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The term Lepcha is a mispronunciation of Lap-che ( a name given to them by Nepali speakers). The Lepchas, however refer to themselves as Rongpas (ravine - dwellers in their own tongue) and also as Mutanchi Rongkup, or " Mother's loved ones". The Lepchas are said to be original inhabitants of Sikkim.They existed much before the Bhutias and Nepalese who migrated to the state. Before adopting Buddhism or Christianity as their religion, the earliest Lepcha settlers were

believers in the bone faith or mune faith. This faith was basically based on spirits, good and bad. They worshipped spirits of mountains, rivers and forests which was but natural for a tribe that co-existed so harmoniously with the rich natural surroundings. The Lepcha (Zongu) folklore is rich with stories. The Lepcha population is concentrated in the central part of the Sikkim. This is the area that encompasses the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers and Dickchu. 
The Lepchas, in appearance, have slightly accentuated Mongoloid features, are fair and boast a bigger build than their neighbours. Docile and peace loving, the original inhabitants of Sikkim have now become a minority and have a reservation earmarked for them in the Dzongu region of North Sikkim. Here, one and still find families living by age-old customs and manners- untouched by the rapid strides into development that the rest of Sikkim has taken. despite their unassuming nature, the Lepchas are highly refined lot. Their language (also known as Rong ) is highly developed and one of the few tribes to reconize the value of education and, even today, boast of some highly educated individuals.

Lepcha Language:
The origin of the Lepcha script itself is one shrouded in, yes myths and lore again. While most of the Rongpas (as the Lepchas call themselves) believe that the script was invented by Thekong Mensalong, a legendary Lepcha figure believed to have lived towards the beginning of the 17th century. Then, of course, is the belief that the script was invented by the Mother-Creator, Itbu-moo, herself. There is of course no documentary evidence of either claim. The generally accepted story of the script's genesis is that it was invented by the third king of the Namgyal dynasty, Chador Namgyal, in the eighteenth century.
Another version claims that the script came Sikkim's way via Tibet, in fact, along with Buddhism it self. Tibetan scholars have recorded that the Lepchas were given their script by Lhatsun Chhembo, one of the three monks who "unlocked" Sikkim and then consecrated the first Chogyal at Yuksom.
The theory of Lepcha language's origins which comes our way from neighboring Nepal claims that the language got its script in the 7th century BC. Historians in Nepal believe that the script was the creation of King Maw-rong, the overlord of Kirata chiefs. Kirats at the time lived in eastern Nepal and present day Sikkim. This theory also claims that the Lepchas at that time were known as Imay and find reference even in the two Indian epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. King Maw-rong is believed to invented the script for his subjects and its use continues to this day only among the Lepchas.
The language, according to philologists, falls under the Tibeto-Burman group of languages spoken by tribes inhabiting the sub-Himalayan region of the Tibeto-Burman curve of the Himalayas. The language does not have its roots in Sanskrit like the other tribal dialects of India, Bhutan and Nepal and, like mentioned earlier, is unique because it is one of the few tribal languages with a script of its own.

Lifestyle:
The Lepchas or Rong pa, literally the "ravine folk" are fast dwindling in numbers. The Lepchas are very intelligent, samiable and extremely hospitable. They love sports and games and are sociable. They are peace-loving people who avoid quarrels. Many of them are concentrated in the Dzongu valley in northern part of Sikkim. The Lepchas mostly live by trade or on agriculture. Paddy, oranges and cardamom are their favorable crops.
The Lepcha house or 'li' usually 4 or 5 feet above the ground, is usually rectangular in shape. They are usually made of woody stems of bamboo. Life in a Lepcha hut is very simple. Lepchas are excellent weavers and make fine tribal cloth. They are also adept in bamboo and cane weaving. A traditionally dressed Lepcha would be found wearing half pajamas, under a robe made of striped cotton resembling a loose jacket- the whole ensemble is called a pagi. The robe, which comes to the knees, is pinned on the shoulder and tied around the waist. Accompanying him would be a ban or payak, the traditional Lepcha knife. Apart from their reserve Dzongu, the Lepchas can be seen sporting their traditional dress at archery competitions ( in which they are very good ) or during special occasions like festivals and marriages. The Lepcha lady wears a two - piece dress -a full sleeved blouse called tago and a skirt called domdyan. A scarf round the head is also a common feature. The Lepchas are also the best people to have around if you are lost in the forest. Their close link with nature had led them to possess a tremendous and unparalleled voclabury. They have names and terms for every fern, bush, moss and mushroom. They also know what is the best to eat in the forest. The delicacy of bamboo shoots is, after their offering to world cuisine.

Their Festivals and Religion:
One of the major festivals of Lepcha is Namsoong or popularly called as Lossong which marks the beginning of the New year.It is the farmers New Year for this is usually the time when the farmers rejoice and celebrate their harvest. Loosong is celebrated privately among family members and friends; and there is an air of festivity all around.
Lepchas celebrate Pang Lhabsol to worship Mount Khangchendzonga as the guardien deity.The combination of the masked dance and the warrior dance, gives the festival a unique look. The costumes are resplendent, the masks colourful and impressive, and the choreography of the warrior dance is spectacular.A week before the dances,the lamas of Pemayangtse monastery offer prayers, invoking Dzonga (as Mount Khangchendzonga is popularly called) to protect the land and look after the people. This festival is held on the 15th day of the 7th month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to late August and early September.
While most Lepchas are now Buddhists, a sizeable number of them still follow their original faith, Bon. Their animistic belief sees them worshipping nature in all its forms, rivers, lakes and mountains. many aspects, like the worship of Khangchendzonga, have also been included into Sikkimese Buddhism. Christianity, too, has found many converts among the Lepchas. In fact, the religion is now into its third generation in Sikkim.
Although Lepchas have no caste system, they are particular about their clans. They are particular, one might add, not paranoid about in since not only do they marry into other clans, but of late they have been progressive about marrying into other communities too.
With agriculture, especially of cardamom, as their main source of income, the Lepchas find enough time for revelry, and participating in one of their festivals like Losoong, sometime in November-December is a worthwhile experience. The Rongpas continue to be what their " Mother-Creator " wanted them to be-simple folk.


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