Sikkim is a land of
dramatic contours. Rugged mountains, deep valleys and dense forests consort with
raging rivers, lakes and waterfalls to create a visual feast. The state has the
steepest rise in altitude over the shortest distance and has within its 7,096
sq. kms the entire climatic range, from tropical to temperate to alpine.
The mountain chains which run southwards from the main Himalayan
range form the natural boundaries of Sikkim; the Chola range dividing it from
Tibet in the Northeast and Bhutan in the Southeast, the Singalila range
separating it from Nepal in the West with the Greater Himalayan range forming
the barrier between Sikkim and Tibet in the North.
Located between these towering mountain ranges are passes like
Nathu-la, Jelep-la, Cho-la and many others which were at one time important
corridors of passage between Sikkim and Tibet.
Floating high over the cloud-covered lower Himalaya, Mt.
Khangchendzonga dominates the landscape of Sikkim. At 28, 208 ft is the third
highest mountain in the world and the highest in India.
Sikkim has two main rivers, the Teesta and the Rangeet, both of
which are formed at high altitudes and flow in a generally southern direction
till they converge at the confluence near Melli. The source of the Teesta is the
pristine Cho Lhamu Lake in North Sikkim. From here the river travels downwards
to meet Zemu Chu just above Lachen village and the Lhachung Chu at Chungthang.
At Mangan, the river is joined by the Talung Chu as it continues its journey
down, finally widening at Singtam to become double its width. Further down at
Melli, the Teesta merges with the river Rangeet which is born of the Rathong
glacier in West Sikkim before entering the plains of North Bengal and eventually
joining Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.