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People, Custom and Culture of Sikkim

The people of Sikkim are warm, simple and friendly with a nature gaiety. In general they are known as Sikkimese. But Sikkim is a state of diverse communities, cultures, religions and customs. Sikkim has a good mechanism of living harmony in between people of the states.  It is a good example of Indian “Unity in Diversity”. There are three main communities in Sikkim – Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepaliese.

Many people are migrated to Sikkim, from overall India (likely Marwaris, Biharis, Bengalis, South Indians, Punjabis etc) and Nepal. They are mainly settled on the municipal areas of Sikkim, owing to their businesses and Government services. The developmental activities in Sikkim like construction of roads, bridges, buildings etc, have informally invited migrant laborers from the plains and Nepal. A few thousand Tibetan Refugees are there who settled well in Sikkim.

It is traditionally accepted that the Lepchas are the autochthonous tribe of Sikkim. After them came the Bhutias, from Tibet, followed by the Nepalese and finally the Indian business community from the plains. However, before one goes into the ethnic composition of Sikkim, it needs to be said that the Sikkimese, irrespective of the tribe, class or community they belong to, are essentially simple folks. Like most hill tribes, the Sikkimese are thus far relatively untouched by consumerism. Clinched though it may sound, the Sikkimese truly exemplify how different communities can coexist in peace and mutual understanding.

Over the years modernization has had its impact and brought changes even then Sikkimese People have been successful in preserving its age old Traditions, Customs and Cultures.

The Lepchas were said to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim . The word "Lepcha" means the ravine folk. They believed in the bone faith or mune faith based on the spirits, good and bad. They worship spirits of mountains, rivers and forests like any other tribes. Perhaps, this could be the reason why these people prefer to live in the healthy natural world. The Lepcha (Zongu) folklore is rich with stories. Now a days they are mainly adopting Buddhism or Christianity. Near about 10 to 14 percent of population of Sikkim belong to this communities. The Lepchas are  mainly concentrated in the central part of Sikkim.

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.

Lifestyle of Lepcha:
The Lepchas have a very simple lifestyle. They are very intelligent and hospitable in there nature. They are peace-loving people who avoid quarrels. They love sports and are basically very good at archery. The polyandry marriages are permitted amongst the Lepchas. They mostly live by business and on agriculture of paddy, cardamom and oranges.

They build a house known as "li". It has a rectangular shape and have 4 to 5 feet height, made by wood or bamboo. A traditionally dressed Lepcha male wear half pajamas, under a robe made of striped cotton resembling a loose jacket- the whole ensemble is called a "pagi".. The Lepcha lady wears a two - piece dress -a full sleeved blouse called "tago" and a skirt called "domdyan".

The Bhutias originally belongs to the Tibetan origin. After the 15th century, these people migrated to Sikkim. Mainly they are settled on the northern part of Sikkim, and are known as the Lachenpas and Lachungpas. The Bhutias speak 'Sikkimese' language, dialect of the Tibetan language. If compared with the Lepchas, the Bhutias are dominating large number of villages.

Lifestyle of Bhutias:
A Bhutia house called "Khim" is usually of rectangular shape. 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. Sikkim has its religion incorporated with Bhutias. Constituting around 16% of the total population of Sikkim, Bhutias regard priesthood as their academic as well as spiritual choice. The marriage in a Bhutia family is also arranged through negotiations. Before the marriage, the boy's uncle goes to the girl's house with gifts to ask for the hand in marriage for his nephew.

Bhutias usually take rice with animal fat fried vegetables or meat. The other foods are “Momo”(Dumplings) and Thukpa (Noodles). “Zhero” and “Khabzay” are beautiful salty tusks prepared from flour during the festivals like Losar/Loosong (Buddhist New Year)

The Nepalese appeared in Sikkim after the Lepchas & Bhutias. They migrated in large numbers and soon became the dominant community. In the present day, the Nepalese constitute 70% of the total population of Sikkim. They introduce commenced terrace farming in the state. Cardamom is an important cash crop that was cultivated by the Nepalese. Except for the Sherpas & Tamangs who are Buddhists, the Nepalis' are orthodox Hindus with the usual cast system and tribes like Bahuns (Brahmans), Chettris, Gurungs, Tamangs, Rais, Limbus, Magars, Damais, Kamis etc.

These people commonly speak Nepali language that is similar to Hindi and is understood throughout the state of Sikkim.

Lifestyle of Nepalese:
The Nepalese are spread throughout the state. Their style of living is comparatively much economical. Their dresses and diets are simple. They are good farmers and businessmen. Also, they are ahead in education which enables them to get jobs in the Government.

The traditional Nepali dress for males comprises a long double breasted garment flowing below the waist along with a trouser known as 'Daura Suruwal'. The traditional dress for females comprises of a double breasted garment known as 'Chow Bandi Choli'. The shawl wore by them is known as 'Majetro'.

Male are fond of a triditional weapon called 'Khukri' which is a heavy weapon that is carried in a wooden or leather case known as "Daab".

Sikkim is rich in its festivities due to homogenous blend of different Religion, Custom and Tradition. Almost one to two festivals are celebrated every two to three month period with great enthusiasm and grace. Many unique and colorful festivals of different tribes are celebrated with fresh vigour and zeal. 

Trungkar Tsechu and Pang Lhabsol are two of the most Important and significant buddhist festival in Sikkim. Trungkar Tsechu marks the birth anniversary of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) and Pang Lhabsol is held in honor of Guru Rimpoche and other for protecting diety Kanchendzonga. 

Many other festivals such as Bumchu, Saga Dawa, Maghey Sankrati, Dasai, Dewali, Kagyed Dance, Losar, Losoong, Lochar, Lhabab Duechen are celebrated throughout the state of Sikkim. 

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