A documentary on each community and their cultural tradition as well as a documentions of the major dances and songs of each community have been recorded and soon to be published.
Hear The Hills Sing
The Department of Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T), Govt of West Bengal, has developed 10 Rural Craft Hubs in association with UNESCO benefitting 3000 handicraft artists and is developing Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs (RCCH) across 15 districts benefitting an additional 12000 rural artists to support and strengthen grassroots creative enterprises in the state. About 1000 folk artists of Darjeeling & Kalimpong districts belonging to Mangar, Dhimal, Tamang, Lepcha, Rai, Khas, Bhutia, Tibetan, Limbu, Sarki, Bhujel, Newar, Gurung, Kami, Damai, Sherpa and other communities are included in this initiative. We have one DVD on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of each of them. This DVD is very special as it contains the cultural brief of the Darjeeling-Kalimpong region covering lifestyle, food habits, costumes, scripts and other cultural elements of 16 communities.
Bhutia folk songs and dances
The Bhutia community has its origin in Tibet. Tibet, in Sanskrit, is called Bhot. This largely explains why the tribes migrating from there are called Bhutia. Tibet is a refined name of Thubot, a name given by Mongolians that means a rocky place. The ancestors of Bhutias migrated from Tibet to Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and other parts of India and Bhutan. They have many sub-sects, like Denzongpa, Dukpa, Kagatey, Singsapa, Tibetan, Yolmo and Walungpa. The majority of them follow the Vajrayana school of Buddhism, mixed with local indigenous rituals. Folk songs and dances are an important part of their social lives and strengthen social bonding. Opera dance, Snow Lion dance, Ngonpai Dhon or hunter dance, Yak dance, Drum dance, Tashi Shoelpa dance, Cham dance, Pow dance, Lhapey dance, Shapro dance, Lungpa Chung Zung and Gho dance are the popular dance forms of the community. Bhutias are also good in handloom weaving, decorative wooden furniture and archery, which is a favourite sport and breeds socialization. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Bhutia community is documented.
Damai folk song and dances
The Damai community lives in both the Darjeeling Hills and the adjoining Dooars region. Their traditional occupation is tailoring. The community has a unique music genre called Naumati Baja. It is an ensemble of nine instruments and a tradition that all Nepalese are proud of. Baja Puja is a ritual performed to purify and worship Naumati Baja before the playing of the instruments. The artists first perform Dabling, then Mangaldhun, and finally Kheyali. The nine instruments are Narshingha, Karnaal, Shehnai, Voice Shehnai, Tyamko, Dholaki, Jhyamta, Bautaal and Dama. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Damai community is documented.
Dhimal folk songs and dances
Dhimal is a hill tribe living in the foothills of the Himalayas, mainly in Naxalbari area of Siliguri sub-division, along the Mechi River near Nepal border. Their cuisine, dress, rituals and social norms are distinctly different from that of other hill communities. One of their main rituals is “Deradir Puja” where a village Dhami (priest) worships nature, and women are in charge of all preparations. Dhimals are skilled in fishing in fast-flowing rivers. Their daily life is wonderfully reflected in their traditional songs and dances. Deradir Puja – a folk song of worship, Poyapoka Le Hiyaka – a fishing song, Um Cheka Le – a harvest song, Mandachaka Le Hiyaka – songs of love, Shikarghaka Le Hiyaka – songs of hunting are some of the popular ones. The musicians use traditional instruments like Gomna, Chong Merdong, Tunjai, etc. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Dhimal community is documented.
Gurung folk songs and dances
Gurungs are a well-known community of Darjeeling Hills with a rich culture and history. Gurungs follows Bon Buddhism and their priests are called Paiju, Ghyabri, Lem (Bon Lama) and Lama (Buddhist monk). The main occupations of Gurungs are agriculture and sheep breeding. Women use sheep wool to weave textiles. A rich cultural tradition of the Gurungs is Ghatu Naach — a slow and rhythmic dance with clockwise and anti-clockwise twirling by performers wearing traditional costumes and ornaments. The New Year, locally called Lhosar, is celebrated with large gatherings, worship, rituals and dances. In this CD, folk songs and dances of Gurung community have been documented.
Kami folk songs and dances
The Kami community is known for making Khukuri, a traditional knife-like weapon used by most Hill communities in the Himalayan region of Bengal and Nepal. The people of Kami community believe that they are descendants of the Hindu god Vishwakarma. They are adept in making Khukhri and decorated metal utensils. They also make handcrafted Tibetan prayer items made from metals, with intricate designs, traditional jewellery, etc. The community performs Maruni dance during auspicious occasions like Laxmi Puja. It has great popularity among the community. In this CD, the folk songs and dances of Kami community have been documented.
