Culture  
 

Sikkim today is a rapidly evolving society. Its major towns like Gangtok the capital city, Namchi and Jorethang already are urbanizing at a steady pace. More and more people are being attracted by business opportunities and gradually imbibing the cosmopolitan character.
Though Sikkim is predominantly a Buddhist state its spirit is secular and here churches, monasteries, gurdwaras, mosques and temples co-exist peacefully. It is hard to define the true culture of Sikkim ? it could best be called a wonderful mosaic, a unique pattern made beautiful by the unusual harmony in its individually colourful threads. And that is its trait.
The predominant communities are the Lepchas, the Bhutias and the Nepalese and over the years there have been inter-racial marriages among the three.

 
     
  People  
 

The Lepchas are the natives of Sikkim with very little known about their origin. A theory has it that the Lepchas moved in from the borders of Assam and Burma while another speaks of them migrating from Southern Tibet. But basically they are of mongoloid stock. The tribe were nature worshippers and belonged to the Bon faith. It was later that they converted to Buddhism and much later to Christianity. In order to preserve their tribe and their tradition the government also has a reserved area for the Lepchas at Dzongu that has been declared restricted area.

 
     
 

The Bhutias are purely of Tibetan origin who migrated to Sikkim from Tibet somewhere after the fifteenth century. The language of the Bhutias is Sikkimese, a dialect of the Tibetan language and are mostly Buddhists. A predominant Bhutia population inhabits North Sikkim in the villages of Lachung and Lachen. The Lachungpas and the Lachenpas still retain their age old village administrative system called the Dzumsa with an elected village chief called the ?Pipen?. Lachen and Lachung are also restricted areas. The Bhutia men still wear their traditional garment called the ?Bakku? while women sport their ?Bakku?, ?Hanju? with the married one donning a colourful ?Pangdin? too.

 
     
 

The Nepalese who migrated from Nepal from the mid-nineteenth century form the dominant population. It was the British who patronized the Nepalese for their warlike qualities and integrity and raised an entire army consisting purely of Nepalese soldiers. They were also allowed to settle down in the hill tracts belonging to British India. In Sikkim the Chogyal had granted a lease to some Nepalese traders sometime in the year 1860. It was these traders who reaped bountiful harvests in the fertile lands of Sikkim with the help of Nepalese farmers who later settled down completely. These early Nepalese settlers introduced terraced farming in the region and also brought the cardamom along with them which became a prized cash crop. The Kiratis who are also Nepalese are also believed to be the natives of Sikkim along with the Lepchas. The Kiratis include the Limbus, Rais, Tamangs, Gurungs, Magars and others. The Nepalese speak the Nepali language written in the Devanagri script and is the major language spoken in Sikkim. The Nepalese are mostly Hindus though we can also find Buddhists and Christians among them too.

 
     
 

Apart from these three major ethnic groups Sikkim also has a growing population of other races like the Tibetans, the Marwaris, the Biharis, Muslims, Bengalis and a host of others. Growing business opportunities are still attracting people from other parts of the country. Sikkim is going the ?melt pot? way and as time flees, like all other societies it is going to evolve too.

 
     
  Dance & Music  
  Folk dances and songs are an ingrained part of Sikkimese culture. Most of the dances related to the amazing beauty of the natural surroundings, some signifies the harvest season and others are performed for prosperity. Many of the musical instruments that accompany the dances are unique to Sikkim. Almost all the dances are accompanied by the musical instruments. Some of the popular dances are described below :  
     
  The Music and Dances of Sikkim  
 

The Dances accompanied with Songs and Music
Lu Khangthamo

 
 

It is dedicated to this day - a day of thanks giving to all Gods and deities of the three worlds, Heaven, Earth and Hell. This age old folk dance is performed regularly by the young and old folk alike in their traditional customs and ornaments accompanied by the pleasing song and music on the occasion like warming and New Year celebrations. It is a Bhutia folk dance.

 
     
  Experience The Dance & Music  
  Gha To Kito  
 

It is a song cum dance which describes all about the treasures of Sikkim like Mount Khangchendzonga and the snow covered Himalayan ranges, rhododendrons and primulas, holy places, caves ad minerals. It is a Bhutia folk dance.

 
     
 

Chi Rimu
It is a popular Bhutia folk dance performed in praise of Sikkim by young and old folks. This dance is a regular feature in every happy occasion when Bhutias express reverence to great teachers and sacred places of worship.

 
     
  Gnungmala Gnunghey
It is a typical Bhutia fold dance performed in praise, by both male and female to the accompaniment of devotional hymns and song of the multi purpose majestic bamboos, describing its use.
 
     
  Rechungma
It is typical Sikkimese dance performed during the happy occasions like childbirth, marriage and other social gatherings, offer paying their sincere thanks to the god for his blessings.
 
     
 

Be Yu Mista
It is a popular Bhutia folk dance performed in praise of Sikkim by group of males and females with pleasing songs and prayers.

 
     
 

Tashi Zaldha
It is a dance depicting the Bhutia custom of offering scarves, performed by boys and girls.

 
     
  Experience The Dance & Music  
 

The Mask Dances of Sikkim
Enchey Chaam
Sikkim's famous mask dances provide a spectacle, perhaps nowhere to be experienced in the entire world. Performed by lamas in the 'Gompa' courtyard to celebrate religious festivals, dances demonstrate perfect footwork and grace. Costumed lamas with gaily painted masks, ceremonial swords and sparkling jewels leap and swing to the rhythm of resounding drums, trumpeting of horns and chanting of monks. It is the annual puja celebrated with religious masked dances on the 18th and 19th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan Buddhist Calendar corresponding to the month of December - January.

 
     
 

Kagyed Dance
It is performed on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan Calendar, around December. This dance is performed symbolizing the destruction of the evil forces and hoping for peace and prosperity to flourish in every Sikkimese home. The dancers of this are extremely popular Chaam are always monks who are accompanied liturgical music and chanting. The solemn nature of the dance is interspersed with comic relief provided by the jesters. Kagyed dances enact various themes from the Buddhist mythology and culminate with the burning of effigies made of flour, wood and paper.

 
     
 

Rumtek Chaam
It is the most important chaam (religious masked dance) performed on the 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to the month of June. It presents eight manifestations of the Guru Rimpoche. This is highly colorful and spectacular and draws many pilgrim and visitors.

 
     
  Gouthor(Winter) Chaam
It is performed on the month of February - 2 days prior to Losar.
 
     
     

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