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The Cultural Heritage of Sikkim

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Item Code: NAR124
Publisher: Manohar Publishers And Distributors
Author: Sarit K. Chaudhuri, Sameera Maiti and Charisma K. Lepcha
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9789350981917
Pages: 432 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 650 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Sikkim has been a region of anthropological interest since the 1930s when Geoffrey Gorer and John Morries did their fieldwork among the Lepchas of Dzongu, north Sikkim. While it found mention in various writings of travelers and administrators during the British period, there is a dearth of literature even today on the rich heritage of Sikkim. This collection of twenty-five essays presented first at the international conference on Cultural Heritage of Sikkim, organized by the Department of Anthropology, Sikkim University, Gangtok goes a long way in breaching this gap.

The book will be of immense interest to scholars and students of Anthropology, Sociology and Cultural Studies and will lead to new research on the people and the places of Sikkim and India’s North-East.


Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri is a Professor of Anthropology who has published 65 papers and authored/edited 15 books largely focusing on tribal issues of North-East India. Since 2014, he has been the Director, IGRMS, and Bhopal.

Sameera Maiti was Professor and Dean of the School of Human Sciences, Sikkim University. She was also a Charles Wallace Visiting Fellow at Queens University, Belfast and National Fellow in Arts with Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

Charisma K. Lepcha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Sikkim University. Currently she is a fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.


Sikkim has been a region of anthropological interest since the 1930s when Geoffrey Gorer and John Morris did their fieldwork among the Lepchas of Dzongu, north Sikkim. While Sikkim found mention in various writings of travelers and administrators during the British period, there is a dearth of literature even today on the rich heritage of Sikkim. This collection of twenty-five essays presented first at the international conference on Cultural Heritage of Sikkim, organized by the Department of Anthropology, Sikkim University fulfils this gap in a modest way. The publication of the volume was slightly delayed because of the untimely demise of Prof. Sameera Maiti who was working on this project. It was under her enthusiastic initiative that the conference was organized in collaboration with Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya in April 2015. We are happy that her initiative has finally borne fruit and sad because she is not here to see the result of her labour.

The book has been thematically arranged and is divided into five parts. It starts off with 'History and Heritage' and has different takes on administration, state formation and the changing history of Sikkim, even through travel narratives. It also includes an article on protection of traditional communities while another article emphasizes on traditional health practices of the people here. The next part is on 'People' wherein the focus is on oral traditions of Lepchas and Tamangs. The third part is on 'Religion and Ritual' where the first three articles argue for a distinct Sikkimese Buddhism while the fourth one talks about the erection of death memorials among Limbus. The fourth part focuses on 'Tourism and Economy' and with Sikkim's growing popularity among travellers and visitors, different authors highlight the need for different strategies for sustainable tourism in Sikkim. And there is a lone essay on the maize cultivation of Sikkim under this part. Last but not the least we have some emerging issues with regard to 'Art and Museum' as authors talk about folk music and folk dance as arts that often constitutes the symbol of culture and identity. The last two essays discuss museum studies and the need of anthropology to integrate museum and intangible heritage for cultural empowerment of the people of Sikkim.


In recent years Sikkim has attracted many tourists from across the world; especially after topping the list of best region to visit in 2014 by the popular travel guide Lonely Planet. It applauded Sikkim for its innovative tourism project setting 'new benchmarks for responsible travel'. But Sikkim has been of interest for many scholars, administrators and explorers long before the travel bug that brings people to Sikkim today.

Populated with only 6.1 lakh people, Sikkim is the second smallest state in India bordering Nepal in the west, Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the east and West Bengal in the south. Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world is the guardian deity of the state as the various mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and the many rivers add to its diverse range of flora and fauna that are integral to the ecosystem of the state. From Joseph Dalton Hooker, the world famous Botanist to Halfdan Siiger's Danish expedition that brought them to Sikkim, few interesting researches have introduced Sikkim to the rest of the scholarly world as their topics of study were usually descriptive narratives telling about the people and the place. In recent decades, we have seen the gradual growth in Sikkim studies from both foreign and Indian scholars as there is an increased local interest with the establishment of Sikkim University as well.