Khas folk songs and dances
The Khas community is an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group. Their main religion is Hinduism. Their culture and traditions are different from that of the other Hills communities. Baun (priest) and Chhetri (warrior) are upper castes. Balun and Sangini are the traditional dances of the community. Balun is performed during religious occasions, usually in the evening. There are 12 dancers and a priest, called Purohit. The dance begins after seeking the blessings of the priest and performing a set of rituals. In Sangini, a child bride narrates her story of woes to her friends (Sanginis) upon reaching her native village. It reflects the struggles and hardships faced by child brides at their in-laws’ place. The songs have a narrative structure. In this CD, the folk songs and dances of the Khas community have been documented.
Lepcha folk songs and dances
Lepcha folk tunes and music are based on various natural sounds, the voices of animals, birds and insects, and chants by male and female priests. Lepcha folk dances are also inspired by the movements of animals, birds and fishes. “Chu Rum Faat” is a form of worshiping the mountain. It is a ritual-based performance done by a male priest on the field. The Zoo-Maal dance is performed during the harvesting of paddy. ‘Naam Aaru Tek’ or ‘farewell old year’ is a ritual performed at home by a male priest on the last day of the Lepcha year. The Lepcha New Year festival “Naam Aal, Naambun, Naam Sung” ushers in the New Year. “Poodam Bunu” or “an ode to fetching water” is a folk performance paying tributes to the water in the streams. It is performed by women with bamboo pitches that are used to collect the water. In this CD, the folk songs and dances of the Lepcha community have been documented.
Limbu folk songs and dances
The Limbu community has its origin in central Asia. Their predecessors began their journey from there and reached India via Lhasa, where they had a significant socio-cultural exchange with the Tibetans. However, they finally settled in Northern Indian Himalayas, where they continue to live. They are also called the “Kiranti” people. The community is concentrated in different areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. They believe that they are descendants of Lord Shiva and practice Shamanism. Their religion is Yumaism. Their temple is called ‘Manghem’. Manglang is one of their main dances. Chyabrung is the main musical instrument. Chyabrung lang, Kasarakpa, Nisammang Sewa Samlo, Khyali, traditional love songs Sakpa palam samlo, Kemba palam samlo, Hakpare samlo and Nahangma are their other popular dances and songs. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Limbu community have been documented.
Mangar folk songs and dances
The Mangar community believes that they are the descendants of Mongols. Over the years, the community settled in the northern parts of West Bengal. Mangars have their own language, Mangar Dhoot, and their indigenous script is Akharika Lipi. Their main religion is Mangrath, which practices worship of nature and Shamanism. Their traditional music instruments are Binayo, Madal, Sarangi, Murchonga, flute, etc. Hurra, Kaura and Maruni are their dances performed during harvests and weddings. Kaura Naach is a romantic dance-song performed by men and women. In this CD, the folk songs and dances of the Mangar community have been documented.
Newar folk songs and dances
Newars are a distinct linguistic community of Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burmese origin. Their main religions are Hinduism and Buddhism, and their language is Newari. Newars have continued their age-old tradition and practices and pride themselves as the true custodians of their religion, culture and civilization. The Newar community is known for its rich culture, including colourful songs and dances. Lakhe dance is a popular one where the dancers enact the role of a demon called Lakhe, and dance vigorously wearing a mask to the accompaniment of songs. Lakhe is performed during Indrayatra festival. Majipa Lakhe is another dance and Mepuu Lakhe or Mechya Lakhe is based on the concept of the body emitting fire. Kati Pyakha is a stick dance performed on auspicious occasions and harvest seasons. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Newar community have been documented.
Rai folk songs and dances
Also known as Khambu, the Rais are an indigenous community of Eastern Himalayas. They are also called the “Kiranti” people. They worship nature. Their traditional dance, Sakewa Sili or Nritya, is performed by both men and women and includes different movements like sowing, harvesting, etc. Rais welcome guests with the ‘Laam Thumpa’ ritual. Another ritual is ‘Tit Poma’, which is performed when a girl reaches adolescence. Their traditional musical instruments are Yeleken, Binayo, Murchunga, Dhol and Jhyamta. A lyrical question-answer session through songs, wherein the bride’s companions tease the groom, is an integral part of the Rais’ traditional wedding. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Rai community have been documented.
