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People & Culture

Communities of Sikkim

Communities, Cultures, Religions and Customs of different hues intermingle freely here in Sikkim to constitute a homogeneous blend. The predominant communities are the LEPCHAS, BHUTIAS and NEPALESE. In urban areas, many plainsmen have also settled and they are almost engaged in business and Government service. Because of the development activities in the state, like the construction of roads, bridges and buildings a small part of the population consists of migrant laborers from the plains and Nepal.

The Lepchas

Lepcha

The Lepchas said to be aborigins of Sikkim are of mongoloid descent. There are different theories regarding the origins of Lepchas.The most widely accepted theory relating to their origin is that the Lepchas are originated from Sino- tar Platue of Burma.The major concentration of Lepchas can be found in Dzongu in north district and Dikchu in east Sikkim, Rinchenpong in west sikkim and several other parts.In order to preserve this fast vanishing tribe, the chogyal had declared Dzongu as a Lepcha reserve. Non Lepchas were thus barred settling there.Before adopting Buddhism or christianity as their religion, the earliest Lepcha settlers were believers in the bon faith or mune faith, which is based on spirits,witch- craftry, exorcism and nature worshiping. Hence, Lepchas, are shy and quiet in nature, prefer living in complete harmony with nature and its natural surroundings.One of the important deity of the Lepchas, Tamsangthing is said to have invented the rich Lepcha script.

Life in a Lepcha dwelling is very simple. The male Lepcha wears a dress called a “pagi” made of cotton, which is stripped. The female Lepcha wear a two piece dress. The Lepchas speak the language lepcha, although this language is not very well developed but is rich in vocabulary related to the flora & fauna of Sikkim. Lepchas are very good at archery. The polyandry marriages are permitted amongst the Lepchas.

The Bhutias

Bhutia

The Bhutias are believed to have originally come from the Kham area of Tibet, by following prince Khey Bhumsa.They are evenly distributed throughout the state of Sikkim. In northern Sikkim where they are the major inhabitants, they are known as the Lachenpas and Lachungpas and they inhabit the areas around Lachen and Lachung respectively having their own traditional legal system known as ‘Zumsa’ and with its legal head ‘pipon’. The Bhutia aristocrats are known as the Kazis. The Language spoken by the Bhutia is Sikkimese which is in fact a dialect of Tibetan language and has the same script as Tibetans. They love festivities, songs and music and have an impressive tradition handloom and handicrafts..

The traditional dress of the male member is known as the “Bakhu” which is a loose cloak type garment with full sleeves. The ladies dress consists of a silken “Honju” which is a full sleeve blouse and a loose gown type garment. The ladies are very fond of heavy jewelry made of pure gold.

The Nepalese

Nepali

The Nepalis now constitute more than 80% of the total population of Sikkim considerably out numbering the Lepchas and the Bhutias. The majority community of Nepalis began coming to Sikkim somewhere in 1860s with the then ruler of Sikkim granting a lease in Sikkim to some Nepali traders. Due to their adjusting nature and hard work, the Nepali setters introduced the terraced system of cultivation and this brought large tracts of hilly terrain to yield crops productivity. Major sub-cultural stocks of the Nepalese are the Kiratis who along with the Lepchas are said to be the aborigines of Sikkim. Some of the major Nepali social groups are Limboo, Tamang, Gurung, Newar, Mangar, Sunwar etc. The language spoken by the Nepalis are Nepali and have the devanagri script. The Nepali language is also used as the common language spoken for interaction by every community. Majority of the Nepalis are devout Hindus. They have fabulous art, cultural traditions, folk lores, legends, rituals, believes and practices.