The Limbu community in Sikkim is a community of the first inhabitant tribes in the state. Now they have a population of around sixty-five thousand people. The first Limbus came to Sikkim and settled in Yuksom (erstwhile “Limbuwan”). The Limbu culture in Sikkim is particularly interesting and in this post, I’ll introduce you to them.
When I had first read about them, I was fascinated by their customs and traditional practices. Three weeks later, I was on my way to Yuksom with Rajatabha and Abhishek to attend Balihang Tongnam, a Limbu festival, first hand and to learn about this tribe.
Fun Fact: The name “Sikkim” comes from the Limbu words “Su” meaning ‘new’ and “khyim” meaning ‘house’. “Sikkim” referred to the new house of the rulers that time, one of the wives of whom, was a Limbu.
There is a common misconception that the Limbu community has descended from Nepal. According to the pundits, the Limbu have stayed in Sikkim even before the borders between the countries were established. Their language is derived from the Sirijunga script which was devised by King Sirijunga of 9th century Sikkim. Their community practice Yumaism where they worship Tagera Ningwaphuma as their Supreme Goddess. She also portrays the importance of women in their community. I was particularly intrigued by their love for animals; they were praying to them as they believe God lives in them.
The knowledge in their scriptures (Mundhums) are passed orally over generations by their priests, without properly written scripts They have a unique attire which is traditional to their community. These clothes are simple yet captivating and hold a certain charm (just like Bengal’s dhooti Panjabi). The men wear Hanglang Kamtet which a formal Limbu suit with a Thakwang (hat). Women wear Pothang, a Limbu gown and yes, jewelry.
Since the roads to Yuksom are not properly maintained, these people have to face a lot of problems trying to bring food and other necessary goods uphill. Their major sources of income are the tourists and trekkers who stay there. Nonetheless, it does not dampen their jolly spirits and they continue to help make your stay better with a bright smile.