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as we saw and understood it

Theory of Settlements Bhavika Aggarwal A/2004/2008 N. Navneethakrishnan A/2005/2008 B.Arch. IIIrd Year Section A



Sikkim •Not much is known about Sikkim's ancient history. The earliest recorded is the passage of the Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Sikkim, in the 8th century. •There are numerous stories regarding establishment of the Sikkimese monarchy. Phuntsog Namgyal was consecrated as the first Chogyal (king) of Sikkim in 1642. •The oldest capital of Sikkim at Yuksom and the second one at Rabdentse were subject to constant attack by the Nepalese. Being related to the Kings of Bhutan, the king shifted the capital further east to Tumlong and then later to Gangtok in 1894.

The City

Location •Gangtok is located at 27.33°N 88.62°E. It is situated in the lower Himalayas at an altitude of 5,500 ft (1,676 m). •Gangtok literally means a hillock cut out to make flat land. A piece of such flat land was used to build the Gangtok Monastery as early as 1716.

From a map published in 1929 under the direction of the SurveyorGeneral of India, Brigadier R.H. Thomas, D.S.O.


Pilgrimage •Like the rest of Sikkim, not much is known about the early history of Gangtok. by Bhavika Aggarwal

•With the advent of Buddhism there were monasteries in nearly every village. The earliest records date from the construction of the hermitic Gangtok monastery in 1716. •Gangtok remained a small hamlet until the construction of a gompa, possibly in 1840, made it major a pilgrimage centre, though it was still a village. The Enchey Monastery was built on the same site in 1909.

Enchey Monastery


Trade •After the defeat of the Tibetans by the British at the end of the 19th century, Gangtok became a major stopover in the trade route between Tibet and British India. •It’s on the way to Nathu La, part of the old silk route. This was acknowledged and an agreement was signed by the Monarchy of Sikkim and the rulers of Tibet to increase trade between them. Historical Map of Sikkim extracted from map prepared by Trelawney Saunders, 1876, titled ‘The routes of Bogle, Turner and Manning between Bengal and Tibet’


Capital •Gangtok lay on the old silk route and was far enough from the Nepalese aggression. Hence it presented itself as an ideal location for a capital. •It also had a larger area which could have been expanded into.

Palace Monastery often referred to as the Tsuglakhang - the temple connected with the Royal Palace

The City

Development •When the capital shifted to Gangtok in 1894, the latter was just a village surrounded by hamlets such as Dambikyong, Lingding, Samatar, Suchagang, Burtuk, Syari and Tadong. •The increase immigration.





Approach road to Lal Bazaar, 1948


•Urban development in Gangtok thus probably started in the beginning of the 19th century.

MG Marg

The City

Geography •The town lies on the western side of a hill called ‘the Ridge’, as in many other hill stations (eg. Shimla). • This is very obviously an attempt to maximise on the evening sunlight. Otherwise, the eastern face of the ridge falls into shadow by early afternoon and the temperatures plummet in the winters. •The city is flanked on east and west by two streams, namely Roro Chu and Ranikhola, respectively dividing the natural drainage into two parts, the eastern and western parts.

from a Gangtok tourism booklet

The City

Ridge Road The Ridge Road leading to the palace was earlier the main commercial hub of Sikkim. Old photographs of Gangtok show that shops lined both sides of the road, especially near the White Memorial Hall.

Enchey Monastery Raj Bhavan



White Hall Assembly Hall

MG Marg The commercial hub of Gangtok. The Old and New Bazaars where the shopping centres, hardware shops, restaurants, hotels, cyber cafes, video parlours and banks are locatedare situated on MG Marg.

Lal Bazaar landmark built in the 1950’s so that the villagers could sell their products at the local fair usually held on Sundays. Synonymous with the vegetable market in Gangtok.

Ropeway joining the Secretariat and Assembly Halls

NH31A National Highway from Siliguri. Also has many shops and restaurants.

Eastward to Nathula

To North Sikkim

The Palace Ropeway

White Hall

MG Marg New Market

Lal Market

Sothward to Siliguri from a Gangtok tourism booklet


MG Marg •The main thoroughfare of Gangtok, it is slightly less than a kilometre in length and is lined with shops, hotels, eateries . •It is well maintained with kota stone paving, decorative planters, fountains and lighting. •Closed to traffic and extremely pedestrian friendly. Later at New Market divides into two: one pedestrian and one vehicular path. all photos by Bhavika Aggarwal


Lal Bazaar

•Parallel and lower to MG Marg. •Is the more informal market.

from ‘Images of Sikkim’, Rigsum Productions, 1983


Character •Economic activity in Gangtok picked up only after Sikkim became an Indian State. •Hence most of the construction in Gangtok is concrete, and almost as chaotic and unplanned as any typical Indian town. • Nevertheless, the development in Gangtok is significantly more sensitive as even the concrete constructions are maintained to a standard.

•A lot of effort has been put into maintaining the infrastructure and beautification of main Gangtok.


Character •Most of the roads in Gangtok follow a zigzag pattern of either winding up or down the slope. •As a result all the buildings are located along these roads and zigzag up or down the slopes with the road. •The buildings of the town are constructed on artificially compacted ground at the side of the roads.

•As in many hill towns, the construction in Gangtok is almost completely multi storied.

by Bhavika Aggarwal


Problems •There is slowly an increasing lack of space as several of the new constructions are even lower on the western face of the ridge and further from the original foci of MG Marg and New Market. •The rapid pace of construction and expansion is causing damage to local ecology and wildlife. •There is an increase in the number of vehicles which is causing strain on the infrastructure.

by Bhavika Aggarwal

Bibliography Websites • • • • :// • Tourist Literature • Sikkim Pocket Guide, Milestones • Sikkim in a nutshell, Milestones Metroprints • Sikkim… the land of peace and tranquility, Department of Tourism, Government of Sikkim

Books • Images of Sikkim, Rigsum Productions, 1983. Photographed by Rajesh Bedi, written by Ramesh Sharma • The Gates of Thibet, Vivek Publushing House, late 19th century. By J.A.H. Louis.

by Bhavika Aggarwal


Settlement study by Bhavika Aggarwal and N. Navneethakrishnan. Theory of Settlements holiday homework.