Gangtok is a municipality, the capital and the largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. It also is the headquarters of the East Sikkim district. Gangtok is located in the eastern Himalayan range, at an elevation of 1,650 m (5,410 ft). The town′s population of 100,000 belongs to different ethnicities such as Nepali, Lepchas and Bhutia. Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim′s tourism industry. Gangtok rose to prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840. In 1894, the ruling Sikkimese Chogyal, Thutob Namgyal, transferred the capital to Gangtok. In the early 20th century, Gangtok became a major stopover on the trade route between Lhasa in Tibet and cities such as Kolkata (then Calcutta) in British India. After India won its independence from Britain in 1947, Sikkim chose to remain an independent monarchy, with Gangtok as its capital. In 1975, after the integration with the union of India, Gangtok was made India′s 22nd state capital. The precise meaning of the name Gangtok is unclear, though the most popular meaning is ″hill top″ Today, Gangtok is a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with the presence of several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and centres for Tibetology. Gangtok is situated in the lower Himalayas at an elevation of 1,650 m (5,410 ft).The town lies on one side of a hill, with ″The Ridge″, a promenade housing the Raj Bhawan, the governor′s residence, at one end and the palace, situated at an altitude of about 1,800 m (5,900 ft), at the other. The city is flanked on east and west by two streams, namely Roro Chu and Ranikhola, respectively.These two rivers divide the natural drainage into two parts, the eastern and western parts. Both the streams meet the Ranipul and flow south as the main Ranikhola before it joins the Teesta at Singtam. Most of the roads are steep, with the buildings built on compacted ground alongside them. There are densely forested regions around Gangtok, consisting of temperate, deciduous forests of poplar, birch, oak, and elm, as well as evergreen, coniferous trees of the wet alpine zone. Orchids are common, and rare varieties of orchids are featured in flower shows in the city. Bamboos are also abundant. In the lower reaches of the town, the vegetation gradually changes from alpine to temperate deciduous and subtropical. Flowers such as sunflower, marigold, poinsettia, and others bloom, especially in November and December. The nearest railhead connected to the rest of India is the station of New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, situated 124 km (77 mi) away from Gangtok. Work has commenced for a broad gauge railway link from Sevoke in West Bengal to Rangpo in Sikkim that is planned for extension to Gangtok. The closest airport is Bagdogra Airport, in Siliguri, 16 km (10 mi) from Siliguri Town. Gangtok is linked to Bagdogra airport by a daily helicopter service that operates only once a day and carries four passengers. Pakyong Airport, a greenfield airport, southeast of Gangtok.
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