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Sikkim, in case you hadn't noticed, doesnt exist anymore; it was annexed by India in 1975. Chinas longstanding claim was that Sikkim was an independent country. With a population of only around 600,000 [according to the 2011 census, 250000 people in 1971] and limited local industry, the state relies heavily on federal grants.

In 2011, the government launched a pilgrim center comprising replicas of four of the most-important Hindu pilgrimage destinations popularly known as char dham or the four abodes. Devout Hindus believe that a visit to the char dham will help them atone for their sins and pave the way to heaven. The Statue of Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim in Namchi, is the tallest statue of the saint in the world at 36 meters (120 ft.).

Sikkim, now a province in Northeast India, lies in the foothills of the Himalayas. Sikkim, now coded as India [SK for reference only], is a small, mountainous, Indian state (7,096 km2). With its unique culture and natural landscape, Sikkim is a picture of perfection and pristine purity. Nestled in the Himalayas and endowed with exceptional natural resources, Sikkim is a hotspot of biodiversity and development. 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.

Surrounded on three sides by precipitous mountain walls, Sikkim is like a stupendous stairway leading from the western border of the Tibetan plateau down to the plains of West Bengal, with a fall of about 5,215 meters in 240 kms. Sikkim, in the west is bound by the north-south spur of the Great Himalayan Range which includes the world's third highest peak, Khangchendzonga and down to its south is Singalila ridge. In the north it is bound by Dongkia range and also partly includes the Tibetan Plateau. In the east it is bound by the Chola range.

The average steepness is about 45 degree. Sikkim is the main catchment area for the beautiful river Teesta, which has its main source from Chho Lhamo lake in the north and is further strengthened by many streams and rivers of which Tholung, Lachung, Great Rangeet and Rangpo are important drainers. It also has about 180 perennial lakes, among which Khachoedpalri, Gurudongmar, Chho Lhamo and Men Moi Tso are some of the most scenic.

Early History

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.

Recent Developments

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.

Conditions of Living

The magnitude and consequences of unrecorded alcohol consumption, defined as home brewed or clandestinely produced illicit liquor or surrogate alcoholic beverage has been little investigated in India. A significant portion of all alcohol consumed globally is unrecorded, therefore these consumers constitute a significant population. Although consumption of unrecorded alcohol is traditional in Sikkim, it has emerged as an important public health problem, with alarmingly high rates of problematic consumption.

In Sikkim, especially in the rural areas where there is no supply of treated water for drinking and other domestic uses, natural surface water is the only source. The water quality of the natural sources indicated that the water is poor-quality and not totally safe for human consumption, and that it needs treatment before consumption.

Ancient medical systems are still prevalent in Sikkim, popularly nurtured by Buddhist groups using the traditional Tibetan pharmacopoeia overlapping with Ayurvedic medicine. The three ethnic groups of Sikkim, the Lepcha, Bhutia, and Nepalis, have long practiced their traditional systems of medicine and have a strong belief in herbs. 490 medicinal plants find their habitat in Sikkim due to its large variations in altitude and climate.

Ancient medical systems abound in Sikkim, and are still popular, nurtured by Buddhist groups for their traditional Tibetan Pharmacopoeia. The tribals of Sikkim have immense faith in herbal medicine based on trial and error experience gained continuously from generation to generation. The various traditional healers across the globe have diverse beliefs and practices, but the common aim of all is to cure ailments and maintain human health.

Any medical system operates in society according to the prevailing environment of the region and cultural manifestations operating within it. In Sikkim Himalaya, geographical factors have not only contributed to this, but also prevented close contact with other developed indigenous systems of medicine. Human societies living in high-altitude areas remain isolated due to poor accessibility and harsh climate. Their geographical conditions stimulate them to develop a unique health culture. In Sikkim, this is a mixture of Lepcha, Bhutia, and Nepali practices for the prevention of disease, promotion of health, and treatment of disease. These unique practices are undocumented and passed on from one generation to next by word of mouth.

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