(Last Updated on : 04/02/2010)
Bhutia tribes, one of the prominent tribes residing in West Bengal, are mostly found in hilly districts of West Bengal, including Darjeeling and Kalimpong. These Bhutia tribes have crossed various passes of Himalaya region. These tribal groups are also known as Lachenpas or Lachungpas, which connotes the meaning dwellers of Lachen or Lachung respectively. Moreover, the Bhutias residing in Sikkim are known as Denzongpa, meaning the inhabitants of Denzong, which is the Tibetan name for Sikkim. The aristocrats of the Bhutia tribes were called Kazis and they were an essential part of Chogyal monarchy.
The Bhutia tribes generally speak in Sikkimese language. This language has got similarity with some of the foreign languages. Also Nepali language is widely spoken by quite a number of Bhutia tribes. Apart from these, these tribes also speak in Hindi, Bhutia, Lepcha, and English.
The Bhutia tribes are mostly farmers, producing several vegetables and fruits. Some of them also have developed expertise in weaving. Woolens, shawls are popular in various markets of West Bengal
as well as its nearby provinces. Another occupation of the Bhutias is breeding yaks and sheep.
They are followers of tantric Buddhism
. In fact they follow all the rituals and rites related to this sect with great reverence and enthusiasm. Festivals and fairs are an integral part enriching the culture and tradition of the whole of the Bhutia tribal society. The majority of these Bhutia festivals or any of their joyful functions hold religious Buddhist signification. Amongst the main festivals of Bhutia tribes, the Losar and Losoong festivals worth mentioning.
The Bhutia cuisine comprises of rice, which is their staple food. In fact they are amongst the conventional rice eaters. Other dishes include fried vegetables, animal meat including pork, and beef. On special occasions, however, these Bhutia tribes consume mutton or chicken. Amongst the specialties of Bhutia tribes are momo, steamed with meat 'dumplings' and also Thukpa noodles 'in broth'. The Bhutias prefer to consume a special drink called Chhaang or Chyang which has ingredients like fermented millets or barley and is consumed in a bamboo container known as Tongba. In social or religious occasions, they prefer to have milk tea with sugar or butter tea.
Amongst Bhutia tribes of West Bengal, marriage is held and is held in high esteem. Usually intermarriage within their clans is prevalent. The Bhutia tribes also follow a very hierarchal structure of selecting both bride and groom. What is significant is to note that discrimination amongst clan is widespread and marriage outside the community of Bhutia tribes is not at all entertained.
The costumes of the Bhutia tribes are a traditional cloak type dress called Bakhu. A cotton or silk belt is tied o the waist. Moreover, the male group of this tribe wears Bakhu teamed with a loose trouser and the women wear Bakhu with Honju that is a full sleeve blouse. They also wear a multicolored woolen cloth called Pangden in the front part. This garment is designed with colourful geometric designs. This is generally worn by the wedded women. The women folk put on different jewelleries of gold mainly gold trinkets. The Bhutias built their house in a particular manner. Their houses are known by the name of Khim which are of rectangular shape.