The well-documented history of Sikkim starts in in 8th century A.D when Buddhism flourished there as a result of the coming of Guru Rinpoche (Buddhist Saint). After that it was a prominent Tibetan Kingdom. Sikkim monarchy came into existence in 1642. Sikkim became an ally of Britain during the British rule of India. And it became a state of India only in 1975.
The predominance of Nepali culture does not mean Sikkim is a lesser Indian. On the contrary, it forms a major part in the diversity of India. The migration of Tibetans and Nepalese from their motherland in the past had laid the foundation of Sikkim’s Culture. The culture of Sikkim is one of a kind amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism. Sikkim is home to many indigenous tribes. Apart from diversity in culture, Sikkim also has a huge diversity of flora and fauna.
Sikkim’s Travel Attractions like Bakthang Waterfalls, Ban Jhakri Falls, Borong Ralong Hot Spring, Aritar Lake and Buddhist Monasteries have made it a hot spot for travelers who want to explore mountains and valleys.
Sikkim Festival Tours are very popular amongst foreign tourists because in these tours they get a chance to know about the cultural of Sikkim. There are many Pilgrimages in Sikkim like Samdruptse, Solophok Chardham, Namchi Monastery, Kewzing Monastery, Dalling Monastery, etc. that attract many pilgrims from all around the world.
Art & Crafts
Wooden Carvings, Woolen Carpets, Thangka Painting and Handlooms are few types of Art and Crafts of Sikkim.
The Pemayangtse Monastery in the West Sikkim district is widely renowned for its Hevajra art, a painting particular to the state of Sikkim. This art mainly represents Shakti. This art form commemorates the popular deity, Hevajra, belonging to the class of Yi-dam (tutelary). The conversion of Khubilai, the Mongolian emperor to Tibetan Buddhism which took place in Thirteenth century A.D. lies at the core of this art form. This very event is associated to the Hevajra Tantra, the sutra of which is used to describe Hevajra in compliance to the rites and ceremonies associated to him.
The woolen carpets are one of those offerings which are liked the most by the tourists visiting Sikkim. This ancient form of craft has created some of the most exquisite carpets with the help of multiple coloured wool. Usually depicting hills blanketed by sheets of snow or valleys patterned in rows and columns of variegated flowers, these carpets are really a treat to the eyes. Besides floral motifs which recur, the carpets exhibit style borrowed from geometry and Buddhist Iconography. For the smooth carrying over of this craft to the coming generations, many institutes have been opened that are run privately to teach this craft to the youths.
The people of Sikkim are adept in this craft of wood carvings and it is extravagantly showcased in the monasteries here. The monasteries use the carved wood lavishly which bear the icons and symbols pertaining to Buddhism. The dance performances too display this unique wood work immensely in the form of the masks used by the dancers. Choktse tables, which are foldable and are some 2 feet high, are the other items of wood craft displaying beautiful designs of the same.
This craft of the state is seen with an eye of reverence owing to its existence in three spiritual types. The first and the foremost type abounds in vivid depiction of the life of Lord Buddha. The second type proceeds to the depiction of what the Buddhist people believe about life and the third type is basically an item of meditation and is offered to the gods. Vegetable dyes and cotton canvas are the things that give shape to the Thangka paintings. Earlier made by the priests and the monks, the Thangkas have begun to be made by numerous other communities. The monasteries, also known as the treasure house for this craft work, have to be visited so as to get the real feel of the beauty of this art work.
People of Sikkim prefer to wear woolen clothes owing to its cold climate. So much is the use of woolen blankets that the people can use the spare blankets to make shawls, bags, dolls and jackets thereby saving a lot of wool and money. The young generation of Sikkim does not lag behind the same of other communities and wear apparels that are in sync with the changing trends of fashion. The government too has taken progressive steps in this direction by opening cottage industries which would promote the handloom industry in the long run and help it grow in leaps and bounds.
