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The Ethnic People of Sikkim
Their life-styles and Their Cultures
A Sikkimese Nepali girl in her traditional dress and orgnament
There is a history of harmony and good relationship among the three cultural groups of this beautiful State Sikkim, the Bhutias, the Lepchas and the Nepalese. The treaty of Kabilungchok and the communal harmony maintained by the people during the regime of the erstwhile kings of the former kingdom are the true testimony to this fact. This relationship and harmony have remained as a traditional custom till today. The inhabitants of Sikkim, the Bhutias, the Lepchas and the Nepalese have their interesting characteristic features like varieties of flowers in a single beautiful garland .
While the Lepchas of Sikkim have their own food habits, attire, language, script, culture and traditions, the Bhutias too have their own culture, rituals and traditions. All the Lepcha males wear Gadas and tie Patang, a kind of weapon on their waist and they also put a typical kind of cap specially made of bamboo. Similarly the women put on their own kind of dress and beautiful ornaments. They also sing folk songs in a very melodious rhythm. They sing about the nature’s beauty, the Kanchendzonga, the Himalayas, the lakes and the water falls.
The Bhutia people wear Bakhus, Hongus etc. Married women tie a stripped cloth around their waist called Pangden signifying their marital status. On special occasions, they use a scarf called Khada, which has become common feature in the Sikkimese society and culture today. Even then, the Nepalese of Sikkim use use garlands made of marigold and other flowers during festival and other social functions.
Lepcha people of Sikkim
Although there are many castes among the Nepali community, namely the Bahuns, the Chettris, the Newars, the Rais, the Limboos, the Tamangs, the Gurungs, the Mangars, the Sunuwars, the Kamis, the Damais etc. , they are but united and socially fabricated like different flowers of a beautiful garden and they live in complete harmony. One can find various traditions, culture and rituals within this community but Dasai, Tihar and other important festivals are commonly observed by most of them. The Naumati baja, the Pancha baja, Turahi, Sarangi, Madal, Binayo, Marchunga, Dhol, Jyamta etc. are the main musical instrument of the ethnic Nepalese of Sikkim. Similarly, the Dhan Nach and the Cyabrung Nach of the Limboos, the Damphu Nach of the Tamangs, the Saylo, Sangini, Maruni, Balan are the famous traditional dances. On the other hand the Nepalese women wear beautiful ornaments like Kantha Haar, Dhungri- Mundri, Bulakhi, Naugeri, Tilahari, Chandra Haar, Gadawari, Marawari, Sikri, Kalli etc.
The Nepalese men wear Daura, Suruwal Dhakatopi , during special occasions. Dhami, Jyakris, Pandit and Mangpa or Bijuwas and Pheydangba are the traditional religious heads of the ethnic Nepalese. The old aged superstitious practices and belief however have been eroding since there is modernisation and reformation taking place side by side in the customs and traditions with the change of time.
Photo: Tamang girls of Sikkim
The main festivals celebrated by the Nepalese community are Dasai, Tihar, Maghey Sankranti etc. There is a custom of playing Deosi and Bhaileyni in Tihar. In Dasai there is a custom of putting tika and receiving blessing from the elders in the family. Among the Rai community there is a custom of performing religious rituals like Udhyouli and Ubhyouli or Sakewa Pujas which is non other than the puja of nature. The Tamang perform their rituals in the Gumpas and the Pandits offer their rituals in the temples. Among the different festivals, Panglhabsol is one of the main festival of Sikkim. On the occasion of Panglhabsol Mt. Kanchendzonga is worshipped by the people as a Guardian Deity of Sikkim. Likewise Saga Dawa, Losoong, Namsoong, Labab Duchen, Kagyat dance, Yuma- Sam-Manghim, Tendong-lho-Rum- Fat etc. are also celebrated in Sikkim.
Sikkim is a tiny himalayan state of India where a multi-ethnic people live in complete harmony despite their diversity in custom, religion, language and other aspects of life, however, majority of them speak in Nepali since this is the lingua franca of the state. The SDF Government led by Dr. Pawan Chamling has taken various remarkable and pioneering steps to preserve the culture and heritage of the state.