Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. The state borders Nepal to the west, China's Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the southeast. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south. Sikkim is nonetheless geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas; the climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine, and Kangchenjunga, the World's third-highest peak, is located on Sikkim's border with Nepal. Sikkim is a popular tourist destination, owing to its culture, scenery and biodiversity. It also has the only open land border between India and China. Sikkim's capital and largest city is Gangtok.
Sikkim's nominal state gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US$730 million in 2010, constituting the fourth-smallest GDP among India's 28 states. The state's economy is largely agrarian, based on the terraced farming of rice and the cultivation of crops such as maize, millet, wheat, barley, oranges, tea and cardamom. Sikkim has the highest production of cardamom in India, as well as the largest cultivated area of cardamom. Because of its hilly terrain, and the lack of transport infrastructure, Sikkim lacks a large-scale industrial base.
Brewing, distilling, tanning and watchmaking are the main industries, and are mainly located in the southern reaches of the state, primarily in the towns of Melli and Jorethang. Despite the state's minimal industrial infrastructure, Sikkim's economy has been among the fastest-growing in India since 2000, with the state's GDP expanding by over 13% in 2007 alone. Sikkim has announced plans to become the first state in India to transition its agriculture to entirely organic cultivation by 2015.
Sikkim's Nepalese majority celebrate all major Hindu festivals, including Diwali and Dussera. Traditional local festivals, such as Maghe Sankranti and Bhimsen Puja, are also popular. Losar, Loosong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, Drupka Teshi and Bhumchu are among the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Sikkim. During the Losar (Tibetan New Year), most offices and educational institutions are closed for a week. Sikkimese Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr and Muharram. Christmas has also been promoted in Gangtok to attract tourists during the off-season.
Western rock music and Hindi songs have gained a wide following in Sikkim. Indigenous Nepali rock and Lepcha music are also popular. Sikkim's most popular sport are football and cricket, although hang gliding and river rafting have also grown popular as part of the tourism industry.
Literacy in Sikkim is 69.68%, which breaks down into 76.73% for males and 61.46% for females. There are a total of 1157 schools, including 765 schools run by the State government, 7 central government schools and 385 private schools. Twelve colleges and other institutions in Sikkim offer higher education. The largest institution is the Sikkim Manipal University of Technological Sciences, which offers higher education in engineering, medicine and management.
It also runs a host of distance education programs in diverse fields. There are two state-run polytechnical schools, Advanced Technical Training Centre (ATTC) and Centre for Computers and Communication Technology (CCCT) in Sikkim which offer diploma courses in various branches of engineering. ATTC is situated at Bardang, Singtam and CCCT at Chisopani, Namchi. Sikkim University a central university, began operating in 2008 at Yangang, which is situated about 28 km from Singtam. Many students, however, migrate to Siliguri, Kolkata, Bangalore and other Indian cities for their higher education.
Flora and fauna:
Sikkim is home to around 5,000 species of flowering plants, 515 rare orchids, 60 primula species, 36 rhododendron species, 11 oak varieties, 23 bamboo varieties, 16 conifer species, 362 types of ferns and ferns allies, 8 tree ferns, and over 424 medicinal plants. A variant of the Poinsettia, locally known as "Christmas Flower", can be found in abundance in the mountainous state. The orchid Dendrobium nobile is the official flower of Sikkim, while the rhododendron is the state tree.
The fauna of Sikkim include the snow leopard, the musk deer, the Himalayan Tahr, the red panda, the Himalayan marmot, the serow, the goral, the barking deer, the common langur, the Himalayan Black Bear, the clouded leopard, the Marbled Cat, the leopard cat, the wild dog, the Tibetan wolf, the hog badger, the binturong, the jungle cat and the civet cat. Among the animals more commonly found in the alpine zone are yaks, mainly reared for their milk, meat, and as a beast of burden.