SIKKIM The People- Their Customs and Traditions

Communities, Cultures, religions and customs of different hues intermingle freely here in Sikkim to constitute a homogeneous blend. Hindu temples coexist with Buddhist monasteries and there are even a few Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Sikh Gurdwaras. The 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 laborers from the plains and Nepal. There are also a few thousand Tibetan Refugees settled in Sikkim. There are fourteen different groups inhabiting in Sikkim. The ethno-historic characteristics of the various population groups represented in Sikkim are as follows

The Lepchas

Lepcha Dance

The original inhabitants of Sikkim are the Lepchas means the "Ravine folk". They existed here much before the Bhutias and Nepalis migrated to the State. The Lepchas are about 13 percent of the total population and are one of the scheduled tribes. They are of indigenous origin since they have no recorded history of migration. Buddhism was accepted as a religion by most of the Lepchas. Whereas the Lepchas formerly subsisted upon hunting and shifting cultivation in the dense forests, where they constructed, are now mainly landowners or workers on the land. The Lepcha population is concentrated in the central part of Sikkim. This is the area that encompasses the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers and Dickchu. The language of the Lepchas belongs to the Himalayan group of the Tibeto-Chinese language family.

The Bhutias

Bhutia Dance

The Bhutias are of Tibetan origin. There are about 14 percent of the total population and are also a Scheduled Tribe. Most of them now a day are farmers, but some of them are still herdsmen and breeders of sheep and yaks. Their religion is Buddhism and their language belongs to the Bhutia group of the Tibeto-Chinese language family. The Bhutias, who took refuge in Sikkim after the schism in 15th and 16th century, are now spread out in all the districts of Sikkim.

The Nepalis

Limboo Dance

They migrated from Nepal in large numbers from the middle of the nineteenth century and soon became the dominant community considerably outnumbering the Lepchas and the Bhutias. The Nepalis now constitute more than 80 percent of the total population of Sikkim. They are mainly consisting of Bhauns, Chettris, Limbus, Rais, Tamangs, and Mangars. The victory of British India in the Anglo Nepal war in early nineteenth century resulted in the cessation of hostilities between Nepal and India. Peace prevailed thereafter and the Britishers impressed by the warlike qualities of the Nepalis inducted them in large number in to the British army. Nepalis were permitted to settle in large numbers in British India specially the hilly tracts. Darjeeling was annexed from Sikkim to British India in 1861 and subsequently European manpower to grow tea. The growing British influence had its implications in the context of migration of Nepalis to Sikkim. But it was somewhere in the 1860s that the than ruler of Sikkim granted a lease in Sikkim in Sikkim to some Nepali traders. These traders immediately got to task of exploiting the agriculture wealth to Sikkim with the help of Nepalis belonging to the agrarian class who settled her freely. The Nepalis settlers introduced the terraced system of cultivation and this brought large tracts of hilly terrain to yield crops productivity. Cardamom was an important cash crop introduced by the Nepalis and this brought good revenue. The language spoken by Nepalis is understood all over by the state. This language is similar to Hindi and uses the Devangri script

Naumati Baza : Nine instrumental music

Newari Dance

Tamang Selo (Dance)

Tamu Dance (Gurung) (Dance)

Source: Rajesh Verma- Sikkim Guide Book.
Picture: Sikkim Today, IPR Govt. of Sikkim