Indra’s Garden

Things have been pretty busy these last few weeks and I am sure our readers have noticed a dearth of posts lately. We are dealing with our university exams at the moment and hope to resume posting on a regular basis around the middle of next week.

Thanks for your support. Love you, Readers!

Enjoy your weekend.

Here are a  few pictures from my trip to the Himalayas last month:

Sikkim is a small Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It has Nepal to its west, Tibet to its north and East and Bhutan also to its east. The only Indian state it shares it border with is West Bengal (Capital: Calcutta).

 It is the least populous state in India and has 11 official languages. It was an independent state before 1975 and for some years a protectorate of the Indian Union. But in April, 1975 it was annexed to India and the monarchy was abolished and special privileges were granted to the residents by the government.

 Getting there:

 

the highway: 31 A
the highway: 31 A

Best way to reach Sikkim is via the National Highways, 31 and 31 A constructed by the BRO (Border Road Organisation).

This highway connects Sikkim to West Bengal and China. Some part of the highway is constructed parallel to the Tista river along the Himalayan foothills. The stretch is somewhat perilous due to crates and rubble from fresh landslides. All along the drift, (where the river moves away) we find large BRO boards warning about landslides, hair pin loops, and falling boulders. Phew!

Meeting point of two rivers: Tista and Rangit (view from the highway)
Meeting point of two rivers: Tista and Rangit (view from the highway)

You will find a lot of women running small shops and establishments along the highway. This is because the society is matrilineal and crime-free. The major religions are Hinduism and Buddhism.

Among industries, we found units of Zydus and Cipla, since pharmaceuticals need precision engineering and the state is practically pollution-(dust) free. One can find a heavy occurrence of Lichen (a bioindicator of pollution) along the dense vegetation bordering most parts of the highway.

On Reaching:

Gangok, the Capital of Sikkim

In Gangtok
In Gangtok

 Gangtok

In Gangtok

In Gangtok

Near Gangtok
Near Gangtok
Near Gangtok

Tadung

After crossing a vast expanse of terraced farms interspersed with quaint little huts, and catching a glimpse of the erstwhile queen’s residence in a densely forested area, we came to our first viewpoint.

A young woman was busy unpacking the contents of an old trunk and laid out a variety of tribal costumes (bright reds to purples to gold) on the rails (the view-point platform). Her job is to dress up inquisitive visitors at a minor fee and let them take photos in those costumes. Of the 3 dominant communities, Nepali, Lepcha and Bhutia; hers were Lepcha costumes.

Photo: the blouse is called the Hanjoo and the tunic is called the bakhoo and married women tie up an additional apron around their waists.

One thing that strikes best is the friendliness and hospitality of everyone you come across. Everyone living in the rural areas is simple and happy. You simply can’t help falling in love with them.

Rumtek Monastery

Rumtek Monastry
Rumtek Monastry
At Rumtek Monastry
At Rumtek Monastry

The Rumtek Monastery has a lot of historical importance attached to it. The cameras weren’t allowed inside the main prayer hall where elaborate rituals accompanied by gongs and chanting welcome you.

The main statue of Buddha is actually placed behind a thick ornate wall and you have to go around prayer tables and large lamps to catch a glimpse of it.

Ranka Monastery

School Rooms at the Ranka Monastry
School Rooms at the Ranka Monastry

Here we met Impa, a cute little guy who was sent by his parents to live in the monastery, like many other young fellows like him.(pic) that’s me handing out candies to Impa.

With Impa at the Ranka Monastry
With Impa at the Ranka Monastry

FOOD

We had lunch in a local café near the Ranka Monastery . The menu largely comprised of the local specialties- Thukpa (noodle soup with vegetables), momos (dumplings), faley (sort of fried momos), etc..

Thukpa
Thukpa

It was my first time trying out Thukpa.

Expenses: Since this Weblog deals with Economics and PF, I thought I should provide a brief idea about the expenses one can incur during the trip.

One doesn’t need to plan months in advance for a trip to Sikkim. We planned a couple of weeks in advance. We took the train from Calcutta to New Jalpaigudi (also In West Bengal). A seat in the Executive chair car costs about INR 2000 and the car hire (Siligudi to Gangtok) can be cost anywhere between INR 2000-3000. One can put up in the holiday homes established by the tourism department of the Government. These are very viable, and reasonable for a night’s stay.

At Sikkim, a car hire costs INR 2500 per day. You can visit all the places you can manage before the day runs out.

At Tadung, a photo-shoot in the traditional attire costs INR 30 per head.

The Rumtek Monastry entry fee is INR 10 per head.

Ranka Monastry entry is free. Food at the local café was reasonably priced.

Handicrafts: It’s best you visit a dozen stalls to get an idea about the rates. WE bought some Tibetan handicrafts including Buddhist Prayer wheels and some woolens. It cost INR 1000.

Next post in this Series: “Postcards From the Wild”

© The Idea Bucket, 2013.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Thank you, Ananya, for this beautiful post. The beauty captured in the photos, and your lovely narrative were inspiring. Of particular interest to me was your statement about the women owned shops along the highway, and the matrilineal and crime-free state of the society. As an American that is a mind blowing concept to wrap my head around, but one that is like a dart to the heart. I hope our species will someday evolve to the point that compassion and justice are the norm, and violence and hatred are the exception. Namaste!

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    1. Hi, just like you were pleasantly surprised on reading about “the women owned shops along the highway, and the matrilineal and crime-free state of the society”, we were surprised to come across it in the first place. 🙂
      Our country is a land of diverse cultural practices and my first contact with a matrilineal culture was when I first visited the northeastern parts of my country for the first time a couple of years ago. The tribal societies there are matrilineal and their practices inspired me to integrate them as an imaginary community in my novel “Earthbound”.
      Considering the rest of the country that are based on patriarchy, violence, crime and unemployment are the order of the day. So this concept of women running the societies and these states being the among the least populous as well..might just help us evolve as a really intelligent species one day, like you point out. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for asking. But my visit to this small Himalayan state was in May, that was way before the monsoon set in. Furthermore,the floods and the landslides due to cloud bursts devastated the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand (Latitude:28°43′ N to 31°27′ N, Longitude:77°34′ E to 81°02′ E ) known as the LAND OF THE GODS, and not the state of Sikkim (Indrakil/Indra’s Garden)Latitude : 27.3 N
      Longitude : 88.3 E

      I hope my explanation has helped clear you doubts. The beautiful valley of Sikkim is as beautiful as ever. 🙂

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      1. Thanks a lot for the perfect localization, what cleared my doubts for sure! I hope you may travel and discover plenty of so beautiful landscapes and their inhabitants.

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  2. I was instantly drawn to the title of your entry, Indra’s Garden, and I was not disappointed to discover that it was indeed a very beautiful post. Can you imagibe, I am a faithful, born-again Christian living on a small insland surrounded by (especially today) the cold, stormy Atlantic. I practice holistic living and attempt to produce a good portion of my food. Hence the attraction to the word ‘garden’ but actually it was the reference to the goddess Indra that drew me in. I have long been fascinated by the beautiful image of her holding the world in a jewelled net and this inspired me to create a multi-layered artpiece which attempts to capture that thought. It is not half so beautiful as the images on your post! Thank you. I thought you would be interested to see how such diverse and yet in-common elements interweave.

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    1. Sikkim was actually known as “Indrakil” or the Garden of the War-god Indra in our ancient texts and hence the title. It’s indeed a very beautiful and enchanting place..

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