People & Religion

Sikkim is the least populated state in India. There are three principal communities of Nepalese (75%), Lepchas (20%), and smaller proportions of Bhutias and Limbus. The Bhutias are Buddhist and so are most of the Lepchas. The Nepalese are chiefly Hindus. Lepchas or the Rong appear to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim as no legends of their migration are available. In the 13th century, the Bhutias from Kham area of Tibet came to the state. They believed in Buddhism of the Mahayana sect. The Nepalis were the last to enter Sikkim, in the mid 19th century.

All communities live in perfect harmony sharing each other’s cultures, ethos and traditions with the result that there is now a Sikkimese culture, which is composite of all the three prominent communities. Most of the people speak Nepali, which is also the state language. It is the harmony of the place that provides justification to the name of the state derived form Sukhim, meaning “happy home, a place of peace.”

Though Hinduism is equally followed, Buddhism is entrenched in the tradition of the state. The people have faith in the Buddha, the dharma (his teachings), and the sangha (assembly of monks) where religious texts are studied, taught and preserved. Soaked in the religious tradition, the land has a spiritual ambience where prayer flags with inscriptions of Buddhist texts flutter around the boundary of the village to ward off evil spirits, prayer wheels rotate to the currents of water, and chortens and lucky signs are common sights.