The People Of Darjeeling, their culture and religions
The People Of Darjeeling, their culture and religions.
The Lepchas and Rongpas (people from the lower elevations) were the Darjeeling Hills’ original inhabitants. They are Tibeto Burman in appearance, although their origin is obscure. The higher population of the people in the Hills is The Gorkhas. They are industrious, enterprising, and speak several languages/dialects. They join the British and Indian armies as a career. They are short with oriental features of Nepalese origin and are known for their bravery, just like their cousins from Nepal who are well known the world over. Several of them have been decorated with the Victoria Cross – the highest award in the United Kingdom. The Gurkha’s Khukuri is a well-known weapon. Amongst the Nepalese population of Darjeeling is also the Sherpas. They are renowned for their courage, surefooted, and skills at high altitudes. They have made immeasurable contributions to mountaineering in the Himalayas. The other ethnic groups are The Newars, Tibetans, Bhutias, Sikkimese Bhutia, Dukpas, and Bengalis.
Nepali Folk dances
The Nepalese have a rich folk culture. The hills and valleys are a treasure house of songs and dances of the hill folk. They are a very musical lot with a lyrical, rhythmic mind and heart that doesn’t hesitate to break into a song and dance when the moment to celebrate arises. Their environment, consisting of the Majestic Himalayan Peaks, lush green hills, forests, and valleys, has influenced their religion, including folk songs and dances. The two major religions of Hinduism and Buddhism appear to have shaped the Nepali culture of its vibrant folk songs and dances to live side by side.
The Nepalese folk songs and dances are influenced by ancient cave paintings, religious rites, and devotional songs. An Early form of dances and folk songs was attributed to the god, goddesses, and Hindu and Buddhist religions’ deities. These songs and dances were impressions of sacred dances performed to appease the deities and ward off evil spirits.
The dominant languages in Darjeeling are Nepali, Hindi, Bengali, and English. Bengali is the state language of the plains. Refugees and some other tribal people speak Tibetan.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and to some extent, some Islam remain the predominant religions of Darjeeling.
Food and Drinks
You can pamper your taste buds with exotic but homely food and discover a mosaic of cultural delicacies while satiating your gastronomical needs.
Whether it is the ubiquitous momo or thukpa, whose fabled taste has transcended across the Himalayas along with the migrant Tibetans, or the dishes with lemongrass from south-east Asia, Darjeeling has the best to offer you.
Momo is meat dumplings, either steamed, pan-fried, or deep-fried, accompanied by a bowl of clear soup and achaar (spicy sauce). One can also order vegetable momo, where cabbage and other vegetables replace the meat.
Tibetan noodle soup consists of mixed with egg/meat and vegetables.
Shyaphalay is Tibetan bread that is stuffed with meat and deep-fried. It is served with a spicy sauce to dip in.
This potato dish is an adaptation of the Indian recipe, and now the residents of Darjeeling can’t live without it.
It is made from tea leaves, brick, salt, and butter and churned to mix it well. Well-made butter tea can taste like soup.
Tongba is made from fermented millet that is put inside bamboo. Hot water is poured into the bamboo container, and the liquid is sipped through a bamboo straw after a few minutes. It is a favourite amongst many during the cold winter evenings.
The major festivals celebrated by the people of Darjeeling are Durga Puja, Deepavali, Saraswati Puja, and Shivaratri. The houses are decorated with lights, and the spirits are high during the Deepavali festival. It lasts for several days, consisting of a day to observe/worship crows, dogs, cows, and ox, followed by Laxmi (goddess of wealth), Puja and bhailo, and deusi (a form of Carolling). Then, groups go house to house and perform songs and dances from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how important the house owner is in the community. Finally, the homeowners place a tray of delicacies and money to thank the performers, and the performers appreciate and wish the best to the hosts.
The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate New Year in January, while the Tibetans, Sherpas, and other Buddhists celebrate their lunar new year with masked dances at the monasteries. The festival falls between February and March. In addition, the Tibetans celebrate His Holiness, The Dalai Lama’s birthday with much fanfare in mid-June annually.