Lepcha Folklore and Folk Songs

Item Code: NAD225
Author: Lyangsong Ramsang
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi, Delhi
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788126026036
Pages: 148
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.6 inch
Weight 280 gm
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Book Description

Back of the Book

The Lepchas, an indigenous race of the Darjeel ng District of West Bengal, Sikkim and the 111am Himalayas basically nature lover and divided into four groups however linguistically and culturally they remain as one. There is no history of Lepcha migration. The Lepchas are the indigenous, primeval race of the Mayel Lyang. They have a very rich tradition of folklore. To a Lepcha folklore is not only a means of entertainment but also an education. Lepcha myths connected with the origin of the Lepcha and their country, Mayel Lyang; the origin of the first Lepcha couple, Fadongthing and Nuzaongnyoo; the origin of Lepcha clan; the Lepcha marriage; ‘Chi’, the Lepchas’ traditional fermented beer etc. come under this category. The Lepchas’ songs, dances and music reflect the old ways of Lepcha life, their tradition, culture, ancient religion, customs, manners, characters, civilisation; their joy, sorrow and surrounding environments.

Lyangsong Tamsang (b. 1946), compiler, translator and editor of the title is the President of Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association. He is the editor of the magazines Achuley, King Gaeboo Achyok and A collection of Tales about the Sikkim and Nepal Himalayas, published from Darjeeling, West Bengal.


My grateful thanks are due to very large members of the Lepcha community who assisted in writing this book and in particular to Atbing K P Tamsng, Lapon Sonam TsheringLepcha, Sangeet Natak Akedemi Awardee, Ren Pasang Tshering Lepcha, Bhasha Saniman Awardee, Ren Norbu Tshering Lepcha, Mãvel Kohom, Ren Dorjee Ishering Lepcha, Renue Hildamit Lepcha. I thank my wife, Mayel Clymit Sangdyangmoo; as she is my constant source of inspiration and Darma Gaeboo Lepcha, my eldest son, for taking pains in computer typesetting. I would like to thank Ren R M Venning who very patiently read through the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions.


The Lepchas are the one and only indigenous race of the Darjeeling District, Sikkim, and Illam Himalayas. They call themselves Mutanchi Rong1ibRnrnKimeaningthe ‘Beloved Children of Mother Nature and God’ in Lepcha. The name ‘Lepch’ used today is, perhaps, derived from a Lepcha word, tapchao meaning a resting or waiting place on the wayside or a place on the wayside where stones are heaped up as sign post to direct travelers. When the Nepalese first arrived in the Lepcha land and enquired about their identity at such a waiting place, the Rong people not knowing what the Nepalese were ensuing, replied that it is Lapcha guessing that they were asking the name of the place. Unable to pronounce the name, ‘Lãpchao’ correctly, the Nepalese addressed the ‘Rong’ folk as ‘Lpchã’ and later ‘Lpche’. When the British finally arrived in the Lepcha land, they, in turn, anglisized itto ‘Lepch’. The name ‘Lapcha’, is still being applied in Illam, Nepal. The Rong people never address among themselves as ‘Lepcha’; they address themselves as ‘Mutanchi’ or simply ‘Rong’ with pride.

The Lepchas are, basicall nature lovers and worshippers. Their intimate knowledge of all flora and fauna found in Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Ill am hills is unsurpassed. A world renowned botanist, J. D. Hooker, the Director of Kew Garden, England, who visited Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Nepal Himalayas in the late 1 840s and early 1850s, complemented the Lepchas as pure naturalists and born botanists in his book, The Hima/qyan Journals part I and II. Mother Nature has given the Lepchas plenty The Lepchas love, respect, and worship Mother Nature as represented by mountains, rivers, clouds, water, stones, earth, soil, trees, rain, sun etc. In their prayers and invocations, the Lepchas call the names of all mountains, peaks, rivers, two medieval trees (Surigli-Songlaok in that order), all other parts comprising nature. Through their various ‘Rum Fat’, prayers and offerings to God, like ‘Chu Rum Fat’, prayers and offerings to the Himalayas; ‘Lyang Rum Fat’, prayers and offerings to Mother Earth; ‘Muk Zek Ding Rum Fat’, prayers and offerings to Mother Nattirein all her forms; ‘Sakyoo Rum Fat’, prayers and offerings to the seven immortal Lepchas of’Mäyel Kyong’, a hidden eternal village, a paradise; Nye Mãye/ Renjyong Lyãng— The ancient Lepcha Kingdom: It extended from the Himalayas in the north to Titaliaya, now in Bangladesh, in the south and from Gipmocbi mountain, the tn junction of Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet, in the east to the river Aroon, Nepal, in the west. This vast, old Lepcha kingdom was then known as ‘Nye Mäyel Renjyong Lyang’ literally meaning ‘Holy, hidden, eternal land of the gentlemen’. Today the Lepchas call it ‘Mãyel Lyang’ in short. The indigenous Lepchas lived in peace and tranquility with their own tines of Lepcha kings, high priests and priestesses in Mayel Lyang until the arrival of ‘Khye Bumsã’, the first Tibetan who entered Mayel Lyang seeking the blessings of ‘Thikoong Tek and Nyekoong Ngal’, the divine Lepcha high priest and priestess respectively, for a son. Generous and very kind Thikoong Tek and Nyekoong Ngal not only blessed him with one son but three sons. That was the beginning of the end for the indigenous Lepchas of Mayel Lyang. A blood treaty between Thikoong Tek and Khye Bumsa was conducted at ‘Ka-We-Long-Chaok’, North Sikkim. ‘Ka-We-Long-Chaok’ in Lepcha literally means ‘our blood treaty stone monuments’. It sealed a friendship between the indigenous Lepchas and immigrant Tibetans. Aggressive, assertive Tibetans, now known as Bhutias meaning the people of ‘Bhot’, Tibet, became powerful and installed their first ‘GyJpo’, King Phuntsog Nämgyal, in 1642 at Yuksam. Thus began the dismantiing of Mayel Lyang. The people of Bhutan, Nepal and after them, the British took away what was left of the old. Lepcha kingdom. The last Lepcha king wits Pano Gaeboo Achyok of Damsang, a region now known as the Kalimpong sub-division, was treacherously assassinated by the Bhutanese at Daling Fort, Damsang,in 1781.