Costume of Sikkim
Blanketed by the misty hill tops of the mighty Himalayas, Sikkim is the home for the Lepchas, the Bhutias and the Nepalis. Nevertheless, the state also lends a hearty welcome to the people from various other communities such as the Biharis, the Bengalis, the Marwaris, etc. to avail diverse business opportunities or a position in the government services. The multi-hued costumes of the people reflect the youth and the zest that is integral to the people of Sikkim.
All the three communities wear different costumes which further add to the variety that is found in the state. The Lepcha males wear Thokro-Dum, their traditional dress, comprising of a white pajama till the calves called the Yenthatse, a shirt ‘Shambo’ and a cap. This particular dress is suitable for the toiling field workers of the region. The Lepcha women are mostly clad in their traditional dress called Dumdyam or Dumvam which in contrary to the male counterpart is smooth and stretches till the ankle. It is accompanied with a loose and comfortable blouse called Tago, a belt, a cap called the Taro. Besides these, they also like to wear jewellery which includes a necklace called the Lyak, earrings called the Namchok, bracelets called the Gyar, etc.
The costumes of the Bhutia community are altogether different from the rest of the communities. Originally from the neighbouring country Tibet, these people wear costumes which reflect their native culture merged with the tradition of the state. This adds a peculiar tinge to their costumes. The traditional wear of the Bhutia males is the Kho or the Bakhu, a loose mantle that has to be tied to the neck on one side and to the waist on the other. It has to be accompanied to a waist coat called the Jya Jya, Yenthatse, a shirt, Kera- a cloth belt and Shambo, the cap. The women’s costumes also comprise of Kho along with Hanju, a silky blouse with full sleeves. The most important part of their apparel is the Pangden, an apron, which serves as the symbol of their marital status. Various ornaments too decorate the bodies of the Bhutia women such as Yencho, the earring; Khao, the necklace; Diu, the bangle in gold; Phiru, pearl ornament and Joko, the ring. Obsession with Gold makes them wear ornaments made of 24 carat gold only.
The costume of the Nepali community mirrors their rich culture and heritage. Shurval, Churidar Pajama, Daura, a shirt, aaskot, waist coat and a belt called the Patuki. The women wear the multi-hued Pharia, the sari which is found in various shades depicting the various shades of natural beauty. Chaubandi Cholo and Tharo Cholo are the two types of blouses that add to the grace of the costume of the women. The Hembari is used to envelop the upper part of the women’s body. Pacahuri is the special costume that is worn during dance performances.
Art & Crafts
Wooden Carvings, Woolen Carpets, Thangka Painting and Handlooms are few types of Art and Crafts of Sikkim.
Associated to the festival of Tihar (Tyohar), this dance form can be dated back to the ancient times. Being one among the most renowned dance forms of the Nepalese community, this literally means “Festival of Light”. This dance form also graces pious occasions like marriages. The dancers are clad in apparels of diverse colours to which the ornaments like the Dungri (nose rings) add splendid beauty. On the day of Diwali, i.e. Tihar, the dancers pay visit to almost every house. A clown “Dhatu Waray” accompanies the dancers. The dance becomes magical and enticing when it is performed to the accompaniment of “Naumati Baja”, the orchestra comprising nine-instruments.
This dance form is integral to the Nepali community called the Tamangs. The dancers create a magical aura when they match their steps to the sound of the musical instrument called “Damphoo”. An ensemble of Fun, Vigour and brisk movements to the beats of Damphoo is peculiar to this dance form as well as to the community of the Tamangs. Marriage ceremonies, fairs and childbirth are the occasions on which this dance is performed.
