable sight.
In November 1994, I had travelled to Sikkim for Assembly Election, to oversee the work of CRPF Battalions as DIG Operations. During my month-long stay in Sikkim I had the opportunity to travel throughout the state, and see its people and culture from close quarters.
Bhutias and Lepchas, mainly Buddhists and Nepalis mostly Hindus lived in Sikkim. Bhutias and Lepchas talked in their Tibetan dialects while Nepalis talked in Nepali language.
The people of Sikkim depended mainly on agriculture. Rice and corn were the chief crops. Nepalis practised terraced cultivation. Lepchas were herb farmers growing cardamoms.
During my stay at the capital Gangtok, I would go for morning walk regularly on an uphill road. One day I climbed higher and reached the heart of Gangtok. Then I took the solitary steep road for Enchey Monastery.
Enchey (Solitary) Monastery of Nyingma (Ancient) Order of Vajrayana Buddhism commanded a spectacular view of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga. I was amazed by the shining gold cupola of the monastery set amidst a serene atmosphere. The idol of ’Buddha’ was placed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Prayer Hall. The paintings and murals adorned the ornate walls. I spent quite some time in the monastery absorbing the sacredness of the place.
I visited Tsomgo Lake in East Sikkim on Gangtok-Nathula Road (12400 feet) the area around the lake being the ideal habitat of the Red Panda, the State animal of Sikkim.
After a few days I left for South and West Sikkim. The Gangtok-Siliguri Road was coolly shaded by the forests with wonderful orchids, with the Teesta river flowing by. Between Rangpo and Melli the road was through West Bengal.
We drove through tropical forests, ascending a steep mountain on a zigzag road and reached Namchi the District Headquarters town of South Sikkim (5500 feet).
I found Namchi to be the finest town of Sikkim and by far the neatest. Namchi commanded the best panoramic view of the snow-covered mountains and the verdant valleys.
Jorethang in South Sikkim on the bank of Rangeet River was encircled by deep forests. Chirping birds and the fragrant wild flowers captivated the mind. At Jorethang I crossed Rangeet River to enter Naya Bazar (West Sikkim).
Keeping this post short, I will continue with the narration of my travel to South, West and North Sikkim in the Part II .
This article is contributed by Bhudeb Chakrabarti, Dy IG (Retd) CRPF. He has commanded several Operational and Administrative functions in the force and has imparted training to gazetted officers of CRPF and other central & state police forces.
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