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Sikkim - History

The ancient limits of this principality are uncertain. In length it may be estimated at 60 miles by 40 the average breadth. Except a small section of the plain, the whole of this country is situated among the hills, and its productions, vegetable and mineral, entirely resemble those of the Nepaul territories, which are similarly situated with respect to latitude and elevation.

The early history of Sikkim was not known. Its history started from 13th Century A.D., with the signing of a treaty between Lepcha Chief Thekong Tek and Tibetan prince Khye-Bhumsa at Kabi Lungtsok in North Sikkim. Later the Namgyal dynasty ruled this state for more than 300 years. This dynasty was set up by the Bhutia king Phunstog or Penchu. This dynasty also belonged the last Chogyal, Namgyal Palden Thondup. The Chogyal had developed ambitions of becoming a sovereign ruler and making Sikkim an independent state. With the march of history, events in Sikkim saw the state pass democracy and become an integral part of the Indian Union in 1975.

The Lama religion, although far from universal, was decidedly the most prevalent, and the partial incarnations of the deity in the bodies of inspired Lamas of such frequent occurrence, that in 1809, within the limits of the Lapcha and Kiraut countries, there were said to be no less than 12 existing at the same time.

The princes of Sikkim, predecessors of the present Raja, were Bhooteas, said to be sprung from a high family at Lassa, who took the title of Gelpo. But although the chief is of Bhootea origin, the strength of the Sikkim armies has always consisted of Lapchas, the Bhooteas being naturally a very timid race, quite stupified by the enervating influence of what they call religion. The Lapchas, on other hand, continue a set of vigorous barbarians, of whom only about one half had been deluded by the monkish austerities and superior learning of the Lamas.

Formerly the second dignitary in the state was the Hang or chief of the Lapchas, who probably was the real sovereign in temporal affairs, the Gelpo presiding in matters of religion. It is not known how many princes succeeded to the throne of Sikkim, but is probable that the Bhooteas had been paramount in the country for a considerable time.

According to tradition, the Sikkim state had, at one time, overrun a great part of the country bordering on Rungpoor, and probably then compelled the Bykantpoor zemindar to abandon the forest and seek a refuge further south. With the establishment of a Tibetan kingdom (Chogyal) in the 17th century, Sikkim emerged as a polity in its own right against a backdrop of incursions from Tibet and Bhutan, during which the kingdom enjoyed varying degrees of independence. In 1772, the latter was found in firm alliance with the Bootan government against the common enemy.

In the early 18th century, the British Empire sought to establish trade routes with Tibet, leading Sikkim to fall under British suzerainty until independence in 1947. The affairs of Sikkim continued in an unsatisfactory state until the rupture with the Gorkhas in 1814, when the Raja immediately declared against them and acted the part of a faithful, and, according to the extent of his resources, an useful ally to the British. At the pacification of 1816, he was, in consequence rewarded by the recovery of a considerable portion of his territory within the hills, to which the British government added a tract of low land ceded by the Gorkhas to the east of the Mutchee.

In June 2006, the Nathu La Pass, a century-old trading post that sits 4,545 meters above sea level between China's Tibet and India's Sikkim, was reopened after being closed 40 years ago.

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