PEOPLE OF SIKKIM

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» Sikkim
Location: Sikkim.
Original Inhabitants: Lepchas
Major Tribes: Lepchas, Bhutias, Nepalese


Lepcha ManCommunities, 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 labourers from the plains and Nepal.

THE LEPCHAS

The original inhabitants of Sikkim are said to be Lepchas. They existed much before the Bhutias and Nepalese migrated to the state. Before adopting Buddhism or Christianity as their religion, the earliest Lepcha settlers were believers in the Bone faith or "Mune" faith. This faith was basically based on spirits, good and bad.

Social Structure
They worshipped spirits of mountains, rivers and forests, which was but natural for a tribe that co-existed so harmoniously with the rich natural surroundings. The Lepcha ("Zongu") folklore is rich with stories. The Lepcha population is concentrated in the central part of the Sikkim. This is the area that encompasses the confluence of Lachen and Lachung Rivers and Dickchu.

Lifestyles
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 also very good at archery. The polyandry marriages are permitted amongst the Lepchas.

THE BHUTIAS

These are the people of Tibetan origin. They migrated to Sikkim perhaps somewhere after the15th century through the state of Sikkim. In Northern Sikkim, where they are the major inhabitants, they are known as the "Lachenpas" and "Lachungpas". The language spoken by the Bhutias is Sikkimese . Bhutia villages are as large as those compared to those of Lepchas. A Bhutia house called "Khin" is usually of rectangular shape.

Costumes
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

The Nepalese appeared on the Sikkim scene much after the Lepchas & Bhutias. They migrated in large numbers and soon became the dominant community. The Nepalese now constitute more than 80 % of the total population.

Social Structure
The Nepali settlers introduced the terraced system of cultivation. Cardamom was an important cash crop introduced by the Nepalis'. Except for the Sherpas & Tamangs who are Buddhists, the Nepalis' are orthodox Hindus with the usual cast system. The Nepali language is spoken and understood all over the state. This language is similar to Hindi and uses the "Devangri" script.

Costumes Sikkimese Woman, Sikkim
The traditional male Nepali dress consists of long double breast garment flowing below the waist and a trouser known as "Daura Suruwal". The female dress consist of a double breasted garment with strings to tie on both the sides at four places, which is shorter than the Daura and is known as "Chow Bandi Choli". They also wear a shawl known as "Majetro". The "Khukri" which has become a synonym to the Nepali (Gurkha) culture, is a very sharp edged, angled, heavy weapon carried in a wooden or leather scabbard known as "Daab".

CULTURE

The people of Sikkim are warm, simple and friendly with a nature gaiety.

The customs and rituals of Sikkim are as diverse as the ethnic that inhabit the land; the Lepchas -- essentially children of the forest, the Bhutias and the Nepalese.

People of Sikkim love to celebrate. Be it the chasing away of the evil spirit or the celebrations on the occasion of the New Year, the Sikkimese do it all with a gay abandon. And if one is fortunate, one could persuade the Sikkimese to offer 'Chang' - a preparation from fermented millet. The drink is served in bamboo containers with a hollow Bamboo Pipe.
The Sikkimese culture finds expression in it's beautiful arts and crafts. Carry back a vacation memento - be it an intricately carved piece of furniture (Choktse), a highly embellished carpet or an artifact of woven bamboo.



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