Fairs of Sikkim
Sikkim is one of the scenic states of India, located in the north-eastern part of the country. Sikkim is popular for its enthralling natural beauty, which is hard to find somewhere else. In addition to the picturesque sights, Sikkim has a lot more to offer. Sikkim is a home to people belonging to various different religions, castes and following different cultures. People of Sikkim are the strict followers of their culture and this can be experienced through various fairs & festivals that are regularly organized in Sikkim. Jorthang Maghey Mela (Fair) is one of the most important fairs held in the state of Sikkim. This fair is held in the month of January and it marks the end of the winter season and the start of the spring. There are various other fairs celebrated in Sikkim that truly portrays the rich culture of the state. In these fairs various stalls are setup and one can find various types of handicraft items that are the specialty of the state. These fairs also provide an ideal place to tourists to taste the delicious cuisines of the state. Large number of tourist visit these fairs so as to get the real feel of Sikkim.
Bum-Chu Festival, International Flower Festival, Dasain Festival, Drupka Tekshi, Lhabab Dhuechen Festival, Saga Dawa Festival, Kagyat Dance Festival, Losar, Diwali, Dushera, Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Phang Labsol Festival, Tihaar Festival, and Losoong Festival are the main festivals celebrated in Sikkim.
This is the most important festival of all that are there. Saga Dawa is a festival when three auspicious occasions fall on the same day. The day when Lord Buddha was born, the day he achieved enlightenment and the day Lord Buddha passed away attaining Nirvana. It is celebrated on the full moon day of 4th month according to Tibetan calendar. On the day, a magnificent procession is held in the capital city Gangtok. The procession carries holy books containing teachings of Lord Buddha. The grand event starts from Tsuk-La-Khang Monastery and covers all parts of the city. It is the main highlight of the Saga Dawa Festival.
Gaiety and festivity mark this festival of Losar which onsets the New Year and is celebrated in the month of February. There is no other better way to get acquainted to the rich culture and tradition of Sikkim than this festival. On this festive occasion, the youngsters perform the Yak dance to the tunes of melodious songs sending a hearty welcome to the New Year and they greet the people by throwing Sampa. The people start swinging in the festive mood a week before the festival and the intoxication lingers on the minds of the people even after a week. New clothes and jewellery form a part of the festive occasion.
Bumchu is a holy pot which is filled with the water sanctified and blessed by Ngadak Sempa Chenpo after he uttered the Mane Mantra for five billion times. The level of water in the Bumchu is a signifier to the manner the year would pass. If the Bumchu is filled to the brim with the holy water then the year would spell turmoil and revolutions. Ailments and diseases are spelled with the low level of water. Half-filled Bumchu is the signifier of a prosperous year.
In a span of more than 300 years, the holy water still smells fresh and has not got spoiled or dried up.
Innumerous devotees from the places like Bhutan, Darjeeling, Nepal and neighboring places gather in the Tashiding Monastery on this festive occasion. The, otherwise locked, Bumchu is displayed in the public during the festival. A generous distribution to the devotees is followed by the sealing of the Bumchu for another year.
Introduction to the Drupka Teshi :
Drupka Tekshi is one of the most famous festivals celebrated in the state of Sikkim. The festival is celebrated so as to mark the 1st preaching of four noble truths by Lord Buddha. The Four noble truths were preached by Buddha in Dear Park of Sarnath. Out of the four noble truths, the first one prophesies suffering, while the second noble truth preaches about the source of suffering. The third noble truth prophesies surcease of suffering, while the fourth noble truth preaches about Eight Fold Path that helps in achieving salvation.
On Drupka Teshi, celebrations are held in the Deer Park of Gangtok. Prayers are also offered by worshippers at Muguthang, which is a privy place situated in the extreme region of North Sikkim. A Yak race is organized at the end of the celebrations and large number of people comes to view the race.
Introduction to Dashain :
The state of Sikkim is located amidst the mighty range of Kanchenjunga. The locals love Lord Kanchenzdunga, who is imagined to have risen so as to save Lepchas from the powerful flood that occurred in ancient times.
The majority of the population of Sikkim comprises of Tribal people and the Hindus. In Sikkim the festivals are divided between years. When the carnivals coincide, the whole of the state turns into a festive mood. Dashain is one such Hindu festival, which is celebrated with enormous tempo and gusto.
