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Multicultural and highly interesting

History and peoples of Sikkim


History of Sikkim

In the field of tension between the superpowers India & China
Under the Namgyal Chogyal dynasty, Sikkim was a Buddhist kingdom from 1642 to 1975. Time and again, the small kingdom of Sikkim had to defend itself against attacks from Nepal. In 1835, Darjeeling, which had previously belonged to Sikkim, was annexed by British India, with Sikkim becoming a protectorate at the same time.
The British planted the first tea gardens in Darjeeling with the help of Nepalese workers and turned Darjeeling into an alternative administrative location for British troops stationed in England, with a more pleasant climate than Kolkota. Sikkim regained independence in 1918. With its independence in 1947, India simultaneously took over the protectorate for Sikkim.
Responsibility for foreign policy and the national army, however, was shifted to India. When the new constitution came into force in 1955, Sikkim’s political influence was severely restricted. In 1973, bureaucrats planned to bring the monarchy to an end. India, for its part, increased its influence, overthrew the 12th Chogyal (king) Palden Thodup Namgyal in 1975 and annexed Sikkim. Sikkim thus became India’s 22nd state.
Shamans and self-sufficient people

The Lepchas

The Lepchas are the indigenous people of Sikkim. The Lepchas call their land “Nye-Mal-Ale”: “Heaven”. In their language, the Lepchas call themselves “Mutanchi” – “the most loving people on Mother Earth”. They are described in literature as peaceful and shy people. They have their own language & writing, practise agriculture and some of them are still gatherers & hunters today.
Shamanism still plays an important role among the Lepcha people today. The Bomthing (shaman) or the Mun (shamaness) is consulted for questions or problems. Every year, Lepcha shamans still gather at Kabi Lungchok to show their gratitude and reverence to nature, medicinal herbs and the patron god Mt. Khangchendzonga.
Self-sufficiency, agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering are still an important source of livelihood for the Lepchas in the countryside. Today, most Lepchas are farmers and self-sufficient, including hunting, fishing and gathering. The heartland of the Lepchas lies in Dzongu, in the north of Sikkim. The people live scattered in small villages throughout Sikkim as well as in the area around Darjeeling & Kalimpong.We organize Lepcha village visits, folk dance performances and also overnight stays as house guests in Lepcha villages. On request, we integrate interaction with a Lepcha shaman.

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu History and peoples of Sikkim
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu History and peoples of Sikkim
Immigrated from Tibet

The Bhutias:

The Bhutias of Tibetan origin are the second oldest ethnic group in Sikkim and began migrating to Sikkim in the 9th century. They allied with the Lepchas at Kabi Longchok in 1642, introduced Buddhism of the Tibetan Nyngma school, built Nyngma temples and monasteries and consolidated Sikkim into a kingdom.
Gompas (monasteries) and lamas (monks) play an important role in the daily life of the Bhutias. Most of the monasteries exist due to donations from the local population. Even today, some Bhutia families still follow the Sikkimese tradition of the second son entering a monastery.
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Immigrant rice farmers

The Nepalese

From the 19th century onwards, immigration of ethnic groups from Nepal began to increase significantly. Nepalese ethnic groups brought rice cultivation and the commercial cultivation of cardamom to Sikkim. Although this improved Sikkim’s agriculture considerably, it also resulted in erosion and the destruction of forests. Of the Nepalese ethnic groups, the Limbus are the third oldest ethnic group in Sikkim.
They have their own language and script and their religion is a mixture of Buddhism and Shivaism. The rest of the Nepalese, with the exception of Sherpas, Tamang and Gurung, are Hindu. As a result of increasing immigration from Nepal, the population of Sikkim today consists largely of Nepali ethnic groups, while the Lepchas and Bhutias are a minority in Sikkim. Nepali is the lingua franca of Sikkim, although Bhutia and Lepcha are still spoken in certain areas.
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Other ethnic groups

Biharis, Bengalis and Marwaris

Biharis, Bengalis and Marwaris are other migrant communities in Sikkim. In addition, Sikkim has been a second home for numerous Tibetan refugees since China’s invasion of Tibet.

Our cultural tours give you deep insights into the country and its people through our extensive personal contacts. Visit villages of different ethnic groups with us, meet farmers, craftsmen, lamas (monks) and shamans.
Visit schools, temples and monasteries. Our tour guides are locals, have in-depth local knowledge and are familiar with the needs of our guests, and on request we can integrate overnight stays in various villages as a house guest.
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