Unveiling Sikkim's Rich Tapestry: Culture & Traditions

Discovering the Culture of Indigenous Communities in Sikkim

Aug 28th, 2023

Sikkim is a place of rich history and lively culture, situated in the lap of the beautiful Himalayas. This charming state in northeastern India has a rich combination of customs, breathtaking scenery, and friendly people. Sikkim has a lot to offer both inhabitants and visitors, from its rich history to its distinct cultural heritage.

History of Sikkim

Sikkim's history is as interesting as its natural beauty. Before joining India in 1975, the area was an autonomous monarchy. For almost 300 years, the Namgyal dynasty ruled the kingdom of Sikkim. During this period, Sikkim became a vital commercial center, drawing ethnic groups such as Bhutias, Lepchas, and Nepalese immigrants.

Sikkim's strategic location between India, Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal makes it a vital trade and business center. It did, however, make Sikkim vulnerable to external forces. Over time, neighboring nations have subjected the region to invasions and warfare.

Sikkim signed an agreement with the British Empire in the late nineteenth century, recognizing it as a protectorate. This was a watershed moment in Sikkim's history, laying the framework for its eventual unification into British India.

Sikkim became an Indian protectorate when India attained independence in 1947. The Chogyal of Sikkim remained in power while India handled the country's exterior affairs, defense, and communications. However, rising regional and political tensions prompted calls for reform inside Sikkim.

In 1975, Sikkim conducted a referendum in which the majority of the population chose to join India. As a result, Sikkim became India's 22nd state, thereby ending the reign of the Namgyal dynasty. Since that time, Sikkim has thrived as an essential part of India, embracing its different cultures and contributing to the country's growth and prosperity.
Culture of Sikkim

Culture of Sikkim

Sikkim's cultural tapestry is a wonderful combination of many ethnicities, each contributing to the region's distinctive customs and traditions. Sikkim's largest ethnic groups are the Bhutias, Lepchas, and Nepali. The Bhutias have a particular way of life and celebrate their culture via festivals, traditional dances, and distinctive food. The Lepchas, well-known for their strong relationship with nature, have their own set of customs, including animistic rites and woodcraft. On the other hand, the Nepalese bring their rich cultural legacy with them, giving brilliant colors to Sikkimese culture.
Festivals of Sikkim

The Top 5 popular festivals in Sikkim are-

1. Losoong -  Also called Sonam Losoong, Namsoong it is observed by Bhutias & Lepchas as the Sikkimese/Lepcha New Year. It usuallly falls in the month of December in the Gregorian calendar

2. Drupka Tshechi - This festival celebrates Lord Buddha's first preaching of the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples at Saranath. The festival is held on the 4th day of the 6th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar which usually falls in the month of July-August in the Gregorian Calendar. It is celebrated in a grand way at Lashar Vally by the Dokpas (Nomadic Yak Herdsmen)

3. Saga Dawa - This is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervour by the buddhist community every year in the month of May. This auspicious occasion commemorates Lord Buddha’s birth, his attainment of enlightenment and salvation from this corporeal world. For all travellers and cultural aficionados seeking a sneak-peek into vibrant Buddhist culture, undoubtedly, Saga Dawa provides for a perfect platform offering a visual treat of various religious ceremonies and street processions. 

4. Dasain - This is the main festival of the Hindu Nepalese community of Sikkim celebrated usually in the month of October. It coincides and is celebrated in the same way as Dusherra in other parts of the country. 

5. Pang Lhabsol - This is celebrated to offer respect and homage to the guardian deity of Sikkim, the third highest mountain in the world, Mount Kanchenjunga. Pang translates ‘to witness’ and apart from paying homage it also commemorates the Treaty of brotherhood among Lepchas and Bhutias. It signifies the unity of the Sikkimese tribes. The festival is considered very auspicious and happens in between August and September.

People of Sikkim