Description of the Dashain Festival in Sikkim :
The Dashain Festival concurs with Durga Puja that is celebrated in the state of Bengal, Bihar and UP. According to the Nepali people, this is a time for bliss and entertainment. Gifts are exchanged with each other and people enjoy the feast. According to the Hindu Mythologies, it is believed that Goddess Durga fights against the evil so that the evil get destructed and the good wins.
Goddess Durga was created by blending the powers of Lord Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. She saved the throne of Lord Indra by destroying the demon, Mahisasura.
Grains are inseminated in the soil on the first day of the Puja. This ensures a good harvest for the year. On the next week, a Fulpati Meeting (also known as the day of flowers) is being held. Maha Ashthami and Kal Navami are celebrated after the fiesta of Fulpati.
The 10th day is celebrated as the Dussera all over the country. It is a very auspicious day as on this day, Lord Rama killed the demon Ravana. On this day, the people of Sikkim cover their brows with barley sprouts & colored rice that were inseminated on the 1st day.
International Flower Festival
Why is International Flower Festival celebrated :-
India is famous for various festivals & fairs and all of them form the chief attraction of the country! There are various states in India and each state has a different culture, as a result different festivals & fairs too. These are celebrated in different ways by the people of the state.
Sikkim is located amidst the lofty mountains in the North Eastern part of India. Due to the difference in altitude and varying climatic conditions, the wild life & vegetation of the place also varies throughout the state. The natural topography of the state along with favorable climate supports the growth of various types of flowers that grow in every nook of Sikkim. Rhododendron is one of the chief species of flowers that is found in the state. There are around 30 different species of flowers found in the state of Sikkim.
In the International Flower Festival, Gangtok, various species of flowers are displayed that are found in Sikkim. The International Flower Festival is held during the flowering season and large number of tourists visits the festival from all over India.
Description of International Flower Festival :
Various species of flowers can be seen here in this fair. Here, one can see around 30 different species of Rhododendron that ranges from 2 inches to gigantic length. The other chief attractions of Sikkim are the orchids. Around 400 different types of orchids grow here in the state. Here, one can see both the varieties of terrestrial and epiphyte flowers. Various types of bamboos can also be seen here in this festival.
Language is the doubtlessly an important mode of communication. Sikkim is a state of multi-lingual languages where people from diverse communities reside harmoniously. The most spoken language used in Sikkim is Nepali. Another frequently used language is English, though it is largely used in municipal areas. Hindi, a nationally spoken language of India is used at many places of Sikkim. Apart from these languages, there are many other dialects in Sikkim amongst which Tibetan, Lepcha and Bhutan are considered as the most significant languages.
Though Lepcha is the most popular language spoken by the Lepchas, it is not widely spoken in Sikkim. ‘Sikkimese’ language is commonly spoken by Bhutaias and the dialect is dominated in minority in the state. Being in majority, Nepalese with their dialect dominates the most important part of Sikkim. Besides this, English is spoken specifically for official matters; nevertheless Hindi is understood and used by large number of people. Moreover, Tibetan who have migrated, have joined Bhutias and Lepchas, but the old people still speak their native language
Music in Sikkim
Sikkim is popularly known as the hub of the western-style euphony in India. Music forms the deep-rooted part of the unique traditional culture of the state of Sikkim. The music of Sikkim is highly rich and it reflects the naïve nature of the Sikkimese. The western rock music occupies a predominant position in the Sikkim culture as it is widely heard in the restaurants, hotels and various business centers of Sikkim. Moreover, rock Nepali music with the unique blend of Western rock beat is also well-liked by the people of Sikkim. In addition to this, among the young masses of Sikkim, Hindi songs are also getting highly popular. Besides this, various musical instruments accompany the folk dances of the state, which are simply unique. Some of them are Gha To Kito, a song cum dance which basically describes everything about the treasures of Sikkim, Tendong Faat which is a Lepcha folk lore and is recited to the new generation as lyrics poems. This folk lore represents the divine occurrences which are described in the Bible and the Matsya Puran as the great flood. In this landlocked state of India, you can easily explore enticing and heart touching melodies.
