Gangtok is the capital and
largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. It is situated in the
lower Himalayas, located at 27.2° N 88.4° E. Known for its clean
surroundings and temperate climate, this hill station of about fifty
thousand people is the centre of Sikkim's tourist industry.
Gangtok was a small hamlet until the construction of the Enchey
Monastery in 1840 made it a pilgrimage center. It became a major
stopover between Tibet and British India at the end of the 19th
century. Following India's independence in 1947, Sikkim became a
nation-state with Gangtok as its capital. In 1975 the monarchy was
abrogated and Sikkim became India's twenty-second state, with Gangtok
remaining as its capital.
Not much is known about the early history of Gangtok. The 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
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
Major Indian festivals, such as Diwali and Makar Sankranti (the
popular Hindu festivals) along with the Buddhist festivals like Losar,
Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are
celebrated in Gangtok. During the Losar, the Tibetan New Year in
mid-December, most government offices and tourist centres are closed
for a week. In recent times, Christmas has also been celebrated in
Residents of Sikkim are music lovers and it is common to hear Western
rock music being played in homes and restaurants. Hindi pop songs are
also common. Indigenous Nepali rock, music suffused with a western
rock beat and Nepali lyrics, is also particularly popular.
Football (soccer) and cricket are the two most popular sports. The
Paljor Stadium, which hosts football matches, is the sole sporting
ground in the city.
Noodle-based foods such as the thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu,
gyathuk and wonton, are relished in Gangtok. The momo is a popular
snack made from vegetable, beef, or pork filling, which is steamed and
served with a soup. Alcohol is cheap due to low excise duty in Sikkim.
Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are frequently consumed by both locals
The areas which make up Gangtok though in no particular order are :
Palzor Stadium Road
Also called P.S. Road, it joins the low lying localities and suburbs
with the main town. Palzor Stadium is one of its major stops. As it
nears its end, it is flanked by many hotels and also the stop of the
SNT or the Sikkim National Transport Buses. Some major hotels include
Hotel Tibet, Hotel Mayur, Hotel Mt. Jopuno among others. The top floor
of Hotel Tibet is the residence of The Dalai Lama when he visits
Gangtok. There is also a Taxi stand.
Mahtama Gandhi Road
Also called M.G. Road, it is the main commercial district of Gangtok.
There are many shops run by members of the Marwari community or
This is the main market of the town and occurs at the end of M.G.
Road. Farmers from all over the state and adjoining areas including
Nepal and Bhutan come to the market to sell their produce every
This area is fairly remote and is situated at a higher altitude and
has been identified by the Govt. for future expansion. It is also
called Zero Point. The State Library is in this area.
Gangtok's highest lodge is the Siniolchu Lodge located near the Enchey
Monastery. It is also close to the state's main TV transmission tower.