The present publication is a result of a conference that was jointly organized by Department of Anthropology, Sikkim University with Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal in April 2015. We are proud to present this volume that touches on the history, the people, the religion, tourism and also the art of Sikkim. It brings together articles from senior professors who have worked in the region for many decades to budding native scholars from the region itself. This volume could be of interest not only to anthropologists but historians, geographers, economists, tourism personnel, museologists and students in general. There is a hope that this book could be useful to both academics, students and lay persons in studying the various tangible and intangible heritage of Sikkim.


The book is divided into five parts with twenty-five essays under various sub-themes.

The first part looks into the history and heritage of Sikkim. It starts off with A.C. Sinha's article by giving a picture of how the Raj Bhawan in Sikkim started off as the Himalayan watch tower on Tibet and transitioned to Bharat Bhawan as Sikkim became a protectorate of India and finally the Raj Bhawan since Sikkim's merger with India. In these different roles it has subsumed, the author points out how it has played a crucial role in shaping Sikkim's destiny and the history of the region.

The second chapter by Moinak Choudhury explores colonial travel literature in mapping the cultural heritage of Sikkim. The author argues that these travel narratives create a sense of place as it explores Sikkim's conversion from space to place. Hooker is seen as a significant contributor as he writes about the people, the place and the political atmosphere of Sikkim. It is in his writings that the image of the indolent Lepcha finds its origins as it continues to be found in the writings of Donaldson, Waddell, Freshfield and those that follow. These narratives however are also accused of the absence of information in their writings as there are many missing links in the attempt to create a place.

The third chapter by Binayak Sundas maps the process of state formation and socio-politico history of Sikkim and the Eastern Himalaya in general. The author makes a point how no particular province in these parts could be studied in isolation as it is all a part of the larger history as he analyzes the relationship of these smaller states between the period of sixteenth-seventeenth centuries. He stresses the importance of history in ethnographical and socio-logical studies because of the rise of ethnic associations even in Sikkim and the need to find a historical perspective to these problems today.

The fourth chapter in this part is by Rajiv Rai and Mahendra Prasad Gurung and provides a thorough insight into the changing dynamics of culture and tradition of the history of Sikkim. The article starts with the introduction of Lepchas who were the first settlers in Sikkim and the coming of Bhutias that lead to the es-tablishment of Namgyal dynasty, introduction of new rituals and the emergence of a new social class. The role of British tracing to the Anglo Gorkha war and the rise of the Nepalese population changes the polity and demography of Sikkim as the state today is a complex mixture of cultures, ethnicities and religion. The authors highlights the transformation of Sikkim to a modern state.

The fifth chapter by Veer Mayank discusses the provision for protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions that exists for indigenous people across the world. He also highlights the institutional framework in the Indian context by talking about the Biological Diversity Act 2002 that has several provisions to protect traditional knowledge. It is in this framework that the Sikkim State Biodiversity Board was established in 2006 where the traditional knowledge is protected. This chapter there-fore gives us an understanding of how indigenous people are empowered to exercise their rights at the local, national, regional and an international level.

The last chapter in this part by Tshering Lepcha dwells on the traditional healing practices and the role of traditional health practitioners as a medical heritage of Sikkim. He mentions how the traditional healers are often the first preference for most people in rural Sikkim when it comes to seeking medical treatment. Different communities in Sikkim have their own healers treating various kinds of illness through chants, medicinal plants and herbs, so to restore good health. While the healers were not always full time practitioners, the author has included different case studies from the field and while people's belief in these traditional healers are strong, he notices the decline in these experts and proposes the strengthening and promotion of these healers at the grassroots level. The second section of the book explores the oral histories of at least two communities in Sikkim. The first article is on the Lepchas followed by three articles on the Tamangs while the last article looks into gender and alcohol use in Sikkim.

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