The final blow came in 1826 when Bho-Lod, the Lepcha Prime Minister of Sikkim, was treacherously murdered near Tumlong, the then capital of Sikkim, by Tung-Yik ]Vlenchoo, father of Dunya Namghye alias the Pagla Dewan. Thus the promise ‘Khye Bhumsa’ made at ‘Ka-We-Long-Chaok’ to protect the Lepchas and their sacred brotherhood was broken. In the year 1826 the Lepchas’ real political power came to an end in Mayel Lyang.

Although, in accordance with the Darjeeling Deed of 1 February 1835, written in Lepcha, the then official language of the Darjeeling Hills, the hill territory of Darjeeling was ceded to the East India Company by the Raja of Sikkim for the sole purpose of establishing a health sanatorium for the servants of the Company, the other three main purposes, designed by the East India Company, behind it were

a. To stop the Nepalese military expansion to the East.
b. To open the trade routes to Tibet.
c. To stop the Russian expansion towards the Indian subcontinent.

.The Raja of Sikkim was given Rs 3000.00 (three thousand) only per annum as compensation in 1841 for the ceded hill territory of Darjeeling and it was increased to Rs 6000.00 (six thousand) only in 1846.

During the transfer of the bill territory of Darjeeling, the simple, innocent, but true sons of the soil, and master, the Lepchas, were completely ignored. Their thoughts, opinions and fundamental rights were never considered and accounted for both by the East India Company and Raja of Sikkim. The Lepchas of the Darjeeling hills were transferred or sold like animals. Thus the process of the Lepchas annihilation in the Darjeeling bills began.

Politically and geographically, the Lepchas are, no\ divided into four groups; however, linguistically and culturally, they remain as one. The four sections of the Lepchas are: (i) Renjvongmoo (ii) Illammoo (iii) Damsangmoo and (iv) Promoo (i) Rnjyongmoo: Renjyongmoo Lepchas are the Lepchas of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Siliguri areas. Until 1835, these areas came under the direct jurisdiction of Sikkim.

(ii) Illammoo: Illãmmoo Lepchas are the Lepchas of Illäm, east Nepal. Illam was an integral part of Mayel Lyng and later Sikkiin. After the treaty of Sugaoli on 2 December 1815 mediated by the British between Nepal and Sikkim, 111am went under the jurisdiction of Nepal.
(iii) Damsãngmoo : Damsangmoo Lepchas are the Lepchas of Damsäng, today’s Kalimpong sub-division. Damsang was an independent country ruled by Pano Gaeboo Achyok and his forefathers. After the death of Pano Gaeboo Achyok, Dãrnsang was annexed by Bhutan until 1865 when the British defeated the Bhutanese at Daling Fort, Damsng, and annexed it into British India.
(iv) Promoo : Promoo are the Lepchas of ‘Pro’ meaning Bhutan in Lepcha.

There is no history of Lepcha migration. The Lepchas are the indigenous, primeval race of Mayel Lyang with uniquely distinctive language, literature, culture, tradition, custom, religion, myths, festivals, civilization, and way of life.

Lepcha Language

One of the oldest and richest languages of the world, the Lepcha language and literature is found to be in a very neglected state today in Darjee]ing District of West Bengal. The Lepcha language was the ‘Official Language’ of the Darjeeling Hills until 1911? ‘The Darjeeling deed of Grant, 1835’ written in the Lepcha language with Hindi translation at the bottom and the Royal Seal of the Maharaja of Sikkim on the middle top of the document is an ample, tangible proof, and confirmation of the fact that the Lepcha language was once the lingua franca and official language of the Darjeeling District.