Sherpa folk songs and dances
The Sherpas are an ethnic group of Mongoloid origin. They used to live in Khumbu valley below Mount Everest. They are known across the world because of their climbing skills. They are an overwhelmingly Buddhist community. Over time, Sherpas settled in the northern parts of West Bengal, especially Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Rimbik and nearby villages. They have a vibrant and colourful culture. Lhosar is their most important festival celebrated to usher in the New Year. Folk songs and dances are an integral part of Sherpa culture. These are performed during auspicious occasions, like weddings. Nading is a folk dance performed during festivals. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Sherpa community have been documented,
Tamang folk songs and dances
Tamangs are indigenous inhabitants of the Himalayan regions of Nepal and India. Their ancestral home is Tamsaling. However, their origin is believed to be in Yambu (Kathmandu). Buddhist Tamangs are the largest Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group in Nepal, Sikkim and Darjeeling. Tamangs have their own language that falls within the Tibeto-Burmese language group. Their script is Tamyig. Tamangs have many unique features. They still practice an early form of Paganism where Bonbo or Shamans and Lamas or Buddhist monks perform the rituals together. The main festival is Lhosar (New Year). A memorable entity recognized and shared by Tamangs is their ancient musical instrument Damphu which is a key component of their culture and tradition. No ceremony, whether of joy and sorrow, is complete without Damphu. Along with the original rhythm of Tamang Selo (folk songs), Damphu dance, Mendhomaya dance, Doora dance and Bakpa dance have influenced Nepalese culture. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Tamang community have been documented
Tibetan folk songs and dances
Tibet, in Sanskrit, is called Bhot. Tibet is also a refined version of Thubot, a name given by Mongolians which means a rocky place. This largely explains why the tribes migrating from there are called Bhutia. The Bhutias have many sub-groups, like Tibetan, Dukpa, Kagatey, Singsapa, Denzongpa, Yolmo and Walungpa. Their ancestors migrated from Tibet to Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and other parts of India and Bhutan. They are mainly Buddhist by religion. Folk songs and dances are an important part of their social lives and strengthen social bonding. Opera dance, Snow Lion dance, Ngonpai Dhon or hunter dance, Yak dance, Drum dance, Tashi Shoelpa dance and Cham dance are traditional dance forms of the Tibetans. The traditional music instruments are Dram-nyen (Lute), Piwang (Fiddle), Gyumang (Hammered dulcimer) and Lingbo (Flute). The traditional dresses worn during performances are Chuba, Wongchuk, Khudung, Pangde, Shamo, Ghawo and Chakma. In this CD, folks songs and dances of the Tibetan community have been documented
Bhujel folk songs and dances
Bhujels are one of the indigenous tribes having their own distinct language, culture, religion, and strong ethnic identity. Bhujels are of Mongoloid origin, belonging to Kirata domain. Their language is called Puhgal Ngur. Bhujels have a rich cultural heritage. Music and dance are an integral part of Bhujel culture. Rhin, Takyo Binayo, Murchunga are the musical instruments used by Bhujels. They perform Gah-tu dance, Chutku dance and Pangdurya dance. Gah-tu dance is performed on Baishake Purne. Young girls perform this dance to songs sung by elderly women. The dance is performed to show the glorious past of Chyor-ro and Chyor-mo (Bhujel King and Queen). Chutka song and dance is performed during festivals, weddings and social gatherings. The young women dance to the song sung by young men. The song is accompanied by Rhin and Takyo. Pangdurya dance is performed during October-December as a mark of the winter harvest. Two groups perform during the performance — one group sings while the other dances. In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Bhujel community have been documented
Sarki folk songs and dances
The Sarkis is an occupational community and can be found across the hills of Darjeeling & Kalimpong and in the Terai area of Dooars. This group of people took the profession of tanning leather and mending leather items like shoes. They are experts in playing a musical instrument called Madal and performing dance in a group which is also called “Khayali Maruni.” Sarkis follow Hinduism and worship Hindu deities. Like other Nepali Hindus, they celebrate Chaite Dasai, Maghe Sankranti, Bara Dashain, Laxmi Puja, Bhai Tika, etc. They wear traditional dresses like Daura Suruwal, waistcoat Birkhe Topi and leather shoe (men); Dhaka Sari, Chaubandi Cholo with Fariya (women). In this CD, folk songs and dances of the Sarki community have been documented