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The Lepcha People of Sikkim-
Their Culture and Tradition
picture: The Lepcha girls in their traditional dresses
The Lepchas are the indigenous people of Sikkim. They are very simple, gentle and nature loving. The densely populated place of Lepcha in Sikkim is Dzongu in North District. According to Lepcha legend and their folk song, Mt. Kanchejunga was like the buck tooth of a Must deer, when the bamboo was created, the ancient Lepchas witnessed the creation of the ancient times. The Lepcha people witnessed the days of Ajor Bongthing, Tahey Takbothing, Tarvey Punu, Tarsong Punu, Salong Punu and Thikung Adit, all the ancient and legendary personalities who guided them in their difficult hours.
However, the dark period of Lepcha began and they suffered a major setback due to various circumstances in the past periods. As a result, their language and race were on the verge of extinction. However, by the blessing of Mount Kanchejunga, democracy ushered in Sikkim and their language was develoved and recognized in erstwhile Mayel Lyang.
Renjyong Mutaanchi Rong Tarjum (RMRT) or All Sikkim Lepcha Association is now formed to protect and revive the culture, tradition and language of Sikkim through various social activities. According to T.T. Lepcha, Publicity Secretary of RMRT, the most significant festival and cultural activities of Lepcha people are (1) Sugi-Lyot_Rum-Faat. The occasion is celebrated by the Lepchas at Kabi Long Tsok in North Sikkim. This celebration signifies the love of nature and its environment, the Lepchas that day worship the nature. (2) Mukjuk Ding Rumfaat: The worship of Itbu Rum or creator by the Lepchas seeking blessing for suitabale ecological or evironmental atmosphere on earth. (3) Punu Mun Solong Saknom Suknyim: The remembrance of last king of Mayel Maluk Lyang.(4) Tendong Lho Rumfaat: The worship of Mt. Tednong on its role as protector of mankind during the great deluge and creation of Rongnyu and Rungnyit (River Teesta and Rangeet). (5) Dushi Munlom: The Prayer day for prosperity. (6) Sugi Lyot: The worship of Lupon Rum(mentor) of Mun and Boonghthing. (7) Mardhik Suknyim:Martyr’s Day (8) Laos Moong Typ Maar Lavo Tyangrigon Sonap: The victory day of good over evil. The day Laomoong Punu was slained by the Lepchas led by Ajor Boongthing and lastly (9) Namsoong: The Lepcha new year.
Among these nine occasions, Namsoong and Tendong Lhorum Faat are celebrated in Sikkim in a grand manner.Tendong Lho Rum Faat is declared as State holiday.
Lepcha people consider Tendong Lho Rum Faat an indigenous festival having historical significance. Indeed, it has always been one of the oldest traditional festivals of the Lepchas of Sikkim. Most of the hills, rivers, valley and ravines of Sikkim are named by Lepchas. Regarding the
Lepcha people consider Tendong Lho Rum Faat an indigenous festival having historical significance. Indeed, it has always been one of the oldest traditional festivals of the Lepchas of Sikkim. Most of the hills, rivers, valley and ravines of Sikkim are named by Lepchas. Regarding the celebration of Tendong Hlo Rum Faat, Lepcha folklore describes the time when the Himalayas was in its infancy and the rivers Teesta and Rangit were yet to begin their respective journeys downwards from their sources, i.e. Naho and Nahor lakes. In the wake of a heavy earthquake which damaged the said lakes, the legends mentions the fact that the Pribu (King Serpent) and TUTFO guided the tow new rivers upto their confluence at POZOK (now Peshok). Unfortunately, the rivers (Teesta and Rangit) flooded the entire Mayel Lyang (the then Sikkim). The legend further describes that a KOHOMFO (Partridge bird) appeared there and offered its prayer with MONG CHEEBEP ( the brewed millet) and another earthquake shook the whole earth creating several high mountains around the northern zone of Mayel Lyang which forced the flood water to flow southwards thus saving the Lepcha from the great deluge.
Since that time, the Lepcha people began to worship the Mt. Tendong, the hill and thus observation of Tendong Hlo Rum Faat became their annual feature of traditional festival. Likewise, Namsoong is another important and indigenous festival of the Lepchas. Chungung Lepcha in his article Namsoong: Indigenous Festival of The Lepchas, writes : Sometime at the end of the eleventh month Rao Lavo according to Dungtit Karchu or Lepcha Calendar, the view of cherry blossom, i..e. Konki Bur, are seen everywhere, which indicate the arrival of the Lepcha Namsoong. It is celebrated as a mark of welcoming the new year, which begins from the first day of the first month(Kurnyit Lavo) of the year, and continues for seven days. It is celebrated all over Sikkim, Darjeeling district, Illam of Nepal and some parts of Bhutan.
Traditionally, a couple of minutes before the beginning of a new year, Bongthing and Mun perform rituals by offering Chi Fut (alcoholic beverages) and at midnight the effigy of the demon king Laso Mung Punu is burnt. This process of celebration is called Laso Muntgyut Maarlavo. Tyangong Sonap in Lepcha.