The Sikkimese Bhutia
tribe is one of the 3 major ethnic communities in Sikkim; the other two being
Sikkimese Lepchas and Sikkimese Nepalis. The Sikkimese Bhutia tribe is also
known by the name Lhopo, meaning “dwellers of the southward” or Denzongpa,
meaning “people of the Denzong.”
They are divided into
two groups: Tong-du-ruhzi and Beb tsen gyed, each having a number of clans;
there are also a number of other sub castes. They speak and write Lhokey, also
called the Bhutia language, or Sikkimese.
The Sikkimese Bhutias
were mainly descendents of the early settlers in Sikkim who came from Tibet
accompanying the ancestors of the first king of Sikkim. Their script, religion,
dress, and ornaments have semblance with the Tibetans.
They follow Buddhism,
and monks play a vital role in their everyday life: household rituals,
marriages, birth ceremonies, funerals, and agricultural rites are conducted by
monks from the gompas. The Bhutia marriage custom and funeral ceremonies are
elaborate and expensive processes.
Sonam Losoong or
farmer’s New Year is the main festival celebrated by them in the month of
December. Pang Lhabsol is another important festival when an energetic mask
dance is performed.
Rice is the staple
food. Snacks are made of either maize or rice and drinks comprise butter tea or
local wine made from rice, millets, fruits etc. No meal is complete without a meat
A Bhutia man’s attire
comprises a long-sleeved coat tied with a sash around the waist and loose
pants. Above it they wear a shirt and jacket paired with shoes resembling
boots. The women wear a sleeveless gho with a long-sleeved shirt, jacket, woolen
cap, hair ribbon, and shoes.
Bhutias have a rich
folk culture. Their song cum dance is marked with foot-tapping and graceful
hand movements. Bhutias are also intrinsically nature lovers. Their country
songs mostly contain descriptions of the landscape and its animals.
This tribe is famous
for its weaving, wood carvings, and thangka