Lieutenant General G. B. Masticating, Bengal Staff Corps, the one and only Westerner to thoroughly master the Lepcha language and who, to this day, remains unsurpassed amongst foreigners on the Lepcha language and literature in his Preface and Introductory remarks to ‘A Grammar of the Rong (Lepcha) Language as it exists in the Dorjeling and Sikkim Hills’, 1876, wrote:

‘Of the Lepcha language, I cannot speak too highly. The simple and primitive state in which the Lepchas lived is admirably shown by it. Their peaceful and gentle character is evinced by their numerous terms of tenderness and compassion, and by the fact that not one word of abuse exists in their language. Nevertheless the language itself is most copious, abounding in synonyms and posseiaing words to express every slightest change, every varying shade of meaning; it admits of a flow and power of speech which is wonderful, and which renders it capable of giving expression to the highest degree of eloquence. The language also attests the astonishing knowledge possessed by the Lepchas. Of almost all the inconceivable diversity of trees with which the hills are covered; the incalculable variety of plants and flowers with which the forests are filled; the Lepchas can tell you the names of all, they can distinguish at a glance the difference in the species of each genus of plants, which would require the skill of a practiced botanist to perceive; this information and nomenclature extends to beasts, to birds, to insects, and to everything around them, animate and inanimate; without ins traction, they seem to acquire their knowledge by intuition alone.’


Introduction i
The Wild Boar and the Tiger
Chapter I Lepcha Folklore1
Lepchas, the Children of Mount Kanchanjunga3
(A Lepcha myth about their origin)
Origin of ‘Chi’5
Origin of Lepcha Clans9
Origin of Lepcha Marriage11
The Lepcha Earthen Tower14
‘Näraok Rum’, God of Lepcha Music16
Nyc Mayel Kyong, a Paradise on Earth18
Tendong Hlo Rum Fat and its Significance20
The Two Suns23
ChapterII - Lepcha Folk Tales25
At being K P Tamsang, a profile27
The Story of the Nambong-Pano-Ong-Fo29
(Rocket-tailed Drongo) and the Rat30
The Story of Two Brothers31
The Sambar and the Monkey32
The Monkey and the Stork33
The Story of an Orphan Boy34
The Goose and the Fox.36
The Frog and the Rain37
The Tiger and the Toad38
Apyong and the Dog40
Tasheything and Mon-Chu-Mot42
The Value of a Brother44
The Tiger in Bad Company45
The Quarrel between Mountains, Thunder, Rain and Floods47
The Story of Kathäk Fo and Sung Kyen Pa Lang Fo48
The Story of Aetok Koong (Rhododendron)50
and Daong Shying Koong (Abies Webbiana Lindl
The Story of Jyamphi Moong, a Yeti52
Pago Rip - The gift of God to the Lepchas55
The Story of ‘Lanyen - Laphu’, Cicada58
ChapterIII - Lepcha Classical Folk Songs61
ApryaVom (Lepcha Classical Folk Songs)63
Hail to the Himalayas!67
Tungbaong Fat Khalen Apraya Vom68
Tungbaong Fat - Cleansing Ceremony of a Child69
Bri Munlaom Aprya Vom70
Blessings to a Bride71
Nam Al Aprya Vom72
Lepcha New Year Song73
Takna Lyang74
My Beautiful Takna Land75
Amak Aprya Vom76
Song of Death78
Chapter IV - Old Lepcha Folk Songs81
Lapon Sonam Tshering Lepcha, a profile83
Mao-Mae Vom84
Farewell to the Himalayas Fyen Alaok85
Fyen Alaok86
War Dance Song87
Too na lee wang go fat det myaong Rong Kup?88
Who Says the Lepchas are Vanishing?89
Ms Hildamit Lepcha, a profile91
Rangnyoo Rangeet92
Teesta and Rangeet93
Kunchoong Pat Tachat94
Time to Sow Maize95
Soom Soryaot Vom96
Summer Song97
Pasang Tshering Lepcha, a profile98
Lenchhyo Samdaok99
Pangs of Love99
Lenchhyo Ashyaot100
Love Lament100
Chapter V Lepcha Folk Songs101
Norbu Tshering Lepcha, a profile103
Varto-amoo Rum go ma boo gum104
Mother Nature, I’m your worshipper106
Amoo Kasa sa108
My Mother110
Ka sã Sakchin112
Sam Phyet áthen116
Half-hearted Smile117
Amoo Ring rem phyaok lao cha ka118
Salute to Mother Tongue119
Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, a profile121
Pano Gaeboo Achyok122
To Gaeboo Achyok, the last Lepcha King of Damsang123
Mayelmit, a hidden eternal Lepcha lady125
VI- Lepcha Rhymes127
Ashyaok Chhakdaong129
Explanation Rhyme129
Ajyaom Chhakdaong130
Simple Rhymes131
Adyool sat Chhakdaong132
Lepcha Testing Rhymes132
VII - Lepcha Proverbs135
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