People and Tribes
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. This i s the area that encompasses the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers and Dickchu. Life in a Lepcha dwelling is very simple. The male Lepcha wears a dress called a "pagi" made of cotton, which is stripped. The female Lepcha wear a two piece dress. 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. Lepchas are very good at archery. The polyandry marriages are permitted amongst the Lepchas.
THE BHUTIAS:- These are the people of Tibetan origin. They migrated to Sikkim perhaps somewhere after the fifteenth century through the state of Sikkim. In Northen 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 . A Bhutia house called "Khin" 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.
THE NEPALESE:- 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 Nepalis'. Except for the Sherpas & Tamangs who are Buddhists, the Nepalis' are orthodox Hindus with the usual cast system. The Nepali language is spoken and understood all over the state. This language is similar to Hindi and uses the Devangri script . The traditional male nepali dress consists of long double breast garment flowing below the waist and a trouser known as "Daura Suruwal". The female dress consist of a double breasted garment with strings to tie on both the sides at four places, which is shorter than the Daura and is known as "Chow Bandi Choli". They also wear a shawl known as "Majetro". The "Khukri" which has become a synonym to the Nepali (Gurkha) culture, is a very sharp edged, angled, heavy weapon carried in a wooden or leather scabbard known as "Daab".
Place of Worship
Pemayangtse Monastery, Sangachoeling Monastery, Buddhist Pilgrimage Circuit, Sanga Choling Monastery, Dodrupchen Monastery, Siddheshwar Dham Temple, Samdruptse Temple, Rumtek Monastery and Do-Drul Chorten Stupa are popular places of worship in Sikkim.
Pakku, Kodo ki roti, Phapar ki roti, Til ko alu, Kinema and Chhurpi are common delicacies of Sikkim.
Sikkim is a state of homogeneous traditions and cultures of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and India. Similarly, the cuisine of this state is the mixture of different cultural heritage. The outlandish combination of multiple cuisines has resulted in the formation of a special cuisine which is named as the cuisine of Sikkim. Presently, Sikkim is proud of its food culture which is a great amalgamation of varied recipes and food habits which have emerged with experiments of generation and traditional acumen. Moreover, Sikkim cuisine is popularizing and has entered the kitchens all over the world.
Himalaya’s traditional foods are the essential ingredients of the dietary culture of Sikkim. Rice is the considered as the principal food of the Sikkimese. Some of the crops like wheat, millet, barley, vegetable, buckwheat, soybeans, potato etc are grown in the state of Sikkim. Moreover, meat and other dairy products are also consumed depending upon the availability of the products. Apart from these, beverages and traditional fermented foods form the essential diet since ages. The way the food is prepared revels the style of the cookery of Sikkim.
The cuisine of Sikkim is integrated with fresh vegetables, nettle leaves, Dals(lentils), bamboo shoots, mushrooms and wildflowers. Besides this, some of the savoring non-vegetarian food items comprises of pork, beef and fish. The dominant feature of the cuisine of Sikkim is that it came into being under the geographical compulsions, changing needs followed by cultural contact of neighboring countries. The cuisine of Sikkim reflects the sense of the residents of Sikkim people in the sense that they only filter those methods and styles from other cultures, which they think are apt to their style of living and at the same time maintaining their distinctive cuisine.
Building & Centre
Raj Bhavan (Sikkim), Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Mankhim and Do-drul Chorten are important buildings and centers of Sikkim.
Parks & Gardens
Some well-known parks and gardens of Sikkim are Jawahar Lal Nehru Botanical Garden, Saramsa Garden, Namchi Rock Garden and Kazitar Children Park.