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Sikkim Physical Features

Sikkim has a very rugged topography due to which there are very less flat lands. The rivers, mountains are the main physical features that define the boundaries of the state of Sikkim with its neighbours. Besides the rivers and mountains, the lakes, glaciers, passes, hot springs and waterfalls are also found in this region.

 

Mountains in Sikkim
Sikkim is a land of the high mountains that seem to touch the heavens and define the paradise of nature. These mountains form a part of the Himalayas, the highest mountain range. The Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world is situated in the Sikkim. This mountain range can be seen from almost any part of Sikkim and border the Sikkim from the northern, eastern and western side. The two main mountain ranges in Sikkim are the Singilela range on the Western border and the undulating Chola range on the Eastern border. The boundary between Sikkim and Bhutan is defined by the Pangolia Range located in the south eastern part of the state. Other peaks

Nathu La Pass Sikkim

that stand at altitudes of above 20,000 feet are Siniolchu, Pandim, Kabru, Rathong, Kokthang, Talung, Kanglakhang, Simvo and Jonsang. The other imposing mountains that are slightly less than 20,000 feet are Masthonangye, Yabukjakchen, Narsing and Lamaongden. Most of the peaks of Sikkim have remained unscaled as the Sikkimese consider them sacred and feel that they will lose their sanctity if climbed.

Mountain Passes in Sikkim
The mountain ranges are interspersed with various passes which can be used to cross from one side to another. The two most important passes are the Nathu La and Jelep La pass located on the eastern Chola range at an altitude of about 14,500 feet. The Nathu La pass is also known due to the war between China and India. Nathu La and Jelep La passes also formed a part of the trade route between India and Tibet till 1962. The Bhutan La pass is located at an altitude of about 13,000 feet. The first two pass leads to the Chumbi valley in Tibet and the third pass leads to Bhutan. Another important pass on this range that also leads to the Chumbi valley is the Chola pass which was used by the Chogyals to go to Tibet from Tumlong. Chiwabhangjang is the another important pass located on the west between the Sikkim and Nepal border. From this pass the Nepalese used to attack Sikkim during the last century. The other pass on the west is Kang la.

 

Glaciers in Sikkim
A glacier is a slow moving river of ice. The glacier flows from high mountain peaks through rocky valleys and carries unmelted snow, rocks and debris that has compacted over many years into a solid, creeping ice stream. According to some people, about thousand years ago the whole of North Sikkim was covered with glaciers. Lachung is situated at the base of an ancient moraine. The most important glaciers in Sikkim are the Zemu Glacier, Rathong Glacier and the Lonak Glacier in North Sikkim. The Zemu glacier is the largest and the most famous glacier of the eastern Himalayas. This glacier is about 26 km in length and is situated in a large U-shaped valley at the base of the Kanchenjunga

Rathong Glacier Sikkim

mountain in the northwestern Sikkim. The Teesta River rises from the snout of this glacier. Various icefalls and waterfalls have been formed at the junction of the tributary glaciers with the Zemu glacier.

Lakes in Sikkim
Sikkim has a rugged terrain but though still some lakes are also found in this area. There are some lakes which are not very large in size. These lakes are both spring fed as well as river fed. They also form the source of many rivers. The Changu Lake is situated on the highway between Gangtok and Nathu-la, about 34 kms from Gangtok. The Bidang cho and the Menmoi cho are the two other lakes which are also found in Sikkim. Khechopari lake is another well known lake that lies on a bifurcation of the route between Gyalshing and Yoksum. Laxmipokari, Lampokari, Majurpokari, Ram and Laxman lake, Cholamu and Green Lake are some of the beautiful lakes which are also found in Sikkim. Gurudogmar lake is the largest and probably the highest lake in Sikkim.

 

Rivers in Sikkim
The rivers which are found in Sikkim are fed by the snow melting on the mountains and also by the rains that accumulates in the catchment areas during the monsoons. The rivers of Sikkim are perennial and do not dry out even during the winters. Some of these rivers also have a potential of generating thousands of megawatts of electricity. The two main big hydroelectric projects are built on the Rangit and the Teesta rivers. The valleys of the rivers towards the North of Sikkim are wide and concave shaped due to the presence of glaciers millions of years ago, but on moving southwards these valleys transform into deep V-shaped gorges. The rivers are very narrow, steep

Teesta River Sikkim

and full of rocks due to which they are not navigable. During the monsoons these rivers become swollen, swift, muddy and dangerous. The main river found in Sikkim is the Teesta river. When the Teesta river approaches the border between Sikkim and West Bengal it becomes wide and clear of rocks and it is possible to raft across it. The Teesta finally joins the Bramaputra in Bangladesh. The Teesta river flows almost right across the Sikkim. The Teesta river orginates from the Cholamu lake where it is hardly a stream. Its major tributary is the Rangeet which originates from the Rathong Glacier and meets it at the border between Sikkim and West Bengal. The Teesta river flows in the North - South direction while its tributaries flows in the South West or South East directions. The river Ramam, a tributary of Rangeet river and Rangpo chu, the tributary of Teesta river defines the Southern border between Sikkim and West Bengal. The other smaller tributaries of the Teesta river are Zemu chu, Lachung chu, Talung chu, Bakcha chu.

 

Hot Springs in Sikkim
Sikkim has various hot springs which are known for their medicinal and therapeutic value. The most important hot springs are located at Phurchachu (Reshi), Yumthang, Ralang and Momay Samdong. All these hotsprings have high sulphur content and are located near the river banks. The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50 degrees Celcius. These springs are considered holy as one of the four holy caves is located here. This holy cave is called the Kadosangphu or 'cave of the occult fairies' and lies on the south of the four cardinal points. The Yumthang Hot Springs is the famous hot spring located at an altitude of 12000 feet in the North Sikkim. To reach at this place one has to cross a few hundred metres off the road and cross a bridge. At this place a small hut is situated where the hot water is collected in a pool, where one can take a dip.

Waterfalls in Sikkim
The verdant green landscape of Sikkim is broken by the waterfalls that leap out of the hillsides in the valley. Most of these waterfalls

Pehling Waterfalls Sikkim

are perennial, fed by the spring water and snows which melt on the mountains. These waterfalls can be found almost all over the Sikkim but some of the waterfalls are found in the North Sikkim specially on the road between Mangan and Lachung as well as in the Dzongu area.

 
 

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