Music and Dances of Sikkim
Sikkim is usually famous for Monastic Dances. The reputed mask dances of Sikkim are uniquely beautiful and these dances, known as 'Chaams' are practised during festivals and other ceremonial events. Demons are exorcised in these dances and Chaams dance is performed during the celebrities of the New Year ceremonies. Chaams is believed to extricate all kinds of evil forces from the land while the old year is bid farewell. The dances are performed as a means of welcoming the New Year and ushering in good luck. Masks of dragons, birds and animals are worn by the Chaams dancers, while the costumes were generally finely brocaded. Satin clothes are used, which are embroidered in gold, particularly the cape and gown. The 'dorjee' or the thunderbolt sceptre is held by the cape. The garment referred to as the 'Gyab-dar' extends to the ankles from the headgear. Trumpets and cymbals are the musical instruments which accompany such dances.
The beginning of this dance is proclaimed from inside the premises of the ‘Gompa’. Long copper horns and radong are blown during the commencement of the Chaams dance. The beginning of the dance is marked by the sounds produced by gongs, ceremonial drums and cymbals. Dancers arrive on the dance floor, clad in bright, beautiful costumes and swirl in style. Bearers of incense sticks move amongst the audience, imparting a magical ambience to the dance performance. As the dance progresses, the actual drama starts unfolding, wherein the most significant character is 'Mahakala', and the other protective deities are invoked in his presence. Some of the most famous dance forms are Rechungma, Gha To Kito, Chi Rmu, Be Yu Mista, Tashi Zaldha, Enchey Chaam, Lu Khangthamo, Gnungmala Gnunghey, and Kagyed Dance.
Colourful masks and elaborately designed costumes are the main characteristics of the Dance of the Masquerades, which include the 'Nam-Ding' and 'Sha-Yak'. Dancers wear masks of animals like the lion, tiger, yak, mythical creature called the winged 'Garuda' and also of the stag and walk about in measured footsteps, cheered on by the music of trumpets, cymbals and others. During the 9th century, a pious ruler known as Ral-Pa-Che of Tibet, devoted the majority of his time to the religion of Buddhism.
Paintings of Sikkim
The people residing in Sikkim displayed complete dexterity in paintings. 'Thangka' is a beautiful religious scroll which is hand painted and employs bright hues. The patterns are etched on fabric. The themes of Thangka are a portrayal of the life of Lord Buddha and also the lives of the great saints, Buddhist masters and 'Bodhisattvas'. Concepts like 'Mandalas', 'Tashi Taggye', the 'Wheel of Life', 'Dharmachakra' and many others have been used in such paintings. Red and yellow are the principal colours that are employed in the paintings and are said to possess a certain symbolic significance. These colours signify the distinction between life and fire, intellectual and emotional, as well as immaterial and material. On the other hand, the colour orange, which is produced by the combination of the colours yellow and red symbolise wisdom and profound knowledge. Blue, violet and green are the other colours utilized in these works of art. The colour blue is said to signify positive energy and green is used to imply the vegetable aspects. 'Lossar' and 'Saga Dawa' are the festivals wherein Thangka paintings are carried out.
Cuisine of Sikkim
The food of the people of Sikkim indicates the culture of this state which is a mélange of India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Sikkimese food mainly comprises noodles, Gundruk and Sinki soups, thukpas, tomato achar pickle, traditional cottage cheese, fermented soybean, Bamboo shoot, fermented rice product and some other fermented dishes owing to its very cold climate. Rice is the staple food of the state. Momos, also known as dumplings and wantons are favorites among the Sikkimese people as well as the tourists. When it comes to non-vegetarian food, they prefer fish, beef, and pork. Steamed and boiled food items are mainly found here with not so much utilization of masalas but other local spices and herbs. And the people of Sikkim mostly prefer some drinks along with the food such as local beer, whiskey, and rum to deal with cold weather. The people of the state grow crops like wheat, barley, buckwheat, finger millet, potato, and soybeans etc. Recently Sikkim has put a milestone in organic cultivation process.
Languages in Sikkim
Nepali is the primary language of Sikkim while Lepcha and Sikkimese (Bhutia) are also spoken in some part of this north-east province. English is also spoken by the people of Sikkim. Other languages include Kafle, Limbu, Majhwar, Yakha, Tamang, Tibetan, and Sherpa. People nearing the tourist places in Sikkim uses Hindi and English to communicate with the tourists.
Religions in Sikkim
According to the 2011 census, 57.8% follow Hinduism, making it the Sikkim’s majority religion. Buddhism is followed by 27.4% of the population, while Christianity is followed by 9.9%. There are many Hindu temples throughout the state. Vajrayana Buddhism is Sikkim's second-largest, yet most prominent religion, which accounts for 27.3 percent of the population. Prior to Sikkim's becoming a part of the Indian Union, Vajrayana Buddhism was the state religion under the Chogyal. Sikkim has 75 Buddhist monasteries, the oldest dating back to the 1700s.
Christians in Sikkim are mostly descendants of Lepchas who were converted by British missionaries in the late 19th century, and constitute around 10 percent of the population. Other religious minorities include Muslims of Bihari ethnicity and Jains, who each account for roughly one percent of the population.
