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Culture of Sikkim
Culture of Sikkim
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 folk. Like most hill-tribes, the Sikkimese
are thus far relatively untouched by consumerism. Cliched though it may sound,
the Sikkimese truly exemplify how different communities can exemplify how
different communities can coexist in peace and mutual.
The Sikkimese can be broadly classified into the Lephcas, the Bhutias, the Nepalese
and the plainsmen (mostly businessmen from elsewhere in India). Communities,
cultures, religions and Customs of different hues intermingle freely here in
Sikkim to constitute a homogeneous blend. Hindu temples co- exist with Buddhist
monasteries and there are even a few Christian churches, Muslim mosques and
Sikh "Gurdwara". Although the Buddhists with monasteries all over
the state are the most conspicuous religious group, they are in fact a minority
constituting only 28% of the population. The majority, 68% profess Hinduism.
predominant communities are the Lepchas, Bhutias and the Nepalis. In urban areas
many plainsmen- Marwaris, Biharis, Bengalis, South Indians, Punjabis- have also
settled and they are mostly engaged in business and government service. Because
of development and construction activities in the state, a small part of the
population consists of migrant labourers from the plains and from Nepal: plumbers,
masons and carpenters from Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal and Sherpas who are
hired by the army to maintain the roads at high altitudes. There are also a
few thousand Tibetan Refugees settled in Sikkim. Cultural and economic forces
are reshaping the way of life of the Sikkimese. This can be seen by taking a
walk down the M.G. Marg of Gangtok, boys and girls sporting the latest fashions
probably picked up from a new Hindi movie or BBC s Clothes Show gaily tromp
up and down. An open Jeep carrying jubilant footballers who have won a match
passes by -they are singing Daler Mehndi's popular Punjabi song "Bol Ta
Ra Ra" at the top of their voices. The cable TV is definitely attempting
to remould the cultural landscape of Sikkim. You should not be Surprised if
you come across a village girl some- where in the wilderness dressed in a Punjabi
Kurta Pajama singing a Hindi number "Didi tera dewar diwana " while
tending to her herd of cattle. Inspite of such powerful external influences,
Sikkimese have proved to be resilient accepting the benefits of progress while
retaining their ethnic identity.
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. 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.
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. The Nepali
settlers introduced the terraced system of cultivation. Cardamom was an important
cash crop introduced by the Nepalese.
THE BHUTIAS :
They are the people of Tibetan origin. They migrated to Sikkim perhaps somewhere
after the fifteenth 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.