Crafts of Sikkim
The bulk of the people of Sikkim belong to rural areas and they have their old tradition of making several utility objects. One of the most popular handicraft objects of Sikkim includes a choksee table, woolen carpet, canvas wall hanging, thankas delineating painting on various aspects of the state. The state has various handicrafts in the form of cane and bamboo products. Melli, Gangtok, and Namchi are the very popular places of Sikkim for handloom products and cottage industries. The womenfolk of the state are amazing weavers. The handmade carpets and papers of the state are in huge demand in and outside of Sikkim.
Education in Sikkim
In 2011, Sikkim's adult literacy rate was 82.2 per cent among which 87.29 percent for males and 76.43 per cent for females. There are a total of 1,157 schools in the state, including 765 schools run by the state government, seven central government schools and 385 private schools. There is one Institute of National Importance, one central university and four private universities in Sikkim offering higher education. Sikkim has a National Institute of Technology in South Sikkim, which is one among the ten newly sanctioned NITs by the Government of India under the 11th Five year Plan, 2009. The NIT Sikkim also has state of art supercomputing facility named PARAM Kanchenjunga which is said to be fastest among all 31 NITs. There are two state-run polytechnic schools – the Advanced Technical Training Centre (ATTC) and the Centre for Computers and Communication Technology (CCCT). Sikkim University began operating in 2008 at Yangang.
People of Sikkim
Sikkimese are people who inhabit the Indian state of Sikkim. The dominance ethnic diversity of Sikkim is represented by 'Lho-Mon-Tsong-Tsum' that identifies origin of three races since seventeenth century. The term 'Lho' refers to Bhutias (Lhopo) means south who migrated from southern Tibet, the term 'Mon' refers to Lepchas (Rong) lived in lower eastern Himalayas and the term 'Tsong' refers to Limbus (Tsong) another tribe of Sikkim. Sikkim is also home to the majority ethnic Nepalis (Gorkhali) people which include tribes such as Limbu (Subba), Chhetri, Gurung, Thakuri, Newar, Magar (Manger), Tamang, Kirat Rai, Kami, Sarki, Sunuwar, Shresthas, Hyolmo, Damai and Sherpa. However, Nepalis started to inhabited in Sikkim since the nineteenth century and later the presence of people from Mainland India.
Dresses of Sikkim
The main costume donned by Bhutias is the Bakhu or Kho. Worn by men and women alike, Bakhu is very similar to the Tibetan Chuba, except that it is sleeveless. It is a loose cloak-like garb which is tied at the neck and tightened around the waist by a belt made of silk or cotton. The Bakhu has found modifications over the years. Women nowadays pair it with a pair of jeans to add a western twist to the look. The Thokro-Dum is the primary outfit for the Lepcha community members. It consists of a white pyjama stretching up to the calves, almost resembling a karate player's outfit. Yenthatse, a Lepcha shirt and Shambo, an embroidered cap are paired with it. A multicoloured, hand-woven cloth called the Dumpra is pinned at one shoulder and held in place by a waistband.
The traditional attire of Lepcha women involves a sari-like garment known as Dumvum or Dumyam. It is an ankle-length outfit, silky and smooth binding comfort and culture together. Underneath, a loose-fitting blouse in a contrasting colour is worn known as Tago. To complete the look, a type of belt called the Nyamrek and Taro, a cap is worn. A scarf called Gorey is often used to cover the head.
The Nepalese men of Sikkim wear this outfit. A long double-breasted garment flows below the waist along with a trouser. The churidar (bottom) is called Shuruval and the pyjama (shirt) is known as Daura. Askot, a waistcoat and Patuki, a belt is worn to complement the Shuruval. Augmenting the grace of Nepalese women, the traditional attire called Pharia is available in a variety of different hues.
Jewellery of Sikkim
Just like the dresses, Sikkim’s people wears variety of ornaments. During festivities and other occasions, women can be spotted wearing traditional jewellery like the Namchok (ear-ring), Lyak (necklace) and Gyar (bracelet). Mostly, gold and silver are used in their making. Bhutia women accessorize themselves with jewellery known as - Yencho (earring), Khao (necklace), Phiru (pearl ornament), Diu (gold bangle), Khalli (thick silver-coated anklets) and Joko (ring). They are known to have an affinity for gold, especially the pure 24-carat gold. They essentially prefer pure, heavy gold ornaments. The ornaments that give a gaudy appearance to the Nepalese women are Sir-Bandi or tiaraKantha, a necklace, Naugeri, a pearl-necklace, Charanihari, Tilhari, Bulaki, Gadwari, and Kalli.
Tourism in Sikkim
Tourism in Sikkim gained popularity during the last decade with an increasing number of tourists visiting this hilly region for its natural beauty. Till the early ’90s, few tourists would visit this landlocked state. Even those who visited hardly went beyond Gangtok, the state capital. Bagdogra (120 km from Gangtok) is the major airport of the region. New Jalpaiguri Rail Station (115 km from Gangtok) is the major railhead. Siliguri (110 km from Gangtok) is the main junction where Road, Air, and Rail traveler gets down before traveling to Sikkim. Tourists can visit Gangtok, Pelling, Lachen, Lachung, Ravangla, Yumthang Valley, Tsangu Lake, Gurudongmar etc.
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